Earlier this year I decided to take on the challenge of competing in the New York Marathon. Prior to this the furthest I had run was 15km, and to be honest I’d never had any desire to run any further.
I like to think I am a pretty determined person though so once I made my decision there was no looking back. I had 30 weeks to get myself in top shape. My training consisted of 5 workouts a week, 4 runs and one swim. To ensure I stayed motivated, I planned to take part in 3 competitive half marathons as part of my training plan, the Wanaka half marathon in March, the Wellington half marathon in June and the Pelorus Trust half marathon in September. It’s amazing how through these events I could notice my fitness steadily improving (I managed to knock 5 mins off my intial time). When I did my first half marathon it seemed like a big challenge, now I could go out and run one without breaking a sweat (well almost).
When I landed on American soil it all started to become real. By the end of my training, and after tapering for 3 weeks, I was feeling fresh and ready to tackle the marathon. A few days before the marathon I went to the race expo to pick up my number. The New York marathon is the biggest in the world but despite this everything was so well organised!
On marathon morning I woke up at 5am, headed to the hotel lobby at 5:30 and then got a bus to Staten Island at 6am. Our corral wasn’t being let off until 10:30am, so I ate breakfast on the bus. I wanted to make sure I had enough food to keep me going so I had porridge and blueberries, a banana and a museli bar, followed by a bagel later on.
Our bus dropped us off at the start village at 7:15am, by the time we had gone through security we had 3 hours to wait outside in the cold until the race started, I was very grateful to be with a friend. In order to keep warm everyone comes wearing clothes that they are prepared to throw away. All discarded clothing gets collected and given away, the homeless population of New York must love the marathon!
Since over 50,000 people enter the marathon everyone starts at different times, depending on what their predicted finish time will be. My friend, Jessie and I both predicted we would finish around the 4 hour mark, so we started in Blue Wave E, corral 3. The start of the race was pretty casual, the gun goes off for each corral then everyone just makes their way to the start line in their own time, stripping off their throwaway clothes, and taking a few selfies along the way.
The New York marathon is a once in a lifetime opportunity to pound the streets of all 5 boroughs of New York, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronyx.
Once you go over the start line your timing chip is activated and it’s straight onto the Staten Island bridge. It was a pretty windy, exposed 2.5km stretch, but everyone was so excited that it didn’t matter. Once we were off the bridge we entered Brooklyn. Here we were met by crowds of people, all holding amazing signs and it was impossible not to smile.
Along the way the crowds were so supportive, cheering, holding signs, giving away bananas, bagels, twizzlers and anything else you can imagine.
By the time I got to the 32.5km mark I knew every step I took was further than I had ever ran before, and surprisingly I still felt really good. Before the race I was worried about all the hills, but coming from New Zealand I was well prepared and didn’t even notice them. At this point I decided I had enough energy left to pick up the pace a bit.
By this stage each kilometre was ticking over pretty slowly, but the end was in sight and I was still feeling good. The crowds were amazing, every time my energy levels dropped I would run next to the people so they would all cheer for me. How can you possibly slow down when hundreds of people are yelling your name?!
It wasn’t until the 40km mark when the smile on my face turned to gritted teeth. I just hoped I could make it to the finish line. I’d been pretty smart with my nutrition, I had a Gu gel at 1hour, 1:45, 2:30 and 3:15, along with plenty of water along the way, so I knew, even though I felt like I had nothing left, I should be fine to make it to the finish line.
When I saw the 26 mile mark and the 400 metres to go mark it all started to become real, the end was literally in sight. My legs were so ready to give up, but I managed to sprint to the finish line. I had done it. I had run the New York marathon in 3:56:48.
Once I crossed the finish line I could barely move, but I was not alone, everyone around me was hobbling along. We had about a kilometre to walk before we could exit Central Park, all I wanted to do was sit down, but I was so cold I knew I just had to keep walking. During the journey out we were awarded our medals, photographed, and given ponchos and recovery packs.
It was such a fun event and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of doing a marathon. I never would have thought I would have been capable of doing a marathon, but the human body is pretty amazing. One thing I’ve learnt about myself is how mentally strong I can be, with most people, the mind will give up before the legs do, but I didn’t let this happen. If you can put the time into the training you will easily be able to accomplish anything.
Thanks so much to all my family and friends (especially my sister, Amanda for travelling from London to support me) for the fantastic support and for Marathon World Travel for making it possible. I couldn’t have done it without you.
A lot of people have been asking me if I will do another marathon. At this stage I am pretty happy to have ticked one off my list, and I think I will focus on other challenges and getting PBs in half marathons. I think one day I may do another full marathon, but it is such a heavy time commitment.
I’ve recently set up my own business selling cards to help new parents document all the special moments in a baby’s first year, check it out www.mimosadesigns.co.nz or facebook.com/mimosadesignsnz or Instagram: @mimosadesigns I like the idea of a new challenge and I’m looking forward to pouring all the time when I would have been running into this!
Well, that’s it from me. It’s been a fantastic journey! Thanks for sharing it with me!