I remember driving home after I ran my very first (incredibly traumatizing and equally life changing) marathon back in 2013 in 4 hours 43 minutes and 39 very painful seconds. My head was being held up by the car window and my Mom and Dad asked me if I wanted to do it again. "Yes", I smiled foggily as I scrolled through the congratulatory text messages I'd received feeling equally bad ass and exhausted. "But next time I want to do it under 4 hours."
Back then, I thought it would be easy to chop 43 minutes and 39 seconds off my marathon time. I'd been running for a little over 5 months when I ran my first marathon and I assumed that a sub 4 hour marathon was inevitable now that I knew what to expect. That first marathon changed my life. It gave me the confidence I lost when I graduated from college and it gave me a way to finally put my issues with my weight behind me. Crossing that finish line gave me a way to believe in myself and feel strong instead of insecure. I had not only became a runner, I ran a F*CKING marathon!
The New York City Marathon isn't your average marathon. It's the world's largest marathon through the world's toughest city. New York shows up for the marathon. I spent the first 19 miles literally high on high fives. For 3 hours and 59 minutes, strangers from all over the world screamed my name and told me that I could do it. Do you know what it feels like to doubt yourself for 6 miles? It's soul crushing. But for those same 6 miles, thousands of people looked me dead in the eyes and told me that I could. You need that support when all you want to do is slow down, or quit. I've run 5 marathons now and quite frankly, NYC is the most humbling and exhilarating experience imaginable.
I didn't go into this marathon thinking I was going to break 4 hours. I was conflicted because I wanted to see if I could do it but I also wanted to stop the 8 different times along the course to hug and thank my family and friends who came out to support me. The entire way to Staten Island I kept thinking about a sub 4. I even turned to my best friend Gregg on the bus ride to the Athlete's Village and asked him if he thought I could do it if I didn't stop at the fluid stations. "Yes" was his answer because he's GB and will always be the first person to tell me to go for it.
Standing at the starting line is emotional. The cannon goes off and New York, New York starts to play. Then hundreds of runners start to sing along. That's enough to put tears in your eyes and before you know it, you're up and over the Verrazano.
Brooklyn was a total and complete blur. I found my family at between miles 7 and 8 and stopped for some big time hugs and candy (thank you Dublin!). Then I took off for the halfway mark and found my Team for Kids teammate from last year E! I hadn't seen him since the start of last year's marathon so we snapped a picture together, wished each other luck and then I was off towards the half way mark. I found my very good friend Anne close to the 13 mile mark and was ecstatic because I thought I had missed her. She updated me on how our friends were doing and then it was off to Queens.
Queens was awesome and LOUD! SO MANY PEOPLE came out to support and before I knew it, we were on the Queensboro bridge heading towards 1st Avenue, also known as the "Wall of Sound". Literally halfway over the bridge, you could hear the dull roar starting to grow from the crowd. First Ave. is incredible. It's loud, it's crazy and it's high five central! I found my good friend from College Michelle about a mile in and then another good friend Aly a mile after her. Then it was on to my sister who was holding the funniest sign ever. We didn't get a picture of it and my soul is crushed. My eyes are peeled though so if I see it, I'll post it. It had to do with a man named John so if you saw it and got a picture of it, you win.
My sister is amazing and she went from Brooklyn to 116th and 1st and then all the way over to 116th and 5th. That's a big stressful day for her and she was the keeper of my back up energy gels and my sanity. She and my best friend Irene in Chile were texting me the entire way, giving me pep talks and updates, keeping me in it to win it. I had the best support team imaginable and it really meant a lot to have them behind me 100%.
It was right after I saw my sister that I looked at my watch and saw that I could break 4 hours if I pushed my pace a tiny bit faster. I didn't even think twice about it, I put my phone away and took off. I tried to text my sister once I got out of the Bronx to tell her that I wasn't going to stop but it came out in gibberish (thank you technology) so she was very confused when I went flying by screaming, "I'm not stopping! I'm going to break 4!" But I didn't go fast enough to miss her sign. It said, "I'm so proud of you and I know Scott would be too."
That hit me like a ton of bricks. It all came into perspective. He's the reason I started running. I miss him so fucking much. It hurts every second of every single day. I would give anything to have him back. Last year, I honestly felt like he was with me going into Central Park. I didn't feel that this year and in the bottom of my heart, I was really hoping to experience it again. Maybe it's because I didn't need him like I did last year, but her sign reminded me why I was gunning for that sub 4 hour marathon.
I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. It's so hard to broadcast my goals online because it's really possible that they won't happen. Falling short sucks. I hate letting myself down and that final 10K was probably the most stressful 6 miles of my life. I was watching my watch, hoping and praying that I wouldn't bonk out. I wanted so badly to stop to walk on 5th Avenue. It wouldn't end. Right when I needed a pick up, my amazing Physical Therapist Mike appeared next to me. I needed the distraction and the boost and he's honestly the reason this year was possible. I see him more than I see most of my friends and I was stoked to see him. He knew I was going for a sub 4 and gave me an excellent pep talk. He told me not to pull back, gave me a high five and then left me to the final 5k. (After I pulled my phone out because duh, it's Mike.)
Central Park hurt. I was waiting and waiting for the 25th mile mark, desperately trying to figure out how hard I needed to go to make the sub 4 possible. Then when it appeared, I realized that I was 10 minutes from 4 hours. I couldn't afford to slow down. My quads were burning, I was fighting the urge to cry because I was overwhelmed by the support, and I kept pushing towards the finish telling myself, "It's over in 10 minutes, don't stop. Don't give up."
Then when we rounded the final corner into Central Park, I lost it. Between the friends who were in the grandstands and my watch racing towards 4 hours, I couldn't fight the tears. I honestly didn't think it was going to happen. That final .2 miles was terrifying. My watch said 3:59:59 as I crossed the finish line and I had no clue if I had made it. Then, my phone blew up with "YOU DID IT!" And I dissolved into a puddle of gratitude. (These photos were literally taken moments apart.)
I don't know why that sub 4 meant so much to me. I think it isn't so much the time itself but how hard I worked for it. I spent the last 8 months running towards the New York City Marathon. 3 marathons in 4 months kicked my ass. My personal life has been sitting on the back burner because I threw myself into my running. And I guess, I really didn't think I could do it. You know what they say, fifth times the charm! But I did it! It happened. I gave it everything I had and it was one of the best days of my life.
Now...I want to do an IRONMAN! I promised myself I would try to do every single thing I told myself I couldn't do and I seriously don't think I can do an Ironman. SO, let's see what I'm capable of shall we? Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.