Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for an abridged version.
The New York City Marathon is my favorite marathon! This would be my fourth consecutive running.
I started training for the race back in July. I had been working with a coach from Hudson Elite Coaching since late May. My training didn’t go well, in part because it was one of the hottest summers on record. I ran a disappointing 2016 Parks Half Marathon in mid-September and decided to leave my coach. For the rest of the training cycle, I followed a Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning schedule and ran interval workouts with a local club. I ran the 2016 Army Ten Miler in mid-October and got a sense for my marathon fitness. Going into race weekend, I thought I was in 3:30 to 3:35 shape.
- Marathon & Course PR: 3:22:56 (7:45 pace) at the 2013 New York City Marathon.
- Most Recent Marathon: 3:41:37 (8:28 pace) at the 2016 Boston Marathon.
Strategy: Start out with the 3:30 pace group (8:00 pace) and see if I can hang with them through Fifth Avenue. Then, see what I have left in Central Park.
The New York City Marathon goes through all five boroughs of the City. It starts in Staten Island on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and goes immediately into Brooklyn. The course continues north through Brooklyn and Queens. The very steep Queensboro Bridge,takes runners into Manhattan where they are rewarded with roaring crowds on First Avenue. The course heads north into the Bronx for a mile and then south over the Madison Avenue Bridge back into Manhattan. After a few miles on Fifth Avenue, the course enters Central Park.
It’s mostly flat except the bridges that serve as hills and some gentle rollers in Central Park. After Mile 3, there are water and Gatorade stations at every mile.
I arrived in New York City late in the afternoon. I had a low-key evening and then went to see Wicked. It was fantastic!
The next morning, I did a “shake out” run in Central Park and then went to the race expo. The venue was packed!
That afternoon, I walked around a little and visited two fellow racers. I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet.
I bought a teriyaki salmon with rice, zucchini, yellow squash, and red pepper dinner at the grocery store. I drank a liter of water with it and went to bed at 9:30pm.
I woke up a little after midnight and was awake for about an hour. I slept in fits and starts for the rest of the night.
I got out of bed at 4:45am. My hotel had water and bananas out. Back in my room, I got dressed, sipped coffee, and ate a banana.
I left the hotel at 5:40am and bought a raisin bagel with butter, Naked Juice, and Clif Bar at a deli. The bagel had too much butter on it, though, so I only ate half and drank the juice. A caught a train at 6am and reached the Ferry Station in time for the 6:30am trip to Staten Island. I nibbled on the Clif Bar during the ride.
The ferry arrived in Staten Island around 7am but, in a departure from previous years, runners boarded buses right at the station exit. This took longer than usual and I finally boarded a bus at 7:20am
I arrived at Fort Wadsworth just before 8am. Walking around the Athlete’s Village, I could tell it was going to be a warm day. I looked for a friend who was volunteering but couldn’t find her. She texted that she was going to be at the finish line, so I would look for her there.
I made my way to the Green Wave corral about 20 minutes before it closed. I noticed some commotion a while later and realized some late arriving runners weren’t being allowed in. At around 9:20am, we walked to the start. I spied the 3:30 pacer but as I started taking off my layers and getting my gear together, we got separated.
The race director announcements, the race gun went off, and “New York, New York” started playing. We were off!
The forecast was showing for what seemed like ideal running weather – overnight lows in the high 30s and a high for the day in the upper 50s. On race day, it was a little warm and windy.
Early Miles, Part I – Miles 0 to 2 (Staten Island – Verrazano-Narrows Bridge)
The first mile on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a gentle climb. The Green Wave start is on the lower deck and less steep than the other colors. The course was very congested and the gap between me and the 3:30 pacer was widening. I pushed the pace and zig-zagged around other runners to catch the pacer.
On the downhill, space opened up a bit and I settled into a nice running groove. I took a moment to admire the New York City skyline. It was a beautiful day! Without the bridge cover, I felt the full intensity of the sun, though. I could see the 3:30 pacer now and pressed hard to catch him. By Mile 2, I was just a few strong strides behind him.
Splits (by course): 8:23, 7:18? My Garmin time was longer than my official time. I think it’s because my splits under the bridge were off.
Early Miles, Part I – Miles 2 to 8 (Brooklyn)
After leaving the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the course went through Brooklyn. The first mile of this segment was on a freeway and the second winds through a neighborhood. Then, the course stayed on Fourth Avenue for 4 miles.
Just before the 3 mile mark, I finally caught up with the 3:30 pacer. I tried to tuck close behind him but felt I was competing with other runners and getting boxed.
I hit the 5K in ~24:00. I thought that was a little fast but I would settle now that I was with the 3:30 pacer. The first water stop was just after that. It was mayhem! Runners were darting in all directions. I skipped it and solidified my position behind the pacer. But, it seemed no matter what I did, someone got in front of me and I had to adjust and fall back.
The course took a right onto Fourth Avenue at around the 3.5 mile mark. After a few more bumps, I became frustrated trying to run in the pack. I decided to get out of the fray and stay just ahead of the pacer. Just before Mile 4, I opened my first Crank Sport e-Gel.
The next four miles on Fourth Avenue meld together in my mind. The scenery was stores on both sides of the street with thick screaming crowds. There were so many little kids wanting low-fives but I resisted and kept focused. I heard several spectators calling my name.
Running on my own and ahead of the pacer, I had a better shot of navigating the water stops. I finally got water at Miles 5 and 6. At some point, a 3:25 and 3:30 pacer went running past me. I thought, “How could that be?” Then, I realized it must be a pacer from another wave. I joined that 3:30 group for a while before feeling boxed in again and moving off on my own. By Mile 7, I was a little concerned about running 7:40s and set my mind to slow down. Just before Mile 8, I took my second gel.
There was a jumbo-tron at the end of Fourth Avenue. I checked the ticker since I wanted to see how Molly Huddle was doing but I didn’t see her name.
Splits (by course): 7:38, 7:55, 7:42, 7:46, 7:48, 7:52.
Early Miles, Part II – Miles 8 to 14 (Brooklyn)
At Mile 8, the course turned right onto LaFayette Avenue into the Clinton Hills neighborhood. This is my favorite part of the course! The street narrows at this point and there’s such a close connection with the crowd. For the first time in the race, I started feeling some fatigue. At mile 9, I saw my first split over 8:00 since the start. The course took a left onto Bedford Avenue. I felt the headwind and really struggled to stay on pace during this segment.
The course curves over the next mile or two and climbs slightly. I felt myself starting to fade a bit. Just before Mile 10, a Hasidic Jewish man was trying to cross the street and got in my path! On instinct, I screamed. He looked absolutely horrified! I reached out to avoid plowing through him, touching him in the process. I knew Orthodox Jew have very strict observances about the separation between men and woman and felt bad about it. But, I was happy to see I was running sub-8:00 again thanks to the adrenaline rush!
At Mile 11, in the Williamsburg neighborhood, I saw my favorite sign of the race. A spectator had a sign with Eleven from the television show Stranger Things.
I knew I was working harder than I should to maintain 8:00 pace but I kept pressing. I had my third gel around Mile 12.5. The wind was at my side now so it was tolerable until I headed north again.
Shortly before Mile 13, the course turned left on its way to the Pulaski Bridge, which leads to Queens. In the past, this has been one of my least favorite stretches but I didn’t mind it so much. Surprisingly, I wasn’t slowing down much on the bridge either! I reached the half point in 1:43:something. I was at sub-3:30 pace but knew the back half of this marathon was harder than the front.
Splits (by course): 8:07, 7:46, 8:09, 7:54, 8:11, 8:08.
Middle Miles, Part I – Miles 14 to 16 (Queens)
The greeting from the crowds in Queens was fantastic! I continued to push for 8:00 pace over the next two miles but started to worry what that might mean long term.
On the Queensboro Bridge, I saw the 3:30 pacer ahead of me. I wasn’t sure when he’d passed me but I set my mind on joining him. I thought, “Trying to catch someone on a hill is a bad idea.” But, I didn’t want to give up. After the crest of the climb, I thought my legs would want to fly, but they wouldn’t go.
Approaching Mile 16, I could already hear the roar of the crowds on First Avenue. I got chills. I opened my fourth gel. My stomach was already starting a mini-revolt but I forced it down.
Splits (by course): 8:17, 8:21.
Middle Miles, Part II – Miles 16 to 20 (Manhattan – First Avenue)
The atmosphere on First Avenue was absolutely overwhelming! Spectators had to be 3 to 5 people deep holding signs and cheering their hearts out. There was another jumbo-tron but I couldn’t focus on the elite race. I was running as hard as I could to catch the 3:30 pacer who was just ahead of me. When I caught him, I told myself if I could stay with him on First Avenue, sub-3:30 would still be possible. At first, his pace didn’t seem so hard since I was pushing so hard to catch him. And, although there was a strong headwind, running in a pack made it better.
I wanted water at Mile 17, but didn’t want to risk leaving the pacer and pack I’d worked so hard to catch. I stayed tucked behind two guys – one in a blue shirt and one in red.
Oddly, once I’d settled in, the pace started to feel harder. I started bargaining with myself. Instead of staying with them for all of First Avenue, I told myself to just hold on through Mile 18. After hitting that goal, I thought, “Come on! Stay with them until Mile 19!” But, I just couldn’t. I let them go, slowed down, and started my fifth gel. I knew things were about to get ugly given how much effort I’d spent so far.
As I crossed the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, I was barely running. My feet were killing me and my hips were extremely sore. I actually thought, “You’re toast.”
Splits (by course): 8:11, 7:51, 8:06, 8:44.
Middle Miles, Part II – Miles 20 to 21 (The Bronx)
I hit the 20 mile mark at around 2:40. I thought, “You can do 6 miles in 50 minutes!” It’s funny how I switched so quickly from utter despair to a glimmer of hope.
Another 3:30 pacer passed me about a half mile into Mile 20. I stayed with him for a few steps before falling off the back. Shortly thereafter, I thought I recognized a woman from my interval club. But, it was too late and I was too exhausted to yell anything.
For some reason, I felt a surge of energy crossing the Madison Avenue Bridge into Manhattan at the end of Mile 21.
Splits (by course): 8:40.
Later Miles 21 to 24 (Manhattan – Fifth Avenue)
The crowds were super energetic in Harlem! The spectators were waving inspirational signs and cheering. There was a drum ensemble that was pounding out a steady beat and it got me to quicken my pace a little. And, now that the wind was at my back, I felt cooler and more at ease. But, as I navigated around Marcus Garvey Memorial Park, I couldn’t ignore how much my feet and legs hurt.
Mile 23 and 24 are on the cruel stretch of Fifth Avenue that seems flat but is slightly uphill. The buildings were blocking the sun, though, so that was a relief. But, so many runners were walking at this point that it was hard to keep my spirits up. The music on my iPod provided a nice lift.
It’s hard to describe how happy I felt when the course went right into Central Park. Despite wincing in pain every few steps, I told myself, “You can run 3.2 miles.”
Splits (by course): 8:44, 8:41, 8:46.
Later Miles 24 to 26.2 (Central Park)
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen crowds like large in Central Park for the marathon. It was a beautiful seeing so many people crowded so close together with fall colors and skyscrapers as a backdrop. I felt inspired to dig a little deeper.
The course was rolling hills for the next mile or more. I ran under the Mile 24 banner and clung to the idea that I just had 2.2 miles to go! At the bottom of the hill leading to Mile 25, I heard a woman yell that I had this and I looked at her as if to say, “Yeah, I do!”
On Central Park South, I felt another surge. I saw a sign that said there was 800m to go. I thought, “That’s not so far.” and pushed harder.
At Columbus Circle, the course turned right onto Central Park West. I was in heaven hitting Mile 26. 200m to go! I looked for my friend in the Grand Stand and was surprised that I saw her!
Her smile gave me an extra push over the finish line.
Splits (by course): 8:36, 8:31, 1:50.
I crossed the finish line and felt a wave of relief. My suffering was over!
I knew the volunteers wouldn’t let me stop or sit down, so I kept walking. A few steps later, I saw Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg handing out medals! I got mine from Amy. Star struck, when she congratulated me, I congratulated her too! I felt a little stupid but in retrospect, I decided it’s always okay to congratulate an Olympian.
I continued walking. I got my heat shield and food. I drank a little water but didn’t feel like eating, yet. Most runners were shuffling along well but there were a few runners on the side of the road.
Finally, after about a mile of walking, I reached the exit. I asked a volunteer where I can catch the 1 train. He tells me it’s a block north. I walk, and walk… It was 2 long blocks away! After the subway ride, I hobbled two blocks back to my hotel. I immediately took a shower and laid down under a warm blanket.
My time was 3:33:34 (8:10 pace) [Log Details]. Even though it’s not what I wanted when I started this training cycle, it’s a great result for my fitness now. I was the 5,221st finisher out of 51,000 – the largest marathon ever (top 11%), 862nd woman (top 4%), and 80th in my age group (top 3%).
The time is 21 minutes under my qualifying time for 2018 Boston Marathon. I already qualified for the 2017 New York City Marathon at 2016 RnR DC Half Marathon, but this time was 4 minutes under that standard for the marathon, so my entry is guaranteed!
This was a physically and emotionally draining training cycle! From the workout that left me near tears on the side of the trail to breaking with my coach a few weeks later and then trying to make up for lost time … I’m exhausted.
In the short term, I want to take at least a week off from running and get my hip soreness diagnosed. In the long term, the Eugene Marathon will be my goal marathon for the spring but I will also run the Boston Marathon in April.
I ran 3:33:34 (8:10 pace). I went out too fast at the start in an effort to run with or slightly ahead of the 3:30 pacer. I faded during the final miles in Brooklyn but recovered in Queens. I fought to stay with a 3:30 pacer on First Avenue, but couldn’t hold on after Mile 19. I was in a lot of hurt in the Bronx. I toughed it out on Fifth Avenue and Central Park. I qualifying for the 2018 Boston Marathon but more importantly, gained guaranteed entry for the 2017 New York City Marathon!