Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.
The heat and humidity were relentless this summer! I slowed down and took frequent breaks during most of my workouts this training cycle. My only race was the 2017 Dulles Day on the Runway 10K in September where I ran 45:08 (7:14 pace). Mid-way through the 2017 Army Ten Miler in October, I made the race a training run due to “sultry” conditions. I ran the 2017 Bourbon Chase during my peak week before starting a three week taper.
The week before the race, I ran three hard workouts and then easy after Wednesday. Mentally, I was a little tense due to doubts about reaching my goal, an attack in Manhattan that Tuesday, and rain in the forecast for Sunday.
- Marathon & Course PR: 3:22:56 (7:45 pace) at the 2013 New York City Marathon.
- Most Recent Marathon: 3:32:04 (8:06 pace) at the 2017 Eugene Marathon.
Achievable: Sub-3:38 (8:20 pace). At minimum, I’d like to have a guaranteed qualifier for next year’s race.
Likely: Sub-3:34 (8:10 pace). My only “tune-up” race was the completely flat 2017 Dulles Day on the Runway 10K, which I ran in 45:08 (7:14 pace). Plugging that time into the McMillan Calculator generates a sub-3:32 (8:05 pace).
Strategy: Run close to 7:45 pace through the first 14 miles, slow to 8:30 pace for the Queenboro Bridge, rebound to 8:00 pace on First Avenue, and then fade to 8:20 pace for the rest of the race.
The New York City Marathon touches all five boroughs of the City. The course starts in Staten Island on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and goes north into Brooklyn. It continues into Queens after crossing the Pulaski Bridge. The very steep Queensboro Bridge takes runners into Manhattan where roaring crowds await. Then, the course heads north on First Avenue and enters the Bronx after covering the Willis Bridge. After a mile, the route goes south over the Madison Avenue Bridge back into Manhattan. A few miles later, runners enter Central Park for the finish.
The course is mostly flat except for the bridges, which serve as hills. There are also some gentle rollers in Central Park and some slight uphills. There are water and Gatorade stations at every mile after Mile 3. Boisterous crowds line most of the course!
I organized 3 hours and 30 minutes of music in the order I wanted to hear them.
I ran a recovery run in my neighborhood and then took the 1pm Acela train from Washington, DC to New York City. I arrived late afternoon on Thursday. I checked into my hotel and walked around the Theater District before having dinner.
That afternoon, I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I saw a SWAT officer on my way to the subway and thought about the attack in Manhattan on Tuesday.
I went for another recovery run in Central Park. I thought about how awful I felt before the 2017 Eugene Marathon and my calf issue. “You feel great,” I told myself. “That won’t happen again.” I saw Meb Keflezighi during my run and when I finished, I got to see Molly Huddle on her way to winning the 2017 Dash to the Finish Line 5K.
At around 5pm, I walked to the grocery store on the corner. For dinner, I bought a salmon,potato, and broccoli dish that I could heat up in the microwave in my room. For tomorrow, I got a sports bar and water. I watched two episodes of Stranger Things and then fell asleep by 9:30pm.
I woke up at 3:20am and felt pretty good after seven hours of sleep. First, I got dressed. I laid out my clothes and gear the night before but made a last minute shorts switch.
Next, I checked the forecast. Two sources showed showers but one didn’t. I decided not to take a poncho. Finally, I started breakfast. I had coffee and started a bagel with peanut butter at 4:15am. I left my hotel at 5am.
I took the 1 train to South Ferry Station. I ate a banana while waiting for the ferry at the terminal. We stood for a while before boarding the boat at 6am. I finished a 24 oz. bottle of water and went to the bathroom during the trip.
The ferry docked in Staten Island at 6:30am. The air was wet but it wasn’t raining. We shuffled along for the next 45 minutes and finally boarded a bus at 7:25am. I chatted with my seatmate during the ride.
We arrived at Fort Wadsworth at 7:50am. I made a bee-line for the port-a-potties. A little while later, I met up with a friend. We walked around the starting area before I left for my corral. I remembered how strict they were on late arrivals last year.
The Green Wave started on the lower deck of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. They walked us to the staging area at about 9:30am. I made another trip to the bathroom before reaching the starting line.
The pre-race announcements started. Three NYPD helicopters flew overhead just before the start. The cannon fired and “New York, New York” started playing. We were off!
The temperature was in the high 50s – almost perfect for running. There was rain in the forecast leading up to the race but it didn’t materialize. Instead, there was a fine mist in the air, though.
Early Miles, Part I – Miles 0 to 2 (Staten Island – Verrazano-Narrows Bridge)
The race started with a steady climb up the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The view of Manhattan, to the left, was obscured by fluffy white clouds. I followed the 3:30 pacer to avoid weaving but after I almost tripped over a fellow runner, moved off on my own. The incline crested and first mile marker went by.
I ran a conservative pace on the downhill, hugging the blue line on the road marking the fastest shortest route to the finish line. But, I thought the second mile marker came quickly. I couldn’t remember the splits I wanted for this segment of the race, but thought my time was slow. (It was. I planned for 15:40.)
Splits (by course): 8:34, 7:24.
Early Miles, Part I – Miles 2 to 8 (Brooklyn)
I knew my goal for this section of the race was 7:45 pace. I also expected it would feel too fast. Days earlier, 8:15 pace felt like marathon pace to me and now I was pushing my body 30 seconds per mile faster!
The course followed an on-ramp for a mile. I tucked behind a runner with “Thailand” on the back of his shirt who was adeptly navigating the crowds. We went up a slight ramp, took a left, and passed Mile 3. I was pleased with a 7:35 split.
After the 5K, I passed a short, African-American runner and thought, “That might be Kevin Hart!” Then smiled, “Every short black man on the course today is going to be confused for Kevin Hart.” (I think he started in the Blue Wave, so the runner I passed was not Kevin Hart.)
The route took a sharp turn to the left, an immediate turn to the right, and then offered up the first water station. While other runners scattered for cups, I ran through. A half mile later, the course turned right onto Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn.
The crowds in Brooklyn were exuberant but I thought there were fewer people out. As the Green start merged with Blue start, I moved to the center of the road. I found Thailand again and let him lead the way. A woman from the club I ran with this summer saw me! We said, “Hello,” but she went one way and I went another.
My splits were fast, but I could tell the road was mostly downhill. The 3:25 pacer from the Blue Wave passed by and I think those runners helped me run faster, too. The Orange Wave was separated by tape on our left. They weren’t as congested and some runners joined them – including Thailand. “Damn,” I thought. “I lost my pacer.”
I was all business for the next two miles. I started a Crank Sport e-Gel at Mile 6 and grabbed water for the first time at Mile 7.
There was a Jumbo-tron showing the elite race at the intersection with Atlantic Avenue. I could make out Shalane and Mary Keitany but couldn’t tell who was in the lead. The course went left onto Flatbush Avenue and I passed the Mile 8 marker.
I managed to run my race strategy for this section of the race. Excellent! But, I wondered if I would pay a price.
Splits (by course): 7:36, 7:38, 7:33, 7:33, 7:35, 7:43.
Early Miles, Part II – Miles 8 to 14 (Brooklyn)
The course took a sharp right onto Lafayette Avenue, which is slightly uphill. The road narrowed as the crowd spilled into the street. From what I recalled, I wanted to run 7:45 pace through this section of the course, too. (Nope. I was supposed to slow to 7:50 pace.) I wasn’t getting a good reading on my Garmin. Early on, it showed I was running 6:30 pace for Mile 9, which couldn’t be right but I slowed down a little. I hit the lap button at the marker and saw an 8 minute mile! Oh no! I was upset but instantly told myself that I’d run some 7:30 miles, so my race wasn’t over.
The course turned left onto Bedford Avenue. I rode the blue line on the street and worked on finding 7:45 pace again. I passed Mile 10 relieved that I was back on pace. The course bent slightly to the left and later to the right. I ran a couple of “slow” miles but I wasn’t too concerned.
In this section of Williamsburg, the crowds were loud and right on the edge of the road. I saw a sign that said, “This seemed like a good idea 4 months ago” and smiled. I also exited race mode and high-fived some spectators. I started my second gel around Mile 12. “You have to eat,” I told myself. I went in for water at the next stop before the course went left. It was mayhem! With so much going on, I missed the marker for Mile 12. I decided not to drink again until Manhattan. After a half mile, the course turned right and then made a quick left before the Pulaski Bridge.
At Mile 13, I looked at my pace band for the first time. It said I should come in at 1:44:07. My Garmin read… 1:38:44! Wow! I didn’t realize I was that far ahead of sub-3:30 pace! I reached the climb on the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. I came through the half in 1:41:15 and calculated that I had a 4 minute cushion for the second half. I felt a sense of relief.
I cruised downhill into Queens. The course went left for a block before turning right. The road opened up a bit and I found the blue line again.
Splits (by course): 7:57, 7:33, 7:50, 8:03, 7:24, 7:58.
Middle Miles, Part I – Miles 14 to 16 (Queens)
I couldn’t remember the pace I wanted to run here. The first part of Queens is flat but I also thought I should be slowing down. (Yes, to 8:30 pace.)
The spectators in Queens were loud but because I was preparing myself for the toughest part of the course, I tried not to pay too much attention. The course went left twice before heading onto the Queensboro Bridge.
I shifted down a gear and told myself, “Steady up the hill!” I clicked off Mile 15 and it wasn’t as slow as I thought. After the hill crested, I gradually increased my leg turn-over until I reached Mile 16. I checked my pace band to assess the damage. It said I should be at 2:08:09 and my Garmin was at 2:04:45. I still had a 3:15 lead!
Splits (by course): 8:15, 8:18.
Middle Miles, Part II – Miles 16 to 20 (Manhattan – First Avenue)
Coming off the Queensboro Bridge onto First Avenue, the roar of the crowd seemed tempered this year. Maybe people weren’t feeling as exuberant in this damp weather.
The course followed First Avenue for about three miles. I figured I wanted to run 8 minute pace for this segment. (I got this one right!) I also knew I usually I fade during this stretch of the race. “For once,” I thought, “I’d like to feel good at Mile 20.” There was a Jumbo-tron on the left side of the road showing the men’s race but I couldn’t make out who was in the lead.
Shortly after Mile 17, I knew should get water at the next stop. I went to grab a cup and two runners slowed to a walk right in front of me! I moved out the way just in time to avoid a collision but yelled at them. It wasn’t my nicest moment but I was so frustrated by the lack of water stop etiquette.
I was running sub-8:00 paced miles and thought, “Every sub-eight minute mile is a bonus!” By Mile 19, it was sprinkling and I could also tell I was running into a slight wind. But, I was still hitting my splits heading onto the Willis Bridge.
Entering The Bronx, I reached into my pockets for my last gel and a Swords Caffeine Chews packet.
At Mile 20, my pace band showed 3:30 pace should be 2:40:11 and I ran 3:36:42. Not bad. I was still over 3 minutes ahead of pace.
Splits (by course): 7:51, 7:49, 7:59, 8:20.
Middle Miles, Part II – Miles 20 to 21 (The Bronx)
Reaching Mile 20, I thought my goal for the rest of the race was 8:20 pace. (Right, again!) The course snaked through The Bronx for the next mile. I nursed my last gel along the way. Usually, I feel terrible at this point but today I felt pretty good! In fact, when another 3:25 pacer came by, I stayed with him. Then, I thought, “That’s not your goal today,” and slowed down. I hit Mile 21 just before the Madison Avenue Bridge back into Manhattan.
Splits (by course): 8:14.
Later Miles 21 to 24 (Manhattan – Fifth Avenue)
Coming off the bridge, the course went left onto Fifth Avenue. This is a tough stretch! I ate a caffeine chew for an extra boost.
After a mile, the course jutted right and around Marcus Garvey Park for a few blocks. I got passed by the woman I sat with on the bus to Fort Wadsworth! That was probably the distraction that caused me to miss the Mile 22 marker.
Back on Fifth Avenue, I settled in for the slightly uphill miles ahead. Suddenly, I saw a woman crossing the road to my left! I put my arm out, screamed, and did a ballet move to avoid going hitting her. I kept running but felt an adrenaline rush. A mile or so down the road, a runner in front of me stopped abruptly to walk! Again, I barely managed to avoid a collision. I finally hit the lap button on my Garmin at Mile 23. My pace band had 3:04:13 and I was at 3:01:35. My cushion was now over 2 minutes.
The entrance to the Park seemed so far away! “It’s okay,” I thought. “You just need to run nine minute miles at this point.” Sure enough, when I saw my next split, it was over nine minute pace. My lead was down to a minute and a half! I was angry that I let that happen. “At this point, it’s mental.”
Splits (by course): 16:41 (Miles 22 and 23), 9:07.
Later Miles 24 to 26.2 (Central Park)
I entered Central Park and the course bent to the left. Approaching Mile 24, my pace band noted that I wanted to see 3:12:13. But, I missed the split swiping my Garmin from lap to overall time!
The course went right and downhill. I lengthened my stride to take advantage. Mile 25 was at the bottom of a hill. My pace band called for 3:20:14 and I was at 3:18:48. I hadn’t lost much time. “Just hold on,” I thought as the course went uphill and to the right.
On Central Park South, all of my energy went into maintaining pace. I must have heard my name because I looked up and saw a friend who told me she’d be cheering for me! I waved and tried to smile. 800 meters to go!
At Columbus Circle, the course turned right. I clicked off Mile 26 in 3:27:05. “You can run a quarter in three minutes,” I thought. But, it wasn’t until I was steps from the finish line that I knew sub-3:30 was mine.
Splits (by course): 8:07, 8:17, 1:48 (8:09 pace).
Moments later, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears of relief and pride welled in my eyes. So much sweat and suffering went into this moment!
Walking through the finish line area, I got a medal and mylar sheet pretty quickly. I felt light headed and sick to my stomach. It dawned on me that I didn’t have much water during the race. I received a recovery bag with a water, Gatorade products, an apple, and pretzels but I didn’t feel like drinking or eating yet. Exiting the Park, I ended up talking with two fellow runners before taking the subway to my hotel.
Later that evening, I had dinner with college friends and then went to the grocery store for second dinner.
The next morning, I went for a short run in Central Park. I went to the marathon pavilion where runners could have their medal engraved. The line was very long!
My time was 3:28:53 (7:59 pace) [Log Details]. I was the 4,552nd finisher out of 50,643 (top 9%), 671st woman out of 21,060 (top 4%), and 42nd in my age group out of 2,757 (top 2%). I met my time goal and have a guaranteed spot for next year’s race!
In the women’s elite race, Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon since 1977 in 2:26:53 (5:37 pace). Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor won the men’s race in 2:10:53 (5:00 pace) while fan favorite Meb Keflezighi finished 11th in his final competitive marathon.
With the exception of waiting to board buses to Fort Wadsworth from Staten Island, the race was a well-orchestrated event as usual. If there was increased security due to Tuesday’s attack, I didn’t notice it. I thought there were fewer spectators this year, though, probably due to the weather.
Since crossing the finish line, I’ve felt incredibly proud of this result. I had serious doubts about hitting my goal but I had the courage to go for it anyway. I was rewarded with my fastest time since the 2015 California International Marathon! I’ve also felt hopeful that there’s still room for improvement.
My plan was to run easy for a few weeks before training for the San Diego 50 and Trail Marathon – my first ultra-running event! But, I’m having second thoughts about traveling so soon.
When I started training in July, my goal for the 2017 New York City Marathon was sub-3:30 (8:00 pace). It was a hot and humid summer, which led to slower training times and doubts about reaching that goal. On race day, the weather was mid-50s and damp. I ran the first half faster than planned – 1:41:15 (7:44 pace) and watched a 4 minute cushion shrink to two by Mile 23. But, I held on and finished in 3:28:53 (7:59 pace)! I worked very hard this summer and I couldn’t be prouder!