Dream Marathon – NYC

New York City, NY

I just got back from a fabulous although cut short trip. This time with a goal, finish the NYC Marathon!

I had said once some years ago that if I were to do a marathon this is the only 1 I wanted to do….aka dream marathon.

Well it has finally come to fruition.

It all started in 2010 after I ran my first half marathon and realized I could probably do well in a marathon. So I signed up for the lottery to the NYC Marathon. I was so Excited for them to pull my name that I even watched the lottery online at work (oops) but like many people I was not called (boo).

With the same adrenaline at the thought of running NYC I decided to sign myself up for the Portland Marathon (Oregon, USA). I was freaking out, what had I done? I really just signed up for a MARATHON!!! ****! As if for some reason I was not scared the same way for that of NYC, no clue why…maybe it was the uncertain feeling from the lottery. So there I was with a MARATHON to train for…ahhh.

10-10-10 I ran in the rainy but excellent Portland Marathon. With friends and others cheering me along, a very cool view crossing St. Johns Bridge, a marriage proposal on the hilltop, down the hill of the Adidas HQ and its cool shoe statue, through a tunnel, past some beer hydration and to the finish line! Yeah! I had finished, my #1 goal (might I add quickly) and somehow managed to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Well shoot I thought I can´t pass that up, that is like one of the best, most well know marathons in the world and I just QUALIFIED!

A few months later I attempted to signed up for the BOSTON MARATHON. It was a year of economic crisis, when everyone apparently qualified and wanted to run (many without jobs had time to train and run). The sucker sold out in 8 hours. I was out of town on the day it opened…and with a flooded webpage to sign-up things were slow. I was about to just give up and handle it when I got back home but I stuck with it and was one of the lucky ones to grab a registration spot! Wow!!

Patriots day, Monday, April 18, 2011 aka Marathon Monday. I headed with 3 members of my family to Boston, MA, USA for the race. A busy time for me as I was transitioning between quitting my job to move to grad school (oddly in Boston), moving from Seattle to Boston, running a marathon and headed to Peru to volunteer for 4 months (all within 1 week).

Race weekend the vibe was amazing. You could just feel the energy in the city, all these fast runners coming to this great place to run the oldest marathon. The energy, really just the energy you couldn´t miss it.

The race was great, perfect weather, tailwind, amazing traditions along the course, cool people to meet and many internationals. Geoffrey Mutai even broke a world record, except for the wind they wouldn´t accept it. Plus my favorites Ryan Hall and Desiree Davila (now Linden) were running too! How cool!!

Long story short…it was here at Boston that I managed to QUALIFY again but this time for entry into NYC. Finally the dream would happen in 2012.

Well…it would have had the race not been cancelled the following year (first time ever in its history) for a hurricane (Sandy) that ripped through the Big Apple. I also happened to be injured…so I guess it was just not my calling quite yet. Bummer!

The NYRR were deciding what to do with so many runners run out of their dream marathon opportunity. They offered a redo for 2013 or 2014 or a refund. I was travelling in Asia and MISSED THE LAST DATE TO DECIDE MY OPTION. I couldn´t believe my luck but decided to write them. They allowed me to still decide but being as I was not prepared and was just happy to have been allowed to still decide I choose 2014. If I had given it some more thought (or the 30 second delayed thought after selecting) I would have said refund because I had cancelled for injury in 2012 before Sandy which gives you till the next year to run and taken my refund….instead I paid twice the not so little fee of $350 to run this DREAM.

So here we are in 2014, years and stories later. I just ran my 3rd marathon with another personal record for me in the marathon of my dreams. I went in coming off injury (2 weeks prior) and stressed out (aka not well rested either) but all systems were go the day before race day.

I was now living in Panamá so I made an extra effort to go to the race but I was happy and excited because I was to fly to Boston first to see some great friends in fall…awe New England fall. Unfortunately work got in the way and I had to leave early from my vacation so I only got precious little time (but quality time with my friends and the city) there before heading to NYC to run the 5 boroughs.

I stayed with my friends Emile, Rufus and Shaka like I usually do in NYC. This time in Harlem…oooo dangerous…not at all, instead it was such a nice neighborhood and it even has nearby Riverside Park to run along.

Race Day – Nov 2, 2014 – It was a freaking cold, cold day with 30 MPH winds. So much so NYRR had to take down lots of signs and even the start arch and wheelchair racer started after the bridge. The All-American race began for me at 4 AM taking the Subway for 1 hour to its end. (not even the closest line because it was being repaired – aka I survived a 4:30 AM walk in Harlem…he he) I jumped on the Ferry to Staten Island, the start. I met a ton of people from everywhere in the world with so many different stories of how they got there…from a fast 20 something from Germany and his dad to a couple from NC, USA who got lottery entry in both NYC and Marine Corp (the week prior they ran) and many more later. This start was perfect, to see the Statue of Liberty at daybreak all lit up was surreal. At Staten, I took my time getting to the bus that drove us to the real start then finally found my START WAVE, GREEN. Many brought extra shoes, trash bags (forgot mine this time…**** – it is for warmth), sleeping bags/blankets, yoga mats, reading materials, food, etc because we had a good 3-4 hour wait before even running!!!

Logistics of 50,000+ people running…ouch. So for those 3 hours, instead of finding a spot to sit or sleep on the grass, along the fences I managed my way into a trash dumpster site without its dumpster…it was a super lucky find because its walls blocked the wind and provided runners some protection from the chill. We were a community for the next few hours, sharing stories from everywhere while trying to stay warm in our huddle, Best story here was of the Italians who spoke no English but joined our group after a woman from our group left to find something and 1 managed to hit on her by offering and even rubbing muscle cream on her thigh…ja ja GREATNESS, leave it to the Italian, Dr. Radiologist.

Start time finally was upon us. Runners were separated by corral with bathrooms and lots of space. Many wearing sweats and hats freezing now in the open to the wind…brrrr. Huddle!!! I met a veteran runner who gave me tips regarding the start and wind…he was a coach for Team For Kids (NYRR), he would be running back and forth for a total of about 35 Miles that day until 8 PM helping those running for the charity…woah so impressive, his 9th time.

At 9:40 AM our group started. The energy and excitement on the bridge before the cannons went off was like no other as we heard the national anthem I knew this was the most American race ever and I couldn´t wait to run it. The time was NOW. The energy came out of nowhere, I wanted to run fast with it…I tossed some clothes and we were off.

The bridge had people on top and below, me below. Winds sooo strong as we crossed Verrazano Bridge my left leg hit my right and my whole body was pushed to the right as I ran even with the advice to stay near the median of the bridge. This continued to happen various times throughout the race and is likely why my ankle hurt the next day.

Entering Brooklyn was great even though we were there forever. The whole street was lined with cheering locals, friends/family and fans, bands/church choirs, motivational signs, runners, and just pure energy between all 6 lanes of the road! It felt like I was in the perfect parade, the parade of marathoners/of runners…the coolest feeling. Brooklyn is also where I tossed more clothes for the volunteers to pick up. For the first few miles I really just lost track of what I was doing and what was around me as I relished the energy and fought my first mental battle of not wanting to run. It was quickly resolved and I began to focus on the race…taking in the signs and cheers…¨GO T GO¨…that was until the wind ripped the tape off my shirt…Then there I was alone running like normal, not feeling competitive with soo many people running everywhere but at a good pace while looking for maybe some friends along the course…of which I never found them but they were out there mixed in the masses.

Every mile and major KM has a timing mat and clock which itself was motivational because each time I crossed one I thought of my family and friends somewhere watching me, cheering and hoping for me to do well. It motivated me to keep running and to not let anyone down. It also helped track time because my watch lost signal…not cool…likely due to the thousands using GPS that day. Thank you NYRR for those clocks!!! In addition I some how managed to pause my watch for a few miles without noticing….not cool either…oh well.

My favorite part was entering Queens because someone said ¨Welcome to Queens¨ in a great New York accent as came off the bridge and entered…it sure brought a smile to my face. The bridges here, eh, not so much a fan (5 bridges along the whole race, 2 in Queens entering and leaving..brr). Although I´ll admit the Queensboro did/does have the most surprising and spectacular views of the city. The Bronx was also short, about a mile and had very winding streets, it was my first time stepping foot there, and the city center we ran through was pure greatness, not as wide of streets, tree lined and just filled, and I mean filled with people as we trudged up a hill (obviously speedily :P). Although I hated the winding streets when we got there, it was fun taking the corners. From there another bridge back into Manhattan.

Ah Manhattan, the final stretch…again looking for friends with no avail…coming off this bridge was really cool a nice U-turn and again filled with people cheering for some name or country passing…eventually it was annoying when the same Daniel or Sweden was cheered for for miles though…ha ha. I saw some Guatemalan runners and got excited (I was headed there after NYC) again as I passed them…he he.

The miles in the 20s were concentration full as I couldn´t tell if my legs were sore, injured or just Flippín cold! I was cold just about the whole race up until mile 23….The whole time I was just really was hoping the legs would stay strong and not cramp up!!! I also was hoping to find my friends at this point but again I did not, a let down I had to brush off as it was no ones fault. Focusing on reaching the finish was the next thing to look forward to…

I can not tell you how excited I was to see Central Park, meaning I was close and again making the race really feel ALL AMERICAN! Emotions were wild yet still focused on the goal. We ran along the park for what seemed forever because I thought we were to enter it which we eventually did and then the rolling hills hit filled with cheers as I just tried to maintain and avoid cramping. The last part we exited the park for a solid 2-3 blocks filled to the brim with cheers and then the final stretch POR FIN!

Here the decision to make was: sprint or keep pace?…I think I was sprinting because I was passing people but it sure did not feel like a sprint ha ha . Boom to a stop…..maybe the worst my legs have ever felt after a race!

Legs hurt even though recovery has been normal. From the finish we walked maybe 2 more miles, where finally my leg did cramp…SO THANKFUL it was after!!!!!! I had to stop and stretch and literally catch my breath or heart rate or something several times after taking fotos. Exiting while freezing was awful as it was so slow but at the same time I was thankful for the sun and happy to have selected no bag check…aka quicker exit and eventually they gave me a warm fleece poncho thing…yeah warmth!

Once I found my friends, I changed (on the street of course) and we headed to brunch, unlimited mimosas…I even got special treatment because I was the only marathoner there and they gave me a complimentary brunch…YEAH!!! I got 1 day after to celebrate, well or explore the city on foot with my camera before heading to Guatemala for work.

****First off I would like to thank all those who housed me on the journey, all those that cheered for me both near and far, all those friends in NY and BOS who I was able to see (it really means a lot), to Emile and gang who put up with my marathon needs and for the yummy food, to my Nike family for the support, those therapists who got me to the start, and all the support over the years in my road racing habit. You are all crucial anchors for my success!

The NYC Marathon was a great experience and very All American. The route was somewhat difficult, the hills were not big by any means but they hit at perfect times. The cheers were great although the roads were too wide (maybe for later finishers, the majority of participants, it was better and necessary). It would have been nice to see friends along the route, something you can´t guarantee. Maybe I should have used the licras…like many I decided not. That day before shopping did come in handy though, thanks Nike FlatIron for excellent help in my decision on ropa!

In the end I accomplished my goal: To run the NYC Marathon. I finished injury free and given the weather conditions I still managed a Personal Record by nearly 4 minutes. A cool All American experience with an excellent international flare. Time: 3:12:39

Would I do it again? Maybe if I had some friends running it with me (competitive even better).

What´s next? If my legs say so next month I will run the marathon here in Panamá and go for a better time and gold…if possible. Besides this I have several near and long-term goals…..an Ultra in February 50K, an international marathon (besides Panama if I do it), and a half Ironman in August (if work doesn´t get in the way).

I hope I have inspired or motivated you to set goals and go for them and well maybe to run or continue to run 😛 Any distance, any speed, all are worthy….its equally an worthy effort and excellent goal!

Other marathon blogs of mine (Boston, Chicago, Stockholm, Panama, Lithuania, Tasmania)

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