November 1st finally came, and I can now say that I've run a full marathon :) It feels sort of weird, since it's been a dream of mine for about 10 years now. I almost feel like I place it way up on this pedistool of things that are impossible- and with all the times I've gotten injured in the past, I really wondered if I'd ever be able to do it. I definitely did not run the time I trained for and wanted to run, so I go back and forth between being thankful and glad I accomplished it, and then sometimes crying and getting frustrated that I didn't do better.
I haven't written about my running for a while, b/c during my last long run (about 2.5 weeks before the marathon), I went out to do a 20-miler and had some issues arise. I had just bought new running shoes and wanted to break them in before race day, and the shop owner had told me they'd be fine to jump in and run a long run. So I went out and was feeling fine, until mile 17- and my IT band suddenly locked up. I don't know how to explain it to people who haven't had issues with it, but it grinds on the outside of my knee and feels like it's going to snap. So I had to walk instead of run the rest of the way back, because I've learned after 9 years of struggling with this injury that I can't run through it unless I want to take 6-8 weeks off running. So I stretched, took Ibuprofen, and iced like crazy when I got home that night. The next morning it felt terrible still, which is a really bad sign :/ It hurt even just to walk, and usually it only hurts when I run- so I knew it could be serious. I cried that morning walking Copper, I cried on the way in to work, I cried with Nick after work- I cried A LOT. I really thought all my training was going to be a total waste. I considered backing out and saving my race number until next year, when I would hopefully not have any injury. I kept going back and forth on what to do. So for the next 5 days, I didn't run at all, and I just did tons of icing and stretching- and it definitely got better- about 80% healthy. I was able to run about 5 more times before the marathon- the longest being 8.5 miles b/c I was supposed to be tapering anyway before race day. My leg still hurt some, but I decided I was going to finish the marathon if it meant crawling.
Now on to NYC :) This marathon is the coolest thing I've ever done. Nick did it in 2001, and his dad did it in 1982 and 2002- and they've both talked about it so much that I had to experience it. There were so many people from so many countries- I didn't even know what most of the languages were that I heard when I was walking around before the race. The cool thing is that Natalie and Marshall (Nick's sister and brother-in-law) live on Staten Island- where the race starts. So everyone else has to get up at 4 or 5a.m. to catch transportation to get over to the start line from the main part of the City. But we were literally 1/4 of a mile from the start, and just waited til about 30 minutes before our start time to walk over.
Marshall decided he was going to just run it with Natalie at her pace, and his friend Ian said he'd run with me, and help pace me to the 3:50- which I totally should've been able to do. So we started with my 10:00 group, and they started with the 10:20- so we said goodbye and headed to our areas. I feel like there's no way to explain how incredible this experience is, and it almost cheapens it to put it into words. But running with 43,000 people and with almost 2 million people cheering you on the whole way is overwhelming. I think my favorite part was in Brooklyn. I had just warmed up, so I took off my long sleeve shirt, and so everyone could see my name on my jersey and where Nick had written it on my arms, and everyone started yelling my name. I would say 300-400 people yell specifically for me during that race, and it helped so much. I actually got a little emotional at one point, and had to pull myself together :) People are out there handing out bananas, orange slices, tissues, gum- anything you could want. And if you run on the side, everyone (especially the kids) wants to slap your hand- my favorite part :)
I told Ian pretty early on that my IT band had started getting irritated, but I kept popping in Ibuprofen to dull the pain as much as I could. About mile 9 it got really bad, but the medicine made it a little better by mile 12/13. Then we got on 1st Avenue (about mile 16) and I was so excited b/c I knew that Nick, my parents, and Nick's parents were going to be at mile 18. It still makes me sad, b/c I thought I was supposed to look for them on the left side, and they were on the right :( So I got to 88th Street (where they were) and looked so hard and never saw them. And with so many runners, they never saw me either. It was so disheartening, because that had kept me going when I had started feeling pretty crappy and my feet had started to charlie horse. The last 7 miles were rough- I think early on in the race I was compensating for my IT band problem and so I strained the inner part of my thighs, and they started to cramp and charlie horse in the last part of the race. Or it may have just been b/c I was running a marathon which I've never done before :) It was the weirdest feeling- I've never had anything like it!!! I could go about 5-6 minutes running, and then my legs would lock up and I'd have to try to walk and rub it out- and do that all over again. I had sent Ian on ahead around mile 17, so I made it the last part of the race on my own. And I can't even express how happy I was when Nick jumped in and ran with me for about 2-3 minutes right before mile 24 :) I had been so sad about missing them at mile 17, and that was such a help to get me to the end of the race. The last few miles go through Central Park, but you're so exhausted and ready to be done that it's difficult to enjoy. But I swear, except for 1 little tunnel, there are people lining the streets the ENTIRE race and encouraging you on. And that really was so helpful for those last few miles. I couldn't believe how long it felt to get from mile marker 26 to 26.2. I swear, it seemed like that 1/5th of a mile took forever. But I finished... and then the cramping really started. After the finish line, everyone is squished in- trying to get their medals, bags with drink and food, blankets, etc. and my feet wouldn't stop charlie horsing, but I had no room to even bend down and try to fix them! Then the chaos was overwhelming, with everyone trying to connect with their families. It took about 30 minutes for me to meet up with my parents and Nick and Brian (he's an NYU journalism student who needed to do a story on someone in the race, and since he went to Marshall for undergrad, he found and interviewed me). But during that time... I ran into ANNE HATHAWAY!!!!!! NO JOKE!!! I was walking around hoping to just run into my family, and she walked by in a peacoat and sunglasses, and I turned and asked the guy behind me, "DoyouknowwhoAnneHathawayis?Doyouthinkthatwasherjustnow???" He just stared at me- either because he didn't speak English, or because I seriously said it so fast that he couldn't understand. So I thought "I'm gonna be so mad if I don't find out and if I always just wonder if that was her!" So I went back, GRABBED HER ARM (seriously???), and when she turned around I said, "I'm so sorry, I'm totally dorking out right now, but I have to know if you're Anne Hathaway." She was so nice and smiled and said yes, and then she clapped for me and said "You just ran in the race- congratulations!" !!!!!!!!! Then the woman with her (maybe her mom?) said "Her brother just ran the race too". Anyway, that was the extent of our convo- I said thank you and sorry and goodbye :) But it was so cool!!! I later realized how terrible I looked and smelled and was a bit embarassed, but oh well :)
So in summary, I'm so glad I did it, and that now I know a marathon is not this unattainable goal. I definitely don't think I'll become an addict to marathon running like many are- I'll stick to my half marathons and shorter races mostly. But I am entering my name in the lottery again to try to get in the race for 2010- or I'm at least running 1 more marathon at some point to get my sub-4 hour time. I really think I could've done it had my injury not happened so close to the race :/ But no use pouting over it! I would recommend for everyone to run the NYC marathon at least once. Even hours later after the race was over, so many New Yorkers were congratulating me and saying such nice things. It's like the runners are celebrities for the day :) I will warn you: there is so much uphill!!!!! I know- it's NYC and it doesn't seem to have hills- I thought it was exaggerated too. But the hills aren't steep- they just go on forever and you wonder if they'll ever end. 1st Avenue is about 2-2.5 miles of steady, small uphill, and then between miles 22-23 is a mile long hill. Plus, the 1st whole mile on the Verazzano Bridge is uphill, in Brooklyn there's uphill, and the Queensborough Bridge is almost 1 mile of uphill- but those are early on in the race so they don't hurt so bad.
One last funny memory- a man ran up past me, and smelled rather strong. But I had been used to the foreign men smelling a bit like B.O. (I'm not being prejudice- it's just the truth), so at first I didn't think anything of it. UNTIL I noticed that there was brown stuff all down his legs coming out of his shorts. The man totally pooed on himself!!!! Really??? Really, sir- couldn't you make a quick pitstop at a porta-potty? They're like every 1/2 mile!!! And it's not like we're elite runners here- it's not like you were going to break a world record and didn't have time to stop! Hilariously disgusting :)
I apologize if anyone actually read all this rambling. I really just wrote this for myself, so I can look back and remember what this awesome experience was like :)