by Toni Mayo
My calendar just sort of falls into a black hole after November 5th. I still haven't entirely come down from the whole week. The fact that I don't need to check the weather every five minutes is still a bit weird. I'm also not terrified beyond measure anytime someone sneezes near me - just mildly grossed out, and there is definite flinching.
You'd think with my level of nerdiness that this was my first marathon, but it was number 5 for me, and my second time getting to run NY. I plan on doing many more marathons, and I really hope I don't lose that full on excitement, and just you know, 'run a casual marathon'. I think running is the only place I really let my geek out, and I'm totally fine with that.
I don't know what it is, but to me, marathoning is just absolute bliss. Let me re-frame that: it is hard, it is painful, but I can think of no other opportunity that I've had to work hard enough at something that is challenging, and make it doable, and fun. Does that make sense? Basically, I feel like I ran my face off, often in a billion degree weather, sometimes uphill, sometimes very early in the morning, and that meant I got to have the party of my dreams on November 5th. I also haven't done too many things that are quantifiable. For instance, I used to be an actor, so you spend weeks rehearsing, then you put on this production, and afterwords, you kind of know you did well, or that you blew it … but there was no real measure for success. I love that I am part of something now where I can see myself getting better, faster and more intelligent in racing.
My goal this year was to run a 3:45. (My previous PR was 3:57 in Marseilles 2017.) So I set out doing what anyone with terrible game plans would do, and picked a training plan that peaked at 70+ miles per week (way more mileage than I'd previously run). On about day 10 of this plan, I was on a miserable midweek 12 mile run, and I bumped into Karina Christiansen and basically started crying about how tired I was already and that I didn't know what the hell I was doing. Shortly thereafter, I asked her to coach me - this was a very smart decision! Working with Karina had me scale back my mileage quite a lot, and to do specific workouts for speed, hills (ugh, terrible), and probably most helpful were long progression runs. Had I stuck to my own 'plan' I'd be running a million miles a week at the same pace and wondering why I wasn't getting faster.
The day before the race I felt ready. I had actually done a taper. I had actually rested. I had actually hydrated. One problem- I'd also actually eaten carbohydrates- perhaps you've heard of them? Yeah, I thought race week would be a good time to introduce them to my system. So needless to say, the day before, I was having some, trouble that no coffee, jumping jacks, or voodoo would fix. Oh, you know what did fix it? Running 10 miles. But more on that later.
Mentally I was in a good place. I really felt that I had done everything possible to execute the race I wanted. I was also surrounded by the best people. I had so many NBR friends that I'd trained with and friends from out of town who flew in to run. The mass amount of support and texts I got from NBR people was just mid blowing. I guess I'd talked about the marathon a lot? Perhaps has posted a *few* training updates on Instagram? There really did seem to be a shared bond with everyone participating during the week leading up to the race, and not being alone with that anxiety and taper madness meant the world. I have no idea how I trained for previous marathons without a team.
And then it was Sunday. Despite the Marathon's agonizingly late start and difficult to get to starting line … everything was great. I saw so many friends on the ferry and in the start village, and aside from the fact that my body was refusing to function properly (carbs), I was pumped.
I started out running with my friend Heather (an NBR who sometimes runs with South Brooklyn Runners!?) and we'd made a loose plan to keep things flexible and if we stuck together, great and if we didn't, great. Given the density of crowds, we really only stuck together till 4th Avenue. She went on to run a beautiful race!
Oh man running through Brooklyn is just tops. Tops! I'm a born and raised New Yorker, so I had friends in so many different neighborhoods. My face literally hurt from smiling. I was on crack. And then getting to mile 12? Crack on Steroids. As I'd hoped, I bumped into tons of NBR people along the course, and it was like 'oh yeah, this is our home town run'.
Oh right. Mile 10. I had to make a game-time decision to either run with an upset stomach, or sacrifice a minute + with a bathroom stop. I stopped, hence that happy look on my face in every photo.
I spent a few miles trying to make up some lost time, and then worrying a little that this would cost me, but mostly I stayed pretty even. The best part of the whole experience for me is that I really felt in the moment. I was aware of my watch but I wasn't future tripping. I really saw the crowds of people, which was overwhelming, and saw so many inspiring runners on the course. I just felt really lucky the whole time.
Oh but then it was mile 23, and I felt a little less lucky, but I sort of blocked that out and then it was the turn on 59th street and was running. I've never had so much steam at the end of a marathon. I looked up and saw my parents right before getting to the finish, and they were screaming their faces off and my heart basically exploded.
I feel so lucky that I get to run with NBR and that I share a ridiculous passion with people as ridiculous as I am to enjoy this madness. I am massively thrilled for so many unbelievable NBR's marathons! So many inspiring people. Shoutout to Karina (who ran a mind-blowingly awesome race), and to everyone I ran Narwals with every week, you all make 20 mile runs look really good. Also we ran to the Bronx. And we ran to Coney Island (who else does that???) And of course the Wednesday Night Road Runners crew, you guys make the Pulaski bridge feel flat.
Post marathon, I'm still pretty blissed out. I'm also on a juice cleanse because as stated earlier, I don't know how to make smart decisions. This falls into the 'what not to do after a marathon' category. I am happy because I feel like I've run a race without disclaimers, like "oh, I ran it in X time, but it would have been X if not for X"...you know? I just feel happy with what I did that day, an 8 minute PR will do that!
My only advice to people planning to run any marathon is to be pumped about your own race. I primarily run with people that are faster than me, and my PR times are lousy race times for them. But I can't let that mess with my head. I just have to keep trying to catch up to them. Everyone should run the NYC Marathon, because NY is ostentatious enough to start a marathon on an impossible to get to island, and it would finish on an uphill, because largely living here we have to fight for every square inch, and the marathon is no different. It is wonderful.