With the rush of spring marathons coming up, I look back over the last year and my races, miles, and goals. For a few years, I had been approaching a barrier that seemed impenetrable: a sub-3 hour marathon.
by Jeffrey Correa
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for the extraordinary commitment you all make every year to the Pride Run. I'm so proud of our team, particularly in light of the recent tragic events in Orlando, for making this race such a huge priority for the club. Special thanks to our amazing "Voluncheer" squad.
For me, the Pride Run is especially important, as it is in a sense, my "spiritual" anniversary with NBR. (Many) years ago, when I was in middle school, I ran cross country and really loved it. Unfortunately, when I moved on to high school, I started out with our cross country team and encountered a significant amount of bullying because I was gay. Sadly, that experience made me leave running and all sports behind.
Just a few years ago, I decided I wanted to start running again. I knew I needed the support of a team, and assumed that based on previous life experience, I should just join the Front Runners as I knew that I wouldn't encounter significant bias and harassment.
I registered for the Pride Run, and spent a couple of months training. I wasn't that fast, or that strong, but it felt great to get out and participate.
As I finished the race, walking around with friends, I noticed a very lively group of runners on the side of the hill. They all seemed to be having a great time, and I especially noticed their singlets and shirts that said, "North Brooklyn Runners". I thought, "I live in North Brooklyn, maybe I should check them out instead."
When I got home that afternoon, I did a search for NBR, and joined the Google group.
Flash forward a few years and I now have the honor and privilege of serving you all as the Board President of NBR.
I love this club precisely because of what we demonstrated today, and demonstrate every day. No matter how old or new you are, fast or slow you are, if you run marathons or 5K's, and no matter who you love, you belong here. This club's commitment to making every member feel included is the best part of who we are. I'm so grateful for the love and support of my teammates, and hope that you all feel that too.
Thank you for creating such a welcoming environment at all of our runs, races, and social events. It means so much to people, more than you probably know. And, thanks again for your participation in this year's Pride Run. I'm so proud to be a part of this club, especially in a moment when we all need to come together and care for and support each other.
Wishing you all a very festive Pride weekend, and look forward to seeing you out on the road very soon!
NBR Board President
by Erica Silbiger
As mentioned in several prior blog posts, I was training to run the Vermont 50 miler last September. My training was going relatively well but early in the summer I started to feel a weird pain down my left leg. Thinking it was just because I run so much and that I had started training for the ultra so soon after running the Paris Marathon, I thought I was fine. By mid-August the pain was so unbearable that I went to an orthopedic surgeon and he confirmed what I already knew: Vermont wasn’t happening.
We switched up my exercises at Finish Line Physical Therapy and I did strength training almost everyday. I was definitely getting better but then I started to plateau and could barely get past 2 miles without the pain coming back and then having a hard time walking the rest of the day. I was scheduled for a hip procedure and had all of these big dreams of how I was going to come back in a few short weeks with a bang. Everyone around me seemed really hopeful, which was helpful but part of me really didn’t think this was going to get better. Anyone who would ask I would tell them “I have complete faith that I’ll be back to normal in just a few short weeks.” Unfortunately I think I was just saying that because I was hoping that if I said it out loud so many times I would eventually believe it.
The day before New Year’s Eve I had the hip procedure done and I was so excited because I knew that after only 10 more days of rest and recovery I was going to be back to normal. No more major FOMO watching my friends post about their long runs, missing out on opportunities to rep NBR at races, or not fully being able to do the workouts with November Project. Right before the procedure started the radiologist told me that it was a waste of time as this wasn’t going to help. In addition to that there were a few complications and it set me back at least another 4 weeks.
I used to think that taking two rest days in a row was too much rest. I went crazy by the second day. But now I was approaching four months and I couldn’t even wrap my head around another 4 weeks.
It was really hard being sidelined for so long. I hated that I couldn’t run with my team and was already starting to feel left out of so much just because I couldn’t go to the runs with NBR. I’ve always loved going to FLPT every week but I loved going now more than ever because I could walk in there with no judgements and be treated like family. To still be treated like an athlete on days when I truly doubted if I still was. Even on the days where I had the least amount of hope, just a simple hug or a coffee made by the bossman himself was enough to turn my mood around.
I started going to November Project more often because they never made me feel pressured to do any of the running or any exercises that my doctor said I shouldn’t do. I was progressing so fast that my doctor practically begged me to keep going to November Project. But mostly because of how it kept me sane during those soon to be five months of not running. Because of NP, I am able to train with NBR again. Because of NP, I never felt alone during my work trips that sometimes last for weeks since they now have tribes in 30 cities around the country (#talk30tome). Because of NP, I was able to keep relatively sane while not being able to do the one thing I consider defines me the most for five months.
Because of November Project, the support of my family, friends, and NBR teammates, and most importantly, because of Finish Line Physical Therapy and the Hospital for Special Surgery I am able to write this race report.
This morning I ran a half marathon in my hometown of Coral Springs called the Race for Women’s Wellness that benefits breast cancer research. I believe everything happens for a reason but it was a very interesting coincidence that this specific race happened to be the first test of whether I can truly get back to running again.
I was dead set on running it this year after running it last year and having an absolute blast. I put it on my calendar and booked my flight once my travel schedule for work was set, but didn’t register for the race because at that point I was now injured and it seemed highly unlikely I would be able to run a half marathon. It’s been six years since I’ve said something like that and it broke my heart. I struggled for awhile on whether I was trying to come back too soon just for the nostalgia I’d have running past my old house and high school.
I kept going to the website to register and then logging out. That happened a few times and I knew there was another reason I felt so determined to run this year whether I was ready or not. Unfortunately that reason presented itself a few weeks ago.
My first marathon was dedicated to my grandfather who we had just lost under two years prior from kidney cancer and to my dad who had non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma as I was specifically running with Team in Training to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I feel my grandfather with me at every single race I run and I especially know he’s with me when I’m heading out of the Bronx towards mile 21 of the NYC Marathon every year.
While on a ski trip with some friends a few weeks ago I found out my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remembered this half marathon was a fundraiser for breast cancer research and immediately got on my phone and registered for the race without hesitation. This race was no longer about me, it was about her. I got back to NYC and heard the surgery was scheduled for three days before the race. I threw out all my anxieties about whether on not I could do this. It no longer had anything to do with whether I could do it. I had to do it. And it might not be pretty and it might not be a PR, but I was going to show up to the start line at 6am and find a way to make it to the finish line.
I started out too fast, as per usual, until I reminded myself that there is no reason to push it too hard and that it didn’t even take until mile 3 to realize that it was nasty hot out with 95% humidity. Running 7-somethings would not be sustainable if my goal was to finish and without re-injuring myself. The annoying part was that my leg was feeling pretty good minus some twinges here and there but that I was so nauseous the whole time and my legs felt like lead. Part of it was the heat and humidity, part of it was reacquainting myself with long distance, but a lot of it was from the muscle relaxers I had taken the day before for a different procedure I had to have done at the hospital. Not smart.
Even though I felt like crap, my left leg felt good so I slowed it down a tad more and decided to channel an NBR teammate of mine who likes to tell you what USED to be on that street instead of the street name while giving the run route directions. He grew up in Greenpoint so it’s always fun hearing him describe the run route and learning about the old moovie theatah that yousta be a laundromat before it turnt into ah macdahnald’s…on llama street. We love you, Slaski!! (The best direction giver ever).
So I ran past the house I grew up in, I passed the shopping center that used to be a dollar theater where I had my first date with David Levinson, which was across the street from some spa that used to be a Kinkos that was next to a Verizon store that used to be a Little Caesar’s pizza where my parents and I would walk to for $5 pizzas that we would eat while they made us watch X-files and Star Trek. Then turning right onto the street that has a Mexican restaurant that used to be RJ Gators where I had pie thrown in my face on my 10th birthday and sang Celine Dion karaoke with my dad. I passed the running park where I first started running, which was behind the physical therapy office I went to after my first injury in high school where my doctor told me I would never run again. It’s no coincidence my PT’s name was Angel and I’ll never forget him.
A few miles down that street until we passed the dermatology office that used to be a Miami Subs which was where my friends and I went after every football game in high school. Across the street from the surgical center where I had my four impacted wisdom teeth removed. Passed the shopping center that used to have a Blockbuster where we would rent all our movies on family night (or later date night…the original Netflix and chill!). Passed Bru’s Room where my friend Amy used to work which was the block before the Arby’s where my friend Mike worked. Then we turned onto the street where I used to do my six mile loop on Thursdays for track practice on recovery days. Farther down until we ran right into the parking lot of my alma mater, JP Taravella! Where the P stands for Pride!!
Oh and by the way JPTers… They repainted the new (now very old) building to blue and silver which is what it should have been in the first place instead of looking like MSD…weird. Oh and to all my track sisters, STILL NO RUBBER TRACK. STILL. COME ON.
I mentally pointed out all the houses my friends used to live in and thought about all of the fun times we had there. Also at some point got to see and wave to the parents of one of my best friends. Totally wasn’t expecting to see them! So it was a nice surprise to see some friendly faces considering I was really struggling at that point.
After JPT we headed back to the sports complex where I used to swim with my mom after school that is now the finish line. I have a love-hate relationship with miles 11 and 12 of a half marathon. You’re almost done…but still feels like it will never end. But meanwhile, that’s also when you realize that endurance running isn’t always an individualized sport. That’s when it becomes a team sport. Everyone is pushing each other to the finish. Since I was repping my NBR singlet I got a nice little “Come on, Brooklyn!” and I paid it forward with a few “you got it, girl!” Some high fives here and there and then a kick to the finish.
As soon as I rounded the corner for the last .1 to the finish line, I saw my grandma standing right in front of the final sensors, camera in hand, only three days after her surgery. I blew her a kiss and crossed the finish line with all the feels.
After chugging an entire bottle of water and some cold compresses from the fantastic volunteers, I went to go find her. When I crossed the finish line and one of the volunteers gave me the medal, I just couldn’t put it on. I knew it really wasn’t for me. When I found my grandma and she came up to me with the biggest, proudest smile on her face, I knew it was for her. I put the medal around her neck and told her that her race is much harder than mine and she deserves it more than me.
The Race for Women’s Wellness started out as a test of my own wellness, but turned into something so much more. Thinking back on how much pain I was in last August and how much doubt I had about being able to really run again, I can’t tell you the feeling I had crossing that finish line six months later without leg pain. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t a tiny bit sore in the area and I am absolutely nowhere near done with my workouts at Finish Line PT (THEY CAN’T GET RID OF ME THAT FAST!), but I will say that my patience and good faith (although sometimes faked) paid off. Thank you, Finish Line, for getting me back on my feet in time to honor my grandmother in the only way I know how.
SEE YOU ON THE ROAD!!
Report by Heather Irvine
Finishing a marathon. Running a sub-four marathon. Breaking three hours in a marathon. Running a marathon in all 50 states or across seven continents. Qualifying for Boston. We've heard the bucket list items again and again. But the deeper I get down the rabbit hole that is the the running community and the more bucket list items I hear about, the more perplexed I become.
There's an item missing from the majority of these lists: the Athens Marathon in Greece, more specifically, the one that starts in the town of Marathonas. Literally where marathoning started.
Maybe Greece doesn't publicize the November race enough. Or maybe it's overshadowed by the New York City Marathon, which falls the week before and draws worldwide attention. Or maybe people don't even realize there's a marathon in the town of Marathon.
No matter the reason, distance runners should be breaking down the doors to flock to their mecca of Marathonas. I did, last fall, and it was the most fun I've ever had over 26.2 miles.
I could go into specifics about my training (I trained for the September mile and then threw in some long runs and called it a day), my weekly mileage (not many), how I modified my diet in the days we hung out in Athens before the race (stayed away from shaved meat). But this marathon wasn't about that. I knew going into it this was going to be a fun race, a once-in-a-lifetime race, a bucket list race, and I wasn't going to be bogged down by my Type A self turning this into another "race the clock" race.
We got to Athens 2.5 days before the marathon. Enough time to tire my legs out walking all over the city, time to drink heavy Greek coffee causing my stomach to ask me, "what the heck?," and time to experiment with some authentic Greek cuisine, barring the shaved meat.
The temps were warm (low 70s), and I knew it would be a warm race without much shade. But instead of panicking about my time, I thought, you're here to enjoy it and not end up in the hospital hooked to IVs (again).
The Bus Ride
On Sunday morning, while Jeff slept in the separate twin bed, because Europe, I made my way to a line of coach buses in the dark. It was cool, and there was a buzz of excitement, but one that was still shrouded in sleep. I sat next to a woman from England who'd run the race at least once before. She warned me that there's no shade and the road has bits of marble in it, causing the sun to reflect back into your face. But then she told me it took her almost six hours to complete the course, so I worried a little less about my day in the Grecian sun.
Marathonas is about a 40- to 45-minute northeast drive from Athens. The farther away from Athens we got, the more desolate the landscape became. I think the one "thing" to do in Marathonas is the "Marathon Museum." And it doesn't get very crowded.
The sun came up and we passed signs for "Marathonas." Quite surreal, actually.
The bus unloaded 11,000 runners (most of them European men) at a local beat-up track. There were porta potties, not lines of them like at Boston or New York, but there also weren't many runners. And lots of toilet paper.
There wasn't much fanfare at the start. Nothing like you'll see at the major marathons in the United States (or London, Berlin, or Tokyo). Although that wasn't for lack of effort on the mayor of Marathonas' part. There was music, and he tried to hype people up by repeating over and over again, "Where it all began! The authentic Athens Marathon!" I think they realize this is a big deal, but Greece's marketing team didn't get the memo.
I was toward the front and noticed how few women there were. A few people nodded at my North Brooklyn Runners singlet. I even got a couple "BROOKLYN!" screams from Europeans.
Balloons were released before the first corral took off - a pretty cool sight against the clear blue sky. And we were off, to the sound of the mayor shouting, "You're about to run the authentic Athens marathon!" On repeat.
I'm not going to break down my race mile by mile. Again, it wasn't about that. It was about putting an olive branch in my hair at mile three, from a Ya Ya. Stopping around mile five to take a photo of a street sign that read "<---Athina Marathonas--->." Pulling over at a porta potty (which over a dozen half marathons and five marathons I'd never done) because I wanted to be comfortable throughout the race.
It was about making some Greek and Norwegian friends on a six-mile hill and literally running with the world. About pretending I was Pheidippides on a mission to deliver a very important (and world-changing) message, as I passed through an underpass to the beat of some very impressive drumming.
It was about smiling at the little girls who pointed at the gold wings on my shoes and about applauding the children who proudly wore fun run medals around their necks. About savoring the ceaseless cries of "brava bella!" from the women in the crowd because there were so few women in the race.
Running from Marathon to Athens was about being in the moment and savoring the history of our sport. It was about stopping just before the finish line to hug my husband who watched me in yet another marathon. And stopping again to take a photo of the finish line in the marble Olympic stadium, and then sprinting down the straightaway, Acropolis in view on the hill several miles away.
It was about crossing the finish line relatively pain-free in 3:39: an unexpected time on a hot day on a hilly course with a relaxed pace.
It was about yelling "nike" as they placed a medal on my neck.
"We are victorious."
by Matt Schenker
I had only been to Chicago once before and I loved it, and I was really looking forward to running through the city. I had trained much harder for this marathon, my second, than my first, and I felt relatively good going into it, apart from some tightness in my hip.
The forecast that day called for a high of 76 degrees, which was disconcerting, but the weather was perfect in the morning, around 55 degrees. My hotel was near Grant Park, so I was able to just walk over to the start. After having done the NYC marathon last year, it was nice to not have to go through any extensive travel beforehand. Sue and I warmed up together before the start and it almost felt like any normal NYRR race.
The start of the marathon is great, because you feel like you are in a canyon with the entire city around you. I especially loved going through the tunnel right at the start. The first 5-6 miles flew by. Running downtown is electric, and the views as you cross the water are great. I was running a little faster than I had planned, but I felt good, so did not worry much about it. Along the way, I chatted with a few NBR’iors who were racing. I started feeling the tightness in my hip at mile 7, and then it just went away. Maybe it was in my head. Miles 8-10 were really beautiful, with good crowds. I saw family at mile 11.5, and was feeling great at that point.
I caught up to the 3:20 pace group right around mile 13, and decided to fall in line with them, since I was going for sub 3:20. My previous mile had been way too fast, so it was good to force myself into a rhythm. I battled stomach cramps for about a mile, but thankfully they went away while I was chatting with someone from the Whippets. The next several miles kind of rolled by. I distinctly remember thinking at mile 16, “only a DOVES run left.” I was looking out for my family again mile 19, but they just missed me. It still helped me because it gave me something to look forward to.
The second half of Chicago is decidedly less cool to run through than the first, and of course, the increasing mileage doesn’t help. Plus, the fact that I didn’t know the city very well made it hard for me to breakdown the course into landmarks, so once I got above 20 miles, it started to become a monotonous game of just looking for the next mile. I was still with the 3:20 pacers at this point, and they helped me chug along. Mile 21 – just a Team Champs left now.
Somewhere between miles 22 and 23, I hit the wall hard. My pace only slipped a little, but the miles started to seem interminable. I was just desperate to stop. I started trying to figure out if I could walk for a while and still break 3:20, but then my rational voice would kick in and tell me that I was crazy and to keep going. Once we turned on Michigan avenue for the last 3 miles, it was a crushing struggle. Plus, it was now in the mid to high 60s and the sun was beating down on us. The 3:20 pace group started to pull away from me slightly, but my scrambled brain knew that 3:20 was still in reach. With this in mind, I just kept telling myself that if I stopped I would be so disappointed in myself and it would taint all of the work I had done. The mile markers exacerbated the difficulty. There was a 39K marker, which only served to make me question how I could run another 3k. Then a marker for mile 25, and mile 25.2. I see two of my cousins, and give them the weakest possible thumbs up imaginable.
Finally, we turned off Michigan Ave. and onto the little bridge which is basically the only hill in the race. Yet it felt like I couldn’t even keep my body moving up it. But once I reached the top, I knew I was home free. I turned into the park with about 3:18:15 and finished just under 3:19. I had so little left that I needed help walking at the finish. I couldn’t even revel in finishing because I was too out of it. Only after ten minutes of eating and drinking slowly did I come back to myself. This race was a very different experience than my first marathon – somewhat less joyous and more workmanlike – but despite how hard it was, I still loved it.