Monday, November 4, 2013

I Just Felt Like Running

It seems surreal that only 24 hours ago, I was running through the streets of New York City. It exceeded every expectation I had of what it would be like to run the ING NYC Marathon.
My morning started off with a casual caravan of NYPD and FDNY runners being taken to Staten Island. That in itself was an honor. It was even more of an honor running with the Leary Firefighters Foundation.We all talked about how nervous we all were and how we were all convinced that we would forget how to run or our bodies would sabotage us somehow. Waiting - the worst part was the waiting. It was cold, windy and the longest two hours ever.
But, the waiting pays off. When you are called onto the Verrazano Bridge, it all hits you at once. This is the moment you've been training for. After the cannon blast, you hear the cymbal kicking off New York, New York and it is so hard to maintain composure. You laugh and cry at the same time and then you realize, you have to start running.

Crossing the Verrazano Bridge, which is the first two miles of the course, is spectacular. Seeing an NYPD helicopter at eye level, watching you safely cross the bridge in unforgettable. It's at this point that you realize that there will be so many more moments like this for you during the race. This is one of only a handful of times that there will be no spectators. First stop - Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is where the crowds begin. And to start off my Fourth Avenue Experience seeing my husband and friends was incredible!! Thank you so much!! And this is where the crowds and the music begin. Mile 3 is in Bay Ridge, my hood. And to see so many familiar faces is great! The bands along the route are also what keep you going. No iPod in this race for me. The Band's Ophelia kept me smiling at mile 4.

When I reached mile five, and passed the man running with a cross attached to his back, I started to have my Forrest Gump moment. In my head, Jackson Browne was singing, but the people of Fourth Avenue were cheering me on. So many bands along this part of the course. I heard everything from Billy Joel, the Rolling Stones and even Ozzy. And you cheerathoners, I have to say, when you see our names, you come up with some creative cheers for us - in all languages.

At Lafayette, you merge with your fellow runners into a narrow strip of energy! Not only seeing so many friends here, you see an entire congregation singing to you! Tons of energy through this part of the race. This might have been my favorite section of the run. Bedford Avenue through Hipsterville - was second. Incredible energy down these streets.
We were coming up to the 13 mile mark which meant we had conquered two boroughs. The jog up the Pulaski Bridge is rough, but you Queens residents made us feel very welcomed!  I was told it would be quiet, but I discovered the opposite. We had lots of support up Vernon Boulevard, onwards towards the Bridge. I was met with a surprise shout out from a friend right before the bridge - and it definitely boosted my spirits. Other than hearing Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Right Round, I heard some Tom Petty, Runnin' Down a Dream. Just like Mr. Sinatra's New York, New York, I will never hear this song the same way again.

I was warned about the next part of the race: The 59th Street Bridge. What makes this so difficult is the unseen incline that seems to go on forever. The silence on the bridge is almost un-nerving. But, after you hit the crest and the decline begins, you hear life again and see signs greeting you that Welcome you to Manhattan and to the last ten miles of the race.
First Avenue is made of rolling hills, but also thankfully, thousands have stayed to cheer you on. Bars upon bars of well wishers greet you along the way. Around 85th, I remember hearing I will Survive and had to start laughing because I all could conjure  up in my mind was the scene from The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Dessert. I must have looked like a mad woman laughing down the Avenue.

The Bronx meet you with bagpipers and the Willis Avenue Bridge. I am borrowing this picture from my friend Janice ... this is what the Bronx looks like to a body nearing "the wall". Thankfully, slowing down a bit until we reached the Madison Avenue Bridge helped. As Ryan Ruiz wrote in his Daily Run blog post on running the Bronx it's just  Left. Right. Left-right-left. And-a-left-and-a-right. Sounds easy but you know you're at the brink of mile 21 and back into Manhattan.

When I ran onto Fifth Avenue and was able to see the Empire State Building in the distance, I began to cry. It was the best sight I think I had ever seen. I was almost there. The run through Harlem was inspiring and the crowds were out, still cheering us on. Around Marcus Garvey Park, they were playing some Aretha, just enough to keep us on a good pace. for our final push to Central Park.

That final run up and then down Fifth Avenue is what you've trained for. You can taste the finish line at this point. The crowds were still so strong, and thank you to everyone single one of you, who called out my name and pushed me through to 90th Street.

We entered the park and now you can feel it. And my first comment was how absolutely gorgeous the fall leaves looked as our backdrop. I enjoyed running down Cat Hill but I knew that final hill was approaching at 72nd. And let me tell you something. I never realized how long Central Park South really is. I really thought at one point they had us on a treadmill that was going in the opposite direction.

But, finally, the towers of the Time Warner Building told me it was finally time as I made a right turn back into Central Park. We were met with the yellow line accompanying the blue line, to show support for Boston. Then you see the 26 miles sign, followed by signs to count down the final yards. And then you see the finish line. There are no trumpets and no bells, just the sound of all of those around you thankful to have finished. My dear friend was in the park and saw me finish. So happy to have her there taking the picture of me with my medal!!

What does it feel like - it feels like this:

 The day after, you feel like it was all a dream (well, depending on how well you worked on your recovery). The run down Fourth Avenue feels like you imagined it, and the Pulaski Bridge didn't feel too steep after all.
For the past 16 weeks, I joked that I was also married to the marathon. I have the most incredible, amazing support from my husband. He put up with me going to bed early, waking up even earlier, nerves, tears, and doubts. I could not have done this without his encouragement and support. Seeing him along the route was so special, since I knew he logistically had quite the feat ahead of him as well to catch up to me.
Friends and family, you too are such a support network for me. You listen to me go on and on about running. You give advice and also support when I need it most. It really does take a village to help a marathoner cross that finish line.


  1. This is so cool to be able to read about your experience of running the marathon Paula. I will probably read it again tomorrow following your adventure while looking at a map!
    Kath (@GtoEm) x

  2. Congrats on a great race, Paula!!

  3. Hey, I made a blog - just a picture, but I'll take it! ;) Still in awe of you!