As a reminder, I ran the NYC Marathon for Fred’s Team, and worked towards hitting a huge fundraising goal to support cancer research! You can click here to read more and make a donation.
Wow….the NYC Marathon. It was hyped up and my expectations were high….and it exceeded them. I had a VERY tough race, but it is still so bright and shiny in my mind. This is the kind of marathon that makes you want to run all the races, and running it with Fred’s Team was the icing on the cake. Here is how it all went down:
One of the things I really enjoyed about running with Fred’s Team was how easy they made the logistics of race morning. We met in Times Square for a team photo, then loaded up on our private, police escorted buses to Staten island!! My friend Brooke was running with Fred’s team as well, so I was happy to have a buddy to help pass the time with on race morning.
The bus ride was long…we left around 6am and arrived around 7:30. We took some time to get unloaded and through security, and then had to find our way to the Fred’s Team tent. Of course, we stopped for a quick photo op.
The Fred’s Team tent was awesome!! Most charities shared a tent, but Fred’s Team and Team for Kids each had their own. With Fred’s Team, you got access as a top fundraiser. There were a couple hundred of us in the tent, so it was a bit crowded at first, but started thinning out as the different waves started. The tent had everything you could need pre-race: Gatorade, food, coffee….glide, chapstick, bandaids, safety pins, etc. We also had our own porta potties which were a lot less gross. There was tarp laid on the ground for us and the tent was heated, so we settled in for our wait. There wasn’t good cell service due to the amount of runners, so we passed the time by chatting and relaxing.
In the tent, you could hear the cannons go off to start each wave! It was exciting and nerve racking at the same time. Around 10:15, we left the tent to head to our corrals. I was in Wave 4, Blue, Corral A. The corrals were open from 10:30-10:45. I got in and made my way to the start.
After the national anthem, the cannon shot and we were off to the sound of Frank Sinatra with the view of the bridge ahead of us.
Miles 1-6 : 10:47/10:03/10:18/10:18/10:23/10:23
We started off in Staten Island and the first two miles were the bridge into Brooklyn. The first mile is uphill, the second mile downhill as you crest the bridge. It was a little chilly but the hill to start the bridge warmed me up. My first mile of my runs from my house have a similar incline, so my body was used to this. Brooke found me and we snapped a quick photo.
I had to check myself during the second mile, but didn’t want to expend too much energy slowing down. I focused on soaking in the views and the experience and mentally preparing myself for what was ahead of me. By the third mile my body settled into a nice groove.
Once we entered Brooklyn, I couldn’t stop smiling! The crowds were SO LOUD and so enthusiastic, it was just so much fun. There were signs, cheering, dancing, music…you name it, Brooklyn had it. Many people were cheering my name and I got so caught up in the energy and excitement. I checked my body/effort a lot during these miles, but I truly was running at the right pace.
At mile 4, I found Brian, Christina, and Dan (the husband of my friend Brooke). I took a gel here as well and settled in to the race.
Here was a live video I took during the 6th mile:
Miles 7-12 – 9:58/10:19/10:20/10:08/10:17/10:10
I was still feeling good during these miles and was settled into a nice groove. At mile 8, I saw Brian again and took another gel.
The partying continued for most of these miles through Brooklyn, except for about a mile or so that ran through a neighborhood that was primarily Orthodox Jewish residents. It was silent during this leg and people where just going about their day as if we weren’t there, including crossing the street right in front of us. I felt very awkward and uncomfortable, as if I was disrupting these people’s day.
When we got out of that neighborhood it got crazy again, and the energy continued. There were a lot of small rolling hills on the course which I didn’t really notice too much. Training in Atlanta more than prepared me for the hills of this race!
Miles 13-20 – 10:06/11:03/11:45/11:28/10:54/11:08/14:26/13:19
This is when it all started going downhill (figuratively, not literally), specifically at mile 12.5, when I suddenly thought about my gel…and I couldn’t remember if I had taken one at mile 12 as planned. I couldn’t remember!! I had been so caught up in the excitement and rush…it was all a blur. I racked my brain but legit wasn’t sure. I tried counting what gels I had left, but then I couldn’t remember what I started with since I had been debating before the race on if I should grab one for mile 24 or not. Cue total panic. In my mind, there were only 2 options: take it or do not take it. (Looking back, I realize now there were many other options, like wait another 20 minutes and take part of it….but in that moment it was very black and white.)
I knew either option was a risk, so it boiled down to which consequence did I want less? Bonking, or potential digestive issue? I’ve never had a true bonk, so it was a very scary unknown to me. I decided to take the gel and hope that not remembering taking one meant I didn’t take it.
And like clockwork, 10 minutes later….nausea. And it started raining on us. And I knew that I was in for a bit of a battle.
I was able to fight through it for awhile, just slowing down and walking through each water stop (every mile). It really wasn’t too bad, but I definitely felt like I needed to fight to keep it together. The mile dedications I had for the back half of the race were the most meaningful to me as they were connected to people I am very close to, so I thought a lot more about those dedications.
During mile 16, I took a longer walk break on the bridge and shot this live video:
I immediately got a few donations, which made me so, so happy. One of the donations was from a friend, who’s mother I had dedicated mile 16 to. Once we got into Manhattan, my tummy issues got so much worse. The smells were very intense in the city. However, I knew a great cheer section was coming up again.
At the end of mile 17, we passed the cheer section in front of MSK. I was starting to feel really bad here but this lifted me up. There were so many doctors, nurses, patients, and other supporters down there…the cheer section was an awesome emotional and mental boost right when I needed it.
Right before mile 18, I caught Brian again. As I was coming up to Brian he had his phone out and was taking photos on burst mode, and he caught this photo:
This was the moment I saw a sign roasting the Falcons. It said “run like you’re down by 25 points” and then it had a photo of the superbowl scoreboard. I pointed at it and announced my displeasure as I was running by. When I told Brian about the sign later he started laughing hard and pulled out this photo. I love that he caught this moment!
He asked how I was feeling and I told him “not well”. I filled him in on my tummy issues. He gave me a little pep talk and told me he would see me at the finish, and that I could do it. He gave me a kiss (a stranger caught it on camera) and sent me on my way.
I started getting back into a slow groove, but my stomach was getting worse by the minute. The smells of the city and all the food and alcohol were really getting to me. Mile 19 was one of the worse of the race for me. It started raining harder and I had to stop shortly after a water stop and get myself together…I was starting to gag/dry heave. I took a very long walk break here. Even while walking, the crowds were SO awesome and SO supportive. I kept hearing my name being called and encouragement that I could do it.
It was during this mile that I started getting concerned. It was still raining, and was only in the high 50s. the more I walked, my body started getting chilled. I started coming up with contingency plans in my head….like, if I had to walk the rest of this thing, I was going to need some warmer clothes! Ultimately I decided the best way to avoid chills was to keep moving.
Miles 18 and 19 were dedicated to women I know who are runners who are currently undergoing cancer treatments. The humility hit me fast and strong. I know that cancer treatments completely wreck your body….including nausea, chills, etc. What I was going through was literally NOTHING in comparison. It reminded me why I was running and I kept moving forward.
Mile 20 was the bridge to the Bronx, and it was a pretty steep hill. I took a very long walk break here, and filmed this live video:
(LOL…”I’m running 26.2 miles because apparently I’m a crazy person”)
Miles 21-26.2 – 11:23/11:36/11:40/10:54/11:10/10:49
Right after filming the video, I came across another Fred’s Team runner who was stretching on the side. I stopped and asked if she was okay. She said she was, but was having some stomach issues. I told her I was as well, and asked if she wanted to run together for a bit.
We ran next to each other and chatted for a bit, and just having that distraction helped. We entered the Bronx and there was some good energy. The longer walk break helped as well and I was determined to finish as strong as possible. It was fun running next to Kate during these miles…she had her name on her jersey, so we got a lot of “Go Jess and Kate!” cheers. I was so grateful for Fred’s Team in these miles. I am not sure I would have stopped and talked to her otherwise, and I truly felt like I was part of a team.
We walked through the water stops, but otherwise ran together. We were in and out of the Bronx in a flash. Right before mile 23, I took this last live video:
Shortly after this video, we split up. She was having some leg issues and I was starting to feel better, so she waved me ahead. I’m working on finding her to thank her for running with me!
It was getting loud, and although I was so tired and my legs were so tight from all the walk breaks, I felt like I had it in me to really push for as strong of a finish as I could. My stomach was still upset but the worst was definitely over. At the end of mile 23, I found another Fred’s Team cheer station and got another boost before entering Central Park.
These last few miles are hard to describe. The course was lined 4, 5, 6 people deep on both sides. I didn’t run more than 4 steps without someone cheering my name. The crowds kept me going here, as well as knowing that the finish was close. I had my final reflection during the last mile on what I had done….both with my fundraising all year, and getting through the toughest physical marathon I’ve run.
The last .2 miles felt like eternity and so surreal. Right before I got to the grandstand section, I heard Christina calling my name, and looked to my left and saw her cheering for me. It was that moment that made the finish line SO REAL, and I started crying. Brian was shortly after and he saw me, but I missed him. I crossed the finish line in 4:51:XX. While not close to a PR, it is on par with my second fastest marathon (Richmond in 2015, 4:49).
But the finish line represented so much more than the time. It represented a year of hard work, of training when I just didn’t feel like it. It represented nearly $17,000 in money raised. And it represented physically giving it my all, even when it got so, so hard. This race had the potential to break me, but I refused to let it. Once again, the marathon showed me I am so much stronger than I think I am.
When I got my medal I continued to cry. Another Fred’s Team runner hugged me and then I got myself together to take some photos.
I got a heat sheet and my bag of recovery food, and then spotted the Fred’s Team volunteers. I got escorted up to the special finisher’s tent on Cherry Hill! It was there that I got swaddled in the most amazing poncho ever (it’s fleece lined!). Fred’s Team had the tent SUPER heated which felt phenomenal since I was soaked to the bone. The volunteer sat me down and got me whatever I needed, but in that moment I just knew I needed some nutrition in me. I hadn’t had a gel or anything but water since mile 12! He opened my protein shake for me and I sat and recovered for about 15 minutes.
I met up with Brian just outside the tent and we walked to get a cab back to the hotel.
After a shower, I got my final Fred’s Team treat: a massage!! Fred’s Team had organized for a massage therapy school to come out and treat the runners to free massages, and it was in the hotel I was staying, so getting the massage was very little effort. I got a full body massage by a team of therapists: one working on my upper body, one on the lower…at the same time. It was amazing and I feel that it really helped with recovery.
After dinner, I crashed hard from an amazing, but exhausting day.NYC Marathon with @fredsteam - Race Recap from @jessrunsatl Click To Tweet
There are so many things about this race that I am proud of:
- I got to the start line healthy!! I have struggled through many training cycles always on the verge of injury or nursing some sort of tight IT Band, Piriformis, etc. This cycle I incorporated a lot more strength training and rolling, and combined with the lower mileage…it made a difference. I felt really good standing at the start line with strong legs.
- I didn’t judge the success of this race on my finish time. Even when I was running great splits early on, I didn’t feel the same way I have at previous races, where I get excited/nervous. It was more like “hey, that’s cool…I may run close to my PR today!”. When things went south, I didn’t panic about my time or get pissed…this race never was about time. I could say that all day long, but wondered how I would respond on race day. It turns out I really meant it and it showed in these moments. I’m really proud that throughout this training cycle and going into this race, I was able to embrace a goal that wasn’t about a time. In fact…I didn’t even look at my final time and splits until the next day.
- Things got really rough and I put up a hell of a fight!! I refused to give up or give in. I kept telling myself that it would get better and eventually I was able to get that second wind and finish strong. What’s interesting is a similar thing happened this training cycle…I had quite a tough time for the middle 2 months of training. Regarding the race, I can say that I have never fought so hard in a marathon to keep moving forward, and I am so, so proud of my ability to stay mentally tough when so much felt like it was going wrong. I am more proud of this race than any other marathon I have run to date. Oh, and I didn’t use headphones this race at all!
- I RAISED ALMOST $17,000 FOR CANCER RESEARCH!!! I mean…OMG!!! (PS – you can still donate here)
I wanted something special from the NYC Marathon, and it delivered. The day was pure magic. The crowds were so amazing and running with Fred’s Team gave me a greater sense of purpose. The course was fun and scenic and just the right amount of challenge. I felt highs and lows, and I really embraced both. This race will hold a special place in my heart and I’m sure that I’ll be back to run the five boroughs again. Thank you New York for giving me such a great race day!