A few weeks back, Guest Blogger Sondra Berger shared her story of how she ended up running the New York City Marathon this year. You can find that post here if you missed it. In today’s post, Sondra shares some highlights from her New York City marathon experience. If you’re considering running NYC or just curious what it would be like, you don’t want to miss Part 2 of Sondra’s story!
My New York City Marathon Experience
By Sondra Berger
Fitting training into my schedule was a HUGE challenge but I always felt great after hitting my weekly mileage or long run. I ran in the heat. I ran in the rain. I ran at peak fall foliage in perfect temperatures. I ran in sickness and in health, alone, and with friends. I was fortunate to meet a wonderful new marathoning-working-mom friend last spring who was willing to train with me at the crack of dawn. I’m also lucky to be part of the Wednesday night “BAR Club” and was able to run and socialize with a fabulous group of strong women after hours. The highlight of my training was when Kirsten (my BRF) came to visit from Florida and we got to run our 17 miler together like old times.
I had heard that crowd support was awesome in NYC and that I should put my name on my shirt. I didn’t think that strangers shouting for me by name would make any difference. Nevertheless, at the last minute, I grabbed a black Sharpie and wrote my name across the front of my shirt. While it didn’t help my time, the personal cheering sure did put a smile on my face when I needed it most as did the entertaining signs I viewed along the course.
Some of my favorite signs included:
SMILE IF YOU ARE NOT WEARING UNDERWEAR
THIS IS A LOT OF WORK FOR A FREE BANANA
TRUMP SAID HE WOULD DROP OUT OF THE RACE IF YOU PR
Even better than the spectators, was the support that I received from my family and friends. All of the emails, texts, posts, calls, cards and flowers encouraging and congratulating me before, during, and after the race were truly motivating. My amazing friend Colleen and her beautiful family were stationed right after Mile 19 to cheer for a handful of their friends running that day. Seeing them was the highlight of my race, and helped me through the final stretch. My greatest inspiration – my wonderful husband Ben and children Max, Lexi and Charlie were also my greatest support.
The bridges represent defining moments throughout the course. After waiting three plus hours to begin the race in the third wave, I was anxious to start on the jam-packed Verrazano Bridge on Staten Island. As my adrenaline was rushing, the forced slow pace was a blessing in disguise, and I did not even notice the incline. The Queensboro Bridge leaving Brooklyn around mile 15 is considered one of the most challenging parts of the course. It’s the first significant ascent after Mile 1 and there are no spectators. Luckily, training on the rolling hills in my neighborhood prepared me well, and Kirsten and I were still running together at this point. I had psyched myself out thinking it would be far worse than it turned out to be. Coming off the quiet bridge into the roaring crowds on 1st Avenue was one of the most exciting parts of the race. By the time I hit the Willis and Madison Avenue Bridges past Mile 20, I was allowing myself more walking breaks than I would have liked in a last attempt to conserve energy but it got me to the finish.
Looking back, I started out too fast after the crowds from the Verrazano Bridge had cleared and I paid for it in the end. The finish line could not come fast enough. I knew I would be relieved when I crossed the line but I hadn’t anticipated the tears.
I’m not sure why I started crying but it was probably a combination of the following:
- Disappointment due to not meeting my time goal. I knew from the start that I was significantly heavier and slower this time around (never quite having recovered from baby #3) but I was still hoping to make what I believed to be the cutoff for the listing of marathon runners in the New York Times. Three years ago on an uphill course with an injured leg, I finished in less time and this was disappointing.
- Pain from the extreme chafing, large blood blisters, pounding on my feet and very fatigued muscles.
- Stress relief and the anticipation of what’s next? Taking on this marathon was very ambitious and I had to prioritize along the way. I had a long list of things I needed to get to once it was behind me. Where do I start?
- A little bit of sadness that the experience was coming to an end. This race was 5 years in the making – the culmination of a goal that Kirsten and I had set for ourselves long ago. We ran together for the first 18 miles taking in the sites, the live entertainment, and the people but then I started to fade. Living on opposite ends of the east coast, I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to see her again.
- Pure exhaustion. I was beyond exhausted and dreading the fact that I had to continue to hobble for another mile to exit the race when all I wanted to do was curl up in the fetal position (if I had been capable of bending at the moment). A volunteer asked if I needed a medic and I thought about it for a split second before mustering a “no thank you.” A police officer took pity on me and allowed me to use a closer exit and I was able to find a ride with a pedi-cab driver who was happy to take advantage of my need to get off my feet ASAP.
So Now What?
As my body heals and the soreness is starting to subside, I am reminded once again that pain is temporary but pride is forever. It turns out that I made it into New York Time’s listing of finishers after all. They must have changed the cutoff or had a slower mix and more room for additional finishers. Perhaps some of my emotion at the finish was or should have been attributable to a sense of achievement. Although I do NOT aspire to run another marathon, I’ve learned to never say never.