Walking to the subway the morning of race day I was filled with many emotion possible. Excitement, nervousness, fear, determination. After 12 weeks of training it was finally time to run the race I have only dreamed of doing. With each stop of the subway leading into Manhattan I could feel these emotions stirring and growing as more and more runners boarded the train. Walking out of the subway station on the edge of Central Park felt like what I imagine walking through the tunnel at the super bowl would feel like. The buzz and excitement filled the air and I had a permanent grin on my face. I said “see ya later” to my mom and Karen, knowing I might not see them till the end of race, and headed for the security lines. Walking through this mob I felt somewhat alone but just as those feelings came to mind someone looked at me, noticed my UW sweatshirt, and yelled “GO DAWGS!” and I remembered that no matter where I am, I am never alone in the midst of runners.
Once I cleared through the mob of people getting into the race, I settled into the back of the pack with the wave 3 runners waiting for wave 1 to take off. I had an entire hour before I would even toe the line. Of course, being me, I was freezing and decided to just hang out in the mob of people instead of finding a space to jog around and warm up… Some days I wish I listened more to the guidance given to me, but then I remember that I just do what I want and a good percentage of the time it works out… so maybe the next race I will warm up properly… maybe. The air horn for Wave 1 rang through the park and everyone started to buzz with even more excitement. Eventually I made my way to corral E and waited another 20 minutes before making my way to the starting line. I met a few people, two from New York, ended us discussing football and found we all had the same feelings about the Patriots. I knew I was in good company!
FINALLY air horns went off for Wave 3 and we made our way to the start. It was surreal, starting this race, knowing that in 2.5-ish hours it would all be over. Just before crossing the start, one of the announcers pointed at me and said “Hey November Project, you got this!” and I just knew it was going to be a good race. I set into my rhythm and took off overflowing with excitement. I came up to mile 1 only hear my name being yelled by Karen and my mom, realizing they had made it to the first stop! Seriously, they are troopers with amazing signs!
The first 6 miles were all in Central Park, filled with more long drawn out hills then anything I have ever encountered in Seattle, which made for a challenge. But I kept reminding myself when the hills got tough that I can do it, I can do hard things. The highlight of the park was making to the top of the final hill and realizing that what was left of this chunk was down hill. The race was going by so quickly and I just couldn’t believe it!
Exiting the park, I did not realize how close I was to Times Square. Within 3 blocks the buildings started to light up with displays and billboards. I can’t explain what it is like to run through the closed down streets of Times Square, the center of the universe, the busiest place in NYC, but it is the most surreal, out of body experience I have ever had. Knowing that this is one of only two times a year they shut down Times Square made me so excited and thankful to have this experience. Right after passing through Times Square I found Karen and my mom again at mile 7.5, standing in the cold and cheering with their signs. Seriously, they should get medals just for chasing me around all morning! I stopped for a few minutes, told them everything was going great, threw my gloves at them, and took off for the West Side High Way.
I knew the West Side Highway would be the toughest part of the race for me. I’d read about the head winds, knew it was flat, and that being the last part of the race I would be hitting a wall. Luckily the head wind was not an issue! The biggest issue was how tired I starting to feel during the final stretch. Up until mile 10 I was able to maintain my rhythm of 10 minutes on 2 minutes off, but once I hit mile 10 everything was a challenge. So I transitioned quickly into 5 minutes on, 1 minute off, 4 minutes on, 2 minutes off. I knew it would make a difference to change it up and get more rest periods in the last few miles. The one thing I was not expecting along these final miles was to feel the support of hundreds of strangers! I knew that by wearing my grassroots gear I would be recognizable to the various NP tribe members cheering on the course, but I did not realize just how many NP people were out cheering on the West Side Highway. Seriously, every 1/4 mile someone was yelling “GO NP YOU GOT THIS!” or “HEY SEATTLE, KEEP IT UP!”. This is what kept me pushing to the very end, knowing that I was not alone and that these complete strangers from other tribes were cheering me on.
Going into the Battery Street Tunnel all I could here were the cheers and screams of the other runners. We were all excited to be near the end and the excitement in the air was contagious. We came out of the tunnel and crossed by the “400m left” sign and everyone just started going nuts! The smiles were huge, the excitement was bouncing off the buildings, and you could hear the crowd around the finish line. I took a deep breath and pushed through to the finish, with a new personal best and enough memories to last a lifetime. I got my medal, which is probably the coolest medal I have ever received, grabbed a recovery bag, and made my through the runners only zone to find my mom and Karen.
I’ve been telling everyone who asks that this race was amazing and the best experience I have ever had. Seriously though, even in the midst of the struggle, everything was still great and amazing. This is why I run, to experience the highs, feel the support of complete strangers, and to make myself proud of what I can accomplish. If you have ever thought of doing a race in a different city or entering a lottery, just do it! You never know what can happen, the great memories you will make, or the experience you will have. I mean, I got pulled for both the NYC Half and the Chicago Marathon within two weeks and I never thought that would happen. I’ve wanted to return to NYC since 2013 and run this race for about two years. Take your dreams, make a plan, and go after it. You will never regret this decision.
Until next time,
~Be Fearless, Go Boldly.