Welp, I did it! The NYC Marathon was Sunday, and I am officially a finisher. My marathon hangover is slowly but surely wearing off thanks to lots of rest, compression, ice baths, and idleness. And while I thought I was so prepared for the big day, I definitely learned a few things about the race.
1. It is loud. There are people screaming, cheering, and yelling the entire way. And then there are bands playing, people singing, and more people yelling. Forget about going into that meditative running state—for me, it was nearly impossible. For all the stimulus on my body (i.e. the constant pounding), there was just as much stimulus on my head and ears.
2. Sprinting to the start line isn't the best way to start. I was assigned to be on the last ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island. Then, because I decided to wait in the 45-minute bathroom line at the ferry station, I almost missed the bus to the start line. So I sprinted to get there. And again when the bus arrived at the start and we were warned we could miss the corral close. Fun times before running 26.2 miles.
3. Security is alive and well. The start line was bordered with counter terrorism NYPD policemen. Check out my Instagram for a pic.
4. The view from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is AH-mazing. None of the other views are that great. Besides the finish line of course.
5. There's a stripping act for the first two miles. I was doing high knees at some points because of all the discarded jackets, vests, and shirts on the ground during miles one and two. Talk about danger zones.
6. You might high-five every hand in NYC. I did. And then I popped energy chews into my mouth with bare hands. Gross.
7. First Avenue makes you feel like you're in the greatest parade on earth. And you're the star. But as soon as that feeling wears off, you can't wait to get to Central Park—and then you realize you have another borough to run to and through.
8. The Bronx is the worst. Jokes aside, I thought about stopping many times between miles 20 to 26.2. I did have to stop and stretch myself out on Willis Avenue Bridge, a.k.a. the Bridge of Annoyance and Pain, because my legs were cramping up a storm.
9. Almost the entire stretch of Brooklyn is a steady incline. That was a fun surprise.
10. It's hard to spot the people you know cheering for you. I knew of a couple of people stationed throughout the course, and while I did see most of them, it was only because they shouted at me (or in one case, my very determined friend Sara ran after me onto the course and got my attention that way...I'm not advising this, but it was very effective). However it's just so chaotic, it's best not to count on seeing them.
11. No name on your shirt? No problem. I forgot to put my name on my shirt, but that didn't stop people from cheering me on: "HEY, PINK VEST! YAAAAAAAAA."
12. Forget about listening to music the whole way. Did I mention how loud it is? Although I cranked up my volume all the way, at some points I couldn't hear my tunes in my earbuds over the roar of the crowd.
13. Two words: banana stations. Whoever thought handing out bananas to a stampede of runners was a good idea clearly didn't think about the implications of banana peels. (Um, hello!) I almost slipped a few times while simultaneously yelling "Bananas!" in warning to the other runners.
14. You might get angry at the crowd. I'm kind of ashamed of this, but I won't lie—I got downright mad at some of my fans. One time someone screamed at me around mile 24, "You can finish!" and I thought, "Do I look like I might not?? How rude!" At another point, someone yelled, "YOU GOT THIS!" when I was really struggling, and I was like, "HEY, you try running 26.2 miles and see if you've got it!"
15. The importance of fueling and hydrating cannot be over-emphasized. I'm happy to say I mastered this on race day. I started drinking my first sips of Gatorade and water after the first five miles. Then I ate energy chews around the half-way mark and again at about mile 21. I hydrated the entire way and also mixed in a few cups of Gatorade at the end of the race. And when I finished, I wasn't hungry really at all.
16. Mother Nature may call. The only problem with being a master hydrator and fueler: I had to pee at mile 22. Like any other smart marathon runner, I turned around to find the last bathroom I had seen since I wasn't sure when the next one was. If you feel that might be a concern later in the race and you spot a bathroom, don't be ashamed to stop. You could save yourself the 10 minutes I wasted trying to find one when the situation was dire.
17. At some points you'll feel like you're an ant running out of an ant farm. The NYC Marathon, like everything else in NYC, offers a lot of people cramped into one space. Sweat just makes it better.
18. Some people are walking by mile 13. Not everyone is there to beat a time. This makes the ant farm effect an exciting challenge. (Perhaps they could make a walking lane?)
19. Spectators can only get so creative with running puns. The most common sign was some variation of "You're kicking so much ASSphalt!"
20. You think you're done. But you're not. It's about another two miles to get out of Central Park once you cross the finish. Or at least it feels that long. There's no real way to describe the sense of desperation you have when trying to walk (or crawl) from the finish line to get out of the race zone and meet your dear friends or family who have agreed to carry you home. I was just glad I wore my walking shoes.
21. The medic tent is Mecca. I was driven to the medic tent after I finished because I was having problems walking. Not this serious of problems, but cramp city was settling into my calves and hamstrings. When I got the medic tent they gave me hot cocoa, veggie soup, and a massage, and it was paradise.
22. There are no cabs—nowhere. Like every other scenario in New York City when you could really use a taxi, when you're physically incapable of walking after the race, there will be none. Be mentally prepared for the subway (and the stairs involved).
23. Because it's New York, you'll walk a lot on top of the 26.2 miles. I ran-slash-walked 33 miles in total that day. I think my Fitbit was ready to implode with joy over the whole thing.
24. You can measure your self-worth by seeing how much faster (or not-that-much-slower) you are than celebs. I'm speedier than Pamela Anderson, but pokier than BIll Rancic. (But only by a few minutes!)
25. And you'll feel like a star on race weekend and the week that follows. Seriously, forget getting engaged, having a baby, or passing the bar: If you do the NYC Marathon, you will feel all the love in the world and receive so many congratulations no matter how fast you ran.
26. New Yorkers are just great. Even though the noise was overwhelming and I felt crazed and irrationally angry at times, there were countless numbers of people who pushed me through the five boroughs. A special shoutout to the guy who retrieved a recovery bag for me at the finish when I couldn't walk to get it and then opened my water bottle for me. You are my hero.
26.2. Two-tenths of a mile is the most annoying distance in all of life. I vote they ixnay the 26-mile marker. Seriously, it is such a tease. I mistook it for the finish line from afar, and oh the sweeping sadness that washed over me when my eyes focused and I realized that I had another 0.2 miles left!
For the days following, I looked like this. But now I'm back in action. Literally. I went to an XTend Barre class last night, my first real workout since Sunday. If you've never tried it, it's not like a typical barre class. It's a total-body blast that involves serious muscle burn. My legs were trembling, pleading, "Why? Already? You cannot be serious." But I pushed through and feel magnificent (in a hurts-so-good kind of way). And while the race may be over, I'm still fundraising with Team USA Endurance. With a marathon under our belts and less than 100 days until Sochi, it's the perfect time to donate. Click here to do so.