I Finished the 2011 NYC Marathon

So here we go, NYC Marathon recap Take 2! I am proud to say that I finished my 2nd NYC Marathon on Sunday with a time of 5:26:02. That was 21 minutes faster than last year! Woo Hoo! Not bad for this very soon to be 40 year old.

So where do I begin? First I have to admit that I pretty much wanted to throw up all last week whenever I thought about the marathon. The nerves were pretty bad, but once Saturday arrived and we got to the pre-marathon TeamFox dinner I felt great. Joe and I arrived a little late thanks to NYC traffic so we didn’t dawdle in the entranceway of the restaurant. I was surprised as we moved towards the tables to see Michael J. Fox standing there greeting everyone. I thought he might show up, but not until later. I shook his hand and told him that I was going to be faster this year so that I’d pass his cheering spot at mile 23 before he had to leave this year. I was really hoping that I’d make it on time.

Dinner was awesome just like last year. We sat with Joe’s cousin Michelle, who was also running for TeamFox, and her boyfriend. They had saved us seats. Once dinner was over it was off to my hotel for the night.

The next morning I woke up at 4:15 and left the hotel right around 5:00 to walk 5 blocks to the TeamFox bus and the long wait on Staten Island. I made a new TeamFox friend, Sean, while waiting for the bus and spent the morning talking with him. He’s from Toronto and was hoping to run a 3:20 marathon. He left as Wave 1 was being called to their corrals so I wandered over to my start area to wait for my friend, Alison, to arrive.

Soon Alison arrived and I was so happy to get to talk to her. We stayed together until it was time to line up in our corrals. I gave her a hug and we wished each other well. I didn’t expect to see her again the rest of the day.

Before I knew it the cannon fired to start Wave 3 up the bridge and my 2nd Marathon was underway. The Verranzano was mobbed and it was tough to get into my pace. I think it took the first 2 miles to get up to my normal pace. About halfway across the bridge I felt a tap on my shoulder and Alison went flying by. I watched her as she pulled away and then began focusing again on my race.

Soon I hit 4th Avenue in Brooklyn and the crowds were just amazing again. I high fived every little kid, every cop, and every fireman I could. I high fived plenty of adults too. At mile 7 I was looking for the TeamFox cheering section and somehow ran right passed them, but quickly realized my mistake, turned around and hugged several of them. They all seemed to laugh at my exuberance.

As I crossed into Queens and reached the halfway mark all I could think was why the heck didn’t I sign up for a half marathon? I’d be done now! My mental state was quickly deteriorating. I really wanted to stop and I VERY briefly thought about stopping, but that just couldn’t happen. I knew Joe, “Aunt” Cathy and the girls were waiting on 1st Avenue in Manhattan. I told myself to just make it to them.

Next came the dreaded Queensboro Bridge. That has to be the longest bridge in history or at least it seems like that when you’ve run 15 miles. I was definitely struggling and realized that I needed to focus on someone or something else. I had to stop thinking about my pain. I was planning to start interacting like crazy with the crowd once I hit 1st Avenue, but then suddenly I realized that I was about to pass Alison. I called her name and asked her how she was doing. She admitted that the bridge had just kicked her butt and that she was struggling mentally too. She was going slower than her normal pace so I slowed down to stay with her. Here was my way to focus on someone else while helping me too. I knew that this marathon meant as much to her as it did to me last year. I knew this was the culmination of her years of work to lose 70 pounds, become a triathlete, half marathoner and after today a marathoner. I told her she could do it and to just keep going. I told her I’d stay with her and help her on her journey to the finish line.

As we started up 1st Avenue I saw the guy with the Free Hugs sign again and got my second free hug in 2 years. Who doesn’t love free hugs, at least on marathon weekend? Next we saw Joe and family and both got hugs and pep talks. It was awesome to see them all. Then Alison and I were off again. We saw her family and friends a few times on 1st Avenue and then saw her husband just before we headed up the Willis Avenue Bridge. He gave me a big hug too and it was wonderful to see a friend as we headed up the steep on ramp to the bridge and into the Bronx.

I was expecting the Bronx to be as much fun as last year, but alas, it just wasn’t. There wasn’t a lot of noise and the spectators were definitely less, but it was still awesome to be in our 5th borough of the day. After a little over a mile we were already heading back into Manhattan on our last bridge and I have to say that hitting Manhattan again was terrific for one major reason- NO MORE BRIDGES! Those bridges do kind of kick my butt!

As we headed down 5th Avenue I was reminded again of how much I’d like to torture the person who laid out this course. How the heck is it slightly uphill almost all of 1st Avenue and then really uphill going south on 5th Avenue? It seems like that should not happen, but it does. Alison and I kept encouraging each other and just kept chugging along. Then suddenly a friend she was supposed to see earlier was over on the right side of the road shouting her name. Alison ran over to give her a hug and her friend starting running along with her for a little ways. I knew Joe and then TeamFox were going to be on the left side so I stayed to the left to look for them. Soon I saw Joe, Cathy and the girls again. They gave me hugs, except for Rachael who told me I smelled, and sent me on my way. For the next 17 blocks I was looking for TeamFox. I knew they’d be right at the entrance to Central Park. I knew I was off my 5 hour pace at this point and wasn’t expecting to see Michael J. Fox. I’d taken too long again.

As I approached their huge cheering section I started smiling and high fiving/hugging as many as I could. I wasn’t really paying attention to who was there. All of a sudden I realized that Michael J. Fox was right in front of me. I hadn’t seen him! I got all excited and said, “Oh my God you’re still here! I wasn’t expecting you to still be here!” Then I gave him the biggest hug, luckily he didn’t seem to mind, and continued on my way into the park with a HUGE smile. About a half mile later I realized that I had just spontaneously given Michael J. Fox a huge, incredibly sweaty hug. I had to laugh at myself because I’m twice his size and I have no idea if I crushed the poor man or not. Thinking about it helped me push through the next few miles which were tough. I’d lost sight of Alison and these last few miles I had to finish on my own.

When I hit Central Park South again this year I was ecstatic. If you can make it there, you will finish! I started telling all the spectators that I was going to finish and they cheered for me. As I turned back up into the park to finish the last half mile I was beaming. It was awesome to see the 26 mile marker and the markers for 400 meters, 300 meters, 200 meters, 100 meters and finally that finish line. I picked it up some in the last 200 meters and crossed the finish line with a big smile. I was so proud to have finished my 2nd marathon and to have had the honor to run 7 of the miles with Alison, who did finish her first marathon too!

When I got my finisher’s medal I thought of Alison and was so happy we’d be meeting in the morning to trek back to the finish line and get our medals engraved together. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate!

Thanks to all you’ve done to help me on my journey to finishing 2 marathons. Without all the support you each give me I’d never make it. It’s because of you that I don’t quit on those bridges or catch a cab to the nearest day spa. All I can say is THANKS!

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9 Responses to I Finished the 2011 NYC Marathon

  1. Deborah Mills says:

    Yeah Karen! What a day it was…I gave the “Free Hugs” guy a hug too! I wonder how many stinky sweaty runners he hugged??

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Deb! It was so funny to meet you on SI. I love the Free Hugs guy. He gives the biggest hugs! I’m surprised that more people don’t take him up non his hug.

  2. Louisa says:

    So proud of you Karen! I was thinking about you on Sunday. I’m glad you had a great time!

  3. Carrie says:

    Congratulations!!! Fantastic race and congrats on your PR! You did it!

  4. Kristen says:

    Amazing recap, Karen! That is so cool that you hugged Michael J. Fox. Congrats on your PR!

  5. Tobe says:

    Great job Karen! Your success has inspired me to enter a 5 mile race this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes…

  6. Jeannie says:

    Congrats again Karen! 21 minutes is an awesome PR and sounds like you had a great time too!