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November 8, 2011 / fionarwbl

I Am A Marathoner!!!

I did it!!! And I even did it better than I thought I would! And it was the most difficult, painful, and exhilirating experience imaginable of my life.

Oh, and let’s start with the “what not to do” before your first marathon.

1. Go to bed at 1am on Friday.

2. Get up at 7am on Saturday to walk your pup.

3. Babysit a 5mth old and a year old for 5hrs.

4. Let said year old sleep on your arm for 3hours ruining all hydration attempts.

5. Run around like a stressball on Saturday night trying to walk dogs, make and eat pasta, and have last minute wardrobe panics.

On the flipside, I was so exhausted on Saturday night I actually slept like a baby!

I woke up at 6.30am and decided to use the spare 30 minutes to actually watch the Garmin 405 videos on the website. Turns out my Garmin is not broken – they are just not intuitive. This turned out to be huge later one.

I ate half a bagel with nutella and drank some water.  Oh, how I love “nutella as fuel”. It might be my best discovery of marathon training. Somehow, my husband coerced me into going to Starbucks to buy him a coffee for his morning dog walk. I know, crazy, right?  I was supposed to be meeting my friend Amber for the 8.30am ferry. This, as it turns out, is pretty late, and the ferry wasn’t even that busy with runners. By the time we got there, there was only about 15 minutes before our corrals (10:40) were being called.

This is where I was slightly disappointed with the infamous NYRR organisation, because it appeared to completely fall apart. There was almost no separation of runners for the wave 3 corrals, and the blue wave were made to stand waiting for half an hour not knowing what was happening while other corrals were being put in their place. Finally, we were allowed to walk forward past the tolls and in sight of the bridge. The canons went off, New York, New York was played, and I could not stop grinning.

It’s starting!!!!

The first minute or two wass oddly frustrating. It was all stop and start, without being able to get running. And then, suddenly, we were!

And it was wonderful. The sky was clear and blue, the weather pleasantly warm, and the pace perfect. I didn’t start out too fast. I felt amazing. I could not stop smiling. I did not actually stop smiling for the next 20 miles.

Brooklyn was a lot of fun. It was just so exciting and energetic. I high-fived kids. I wished people happy birthday. I laughed. I enjoyed the crowd noise. And I ran perfectly. Steady 8:45-9 min/miles for the entire first half. Beyond steady. I felt good and strong. My legs felt good. I had water at most water stations but drank on move. This was probably the only place where I deviated from my other races. At every other race I have walked my water breaks, but yesterday my legs just felt so good and strong, and most importantly, had rythm, and I didn’t want to mess with that. I took a GU at mile 5, which I know is earlier than some, but has usually worked for me. I had a bunch of GUs with me, and the only thing I wish I had paid more attention to is whether I was taking caffeine or not, because I think it might have affected me later. The crowds in Brooklyn were so awesome and incredible, and I just loved every minute of it.

I also did not do a whole lot of map studying which I probably should have done. It meant that I mistook the Pulaski Bridge for the Queensboro bridge, which was really pretty stupid of me. I figured out my mistake once the bridge was done, obviously, and I was a little disappointed. I knew I was seeing friends at mile 17, and from about mile 10 I was just so excited to see them. I hit my half at 1:58:06, which was 100% perfect. No PR, but strong enough to hit that elusive 4hr marathon. I was feeling soooo good.  

The Queensboro Bridge is where marathons are made or broken. The only thing that had really stuck in my mind about the bridge was that it does end. Just keep going. So I did. But I watched my Garmin pace slow from those lovely 9 min/miles to 10:30s. Ouch. But I was still feeling confident that I could just pick up the pace from the downhill, and use the crowd support from 1st Ave to get me back on track.

And then, the Bridge starts to go downhill, but my legs do not pick up. I look at my watch. I’m confused. The numbers should be getting smaller! They aren’t! I’m still stuck at 10:20. Come on!

As I run toward 1st Ave, I had my first race disappointment. The famous wall of sound was having a cheering lull when I came down the Bridge and onto 1st. Everyone was pretty quiet, and I didn’t get that endorphin kick. However, I’m running towards my own personal cheering crew, so I start to pick up again. For miles 16 and 17, I’m back somewhere around 9 and 9:30. I might still get this back. But I can feel the ache in my legs starting, and that I’m going to have to call on pure grit to get through this.

At 95th and 1st I see my friends, and they are HOLLERING! I had the best cheer crew ever. I give my husband a big kiss and hug, wave at everyone, and grab a pal to run the tough upper Manhattan / Bronx stretch. Yes, I know, totally verboten, but worth it. And I was a total bitch to her. She asked me at one point whether I wanted to talk or not. I was like “NOT”. I was hurting. I was slowing down, and my legs were hurting. and I was at the grumpy stage. I even walked for 10 seconds up the Willets Bridge. But I have to say, the Bronx was awesome for cheer and music. The crowds were amazing. My buddy was great despite my misery.

At mile 20, I got what was my greatest fear: my stomach started to gurgle. I started to feel light-headed. I knew I needed to keep taking in calories, but another GU was never going to happen. I went to my last resort. I started to mix water and Gatorade at my water stations. I HATE lemon-lime Gatorade. It tastes foul. It makes me want to throw up. Apart from, it didn’t. It actually did the trick, sort of. I stopped feeling quite so nauseous, or that I needed to stop. My legs were still aching, and I was still doing 10:30 miles, and I was hurting, but I was still going.

Running south put me in the worst mood – the sun in my eyes got me at that dreaded “the world is against me” mood. Gosh, I’m making this race sound fun, aren’t I? I promise, it was! I tried to stick to the shade, and just focus on one leg in front of the over. I saw my amazing cheer squad at 95th and 5th, dropped my buddy off, and headed off to finish this damn thing. From mile 23 I started to get the euphoria and smiling again. I was going to finish. I was going to do this. I kept repeating to myself, “this is the hardest thing you will ever do, and you are going to do it”. And I was. I picked up as much as I could running into the park, running down hills I’ve run 50 times before, listening to the crowds cheer, and knowing that this would soon be over. Sure, I had missed my 4hr dream, but I was still within my target of 4:15. At this point, I started to almost get tearful and sad that all this would soon be over.

The sign for mile 25 might be the best sign in the whole race. It’s like, “holy crap, I’m nearly done”. Running along 5th avenue was a joyful struggle, around that corner, speeding up the downhill, barely noticing the minor uphill, and then, shit I was done. WOW. 4:12:40, thank you very much. Well within my 4:15 time goal and my 4:30 predicted by everyone else. I’m not sure if I should be pleased or hurt by how many people have said “we didn’t think you’d do it so fast on your first one!”. Ok, so I didn’t either, but still!

And then the almighty pain. The barely able to walk. The best apple I’ve ever had in my entire life. The medal. The walk forever. The nearly fainting, passing out, throwing up, and everything else during the march out.

I am so cold! But I won!


It took forever to find my husband thanks to the amazingly poor application design of the ING NYC app that drained my battery while running. Check out my finsih photos with the blue lips. That’s hypothermia setting in. My Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate experience was a close second to the amazing apple.

That night was spent at French Roast with my awesome cheer squad, most of whom will be running next year. I’m excited already.



Leave a Comment
  1. Shannon [Tropical Eats] / Nov 8 2011 2:49 am

    Congrats!!! Amazing job.

    Now you have me craving some Starbucks and Nutella. 🙂

  2. ellen / Nov 8 2011 2:56 am

    congrats, marathoner! you had an awesome race. those last few miles are rough, aren’t they? are you doing a repeat in 2012 too??

  3. thethinksicanthink / Nov 8 2011 3:01 am

    Congratulations!!! A great accomplishment, for sure. I’ve been dying to try that salted caramel mocha.

  4. Melissa / Nov 8 2011 3:11 am

    Congratulations! I did the same thing mixing up the Pulaski Bridge! I can never decide whether knowing where you’re heading is a good or bad thing.

  5. Dori / Nov 8 2011 1:55 pm

    YES. So proud of you!!!!! You are so innately fast and amazing. Congrats!!! Also – totally agree about 1st Ave. Where the hell was the wall of sound??!!!!

  6. Ali on the Run / Nov 8 2011 2:29 pm

    Congratulations!!! So proud of you!!!

  7. Hilary / Nov 8 2011 3:58 pm

    Way to go, Fiona!

  8. Fit Chick in the City / Nov 9 2011 2:37 am


  9. Sam @ Mom At The Barre / Nov 10 2011 2:03 am

    Congrats! Amazing!

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