I felt pretty good when I got up for the race at 4:00 AM on November 1st. Things seemed to fall into place easily. My legs felt rested, my stomach was settled, and I was completely ready for this marathon. The rain was tapering to reveal near-perfect weather and the 4 train miraculously dropped me off at Bowling Green with just enough time to make the 6:00 AM Staten Island Ferry before the doors closed. And with each of us being assigned to a different color start village, my two brothers and I found a dry neutral spot in the center to chat and work through breakfast before we needed to go to our separate corrals. An easy Sunday morning with merely 26.2 miles ahead of me.
The marathon started perfectly. I stayed conservative in the first couple of miles and finally settled into a steady pace once I reached 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. I was aware that my pace was 10 to 15 seconds per mile faster than my target time, but I was feeling good about it and decided to maintain that speed. I hovered around this pace pretty consistently until I approached the Bronx – when my legs started to feel a bit heavy. By mile 21 I was stopping to walk every now and then. At mile 22 I realized that I could slow down to 10-minute miles and at least still come in under 3:30. After the water station at mile 24 my legs started to feel jittery and I suddenly noticed that I was starving. I finished my GU Chomps and alternated between running and walking (sometimes laughing out loud at myself in the process) until I finished in 3:31:08, more than a little disappointed with how quickly the race got away from me at the end.
Okay, so I didn’t make my goal time of 3:20:00. In fact, I was pretty far off. A big part of me really wanted to blow last year’s marathon time completely out of the water and I knew I had the training behind me to do it. What can I then say about all those months of focused training, of becoming one of those unemployed runners apparently creating stiffer competition, if I didn’t do as well as I had hoped I would? Well this is why I’m still proud of my accomplishment:
- I still PR’d by cutting a minute and twenty seconds off of my 2008 finishing time.
- Overall it was a stronger run than my first marathon. It took me longer to hit The Wall, and even then it wasn’t nearly as bad. I also found that I had far more emotional strength to battle the doubts and funny thoughts that run through your head when you push your body to such extreme limits.
- I’ve started to figure out what kind of nourishment works for me on race day. This year’s menu: peanut butter pretzels and water for breakfast; GU Chomps and water only during the race. It still needs some tweaking so that I can avoid the jittery legs I had after mile 24, but I’m starting to understand how nutrition affects me.
- I had much more awareness of my pace and I have developed increased comfort in recognizing the limits (or even the possibilities) of my training.
- Speedy recovery. Physically I felt strong from the moment I crossed the finish line and I feel nearly back to normal only two days later.
As runners we often focus so much on speed and time. How fast am I going? Did I PR? But there are so many other things to consider when you think about your performance in any given race, and the reasons I’ve given above are just some examples. No matter the speed, it’s important to remember that pushing your body to cover 26.2 miles using only the power of your own two feet is an immense accomplishment whether you run, jog or walk.
Congratulations to everyone else who completed the 2009 ING NYC Marathon!
(And I’ll see you out there again next year.)