by Chaya Wolf
Race: New York City Marathon
When: Nov 5, 2017
Where: New York City, NY
What a day! What a weekend! Still riding high and processing it all.
In the days leading up to the race, I had the privilege to hear from and meet Meb Keflezighi and chat with Bart Yasso. I’m not one to gush over celebs, but these guys are humble, have a wealth of knowledge in the sport and are such down to earth humans. It took star struck to a new level. They each shared different advice and words of encouragement and I had faith that Sunday would be a good day. After pseudo-injuries and heightened anxiety (thank you taper) were put to rest with kind words by my PT, I had a good feeling about taking on NYC for the second time. I had utilized the taper period and really made sure I was on top of my nutrition. I slept, stretched and foam rolled (btw – sleep is not overrated). I felt really ready for race day.
Going into the race I had two goals, which based on most of my training runs, I knew I could attain. My original plan was to find the pacer in my corral and hang with him. But I somehow managed to lose him before the corrals even moved to the base of the bridge. He disappeared out of my sight and into thin air. So we went with plan B and ran solo.
It’s funny actually. Somehow my entire day turned into a day full of plan Bs, and no not the one from the drugstore, more like the plan you choose when the first one fails. Yet I didn’t seem to mind. It all started in the morning when I thought I was going with a bus to Staten Island and ended up in an Uber heading to the ferry terminal in Manhattan. It continued when I ran solo and finished when I dropped any goal times I had and ran for fun and redemption. Why redemption? Well, two years ago I ran NYCM as my first marathon and it derailed on the Queensboro Bridge. My only focus after that was the finish line. I didn’t see anything, I didn’t remember anything. So when I finally did finish, stressing on the word finish, and got my medal, I promised myself I’d be back. And so on Sunday, I was back.
The race started out well. I stopped on the Verrazano Bridge for a photo and then realized I had just added on 2 min to my finishing time, but I didn’t care. I was going to enjoy the course, take in the sights and see what NYC was all about. Knowing that the PPTC cheer crew was at mile 7 and my #wolfpack was at mile 8 gave me good vibes all through Brooklyn. I actually noticed the diversity of people as we moved up the avenue. Hearing “Go Prospect Park!” by random strangers, scattered PPTCers shouting my name and so many little kids high fiving was so energizing. But it was humid and my breathing started to get labored. Somewhere over the Pulaski Bridge, I missed my halfway goal time and knew that any other sensible goals I had for the race were the out the window. Adding to the humidity that was already plaguing me, I realized I was blinder with my glasses than without and decided to just stick them in my armband. My apologies to anyone I didn’t respond to past the bridge. Chances are I probably didn’t see you 🙁
After deciding to ditch my goals, I took a page out of Bart Yasso’s book and just ran happily. I took in the sights and the people. I took it slow on the Queensboro Bridge, mentally prepared myself for the crowds at the turn and just had fun. I enjoyed the music, the cheering, and the insane crowds along First Ave, 5th Ave, and Central Park. I boogied in the Bronx, silently cheered YMCA and thanked Gd when my mile 17, 19, and 23 peeps were still there when I reached them. I didn’t really stop for anyone, but noticed many of you, in the rain, cheering. Some of you saw me at my lowest points, hurting and walking; some of you saw me determined and chasing something, not sure what. Somewhere on the Willis Ave Bridge and then again in Manhattan around mile 21, I felt like I wouldn’t finish and wondered why I was doing this again. So I walked, let my breathing regulate, looked around and let everything and everyone remind me why I signed up for this. I thought I picked up the pace again, but those last few miles turned out to be my slowest. Somehow I found some mojo on 59th street, pushed myself up the final hill and finished while it was still light.
In 2015, I sat in a medical tent at mile 20 and painfully and slowly walked the last 10k. I finished with an official time of 6:24:59. In 2017, I enjoyed the course and the people. I realized what a beautiful and diverse city we live in. I appreciated the immense support and camaraderie that exists in NYC. I valued how our city came together to encourage 51,000 stupid people who thought running 26.2 miles is fun. I finished crying because I didn’t stop for medical support and I succeeded in achieving what I set out to do 2 years ago. I finished with an official time of 5:19:41. It wasn’t my best time but it definitely was a good time.
You’d think that meeting Meb and Bart was enough, but my star-studded and fun-filled weekend actually ended when I went to get my medal engraved. As you walked into Jackrabbit there was a sign that said Shalane Flanagan and Geoffrey Kamworor were going to stop by for an hour. I had already taken the day off, so I hung around a little longer than expected. I bumped into some PPTC marathoners, heard both NYC marathon winners speak, got my medal ribbon autographed by both winners and took a picture with them. So let’s just say NYCM Class of 2017, you rocked!