I raced the 2016 NYC Marathon, it’s the largest marathon in the entire world! I am thrilled that I finished the NYC Marathon! Last year, in 2015, I had brain surgery. Since then, it’s been a long hard road, but I have worked very hard and it has paid off! This year, 2016, has been filled with the biggest, athletic achievements in my entire life! In April I attempted my 1st ultra 50 mile distance race and completed 37 miles, then I did a full marathon 26.2 miles in June, and another full marathon 26.2 miles in October, which was just 1 month before my NYC marathon! It absolutely blows my mind all that I have accomplished in 1 short year; 3 marathons and 1 ultra in 2016! My very 1st marathon was 3 years ago. Running has saved my life, over and over again, and continues to save my life. I was diagnosed with ‘Occipital Tendinitis’ about a month ago. I was not able to run at all because of it. It is a result of a combination of things that have happened to me, including the brain surgery which was to the back of my head and neck. Exercise has been my medicine and continues to keep me feeling good. Even when I was not able to run because of it, I did alternative exercises. I only started running again, slowly, a couple of weeks ago. It is even more amazing, but not surprising, to me, that I was able to run the NYC Marathon under these conditions. I thank God for everything. I thank NYC for welcoming us and cheering us on in all the 5 boroughs, it really is like a huge block party with people filling the streets in our honor to both cheer and provide musical entertainment. I thank NYRR for putting on such a great race, they have 40 years experience with this race and it shows in every detail from start to finish. Lastly, a very special thank you to my boyfriend, Walter, who was there for me from beginning to end, cheering me on throughout the day, he 1st dropped me off early at the ferry, and was ready and waiting for me at the end of the race, and made sure I had everything I needed after the race. It sure was a perfect day, beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, and beautiful people. Mostly, I am very thankful to the Lord Our God for making this day possible. I strongly believe that I cannot do anything without Christ and that He was with me the entire 26.2 miles.
I cried before the race even began and continued to cry on and off throughout the day, although it became less as the day went on and became more and more exhausted. I was exhausted before the race even began! I had no idea that it would take so long to get to the start village from the ferry. My ferry was scheduled to leave 8:30 am, but I was told at the Expo that it was suggested that we go to the start village 2 hours early and that the ferry leaves every 15 minutes and you can go at any time, not just your ferry time. Walter dropped me off at the ferry around 7:30 am. I had never been to the Staten Island Ferry before and had no idea what to expect. It was so very crowded, beyond anything I imagined, even though I knew that the race bib’s numbered past 72,000 entrants!
By the time I got to the ferry, I really had to go to the bathroom, as any hydrated runner on race morning would have to, but the line to go to the bathroom inside the ferry lobby was so very long that it zigged zagged multiple times to fill up the entire space. I had no choice but to wait in line, but surprisingly, it moved faster than any bathroom line I’d ever been on, still it took time to have my turn. Then we all waited like what I call ‘human sardines’ for the next couple of hours. First we waited to board the ferry, then we waited after existing the ferry for a very long time before boarding the bus to the start village.
The ferry ride was gorgeous, not cold at all, with abundant sunshine and beautiful scenery. I had no idea what was to come after we existed the ferry, I thought we would just get on the bus, fairly quickly, to the start village like we were told. That is true that we would board a bus to the start, but it was a very long wait to board the bus, much longer than the wait to get on the ferry.
I am not physically able to stand for very long periods of time without pain and potentially serious medical consequences because of my history of blood clots. I am not on any medication and do not need one, thank God, likely I am told because of my very healthy lifestyle of eating and exercise as medicine. I had massive blood clots in 2011 when I needed 5 surgeries relating to that, then I had another blood clot in 2012, then another blood clot in 2013. Therefore, it is very important that I make sure I do not stand still for hours or I am prone to superficial thrombosis, but so long as I keep moving, even a little bit, on and off I am fine. My legs started to hurt after a while, they hurt more, they hurt differently than if they were tired or sore from exercise, this is a feeling that you can only get from this condition, which is in the superficial veins. I have not had this feeling in years because I know what to do and I feel great, but never expected to be standing so still, right on top of people squeezed all together for so very long.
I could see how far we needed to walk to get where we needed to go in the huge sea of people. Even though I am considered tall at 5’9″ I could not see far enough past all the many hundreds of people waiting, like human sardines, right on top of each other, with no room to move or stretch. Finally, next time the crowd moved ever so slightly, I decided to leave some room between me and the next person so I could move my legs a bit and it worked to help relieve the pain in my legs, thank God. Although now my legs were not fresh and ready like they were earlier that morning sadly. My relief was a homemade remedy I came up with on my own which is to stand on one leg at a time, lift the other with bent knee to my chest, then alternate as a way to get the circulation going in my legs and to lesson the pain. It worked, thank God.
The long wait in line to the buses continued even after we got outside of the ferry station building. Once outside, I could now see clearly all the many people in front of me waiting to board a bus. Even though there were many buses all in a line, that were constantly loading and going with people, the line still loved very slowly, just inches once in a while as we waited. It was a massive sea of people, where the lines looped around several times on the cement platform outside the ferry building where the buses stopped to load us on to the start village.
There is security checking you in this area as you wait to board the bus, to make sure that you do not have any prohibited items. It was surprising to me, how many people seemed to not follow the rules. Many did, but still more than a few tried to get backpacks on the bus and even some non runners tried to board the bus, like spouses not in the race. I realize that sometimes not everyone knows the rules, but I believe the NYRR does an excellent job before the race, making sure they tell you, over and over again, in many different formats what is allowed and what is not allowed. Therefore, I believe that these people were trying to get away with doing the wrong thing, and it made it harder on all the rest of us because it significantly slowed the lines down, making everything come to a halt when security had to stop these people.
Back in Manhattan, inside the ferry building, there were security police with dogs that sniffed all the bags, but they didn’t stop people with backpacks at that point. Maybe they should have to help the congestion later on in Staten Island. Finally at 10:00 am I was on the bus to the start village. Yeah! Finally, I thought. I was starting to get very excited again instead of feeling so run down and exhausted from all the standing for hours. I was told at the Expo that it was a 15 minute ride on the bus to the start village, it was not, it was 38 minutes, but it was stop and go with traffic.
Finally we arrived at the bus drop off at the start village at 10:38 am, 38 minutes instead of 15 minutes ride on the bus. There was more security checking us when we existed the bus before we were allowed to walk to the start villages. When we all started walking up towards the start villages, surprisingly, volunteers shouted saying we needed to hurry and run to our corrals because the corrals were closing in 2 minutes and they would not let us in if we didn’t get there in time. My first thought was what about all the many people who were waiting behind us, both at the ferry start and buses. I still wonder if they were told if they were not allowed to run. I am so glad I took the earlier ferry instead of the one that I was scheduled for, because if I did maybe I would not have been allowed to run the race.
I started to run fast towards my start village after the volunteers told us to run. It is not something that I like to do before a race, especially a full marathon 26.2 miles, but I had no choice but to run full speed since that is what we were told to do. I did not know how far I would have to run because I was never there before, so I just had to take the word of the advice of the volunteers and go as fast as possible or miss my chance to run. I found out it was not that far, I could have ran slower or walked fast to get there in time to my corral before it closed, but I make it a point to not cry over spilled milk and I was fine that I was there in time and thrilled just to be there.
Originally, I had planned that I would be in the start village for hours. I carried all this stuff I thought I needed for the start village, both arms loaded down with all the things I thought would be good to have with me as I waited for what was supposed to be hours at the start village. I had to just drop my things, food and all, near the bins for donated clothes, quickly, as I ran to my corral. Experience is the best teacher. But it is always better to be more prepared than not enough. No regrets. It all worked out.
I didn’t get the time I think I would have, if I wasn’t already exhausted from all the standing in the beginning that brought on pain from superficial thrombosis in my legs. When I finished the race and spoke to my boyfriend Walter for the 1st time, he said he had fun following me on the TCS NYC Marathon app that tracks runners. He said it was great to be able to see me moving along the course and that he believed I had finished in 5:34, which would have been a PR for me. I was wearing my Garmin and tracking the race with it and I knew that my Garmin said it took me 5:45 to complete the race, it also said I went about 27 and a half miles instead of 26.2 miles, so I wasn’t sure at the time what to believe. I later found out that it did take me 5:45, so I did not PR, but I am very proud of my accomplishment and believe it was a good race for me considering everything. The extra miles I completed over 26.2 is likely due to both waiting for the bathroom and zig zagging to go around people. Like I said, I could not believe the huge amount of people walking, and all in a line that made it hard to keep running and go through or around them.
One thing, that I had not planned on was just how very long it can take to wait in line to go to the bathroom along the course, which of course adds time to your final time to do the race. The last marathon I did about a month ago was in the country and when I had to pee I just quickly went in the woods and then was back running in the race again.
Also, I lost a few minutes, maybe more, when I entered Manhattan for the 2nd time after running through the Bronx, which I believe is Harlem, because all of a sudden a slew of young men on bicycles came barreling though the race course and all of us, hundreds of racers, had to stop suddenly as we watched them speed through, seemingly with no intention of stopping. They rode their bikes aggressively and it was scary. The girl next to me started shouting at them after a couple of minutes, they just kept coming, it seemed like it may never end, she shouted saying ‘don’t you know there’s a race going on here!’. No one else said anything to them that I could hear, maybe because they felt the way that i felt, that it’s best to not say anything and just hope they leave soon, it was not a safe feeling at all in the air at that time and I am very thankful no one got hurt. I was in a race back in the winter of this year and sadly there was a runner who was struck and injured by a car during the race. It made an imprint on my mind of how not everyone is happy and accommodating to your race and you really need to be careful and keep your eyes open and be aware.
Another thing that slowed me down, was all the thick layers and long stretches of garbage along the course, especially near aid stations. filled with wet, slippery cups and very slippery banana peels. I believe that many runners to not have to deal with this because they had the luxury of starting the race in an earlier wave, so that the garbage did not have a chance to accumulate yet. I can see when I look at different race footage, none of them show the streets in the condition that I ran them in. The streets look clean with maybe only a little discarded cups or gel packs. By the time it was my time in the last wave, wave 4, the streets were completely littered and very slippery, making me walk much of the course. It was so slippery that I slipped many times just walking. I saw many people at the end of the race wearing ice packs attached to their ankles that the first aid attached to them, and my first thought was that it was because of all that slippery mess, making it very easy to twist your ankle. I decided not to take any chances and just take my time and get to the finish safely, that it wasn’t worth it to try to beat my time and PR.
In spite of all this, I was heading for a new PR up until later in the race and it felt great. But then around mile 20, everything caught up with me, all the hours of standing earlier and having not trained like I wanted to because of my new diagnosis that hurts my neck and took a couple of weeks for the pain and inflammation to go away before I could start running again. Knowing this, it felt amazing that in spite of it all, I was doing a good job. I felt amazing. Many times, on and off throughout the day I got choked up and tears filled my eyes. I am so very thankful for all my many blessings. I survived brain surgery last year. I am alive today. I can run, and I can run a full marathon of 26.2 miles, not only once, but 3 times this year. I am thankful for all the good people in my life, there are many, even all the many who I meet along the way of my incredible journey called life.
I gained entry into the race through the race lottery in 2015, but then was suddenly told I needed brain surgery in July and was then allowed to postpone my race till 2016 thank God. It was the 1st time i had even entered the lottery to try to gain entry into the NYC Marathon. When I won last year in 2015, I immediately felt like it was meant to be and it was part of God’s plan for me to race the NYC Marathon. Why else would I have won, when so many others try to win every year, for many years, and never win. I believed it was God’s will for me to have this grand experience to help to continue to propel me in my challenging journey. It has been a grand adventure and experience of a lifetime. I highly recommend that if you have the opportunity to race it, you should, even if road racing may not be your thing, if you prefer to run on trails in the mountain like I do, I still recommend this race as a once in a lifetime experience that should not be missed. True I did not much care for running on the city streets, pot holes, grates, garbage, but none of it matters, not really, because the energy from all the many people, spectators and runners alike is incredible and really does carry you though the race, at least in spots. There were other spots that were silent with no spectators that did not carry you and you needed to get the energy to keep going on your own. But many times, throughout the course, on and off, the energy was so high that you could feel it and it was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I have done large races with thousands of people, but nothing to this degree. This is the largest race in the entire world and it is quite a bit larger by many thousands than any other race in the world. It is so huge it is hard to fully describe in words, you just need to experience it for yourself.
There were many different kinds of music and entertainment along the course. A taste from every walk of life it seemed. There were many people holding signs to cheer us on and some made me laugh out loud, which is the best way to get that burst of energy you need when you do. Some signs from spectators at race were:
“Run like Trump is trying to grab your pussy”
“PR like Trump is behind you”
“If Trump can run so can you”
“Run like a nasty woman”
“Don’t worry everyone’s farting”
I did actually fart a lot! I do not usually fart at all on a usual day, but all the sweeteners in both the Gatorade Endurance drink and the Power Bars on the course that I ingested made me fart seemingly constantly after a certain time. Thank God it was just musical and not smelly farts.
There were so many runners in the race and we were always wall to wall deep of runners in most parts of the course to the point that I would have to say excuse me, repeatedly, when at times many people were walking, maybe 10 people across, shoulder to shoulder and I am trying to run and find a way through them by saying excuse me. Many runners seemed nice and let me through no problem, but there’s always one in the crowd, here in NY anyway, I had a completely different experience in Ohio, Ohio was 100% good vibes and people, but that’s another story. One guy started yelling at me after I said excuse me. I said excuse me very nice to everyone, and no one else seemed to have a problem and let me by no problem as they walked, I wanted to run. I thought it was odd that all these people were walking.
Throughout the entire course, form the beginning miles. it has never once happened to me in another race that so many many people were walking. But once again I believe its because I had the later start, wave 4, because all the footage I see of the race on TV and other media show a nice race where people are actually running, all of them, for most of the race if not all of it. Any way, as I ran by and said excuse me, very nicely, he said excuse me in a mocking nasty way and then followed it by something else, but I didn’t hear what he said after that because of course I was running. This happened to me as I was running the downhill part of the ramp off the silent covered bridge that leads into your 1st trip into Manhattan. Downhills are my gift, I am good at downhills and love them. I feel like a kid running downhill and it feels amazing. I could not understand why the majority of runners walked this entire part. It felt amazing running into Manhattan at that point, I felt great and paid no mind to what the guy had said. I wasn’t going to let any negativity into my grand adventure and experience of a lifetime and glad I didn’t.
At the start village in Staten Island, there are 3 color villages. Once in your corral, you walk for a long time to the actual start line, the different color race village corral lines to the start line are separated by many buses lined up. I entered the corral and once the corral started moving, I had no idea how far it was to the start, we could not see. It seemed like we were walking a long time to get to even where the buses were lined up to separate the 3 color villages. Then once we were there walking slowly where the buses were lined up, it was still a long walk, turning and twisting, I could see where it all would end, we could not see the start from where we were, we just kept walking slowly. It was a stop and go, but more walking and less stopping than any other part of the long waiting everywhere all morning. Finally, we saw the start of the race area and the Verrazano Bridge in the distance. We started walking in our corral, corral E, at 11:08 and crossed the start line at 11:16 am. It was thrilling. I was crying. It was a moment so filled with huge emotion for me, unlike any other, I had so very much to be thankful for and I could not believe that I was there. I was there with all those other runners and I felt very special and privileged to have this grand opportunity.
I spoke to many different runners that morning as I waited and many felt the same way I did, that they were very emotional and had already cried just watching videos about the race and dreaming of what it would be like for them. I felt the same way. It seemed many of us had this shared experience of wonder and awe and thankfulness. It was a wonderful feeling. We all started running as we crossed the start line and headed towards the Verrazano Bridge, it was so absolutely thrilling!
The sky was this gorgeous, deeply saturated blue and the slight breeze with the perfectly warm air of about 50 degrees was perfect for what I chose to wear. I wore a skirt sports capri length bottom with a long sleeve run top that had thumb holes in the sleeves and an open upper back for breath-ability. I also wore the 5 borough knit gloves from the Expo and a waist pack and my Head-sweats visor that always helps me through every run by not only catching all the sweat before it drips down in my eyes, but it also helps keep the sun out of my eyes, while still allowing me to enjoy an unobstructed view.
I was surprised that it was a full 2 miles from the start very close to the bridge till the end of the bridge in Brooklyn. That is a very long bridge! I was surprised to see so many walkers on the bridge. I made sure I ran slow, much slower at this point, not only because it was the start of 26.2 miles, but because it was the steepest hill in the race, technically. But I still ran, I wanted to, but I don’t think I could have stopped myself if I wanted to, I was so excited and wanted to run. I wanted to run faster and held myself back, thank God.
When we got to the end of the bridge and started running down the ramp into Brooklyn, immediately there were crowds of people cheering us on and saying welcome to Brooklyn. The cheering crowds continued non stop the entire time we were in Brooklyn. Now that I have ran the entire 5 boroughs, I can say that it was Brooklyn that was probably the friendliest borough, although they were all wonderful. I am so very thankful for all the many people who came out to cheer us on, it was amazing to me that all these people were standing there all that time, maybe for hours, just to welcome us and cheer us.
There were times when we the runners would cheer on the crowd for cheering us. Many runners continually thanked everyone as they ran by. I mostly smiled and kept quiet, trying to focus on not going too fast and staying safe by not falling on something slippery or a pothole and watching out for people crossing abruptly, both runners and pedestrians alike. You really had to have your wits about you, I usually listen to music when I run, even if there are bands on the course, I keep my music low and it helps keep me going and at the right speed. But I never turned on my music once during this race because it was clear to me from the start that there was so much going on that I really just needed to pay attention and make sure no to zone out like sometimes you can while running, it is common to get into the zone and just enjoy the run, but I saw people falling throughout the race, sadly, and this was a constant reminder that this was not the race to be zoning out in. As mush fun as it was, it was also a more serious race because of the vastly different conditions I had ever done to that extreme any way. Last year I did the Brooklyn Half Marathon, before I knew that I needed brain surgery and that is the largest half marathon in the United States. It was fantastic and another race I recommend you do for the experience of it all, but still it was a much smaller scale than the NYC Marathon. Nothing compares or even comes close to the NYC Marathon in my opinion. Experience life the fullest to feel fit forever and I do thank God.