Marathon time (Sunday November 4th)
4:05am my alarm sounds. Its time to get this done, marathon number 10, my fifth marathon major run, second time running New York and probably the most nervous I have felt about any run since PARIS MARATHON 2017. Not nervous about the distance like in Paris but more, will my achilles hold up, I haven’t ran properly on it for two weeks and it has been painful walking and lying in bed, will my calf cramp up again? will I even finish? will I make it around under 4 hours? A lot of unknowns even at this late stage, I have never gone into a marathon carrying an injury before and to top it off, a part of one of my teeth broke off the night before I travelled to New York and has been causing a little discomfort with cold drinks. Given I will be drinking cold water every mile for over 3 hours, this is a concern too.
Anyway, before all that there is the process to follow. The same routine as every single long run this year. Porridge for breakfast, coffee, tape my toes to prevent blistering, apply HUGE amounts of body glide to prevent chafing, get my long run gear on, mix up my pre race SiS Energy Electrolyte drink and lie back on the bed, close my eyes and visualise how the race will go, see myself crossing the finish line celebrating.
5am I left the hotel to walk down to catch the 5:30am midtown bus to the start village.
Last year I took the 6am bus and didn’t arrive at the library until 5:55am, I then queued until 6:45am, only arriving at the start village at 8:30, almost missing gear check. This year I picked an earlier bus time to avoid that rush and queuing. This worked very well, in fact, I was sat on the bus and 10 minutes into the journey to the start when the clock ticked 5:30.
I was that early, we were one of the first buses to arrive at the start village. The sun was just starting to rise, there were no queues at the security checkpoints. It was at this point I realised that I had left my SiS Electrolyte drink in the hotel room. This is part of the pre race routine to ensure I start the race fully loaded up and ready to run. Not having this worried me, will I be able to run the race without this? of course I can, it might not be ideal but its not the end of the world. The goal today is to stay positive at all times, smile and enjoy the moment. This was what I took from my talk with Emma Coburn yesterday
Come 6am I was in the Green start village. My plan on going a little earlier to avoid the queuing and standing around had now resulted in me arriving 4 hours before the 9:50am race start. One plus point was getting to watch the sun rise just behind the Verrazano bridge. A perfect start for a perfect race? the weather was set to be perfect marathon running conditions, maybe a little chilly early on but we will soon warm up once we get into Brooklyn.
Waiting around the start village was cold, even with an old throw away hoodie, my 2017 NYC marathon wind jacket and a Dunkin Donuts hat on. To stay warm and to ensure I start the race fuelled correctly I created a start village routine. Drink a cup of coffee, a hot water, a cup of Gatorade Endurance and go to the toilet. I repeated this probably around 7 times before the race. I did drop the coffee after 3 cups. I had brought a blueberry muffin with me and a Powerbar protein bar to eat.
By 9:20 we were called in to the corrals. It was time to put on the rest of my race gear (heart rate monitor, race belt, phone armband, cap and sunnies) and ditch the warm(ish) throw away clothing.
In the corral there were rows of toilets, remembering back to CHICAGO MARATHON 2018 I wanted to use the toilet before the race but couldn’t and this played on my mind for the next 4 hours. This time, I made sure I got in the queue and got that sorted. One less thing to worry about.
9:50 and it was go time. Barely a cloud in the sky but chilly standing in the shadow of the Verrazano bridge. Ol Blue eyes was playin… New York, New York, just meters in front of me I could see people starting to run up the bridge.
It is time to get my New York on and run this marathon.
Mile 1 – 6: 11:06, 6:48, 7:22, 7:15, 7:10, 7:29
So the pacing plan for this was the same as Chicago. Keep the average pace at 7:30 per mile, but ease back on the bridges and hills, making up time on the downhills. Now! it would have been a damn sight easier to run 7:30 pace through Chicago but I messed that up so its time to do it the hard way over the hilly New York course carrying an injury.
When I got going my legs felt terrible, like I had lead in my shoes and my achilles was hurting barely 100m into the race. Running up to the crest of the bridge in that first mile was always going to be a slow mile but 11:06? that was 3 minutes off the pace I had in mind for that split. Even the 3:30 AND 3:45 pacers came past me.
No need to panic, you can easily make up 3 minutes over 2 miles later in the race. Stay positive, stay present and enjoy! I knew that mile 2 was a massive downhill from the bridge into Brooklyn. 6:48, thats more like, 45 seconds made up already and legs starting to feel like runners legs once again. Once into mile 3 I knew I had 12 miles until the next tough climb so time to find that pace and get into my stride.
Once we hit 4th ave in Brooklyn! OMG the crowd support was unbelievable, so loud, so passionate and such a boast. I was buzzing and loving it. Smiling, high 5’in every kid on the right hand side of the street, getting involved with the crowd as much as I could. I was enjoying it so much the miles were flying by, 6 miles had gone by in no time.
Mile 7 – 13: 7:21, 7:29, 7:13, 7:23, 7:18, 7:31, 7:20
When I reach mile 7 I realised I had gone 50 minutes into the race without taking a single gel, cup of water or Gatorade! The plan of taking water from two of three stops and Gatorade from the third was out of the window. The plan of taking an SiS Gel every 30 mins out the window too. I took a gel then, but wondered whether it would be too late. I had already messed up by leaving my drink at the hotel and now I had ran a further 7 miles without taking on any additional fuel or hydration. not a problem for a 7 mile run, but at the start of a marathon? lets see how this goes.
The miles were still flashing by, the crowd support not wavering one bit. There was a spell in mile 11 where the numbers dropped and it was quiet, just the sound of shoes pounding the road and heavy breathing around me. Then mile 12! this mile stood out to me, we were running past the bars and coffee shops of Brooklyn. It was loud and it was high energy. I remember running past the NYPD SWAT truck and there was a guy with a piano playing the SWAT theme tune.
Mile 13 and we crossed the bridge leaving Brooklyn, heading into Queens. The bridge felt steep and tough but it was only short. I slowed a little and made up time on the other side. I didn’t really want to leave Brooklyn. I had so much fun running those first 13 miles.
I was half way into this marathon and feeling good, feeling happy, positive and telling myself that I was having the race of my life. I had only missed my pace target in mile 1 and 12 but it was still early days. Last year I ran to 20 miles at 7:35 pace before hitting the wall.
Mile 14 – 21: 7:16, 8:05, 7:07, 7:17, 7:13, 7:29, 7:33, 7:35
Next target was mile 16. I had two miles to run in Queens leading up to the mid point of the Queensborough bridge. I knew that mile 15 was going to be slow, it was going to be tough and could be the make or break point of this race. If I go too hard my heart rate will spike and I will blow up, ruining the previous 14 miles of fun. I ran mile 14 fast and then came to the bridge. The bridge is steep and climbs over 50m in the best part of a mile. I slowed to 8:30 pace and found it easy. I was running past people, some were stopping and walking, some taking photos of the skyline. I would love to run a marathon one day where I have no care about my time and just stop to take photos along the way, but today was all about the time and running hard.
Mile 16 was back down the other side of the bridge, my change to make up some time again. I lengthened the stride, increased the cadence slightly, all those training runs with strides added to the end were all being cashed in now.
The noise on 1st ave was unbelievable, I couldn’t remember much about this stretch from 2017 other than it being a long long straight road gradually going up hill, but the support was fantastic today. I ran the whole 4 mile stretch alongside a guy carrying a massive US flag and I am sure you can imagine the response that was getting from the crowd. He was running a faster pace than what was on my plan but I figured it was worth it to feed off that energy the was generating from the crowd.
Before long I was hitting the end of mile 19. This was it, in 2017, right by the 20 mile marker was where I stopped for the first time and could never get any kind of pace thereafter. Running past that point gave me a boost but my pace was slowing. Mile 20 and 21 were 3 and 5 seconds over target. Not a massive amount but starting to creep in the wrong direction. From my watch I could see I was on for around 3:13 if I can hold this pace. That was the first time I had looked at any time other than current lap time. My achilles was still hurting but seemed manageable, my nutrition was holding up despite the earlier mistakes so I thought to myself. Lets do this, lets do epic shit and bring it home. 5 miles left!!
Mile 22 – 26.2: 7:48, 8:15, 8:02, 8:09, 15:56* forgot to stop watch!!
So mile 22 was my final target. The longest non-stop training run had been 22 miles, I had never ran past that mark. Today was the day, today I will run 26.2 miles, I cleared mile 22 and felt a huge relief, I had done it, everything now was adding to a record distance ran. My time slipped further but I knew mile 23 was THE big hill of this course, 100ft climb with 23 miles in the legs. I slowed and ran up it, passing so many people who were now walking. I thought to myself, that was me 12 months ago, I know that pain and disappointment, I wont allow myself to stop and feel that again today.
The final 3.2 miles, just a parkrun to go and through Central Park as well. The rolling hills here were going to make this tough. I was slowing and starting to struggle. I felt hot and thirsty. My stride didn’t have that bounce it had 3 miles ago, I was dragging my feet. I was struggling to get close to 8:30 pace now. I was running looking at the floor in front of me, no longer smiling, laughing and handing out high 5’s. This could be my breaking point.
To keep my mind off the pain and away from negative thoughts I decided to have some fun and start racing people around me. I would pick someone 100m down the road and chase them down, picking them off one by one. This helped to bring my pace down to low 8’s.
When we turned onto Central Park South, that was it. I knew there and then that I was going to run the full distance of a marathon for the first time ever. Just one mile to go. It was slightly up hill but its just a mile.
Reaching Columbus Circle and turning into the park for the final time. 600m to go. I gave myself one last challenge. At 400m I was going to sprint and give it everything I have, I know the hill up to the finish line will slow and stop a lot of people, I was going to sprint it and finish strong.
Running up the hill to the finish, 26.1 miles down, current pace showing 6:13 on my watch. I felt amazing, such a high and so happy. I gave it some Mo Farah style air punches as I came up to the finish.
Crossing the line in 3:17.42. A 17 minute marathon PB, a full 29 minutes quicker than I ran the 2017 NYC marathon. The first time I had ran non-stop.
What a feeling and release. I had trained all summer for this moment, totally expecting it to happen 4 weeks ago in Chicago not today, this came out of the blue.
Crossing that finish line and seeing the 3:17.42 time felt amazing. That was what I had worked so hard for. My goal this autumn had been to run a sub 3:20 marathon, taking 15 minutes off my PB and I had done it. What made it feel all the more special was to do it 4 weeks after the massive disappointment I experienced in Chicago. I used that perceived failure and disappointment to fuel my desire to run harder than ever before today.
To achieve my goal in New York, the race I have considered as my favourite after running in 2017 has just increased my love for this place. Also running my PB on a tougher course, my garmin clocked 1,388ft of climbing, that seems at odds with the 915ft I clocked 12 months ago, but still considerably more climbing than Chicago, Manchester, London and Berlin. All races I should have ran faster than today but didn’t. I did it on a tough course, carrying an injury and despite early nutrition mistakes.
I know I have more time in me, on a more favourable course, fully fit and with the right nutrition I now believe that I can chase down a sub 3:10 in 2019. This race has relit the fire and desire for marathon running and running in general. I had fallen out of love with running in the month following Chicago. now it is time to rest, recover and plan my assault on Tokyo & Manchester in spring 2019.
A couple of minutes after crossing the finish line I got a notification on my phone advising that my friend Marcus @themarathonmarcus had finished. I waited around for 5 minutes hoping to catch up with him post race. From his time it looked like he had also ran a PB today. I didn’t manage to spot him given the number of people coming past. So I went on my way to collect my bag, change into a fresh shirt and get my protein shake down me.
It took around 40 mins to exit the park via the bag drop route and then a further hour to walk down to my hotel but I didn’t care. I grabbed a coffee from Starbucks to start the refilling and recovery.
After a shower, Strava debrief and a tube of pringles I went out for dinner to Shake Shack with Marcus to celebrate our races. He did run a PB but had felt unwell at the finish line so we wheeled off to the medical tent, that was why I hadn’t spotted him at the finish. It was great to chat and catch up, its been over 12 months since we last spoke.
You can have a read of his race recap here to see the race from his view point. Massive congrats on your PB mate!!