My time wasn't what I had hoped, but I don't care. I've fulfilled a long-time dream, AND I finished smiling.
I knew from the get-go that it was not going to be a good race. I spent too long shivering at the start, and my legs were dead before I even started running. It also took two miles for my toes to thaw out so that I could feel them.
Once I got going I was able to settle in with 9:30-9:40 miles, which is right where I wanted to be. I held that pace comfortably through the first ten miles, despite the hills in Brooklyn - and Brooklyn seemed to be ALL uphill.
Things got ugly at the half-way mark. I ran a 2:10 half, which is slower than I've ever run a half marathon, and that just deflated me. My legs ankles and knees were killing me, and I still had at least 2 1/2 hours of running to go.
That's when I started walking. Mile 15 was on the Queensborough Bridge, and that was the lowest point of the marathon. The bridge has a long, long uphill approach, which I walked. The bridge itself was just grim. We were running on the lower level, with trains running overhead. It was dark and noisy and dirty, and there was no crowd support. I started thinking that I was going to have to walk the rest of the way. And then mean little voices in my head started thinking about what everyone would say if I walked the second half or if I dropped out. I did my best to ignore those little voices, but they just kept going. I had been wearing a pace chart on my wrist, and I ripped it off on the bridge in disgust.
Once I turned on to First Avenue, things got better. I put on my shuffle, and the first song to play was U2's "Elevation," which is one of my favorites. Listening to music also made it easier to ignore the voices of doubt. Plus the crowds on First Avenue were amazing; at times they were four and five people deep.
I walked more, but at mile 17 it became obvious that it hurt LESS for me to run than it did to walk. So I adjusted my stride and plugged along.
At mile 20 I started to enjoy myself again. I knew I was going to finish, and while I was walking now and then, I was mostly running. And the closer I got to the park, the more I knew I was about to fulfill my dream.
Running along Fifth Avenue and through the Park was just amazing. The crowds were insane. I managed to pass the guy dressed like a rhinoceros and the girl dressed like a chicken. I just could not let them beat me.
I loved being running through the Park and seeing the Metropolitan Museum, the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle and the Obelisk. One woman in the crowd was holding a sign that said "YOUR ONLY FUCKING CHOICE IS TO FINISH," which got a big cheer from all the runners.
I started getting weepy on Central Park South and on the last turn into the Park. I had watched the marathon on TV for so many years and seen runners take this turn, and there I was, running the same route. In the last point two miles, I passed the miner from Chile and gave him a big cheer.
My official time was 5:06 and change, an hour slower than I had hoped. But I'll take it. I left everything I had out on the course. There was nothing left in my tank when I finished.
I have so much more to write about the race - all the amazing things I saw and people I met - but I'll save that post for another day.