On Sunday, November 3rd, 2019, I checked marathon #2 off my list. My official time – 5:09:44 – was a 5+ minute PR from my first marathon! I also achieved so many intangibles, including maintaining a steadier pace, feeling stronger the whole way through, and finishing feeling relatively solid.
This year was so wildly different than the last, and it all started with the training cycle. This past summer, I took my long runs so much less seriously than I had done so previously. My first sixteen/eighteen/twenty-milers of the season would not be the first of my life – they were just really really long runs. I knew I’d done similar distances before and survived (and sometimes even felt fine after) so I went into my weekly long runs with much less apprehension. I also had much more consistent company! The solid crew of Chill Pace Group (TM) members kept me from getting lonely on those long journeys across the borough (and beyond), and signing myself up to lead CPG runs kept me accountable. Due to these measures – social support and accountability – I was much more consistent with my long runs this summer, which certainly helped improve my endurance. I also threw in some speedwork and strength training alongside the regular runs this year, which may have helped with the overall feel of my race.
Speaking to fellow CHRC members about their first and second marathons, so many people had mentioned that the mistakes they made during their first races informed them well enough to achieve massive PRs the second time around – 10, 15, 20 minutes, even! Because of this, I went in hoping to break 5 hours (which would put me at a little bit under a 15 minute PR). However, even though I had planned and trained more consistently this year, and knew to incorporate walk breaks much earlier in the race, I began running out of steam by the Queensboro bridge. By the time I hit 1st Avenue, I made the decision to reassess my plans so that I could finish the race with a PR while also not exhausting myself so much that I would end up injured and hobbling across the finish line. The final miles of the race still hurt, for sure, but the pain was different this year. It was all from exertion, not injury, and when I finished, even though I felt so, so tired and broken down, I knew I hadn’t done lasting damage, and that I would recover soon.
Although I didn’t make a massive difference in time this time around, I have no regrets. I attribute my mindset during this race to many factors, including the lighthearted members of chill pace group, to the raucous support of my friends and family, and also to Brooke, my start buddy, who had made the decision to run the race for fun. Although we lost each other after the first few miles, once the going got tough, I kept going back in my mind to the conversation Brooke and I had had while crossing the Verazzano. We discussed what it meant to have our main goal of the day being enjoyment, how focusing on having a fulfilling experience while running would keep us buoyant and resilient, and how positivity and high fiving every cute kid we see is more motivating (to us, at least) than beating ourselves up over going slower than goal pace. Because at the end of the day, the Marathon is a beast, whichever way you look at it and however fast or slow you run it. It’s a daylong party and an assault on the senses and I am so, so glad that I went into it this year looking to soak up and cherish the whole experience.
Yes, I concede that my future plans include getting faster, but I am still so happy with the outcome of this year’s race because, even though my PR was relatively small, I finished feeling so much better than I did last year. I was no longer sore after a few days of babying my legs and I didn’t catch the dreaded post-race cold that I suffered last year. Although I have entered the lottery for the 2020 NYC marathon, and will certainly run it if admitted, my main goals are to focus on speed and running shorter races, while adding some more yoga and strength training back into my weekly schedule. I’m hoping to build on my base of fitness from the past two years of marathon training cycles and come back for #3 stronger, faster, and even more optimistic.