“Winning doesn’t always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself.” ~Meb Keflezighi
Wow! What a day. What a weekend. Where do I even begin?
Let’s back track a couple of years. When I finished the Miami Marathon in 2017, I said I done with marathons. Well we all know how that went. I ended up running Boston not once but twice in 2018 and 2019. At that point I was ready to hang up the racing shoes. Fast forward to December 2022. I had a major surgery a few days before Christmas which left me on the couch for a solid six weeks. I needed something to focus on. I could barely walk around the block yet a 26.2 mile run through all 5 boroughs of New York City seemed like the most logical thing to start dreaming about.
Even though I knew my chances of getting in through the lottery were extremely low, I was crushed when I received my rejection email. I’ve never run a race for charity before and I’ve always felt very strongly about not fundraising unless it was a charity I personally felt connected with. That’s where the MEB Foundation came in.
I’ve known Meb and his brother Hawi for a very long time. They are both great people and Meb has been a huge inspiration throughout my running career. I was so honored and elated when they accepted me as charity runner on Team MEB. Not only was I about to raise money for a great cause supporting youth in the areas of health, education and fitness - I was also excited to reconnect with old friends.
Training was about as uneventful as it could have been. I stuck with my 4 runs per week through all 16 weeks. I did two 18 milers and a 20 mile run. I remained injury free. My long runs didn’t feel like a chore like they often did in past training cycles. I think part of that was starting from scratch and having zero time goals in training or on race day. Deep down I was hoping I would still be fast enough to break 4 hours but my main goal was to feel good and take in the whole experience.
The week of the race I got in two short, easy 3 mile runs before we packed up and headed to New York City on Friday morning. My parents, Craig & I left Mashpee around 9am and made excellent time despite stopping a few times along the way including a visit to Mary Lous where a random man paid for my drinks.
We stayed at the Hilton Midtown which was headquarters for the race - aka all the elites stayed there too. When we got to the hotel at 1:30pm, the place was a zoo. I waited in the lobby with our luggage while my mom stood in the check in line and the guys found the parking garage. Craig and I settled into our room for a bit while my parents went and got us some Ray’s Pizza slices.
From there we walked about 1.7 miles to the Javits Center to pick up my number. The expo was both overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people and not knowing where to go and what to look at first. I was underwhelmed by the booths and the fact that not too many actually interested me.
We found a few cool photo op spots but most had long lines. There weren’t many giveaways or freebies. I ordered some official race merch online as I heard it sells out fast so we skipped that whole section. Honestly, once I got my number I was already ready to leave.
After the expo, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at an Irish pub around the corner from our hotel. I planned a surprise “activity” for that night which my parents didn’t know about until we walked up to the Winter Garden Theatre. We went to see Back to the Future on Broadway! It. Was. Awesome. Highly recommend it.
Saturday morning we hit up the executive lounge at the hotel for coffee and a little bite to eat before Craig and I headed out for a short 2 mile shakeout run through Central Park. We found the finish line which was really cool and got a preview of the last 800m of the course.
A little later that day we returned to Central Park for a Team MEB meet up. It was nice to catch up with Hawi and Meb and meet some of my teammates. I also met Susan Hurley - the woman behind all of our charity team emails. Meb was there for about an hour with us chatting, taking pictures, signing bib numbers and even gave the team a pre-race pep talk.
After the meet up, Craig and I went back to the hotel to relax. The Penn State game was on and I think I even dozed off for a while. At one point in the day I remember telling Craig I felt very calm - like almost too calm. It was weird. I did however continue to check the weather a million times as I laid out everything for the morning. They were predicting a low of 50 degrees and a high of 63 degrees. Amazing. But that also meant I didn’t need my Buffalo Bills headband or my Stef Diggs winter hat. Boo. That night I crushed some rigatoni bolognese at Tony’s and a key lime mini cheesecake from Magnolia Bakery before getting to bed early.
My alarm went off at 4:30am although we did get an extra hour of sleep so it was really like 5:30am - thank you Daylight Savings! I slept well and was wide awake as I got ready, braided my hair and packed up my start line bag.
5:19am ● Left the hotel ● My parents and Craig walked with me from the hotel to the New York Public Library.
5:36am ● Arrived at the New York Public Library ● We said our good byes and I set out to find the end of the line for the buses.
5:45am ● Got in line for the buses ● I had to walk about 2.5 blocks to find the end of the line. While walking I met an NYC attorney named Sydney. We stuck together in line and chatted about her experience with the buses last year as we worried about getting to the start line in time to make our assigned waves.
6:39am ● Got on the bus ● We were told it could take 90 minutes to get to Staten Island so Sydney and I were feeling pretty good about timing… that is until our bus driver got lost.
7:50am ● Got off the bus and entered the villages ● Our driver figured it out and got us to Staten Island. Sydney and I waited in line together to go through security and entered the villages. Even though Sydney had a pink number she came with me to hang out in the blue village for awhile. I was so thankful to have met her and have a buddy to ease the pre-race nerves. We used the bathrooms then found a spot to sit and eat our snacks. I brought a banana and a PB&J sandwich that Craig made for me that morning. We used the bathrooms a second time before snapping a selfie and splitting up.
8:48am ● Explored the village ● I was getting antsy so I walked around to look for the therapy dogs, got a bandaid at the medical tent and I probably used the bathrooms 2 or 3 more times. I heard the cannon going off for the first wave and soon after they called Wave 2 to the corrals.
9:15am ● Entered my corral ● I found my corral and used the bathroom one more time before starting to discard layers and organize my pockets. I brought 5 UCAN gels and a chapstick to fit in my shorts and my running buddy waist pouch to hold my phone. The Wave 2 start time was 9:45am. Corrals closed at 9:25am and we started walking to the Verrazzano Bridge at 9:35am.
Blue numbers lined up on the right side of the bridge. Orange was on the left and pink ran on the lower level. As we stood on the bridge, the anthem started playing and I started to tear up. I can’t even begin to describe all the emotions I was feeling. It was happening. I was about to run the New York City Marathon.
A few minutes later the cannon went off and Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York started blaring over the speakers as I crossed the start line.
Mile 1- 9:05
Mile 2- 8:04
The first two miles were over the Verrazzano Bridge. First mile up. Second mile down. The views on the bridge were unreal. The NYC skyline was to the left. It was so cool and iconic that I almost forgot that I was running uphill. I snapped a few pics then tucked away my phone away for the rest of the race.
Mile 3- 8:12
Mile 4- 8:20
Mile 5- 8:14
Mile 6- 7:56
Mile 7- 8:12
Mile 8- 8:06
Mile 9- 8:10
Mile 10- 8:10
Mile 11- 8:21
Mile 12- 8:44
Coming off the Verrazzano Bridge, we entered Brooklyn. The crowds were awesome. I loved the “Yo, Welcome to Brooklyn” sign. Lots of cheering. Lots of music. Lot of Brooklyn pride.
I kept running through the first aid station at mile 3 and took my first UCAN. That was the only one I missed. From mile 4 on I walked through every water station. It was part of my plan because 1-I wanted a chance to catch my breath 2-I didn’t want to choke on my water and 3-I didn’t want to slip on all the empty water cups.
Brooklyn was very long. As I was running I wished I had looked closer at the map to know when the next bridge was coming. In some spots the roads got very narrow and crowded - especially when pink merged in with us - and I was forced to slow my pace. Around mile 10 I started “runner math” and started breaking up the course into smaller segments. 3 miles until the half way point. 6 miles until I would see my parents and Craig at mile 16. As long as Brooklyn was, the miles felt like they were going by really fast.
Mile 13- 8:14
We hit the halfway point while running over the Pulaski Bridge which connects Brooklyn to Queens. I remember being excited about crossing the halfway mark and I remember entering Queens but I don’t recall being on a bridge. It must not have been all that bad.
Mile 14- 8:23
Mile 15- 8:59
The course spends only a short amount of time in Queens before crossing over the Queensboro Bridge. Now this is a bridge I’ll never forget. It sucked. It was dark. It was quiet. A lot of heavy breathing and smells I never want to smell again. The road was very uneven. We were far enough into the race that the uphill made a lot of runners around me start to walk. I thought about walking on the uphill too to conserve energy but we were way too far away from the finish to be walking. I’ll just say it again.. the Queensboro Bridge sucked.
Mile 16- 8:46
As I was coming off the Queensboro Bridge I was second guessing myself and couldn’t remember if my mom said they’d be at mile 16 or mile 18. Mile 16 is right off the bridge - that didn’t seem right. Must be 18.
Going around the off ramp, I started to hear the roar of the 1st Avenue crowds I’ve heard so much about but then I saw 60th Street. My parents and Craig are at 1st and 60th - on the right hand side of the road!! I immediately looked right and saw the big head Craig was holding up and veered in that direction.
I stopped for a quick hi and all I could really say was “where’s dad” (he was behind another spectator and I didn’t see him right away) and “I’m getting tired.” I wanted to tell them how loud the NYC crowds were and how much the Queensboro Bridge sucked the life out of me but I couldn’t get any of that out of my mouth. Those few seconds with my family was huge motivation to get to the finish line - or at least to mile 25 when I would see them next.
Mile 17- 8:19
Mile 18- 8:22
Mile 19- 8:07
1st Avenue was electric! Everything I’ve read and heard about the NYC Marathon was to control yourself on 1st Ave because once you come off the Queensboro Bridge there are still 10 miles to go. It’s also a slight incline the whole way. I spent the first mile or so riding the high of seeing my family while looking around, reading signs.
Then the fatigue started to set in and I tucked my head down and tried to refocus. I remembered Meb telling us in our pre-race pep talk then when you hit a rough patch to look down at our MEB Foundation singlet and remember that you are running for something greater than yourself. I didn’t write my name anywhere on my bib or singlet but it was really cool to hear the “Go Meb!” cheers along the way. That kept me going.
About halfway down 1st Ave I happened to glance left and standing there screaming her head off was my friend Jolie! I knew her brother was running but I didn’t think she’d make it to city for the weekend. Her mom Nannette is one of my yoga instructors at New Seabury and she was right there with her too. I couldn’t even believe it. What a boost!
I spent the rest of 1st Ave with my attention focused back on the crowds. I giggled at a “Pain is only French for bread” sign. I spotted a few Bills hats, a Dawson Knox jersey, a Josh Allen on a stick and a guy holding a “Dallas Sucks” sign. I started thinking about how someone should hold up the score of the Dolphins/Chiefs game. How rude they play such a good game at 9:30am in Germany on marathon day.
Mile 20- 8:24
Mile 21- 8:31
Mile 22- 8:58
Mile 23- 8:28
We turned off 1st Ave and went over the Willis Avenue Bridge. That one sucked too. It was a shorter steeper climb - or at least it felt that way this late in the race. I wanted to walk but I kept telling myself the next water station wasn’t too far away and that I just needed to get there.
We crossed the 20 mile mark during a quick trip through the Bronx. From there I’m pretty sure we headed over another bridge back to Manhattan then onto 5th Ave. My walk breaks were getting longer each water station. By now I was grabbing a cup of Gatorade along with my water cup. Mile 23 ran down 5th Ave just outside the park and I think that was uphill too. 3 miles to go. We are about to enter the park. My family will be at mile 25. I got this.
Mile 24- 8:52
Mile 25- 8:55
We entered the park for the first time at mile 24. Brooklyn was crazy. 1st ave was electric. The Bronx was loud but Central Park was INSANE. The crowd was caving in making the roads extra narrow. Fans were practically on top of the runners. Many runners were walking which made it really hard to run a consistent pace as we were dodging runners and side swiping spectators.
The sun had come out and was shining in my eyes so along with not hearing anything now I couldn’t see anything either. MarathonFoto even captured some of those beautiful pictures of my squinty eyes and pain face that I will not share with you all.
I got a text from Craig that they were by the mile 25 marker on the left side of the road so I started looking up for my big head. Thank goodness for that big head because I spotted it right away! I stopped again when I saw them but this time all I could get out was “I’m tired.” Only 1.2 miles to go!
Mile 26- 8:39
That was a perfect place to see my family because after I passed them we exited the park and ran along 59th Street. That stretch was tough. I saw the 1 mile to go sign and must have picked up my pace because I had an instant inner thigh cramp. Ouch. I backed off and it quickly went away. We went through Columbus Circle and made our way back into the park. I kept thinking “we must have passed the 800m to go sign already.” Nope. That half mile from 25.2 to 800 meters to go felt like forever. Then we saw the flags representing all the different countries… the 800m to go sign… 400m to go… another cramp!… 200m to go then… then the finish line. I made it. I wanted to cry.
26.2 miles - 3:45:36
Average pace - 8:37
After I crossed the finish line, I turned around for a second to look behind me - the first time all race - and felt a hand on my shoulder. I apologized and started walking thinking that it was a race official telling me to keep moving but no - it was Meb! He pulled me aside and told me to wait a minute. He went and grabbed me a Gatorade and we chatted for a little while until a women brought him a stack of medals. I asked her to take pictures as he put a medal around my neck. What a special moment.
From the time I crossed the finish line to the time I got back to the hotel was about 55 minutes. I grabbed my runner recovery bag and poncho and continued walking 10 blocks north - away from the hotel. A nice volunteer noticed I was struggling with everything in my hands and helped me put on and velcro my poncho. I stopped for a few photo ops before finally exiting the park onto Central Park West at 77th Street. From there I traveled South to 65th Street where I met up with my family. It was a very slow walk back to the hotel through the sea of orange ponchos. I couldn’t wait to take a long hot shower and lay down before heading out for a nice, salty ramen bowl.
I can’t say thank you enough to Meb, Hawi, the MEB Foundation and Charity Teams for this opportunity.
As I type this today I have raised $6,020 for the MEB Foundation surpassing my goal by over $2,000! Thank you to each and every one of you that donated and supported me throughout this journey. The NYC Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart and I’ll remember this day forever.
Race Day Takeaways
- Brooklyn was loud. First Ave was roaring. Central Park was insane.
- The miles went by SO FAST.
- This was the most evenly paced marathons I’ve ever run.
- The Queensboro Bridge sucked. The Willis Avenue Bridge may have sucked more.
- I didn’t wear my name on my singlet but I got a lot of “go Meb’s” - which was awesome.
- Fundraising is hard but very rewarding.
- New York > Boston
- My comeback is complete and yes, now I’m really done running marathons!
What’s next? I’m looking forward to taking a few weeks off then getting back to having fun running with my speedy pup Reggie.