New York City Marathon #9, Marathon #95

NYC Marathon 2022

The weeks leading up to NYC marathon had me worried.  I had been running minimal miles trying to recover by my marathon trifecta (Berlin, London & Harford).  My quads and hamstrings felt like they never recovered.  I prayed for the “magic to happen” that’s what Kim says to me before a marathon when I start to freak out.  Most of the time he’s right.

I was excited for my friends Colleen and Andrea to experience this marathon for the first time.  I recall trying to explain the crowds, energy and the course.  I am often asked, “what’s your favorite marathon”, and I say, “New York City is one of my favorites”. This marathon is a tough course, but the crowds will keep you moving.

The Expo: The expo seemed like pre-covid days with so many people and vendors that were actually handing out food samples.  Like Berlin, the jackets and shirts in my size were all sold out which was really a blessing.  I really don’t ever need to buy any more pieces of running apparel for the rest of my life. We took photos with our friends and chatted about our pre-marathon nerves.  We had been getting warnings from TCS that the weather would be warmer than usual.  I have run quite a few warm races and learned to slow down my pace and walk if I had to.  I wasn’t too worried, but I was concerned.  I was also relieved that I didn’t need NYC for a Boston Qualifying race.  My only goal was to have “level one fun” and cross the finish line uninjured.  We did confirm that even though we all had different color corals we could start in the persons coral and wave that had the highest number. You can move back; you just can’t move forward.

Pre-Race Dinner:  I booked an Italian restaurant Arno Ristorante weeks in advance.  I just wanted something with decent reviews near Bryant Park.  The food was decent, and I’d probably go there again for a pre-race meal.  My only complaint was no meatballs! We all left and walked back to the hotel to get ready for race day.

Race Morning:  I woke up feeling refreshed probably because we just gained one hour due to daylight savings time.  I grabbed my throw away stuff, snacks and headed to the lobby to meet our friends.  We walked around the corner from our hotel only to see the buses were already picking up runners and the lines were wrapped around the block at Bryant Park. I had a throwaway sweatshirt and pants thinking I’d be chilly race morning but ended up taking off the sweatshirt as we waited.  We loaded on the bus and took off for the anticipated 90-minute drive to Staten Island.  As we approached the Verrazano Bridge the traffic started to get thick.  Sitting in the stopped traffic, people started to get nervous.  Everyone had been hydrating more than usual due to the weather predictions and needed a bathroom desperately!

Finally, we got to where they were allowing the buses to unload the runners.  The driver didn’t open the door right away and people started to yell, “Let us out”!  Finally,the doors opened, and we were led to the security line to Athletes Village,

The first stop in Athletes Village was to get a Dunkin Donuts hat. We all grabbed them and were trying to find a way to still have it with us after 26.2 miles. It was way too hot to wear mine for the marathon.  Kim wanted a coffee, so he walked over to the huge line and totally cut right in front and grabbed a coffee.  When he returned, he bumped into Sam Vega who was running his 2nd NYC marathon.  We were getting ready to take a selfie with him when we heard “Is that Jeanne and Kim from CT”?  We turned to see Suzanne and her son Michael that we met at the Brooklyn Marathon.  She was running with her son Michael for the first time with a goal to keep a “party pace”.  That seemed to be on the same line as our “level 1 fun” pace.  I kind of liked “party pace” a little more.  Who doesn’t like a party??!!

It’s hard to describe the experience waiting for the waves to be called.  All you can see is people sitting, standing and waiting.  There is nervous chatter from people dressed in costumes, bathrobes and pajamas.  There are runners sitting on heat shields, blankets and blow-up rafts.  The police helicopters fly in 3-4 at a time in line with each other, slowly scanning for safety as they hover near the ground and then take off. Then of course, the blast of the Howitzer cannon for each wave.

Finally, it’s our turn to start which is so epic; The “Star Spangled Banner, the blast of the cannon and then Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”.  It brings me to tears! 

We started to run trying not to take off to fast.  Our first mile that was pretty much uphill was around a 9:30 pace, the second as we descended the bridge was around 8:40 was putting us right on track.  Around mile 3 I recall saying, “holy crap I have sweat running down my face already”, and Andrea and Colleen were both commenting “So do I”.  We kept running, mile 4, 5, and then round mile 6, Colleen said “I am starting to struggle”.  As she said it, I was already feeling it.  My breathing felt off.  I told Colleen, lets back off our pace.  We decided to try to a run/shuffle walk for a minute followed by running. I started to “high-five” children trying to keep myself occupied, but it didn’t last long.  I spotted Kim ahead and after we caught up to each other I told him I wasn’t feeling so hot.  I turned to find that Colleen that was nowhere in sight. Keep in mind, she’s as small as small can be and hard to spot. We started to do a walk/run hoping we’d find her.  At some point, I started to get a cramp in my chest and also a pain between my shoulder blades.  I can’t describe the feeling, but I knew it wasn’t good.  I was getting dizzy, and my vision was off.  It was like there were white patches in front of me.  I started to walk.  I’m not sure what mile it was but my mom messaged me asking if I was okay.  I sent a message back that I was okay but taking it easy due to the heat.  Then my friend Patty sent a message to me to check on me.  We messaged back and forth, and she gave me some powerful advice that kept me going for a while.  I started feeling horrible again, so I started to call people. I started with my daughter but couldn’t reach her.  Then I looked up there were people wearing race t-shirts with “Believe” printed on them but butterflies which is my daughter logo for her website.  Sign #1.  It made me smile and gave me the distraction I needed to keep moving.

Kim and I started to do a walk run to keep our heartrates in check.  He wanted to make sure the cramping in my chest would subside.  It finally did.  As the pain started to subside my goal at that time was to have fun and make the most out of it.  I took photos, high fived the children, sang out loud and just kept moving forward.  The signs people were holding were hysterical and the crowds were screaming my name. Then, I started taking “selfies” with the crowds.  I noticed some people yelling for me only to see “Jean runs a marathon” was on their purple shirts! I had my personal fan club! Loved it!

When we walked, I’d make conversation with other runners.  I met people from all over and some first-time marathoners.  We got to see our Highland Lake friends who live in the city cheering for us too.  Seeing someone you know out there is the biggest treat.  Again, distracting the pain for a few moments.  I witnessed at least 10 runners on the ground.  Some were trying to walk with leg cramps, and I could feel their pain and agony as I passed them. I even saw a couple pacers walking that had succumbed to the heat.

There were people handing out paper towels, sour patch kids, bananas, water and some even offered beer!  We finally got over the “Last Damn Bridge” and headed back to Manhattan.  This is the part that I knew I had to dig deep to finish as it’s a slight uphill battle to Central Park.  I was starting to feel horrible and remembered what Rebecca from the CMAK foundation said at the brunch on Saturday. “When you start to feel like you need help during the race, think of Chase, and he will give you a sign”.  Her son was one of the children that perished at the young age of 8 at Sandy Hook.  I closed my eyes for a second and said a prayer to him.  When I looked up there was a woman in front of me walking.  The back of her shirt had her name KAREN written on it.  My sister that passed away when I was a teenager name was Karen.  I yelled her name and we walked together.  I told her that she was like an angel to me.  I told her about my sister, and she started to cry with me.  It was quite amazing.  Sign#2.

At this point in the race, I knew the finish was close. I started to look for our friend Henryk that said he’d be in the park.  I asked Kim where he’d be as there were people cheering with cowbells everywhere.  Kim said, “he’ll be around mile 24”.  Finally, I heard Henryk screaming our names and banging the worlds loudest cowbell that I’m sure could be heard for miles.  We stopped to say hi to Henryk, Annie and Colleen’s husband Richard.  I told Richard that I had been messaging and calling her for miles and told him she was right behind us. Later, I found out that was Colleens first phone calls during a marathon. 😊

We exited the park onto 59th Street for the long uphill climb to Columbus Circle. The sound was deafening, the screaming spectators lined both sides of the street. We passed the Park Lane Hotel where we stayed when we got married. Before we knew it were turned back into the park for the final stretch to the finish.

Finally, I saw the sign for 800 meters to go, and then the 400 meters to go before we approached the grandstand.  I could see the finish line!  Kim grabbed my hand, and we powered through. Never have I been so thankful to finish a marathon.  I was trying to get my breathing back as we walked through the finish area.  I grabbed my poncho and food bag.  I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach so we started to walk to the side when Kim said ‘Jeanne, look!” I looked down to see someone’s name tag KAREN on the ground.  I grabbed it and held it next as if it was her right there with me letting me that I made it.  Sign #3.

We found Colleen and all walked out together.  My upper back was still in so much pain and I was certain that my feet blistered from all the water I was pouring over me.

“It will move you”, “It will amaze you”, and of course “It will kick your ass”.  I know a lot of people that ran that still finished at a decent pace. I applaud them. Not me.  This was one of the slowest marathons that I’ve run as well as the most difficult.  I am just so thankful that I did finish and that all of my friends that ran were fine too.  I also applaud those that ran it without issues and the heat did not affect them. There are so many different stories from this November 6, 2022, NYC Marathon. 

Will I run it again?  Of course, I will!  Why? You may be asking”? I’ll run it because it’s The New York City Marathon baby, and NYC is a magical place for me.  It is by far the most difficult, amazing, powerful marathon to run.  Hopefully by next year the weather will be back to the cool running weather I love, and I’ll have forgotten the pain!

New York City. “The concrete jungle where dreams are made” – Alicia Keys.

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