And not too long ago, dear friend Katie told me she would like to run another marathon.
I told her to sign up for the biggest 26.2 block party in all the land—the New York City Marathon.
As she loves running for various charities, she signed up through UNICEF.
In the days leading up to the race, we had a lovely time galavanting around town, eating various foods suited for racing and discussing race strategies.
We went for a shake-out run in Central Park along the marathon route.
Katie and I both felt undertrained but were very excited nonetheless.
Given my DNF in 2013, I was looking for sweet redemption.
A pasta dinner and early to bed—race day was fast approaching.
This was one of those years where several of our friends were running the marathon. A group of us left the Upper East Side at 6:00 and were whisked away down the FDR to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. From the ferry to the bus to the athlete village—everything was seamless. I even got a lesson from Dougie on where not to go in Staten Island. (In case you’re wondering, it’s almost everywhere.)
Our team got separated upon entering the athlete village, and us blue corral people made ourselves comfortable in the blue start village. We talked about our goals and how we were feeling.
“Eh… I’m just going to run until the wheels fall off,” one of our friends said.
I expressed that I wished to set a personal record.
One by one, we all vanished to our various starts and corrals. Lucky for me, Bojana was in my corral! Such luck to have one of your friends out of a 55,000-person race in your corral!
I asked my friend what she wanted to do.
“I’d like to PR.”
“Okay, let’s get you to sub-3:45.”
Our five borough block party awaited us.
And then we were off.
Borough 1: Staten Island—The Verrazano Bridge.
I love the New York City Marathon start. I love hearing the cannon and the sound of Frank Sinatra and heading over the Verrazzano Bridge. It’s truly one of the greatest marathon starts one could ever ask for.
As per usual, the start was more than congested. Due to this and the very large incline (the largest in the race—we’re on a bridge, after all), Bojo and I took it very, very easy. So to not freak out should I lose my Garmin satellites, I turned the auto lap function off, and manually ticked off my miles.
Running groups from various countries stopped to pose for pictures. Bojo and I got split up a few times nearing the mile one marker, which was the top of the bridge.
As we descended down the bridge, Bojo exclaimed that we were going a bit faster than we should.
And then we crossed into borough number two.
Borough 2: Brooklyn—The Bulk of the Miles.
I hate Brooklyn.
I really do.
Don’t get me wrong, the crowds are FANTASTIC. But there’s very little scenery to get excited about.
And oof, the inclines.
I got stuck behind a group of Italians shortly after entering the borough.
And I started feeling extreme nausea.
I slowed down.
I also lost Bojo.
But I wasn’t upset.
I was motivated.
This was the start of my block party. I knew where many of my friends would be out cheering, and several of them were in Brooklyn.
Up first was my friend April in Sunset Park around mile four. Unfortunately, her apartment was on the opposite side from which I was running. So I missed her and her lovely daughter.
I veered off the course and gave them a high-five.
(And almost ran into the 10K sign.)
Next up, Ali Cristiano née Feller at the 7 mile aid station.
And I missed her.
My right arm started to hurt and I became frustrated. I had run three marathons with my handheld water bottle—why was today the day that my arm had to give out?
I told myself to get to Justine at mile 11.5 and give her my handheld; I would see her at the after-party. (Or at some other future date.)
And then I passed through mile 12.
I missed Justine.
I was now in Greenpoint, and it was delightful. Maybe it’s because Greenpoint is pretty. Or maybe it was because I knew I was almost to Queens, which meant I was halfway through the race.
Either way, I was excited.
Borough 3: Queens—The Gateway to Manhattan
I knew where Amanda and Stephan would be—just over the Pulaski Bridge on the left. I needed to stop there, take the Gu out of my water bottle, and leave it with them.
And there they were. Complete with their daughter wearing a fuzzy pink jacket in tow.
“Look, Vivian! A real life marathoner!,” Stephan proclaimed.
I chatted with them about my never-ending nausea and that I needed to leave my handheld with them.
“Text my Dad and tell him I feel like shit.”
And then I went.
‘Just get yourself up the damn Queensboro Bridge.’
I was surprised and excited.
They gave me a jolt.
The crowds near the bridge entrance was FANTASTIC. I loved everyone of them.
And then there was darkness.
I’ve run this bridge many, many times.
I told myself not to walk.
I slowed further.
But no walking.
There were numbers on the bridge.
I couldn’t figure them out.
I just kept climbing.
I saw the beauty of Manhattan.
And then we were descending.
There was a couple near the end of the bridge with a sign.
It said, “Welcome to Manhattan.”
Borough 4: Manhattan—The GD Best Borough
I was on home turf and elated.
The crowds on either side of First Avenue were easily 10 people deep.
I hugged the left side as I knew my folks and friends would be somewhere in the high 70s, low 80s.
I kept looking and didn’t see them.
Runners were veering off the course, hugging their loved ones.
I finally saw my crew.
I told them I felt like shit.
Up next, Maura at 96th Street.
She exclaimed she would have balloons.
I saw neither them nor her.
And now I was gladly walking through aid stations, taking gulps of Gatorade.
The lemon-lime crap was giving me much-needed salt, and I had a love-hate relationship with it.
I slowly—and I mean slowly—ran north, trying to make it to the Bronx.
The crowds thinned out but were still there.
My stomach was still churning.
As I approached to the Willis Avenue Bridge I slowed to a walk.
I was over bridges.
And then I saw two gentleman proclaiming the following:
“YEAAAHHH. WELCOME TO DA BRONX.”
Borough 5: The Bronx—It’s Better Than You Think
Having been on straight-aways in Brooklyn and Manhattan, I loved the turns on the Bronx.
The crowd support was fierce.
The bands were fierce.
I grabbed an orange slice and more Gatorade.
And soon I was ascending the 5th Avenue Bridge back to Manhattan.
And a group of ladies on my right were holding a sign that said, “LAST DAMN BRIDGE.”
I told them they were fantastic.
It was time to come home.
The Best for Last: Back to Manhattan and the Finish
I saw the Elite Ironman Cheer Squad at 135th street.
It was here that I picked up Danika.
As she ran alongside of me, she asked how I was doing.
“Errmm… I’ve been nauseated since mile 4.”
She told me I looked “great.”
“That’s because I’ve been running slow…”
I waved, hating my stomach.
The sun was now beaming down on us, and it started to get hot.
As we approached Marcus Garvey Park, I told Danika that I wanted to walk.
“Ok! We can do that.”
And so we did for a few steps.
I took more Gatorade and water at an aid station, and took off my arm sleeves.
Then we started to slowly run again.
We saw Coop cheering as we turned back onto 5th Avenue.
As we reached the start of Central Park on 110th Street, I told Danika that the incline would be a bitch.
And it was.
I walked-ran up it.
When we got into the 90s, we kept an eye out for my folks—it was here where I would drop Danika off and make my way into the park and to the finish line.
Except we didn’t see them.
I gave her my arm sleeves and told her to exit at 94th as I knew she wouldn’t be allowed into the park.
Just before turning into Engineer’s Gate, I heard my dad.
They were cheering outside of the Cooper Hewitt.
I gave them a hug. Mom said she was proud of me.
And then I was off and into my backyard.
As I ran down the East Drive, I was overcome with emotion.
The colors of the leaves were striking. It was if Central Park was putting on their best autumn show.
I hardly noticed the crowds.
I was beaming.
As I ran down Cat Hill, I gave a salute. That cat has watched me and my comrades run countless loops and hill repeats.
Before I knew it, I was up the hill at 72nd Street and exiting to 59th Street.
As I turned right onto Central Park South, my beam started to fade.
The Time Warner Center has never looked so very far away and I was on a slow and steady incline.
I took it block by block.
‘You just passed 5th Avenue. Get to 6th and reassess. 800 meters to go.’
Just after 6th Avenue, I slowed to a walk.
And then I heard Claire.
I gave her a hug and told her of my woes.
“The finish is right around the corner, my friend! Then you can poop your brains out!”
It would be so great if it were that simple.
I thanked her, TG and Nina and finished the Central Park South climb.
The rest was a blur.
I entered the park.
I climbed the hill to Tavern on the Green.
I looked at all the flags lining the finish.
And then I was home.
The Aftermath—Get Me a Hot Water and Wine
I got my much-deserved medal and heat sheet.
And then I heard someone shouting my name.
It was Bojana.
She was constantly pacing the finish line waiting for me to come through. (#friendship)
We discussed our race and took a photo.
I told her I needed to get to my dad on Central Park West and 86th Street. She left me to this task as she was waiting for Brian. (Spoiler alert: her new Beyoncé!)
And then I started the very, very long walk to 86th Street.
It wasn’t pretty.
Runners were sitting on the ground, some in need of medical assistance.
My nausea was at an all-time high.
I kept chugging Gatorade.
I finally found an exit and walked through the park so to finally take a break from the mass crowds.
I walked to 86th Street.
And then I waited.
I asked a police officer if the crosstown bus was running on schedule.
“You just missed it.”
That didn’t answer my question.
I sat down on the sidewalk and waited some more.
A little girl walked up to me and asked if I was okay.
I told her I was just waiting for my Dad.
After several more minutes, I realized I had $40 in my back pocket.
I hailed a cab and instructed him to take the 86th street tunnel to the East Side.
And then I was at The District.
Hugs, cheers and phone calls (specifically to my Dad) were all had.
Maura offered me a drink.
I told her I was still nauseated.
She got me a hot water.
And HOT DAMN IF THAT IS NOT DELIGHTFUL WHEN YOU ARE FEELING DOWN.
Over the next several hours, more members of our crew rolled into the bar.
A lot of people had a tough day.
Some worse than others.
And though it was a tough day, it was a great day.
Thank you New York Road Runners and TCS for putting on a great show.
And thank you to my family and friends for your endless love and support.
I couldn’t have done this without you.