Back in February, I was SO excited to sign up for 4 New York Road Runner races in the spring and summer. I was fresh off of a health scare that had rattled me into a new outlook of sorts, so I was riding that motivational wave.
It helped that NYRR races are kind of my favorite things in the world. Others might think it sounds crazy, but there’s just something about getting up at the crack of dawn, rolling out to the train station, watching the sun come up from the train window, riding an empty subway, and jogging to the starting line to run a full loop or two around Central Park with 5,000 other people, then wandering the city for the rest of the day.
But, as luck would have it (can it still be called luck in this, the year of our lord, 2020?) ‘Rona showed up and made in-person racing a thing of the past. I held out hope for a few months that they’d be postponed, but the reality sunk in somewhere around June that nothing was going to go as planned this year, least of all racing in Central Park with thousands of other people.
Instead, virtual racing became the norm, and lots of people opted for running their races on their own time and in their own comfort zones – which usually meant alone.
I’m no stranger to virtual races, having done a handful of them when I first started racing, mainly for the bling and fundraising purposes. In my experience, these races were usually done as an honor system type of thing, where people ran the miles whenever they wanted, and there was no checks or balances of entering your time to be “counted” as participating. You were merely sent the medal/shirt/bib/whatever swag came with your registration, and that was that as far as the “race” organizers were concerned. As such, I didn’t necessarily view these types of virtual races as “real” – it doesn’t seem right when I’m not running on the same course in the same conditions as everyone else.
In 2020, however, now that the idea of virtual racing is basically all we have left to cling to as runners in terms of goal-setting, it seems as if the systems have been majorly upgraded. Runners enter their times in the digital race results portals of their races, and compete for real. I have only participated in two, both of them still very much like the previous virtual races I’ve done, with no such technological advances, but I know handfuls of people who have run them and loved them. Some have run virtual Boston, others are prepping for virtual NYC… heck, some have even won their virtual races!
I, on the other hand, ran my one notable virtual race on the treadmill, alone, put on the medal as I walked to the shower, then hung it up on my medal rack shortly after that and promptly forgot about it after the picture was posted to instagram.
As you can see, my virtual race experience through the pandemic isn’t necessarily a rousing success story – I only registered for one other race, back in early September, and still haven’t gotten any more information on it ($50 down the drain, possibly??), and I don’t have any desire to register for any more in the near future.
But that’s why I’m writing this post today: did any of your races get cancelled or turned into virtual races during the pandemic? How has your virtual race experience been? Tell me everything!
Every September I run the Seaside Semper Five 5K with the Marines down the shore in Seaside, NJ, and every year I have a blast. It’s my only legacy race, meaning I’ve run it every year it’s been held since 2014, and I hope to continue that tradition as long as my legs will carry me.
Clockwise from top left: 2014, 2016 (the year a bomb went off on the race course), 2018, 2017 and 2015.
This year I went into the race with a good attitude; I’d just come off the high of crushing the Fifth Avenue Mile the week before and while I was a little sluggish from focusing on strength training in the week leading up to the race, I was ready to test myself out at this distance again.
We rolled up to the start area at the boardwalk at about 7:45 after finding easy parking as usual in the streets along the beach, and met up with our crew to get our bibs and shirts and hang out. It seems every year our gang gets bigger – this year we had a total of 7 runners/walkers and 2 support crew.
Having had success with my pre-race fueling at the Fifth Avenue Mile the week prior, I tried to capture lightning in a bottle a second time and packed a half a PB&J for about a half hour before the start. Spoiler Alert: it didn’t go as well.
But it did make for a hysterical photo series that Liz should probably win some awards for. Pulitzer-level stuff, this is.
We killed time before the start, then mashed into the boardwalk with everyone else. Liz continued to document the experience with her camera, and caught a moment she calls “WORDS”:
Clockwise from top left:
John thinks there’s too much Jess. Remedies situation.
Jess has some WORDS with John.
“Go ahead, get in for another photo, I dare you.”
So we had like, zero fun while waiting, as you can see.
Another fun fact: Ed here (left, with the race bib) and my husband Mike have this uncanny ability to unintentionally match, like… 90% of the time we all get together. I’m not kidding:
It’s a game we play now. And the best part is, no matter what, we always win!
But back to the race…
The morning was cool, but the sun was blazing so by the time the gun was about to go off, we were all a little schvitzy.
Mike also caught some fun candid shots of me doing… something?… while we waited.
Where the pre-race PB&J worked for the mile the weekend before, the one I housed before the start of this race wasn’t sitting well, and once the gun went off, I developed a side stitch about a half mile in.
Through the years, I’ve gotten better at reading the signs my body throws me, and this morning, my body was telling me it wasn’t going to be one of those inspirational, kick-ass races like I’d had the week prior. The boardwalk was crowded with more than a thousand runners (yay for supporting a great cause but boo for overcrowding the race course) so it was tough to get a rhythm going, and my body felt heavy. No matter. Instead of letting it go to hell like I’d done in years past (see 2018), I still resolved to keep an eye on my watch and push as hard as I could.
The first 3/4 mile or so was on the boardwalk, and I ran until the only course water stop at around mile 1.5 on the road, where I took two cups – one to shotgun and the other to sip – as I walked for about a tenth of a mile or so. Having run the course twice already since they changed it in 2017, I knew there were some twisty turns before we hit the out and back turnaround at the farthest point, and I walked some more. It’s fun though, to see the groups of runners and Marines out on the course.
At the turnaround, a large pack of Marines caught up to me, chanting as they marched – and their chanting was exactly at the same pace I would need to stick to for a 12:00 mile.
Oorah! So I decided to latch onto their group and shuffled ahead of them for about a half mile or so, until they picked up the pace and got onto the boardwalk for the final 3/4.
I told myself to crank it up at the giant ice cream cone and did just that, powering past my friends for a solid finish-line sprint and a 39:58 finish.
Thanks, Liz, for being the best videographer and cheering squad leader on the course!
It was nowhere near my best time, but it was a solid effort. I pushed in places where I previously would have just said screw it, so I’ll take it as a win. And as usual, I can’t wait for next year!
Just like we’ve done in yearspast, my good friend Kevin and I hopped on the 5:37AM train into midtown for the FRNY/NYRR Pride Run 5 Miler and let me say before I go any further: I was SO unprepared.
Not unprepared in terms of forgetting sneakers or gels… I mean I had been in physical therapy since May for an Achilles issue and nerve problems that make my leg give out on me, and I’d only run about 4 miles in the lead up to this race.
Per my therapist’s orders, this was going to be a fun run (no sh*t), and it was also going to be my first run in the heat, which made for a pretty miserable time once I hit mile 2.5-3. BUT ANYWAY…
We arrived at the start area at around 7:30 or so and killed time by posing for photos and covering ourselves in sunscreen until our other running buddy, Stephen (aka Lady Champagne Bubbles), arrived.
We ran into a few other friends doing the race while we made our way into the corrals and hung out waiting for the starting gun, and the sweat we’d broken into before even starting the run should have told me what I had to look forward to. I say again: I was not prepared.
As we crossed the starting line, we took off at a pretty solid 12:00-ish/mile pace. Stephen cantered off ahead because he’s in MUCH better shape than me, but thankfully Kevin hung back and took it easy with me. Every quarter mile or so we’d catch up with Stephen who waited for us, but by about mile 2.5 I realized I had pretty much used up all I had in the tank.
It was a miserable feeling. I’d run these hills dozens of times before. In much worse conditions. Hell, I ran the goddamn 2017 NYC Marathon in rain for more than 6 hours!! I really should just listen to the universe and pack it in. Why should I bother when all I do is finish after all my friends and get injured anyway?
All those negative thoughts you get in the middle of a race? I had them.
I mentioned my insecurities to Kevin at one point and he talked me through them – saint that he is – but while he helped my mental game, my physical game was just too far gone. My therapy had been focused on isolating the muscles that were causing me pain, working them gently and slowly strengthening them. The lack of running while focusing on those smaller, foundational things really sucked a lot of conditioning out of me.
Thankfully, I wasn’t SO far gone, and we made it to mile 4 relatively soon. Kevin made deals with me to get to the next light post, the next stop sign, the next tree. It worked, sort of. There was a lot of walking. But once we got to the final half mile or so, I realized I’d done it. Kevin asked if I was OK with he and Stephen taking off and finishing strong, and I said go for it. The only thing that makes a miserable race worse is knowing you held people back.
So off they went and I hunkered down for the final sweaty, breathless half mile. The nice thing about the Pride Run is that in the final mile, all of the local running clubs come out to cheer you on in the final mile or so. And because it’s Pride, the music is bumping, the energy is high, and the love is on full blast. All I had to do was shift to the side of the course and hold my hand out as I ran, and I was rewarded with high fives and screams and cheerleaders galore.
All that excitement was just what I needed to get down the last hill and over the finish line – and for Kevin to snap this hysterical picture of me thanking the running gods that the damn thing was DONE:
Afterwards we all hung out for a bit eating the rainbow ice pops they handed out at the finish line and taking pics – of course I can’t let Stephen take a nice photo just one damn time – before heading home to recover in the air conditioning.
As always it was a great race that I highly recommend, especially for first-timers. It’s high-energy and a wonderful way to support a fantastic cause that is dear to my heart.
Back in September, I ran the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital (CHOP) Parkway Run as a representative of CURE Magazine (my 9-5) and had one of the best races in more than a year.
The day started early – and I mean EARLY – because the race was in Philly, which is a solid hour and change from my place. I’ve also never driven in Philly and frankly, was terrified of the idea of trying to find a parking lot in a major city I was unfamiliar with at 7am. I was very lucky though, because my coworker Kristie (who was going to run the race with me but had to drop out due to injury) is a Philly girl and offered to drive from her house, which was on my way.
Full disclosure: Kristie was super nice and even offered to have me sleep over the night before the race to save me that extra hour, but Adam Driver was hosting SNL that Saturday. And if you know me at all, you know your homegirl here needed to be in her own living room with exactly one (1) pre-race glass of wine to take in the spectacle. And I did. The fact that I stayed up past 1am the night before a 4am wakeup call is an issue we’ll address later.
So yeah, after driving an hour in the dark and arriving at Kristie’s, she drove us into the city and found us the perfect parking lot, and we found the start of the race relatively easily using my tried and true Comic Con logic: just follow the people in neon and spandex.
It was shaping up to be an absolutely perfect weather day, and I said a silent thank you prayer to the running gods. After running the NYC Marathon in a cold drizzle for 6+ hours, I will take every crisp, clear morning as the blessing it is.
This was my first run in Philly, and I must say – it was quite lovely. Granted, I saw approximately 2.5 miles of the entire city on the run, but what I did see what delightful. It’s making me consider other Philly races, tbh.
With a good hour or so before the start, Kristie and I entertained ourselves with dancing to the – admittedly EXCELLENT – DJ (seriously, it was like a wedding DJ with all the awesome dance-along songs) and filming some BTS social footage for the magazine.
Clearly the lack of sleep had not yet taken its toll on me at this point, because I was a dancing fool.
We also took advantage of the sparse crowds and got some awesome pictures with the Rocky statue right outside the Art Museum.
Once we were done messing around, I handed off my backpack to Kristie at the last minute and jumped into the corrals right at Eakins Oval, and after a quick National Anthem, we were off.
The course had us go down the Ben Franklin Parkway (hence the “Parkway Run“) to Logan Circle and back, past the museum and down the Parkway for another mile and back.
I went into this race with some high hopes – after a mildly disappointing finish at the Seaside Semper Five a few weeks back, I wanted to run the race I knew I could. I also knew that as part of a team (and with a reputation as a runner in my office), leaving it all on the pavement was pretty much my only option. So I raced smart and started slow down to the circle and back, with a nice breeze and a solid crowd of runners the entire time. Once we passed the museum at a little more than a mile, I was grateful for the slight downhill we had for the next mile along the parkway – because the sun was starting to come out and it was hot on my back.
The view was beautiful – there was a cool waterfall to our right and the rest of the parkway to our left. I didn’t walk once the entire time, and ran smart with a steady pace. The only water station at the turnaround at just past mile 2 was a blessing, and I held onto my cup for a few meters because I knew there weren’t any more stops from there.
After the turnaround, just as I expected, the sun was now directly in our faces and the heat was starting to build – but not like full-on summer running. This just made me want to run slightly faster, so I switched to my Power Running playlist and took on the final mile with determination.
The teeny tiny incline the whole way made my calves burn, and I knew from running down it at the start that there was a SOLID hill just before the finish line, so I wasn’t shocked when we came to it. I did slow my pace just to make it to the top, and then motored through the final 100m to the finish at a respectable 36:25 (12:03 pace).
Of course my Garmin said I did much better, but I still managed a 1:30 improvement over the Semper Five two weeks prior, and for not racing in more than a year, I’ll take it.
The best part is that the runners and their friends raised more than ONE MILLION DOLLARS for pediatric cancer research, which is AMAZING. I learned later that there were more than 10,000 participants at this run, too – making it probably the biggest 5K I’ve ever done!
The only downside was having to drive home for more than an hour and change by myself on my pitiful 3 hours of sleep while keeping myself awake with blasting music and open windows. But I regret nothing.
All in all this was a great race that I’m looking forward to next year!
I’ve done the Seaside Semper Five 5K basically every year since it started – yes, including the year a bomb went off on the course. So I never miss it. Even this back in September of this year, when I had basically done zero running up til that point, save for a handful of miles every week and a solid 20 mile week the week before the race.
As usual, this race calls for an early wakeup, so when race day rolled around on September 15th, Mike and I headed down to Seaside in the dark and got there just as the crowds were starting to form – and got to admire the local art:
I enjoy this race for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with logistics. There is plenty of parking available (if you get there early enough) and a super clean bathroom in the bar/restaurant it starts in front of (again, if you get there early enough – the lines soon get out of hand just like any race). So since we were there from the get-go, I was able to sneak in to the bathrooms and get my bib before it got too cray-cray.
(Though I got a little cray-cray over the excitement of my first real “I’m going to race this thing” race in nearly 10 months!)
I met up with a bunch of folks before the start, including my friend from the Rebel Legion (and badass Marine) Sean and his beautiful girlfriend, some IG friends, my cousin Heather, and my friends Jess and Ed (Ed was running) and Liz and John (who were both running). You could say this was more of a social event than a race for me, and I liked it.
By the time the opening ceremonies started, I was hungry, so I took a gel. I have to admit – treating this as a real race had my nerves a little jangly, so I had to kind of rely on muscle memory to remember how to prep. I’ve run a few little fun runs since the NYC Marathon last year, but not for time. So wanting to do this right had me a little rattled.
But all those nerves were for nothing, because it was a beautiful morning by the water, and the race turned out to be great.
I mean look at this picture Liz took from the roof of the bar we started at! *chef’s kiss*
At the sound of the gun we took off going north on the boardwalk on the newly modified course that was started last year. Previously this run was just a straight 1.5 mile shot south on the road then back 1.5 on the boards, but last year they switched it up to take us like half a mile north then out into the city. It’s a fine switch – still fast and flat – and honestly a little more fun because the winding streets give us a little more to look at and give people in those houses we pass a chance to cheer us on.
The whole 1.5 out to the turnaround point was great – I had been working on not walking in the weeks prior to the race, and raced for the first time in my Altra Escalantes, which, if you haven’t tried, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. They are so choice. Full review to come.
Anywho, I was feeling good through the turnaround, and loved the fact that I got to cheer on the folks behind me when I turned around. All the Marines in this race also make for some serious motivation – there are folks that run this race with prosthetic legs, crutches, the whole nine yards. It’s seriously awe inspiring and makes you realize what some people have given up for our ability to do stuff like run races and write blogs about them. Thank you, veterans and active duty military, for all you do for us!
The sun was starting to get hot once we turned back around and got through mile 2 before getting back on the boards, so I finally took my first walk break for the 2nd water stop. And that’s where I kind of fell apart.
Well, I didn’t FALL APART like full-on meltdown mode, but I basically said “Oh hey I can walk, I forgot about that option!” and kind of jogged it in through most of the final mile. I wanted to find the right power song, then I had to stop to sip some more water, then I wanted to take a picture, and before I knew it I’d blown the lead I’d given myself by not staying strong – and proving to myself that this running thing is nearly 100% mental.
Either way, when the finish was in sight I kicked it back up into high gear and crossed with a relatively solid time of 37:53, for a 12:22/mile pace…. Aaaaaand a face for the record books, because I was laughing at my friends for waiting past the finish line and getting the most unflattering finish line photo ever:
After the race we got to enjoy the boardwalk and the beach for a bit, before heading over to Jess & Ed’s family’s place down the road to clean up then grab some bangin’ post-race food.
and a cupcake, because otherwise what’s the point?
Overall this year’s Seaside Semper Five was another success, and I can’t wait for next year’s race!
Real Talk: The TCS New York City Marathon left me turned off about running. With having to put our cat to sleep the day after the race and dealing with injuries for months post-race, I never felt that post-marathon high.
I deleted almost all of the pictures from that day off my phone. But for some reason, I couldn’t delete this one: the Mile 26 marker.
I still remember how I felt when I snapped this picture. Every inch of my body hurt. It was dark and rainy, spectators had all gone home. When I saw Mile 26 I thought “Who cares. There’s no triumphant final push left in me, why should I take a picture?”
But I did, and every time I clean my camera roll, I still won’t delete it. It took me 7 months, but now I know why: because it was the lowest point I’d been at in months… BUT I KEPT GOING.
I got that medal. I pushed through a mental and physical hell I created for myself over 25+ miles through the five boroughs of NYC and I survived, just like I’ve survived every other “lowest” point in my life. It’s a reminder that there’s always something to look forward to, even if I have to go through just .2 more miles of hell to get to it.
When you get to your Mile 26, just keep going. I know it hurts. But it’ll be worth it.
I know, I know – I ran it like two stinking weeks ago, I’m a bad blogger! But hey, I’m back, and I’m blogging about it, and I’m a FREAKIN’ MARATHONER!
So let’s jump right to it, shall we??
On race morning, I woke up after actually managing to get a good night’s sleep, and Mere (who was also running) and Damian came and picked us up at about 4:15am.
Just look at those crazy eyes I’ve got. Those are the eyes of a terrified woman.
We planned on taking the NYRR-provided NJ Bus, and had the smoothest morning. Seriously: after a 30 minute drive, we rolled up to the Meadowlands, kissed the boys goodbye, walked 50 feet to a waiting bus, and were on our way within seconds! Bravo, NYRR.
Sure, we got the last 2 seats on the bus and couldn’t sit together, but it was OK, we made it work 😉
After a quick bus ride, we arrived at Fort Wadsworth while it was still dark, and breezed through security and into the Starters Village.
After checking out our individual colored corral areas, Mere was sweet enough to come over to my area in Orange and hung out with me while we waited for her wave to start.
I even got to meet Alissa while we waited (nice job on your BQ, girl!!)
After saying goodbye to Mere, I hung out with the NYRR therapy dogs. No, seriously:
It was so nice to give some pets to Tugboat the Frenchie, Lass the Labrador, and WLLY the… poof? Man-bun? Whatever he was, he was my favorite and required a selfie.
Arun came over to say hey, and after he said goodbye to go back to his area, I met Amanda and Gregg, and we watched the start of the race from our spot at the base of the bridge.
Amanda and Gregg and I became fast friends – Gregg also gave us some sage advice about how you can only run the race with what you’ve got in the tank. To pass the last hour before we started, the three of us ate our breakfasts and chatted about our previous races, our taste in music, and how we prepped for the race. Secret reveal: Gregg and I both have the Moana soundtrack on our marathon playlists. Shhhhh! 😉
After Greg took off for his start in Wave 3, Amanda and I were left behind to nervously chat while we made quick port-a-potty stops, de-layered, and strapped on our running bags before heading over to the corrals of Wave 4. I was so grateful to have her there with me – if you’re reading this, thank you, Amanda!
We said goodbye just as the corrals were closing, and I was able to take a quick video before they closed the gate:
I will admit: I was super nervous up until I heard New York, New York blaring over the loudspeakers, and then a kind of calm came over me. Once the cannon went off, I was ready:
Within another few seconds, we were walking up the incline to the start, ran over the mat, and the marathon had begun. And, forgive my language, but holy shit, it was amazing.
I knew the first 1.5 miles was uphill on the bridge, but honestly as we ran it, I didn’t notice the incline. All I felt was incredible energy: from the people running around me, the police on the bridge, the people that worked on the bridge, the AIR… everything was electric and perfect.
The only issue I was faced with was worrying about my phone in the rain. I had made the decision to run with my phone in my hand so that I could easily take photos and videos, but the constant drizzle ended up covering my phone in water before the first mile. But it turned out okay in the end.
Once we began mile 2 and entered Brooklyn, I quickly discovered what everyone meant when they told me this would truly be a race unlike any other I’d ever run. Even in the rain, people of every race and shape and size and color lined both sides of the street and screamed and clapped and rang bells and shouted our names – for miles and miles and miles. It was like running through a block party that never ended!
I ordered a personalized name bib from Races2Remember and I’m so glad I did. Every 10 seconds or so, there was a new person yelling for me, cheering me on, making songs about my name… my favorite was “No one better mess with Jess!” It was incredible.
For the first 6-7 miles, I honestly felt so good that I didn’t even notice I was running. The music, the spectator high-fives, the sights – it all carried me. I ran from one side of the street to the other to get all the high fives I could!
At mile 3 a swing band on the sidewalk was blasting music and made 2 runners stop and break into a full-on choreographed swing dance in the street. At mile 5 a full gospel choir sang for us on the steps of their church. At mile 7 NYPD officers danced with us in the streets.
At one point near mile 9, the crowds were so thick I couldn’t tell where the runners ended and the spectators began. Groups of friends spilled out of the bars with drinks in hand, cheering for us and dancing to the music that bumped from inside the bars.
I put my headphones in but rarely used them – I was too busy singing along with the music on the course!
By mile 11, I knew I should be feeling some fatigue, but I still felt great. My miles were around the 12:00 range, and while that was a bit faster than I wanted, I thought maybe I’d have some luck and that energy would keep carrying me.
Well, I was a bit wrong.
Mile 13 was a bit slower – I walked/ran for the next few miles, saving my strength for the Queensboro Bridge I knew was coming up between 15 & 16.
The crowds were a little more sparse here so I cranked up my music, and almost as soon as we got onto the QB, my iPod died. I had expected this after it died during long training runs, so I’d packed a backup iPod (no, really, I NEED my music), and walked a bit on the bridge to swap them out and recover.
Once I got a boost from fresh music, I put my head down and barreled through some crowds of walkers, keeping a steady pace. But after about a full uphill mile of that, I realized the mistake I’d made. My legs burned. I knew that Manhattan was next so I was counting on that energy, but what I wasn’t counting on was the rain really picking up as soon as we got off the bridge and turned onto First Avenue.
If the first 13-15 miles were easy as pie, 15-22 was where I actually had to put in work.
I asked 26 of my closest friends and running buddies to give me a song each for a Power Playlist, and this is when I turned it on.
A few of the songs really charged me up, but when one particular song my mom picked came on, I started weeping. It’s the song that my mom and dad walked me down the aisle to on my wedding day. While I tried not to cry too hard, I took some time at this point to be grateful. Even though I was in pain, I knew I was going to finish this thing. All the work, the endless hours, they were going to pay off. It was emotional.
Finally we entered the Bronx – and were greeted by so many more spectators that I got a little boost.
I danced a little with people who were still out in the rain cheering for us, and one woman even stopped herself before she could give me a high five and instead threw her arms around me and said, “Girl, you don’t need a high five you need a hug, you’re going to finish this!!” I think maybe she was an angel.
Once we looped back into Manhattan at mile 21, I got excited – this was the home stretch, so to speak.
I’d arranged to have Mike and the crew cheering for me at the same spot we’d spectated at last year, and knew I was getting close. So I shuffled along and kept up the pace, looking for them the whole time. But our spot came and went, and they weren’t there. I’d made a deal with myself before I even started: there’d be a chance I would miss them, and I had to accept that. So instead of getting upset, I shuffled up Fifth Avenue because the pain was too great to run constantly now, and I chatted here and there with the runners around me as we put one foot in front of the other. This was great because it took my mind off things, and before I knew it, the sun was just about to disappear and we were entering Central Park!
I HAD to take a picture of my favorite spot in the city ❤
During training, I envisioned coasting up and down those Central Park hills at this point, riding a wave of adrenaline that would carry me to a strong finish.
The reality could not have been farther from that vision: my ankles were wobbly and kept giving out, my calves burned, my lower back burned, my right glute was on fire, and every time I tried to move faster than a weak shuffle my entire body screamed. I couldn’t help but grunt and groan every time I tried.
By the time we exited the park for that quick jaunt across Central Park South, the sun was gone and I knew I’d be walking it in… until I spotted Mike and Mere and Damian!
When I saw them I broke into a run and stopped for a quick hug and kiss from everyone – but if I stayed any longer than that I knew I wouldn’t be able to move again!
So I took off with them screaming behind me, giving me my final power-up.
After grabbing a hug from Peter Ciaccia himself at the entrance to the park, I ran straight through, stopping only to get one last picture:
I could hear the screaming and cowbells of the finish line, and turned it on for a final kick. The pain was still there but all I could focus on was getting up that final hill and crossing that line.
When I finally saw the finish line, I couldn’t help but start crying. It was happening. I honestly can’t remember if I heard them say my name, but I know I glanced around behind me to make sure I wouldn’t hit anyone, threw my arms in the air, and closed my eyes as I crossed the finish line and finally became a marathoner.
It took a few seconds after I crossed for it to truly hit me, but when it did, I immediately started sobbing. And hyperventilating. The horrible wheezing sound I made caused a few volunteers to ask me if I was OK and I nodded, willing myself to calm down; there’d be no good finish line picture if I passed out before I could even get my medal!
So I staggered to a medal volunteer and sobbed again as she put the medal around my neck. She kept saying “bless you, bless you” and I thanked her with everything I had left. I asked her to take my picture and she obliged:
As I staggered through the chute to get my poncho and exit the park, the pain finally had a chance to sink in, and it was intense. I cannot begin to describe it – it was shooting, throbbing, aching, burning… it was all the pain at once, everywhere. It physically took my breath away to do anything but stagger ahead with the flow of people in the same shape as me.
After I got my poncho and texted with my crew to confirm our meetup area, I was never so relieved to see my husband and our family. And as a bonus, I even got a huge finish line hug from Lizzie, who had volunteered at the race, too! ❤
To celebrate our finishes (congrats on your course PR, Mere!), we toasted with some wine at dinner and that was the most delicious red I’ve ever had.
And while the walk back to the subway was unbelievably painful (and hysterical), I made it down the subway steps in time to catch our train and we were home before 11pm.
I could easily write another 2,000 words about it, but I’ll cap myself now by leaving you with this: the NYC Marathon was incredible. It was awe-inspiring. It took my breath away, more times than I could count. I saw things that I never thought I’d see on a race course. If you ever have the chance to run it, DO IT. You will never regret it.
They say NYC is a race unlike any other, but you truly have no idea what that means until you experience it.
After a great experience as a Blog Partner with the Newport 10K in May, I was invited to run the the Newport Half Marathon in September and jumped at the opportunity. Sunday started out muggy and warmer than expected and as we headed into Jersey City we prayed the sun would stay behind the clouds for our race to keep the temps low.
Spoiler alert: it did!
A note about parking: a big factor in my race decisions is how easy it is to get to. My nerves are already shot enough on race morning, I’m not about to drive myself insane circling a city for a parking spot or navigating a bunch of detours. Anyone who’s driven in northern NJ will tell you that it’s a bitch and a half, so I was skeptical about a race IN Jersey City. But these folks are total pros, and even though we rolled up to the race area a bit later than I wanted, we still managed to get a parking spot in the huge deck very easily thanks to the clearly labeled streets and tons of race volunteers. A++ for that, Newport Half Race Team!
After parking, we stopped at the porta-potties (again, plenty of clean options available, another A+ for the event crew), hung out for a bit, and waited for the start.
Full disclosure: while waiting, I had a bit of a panic attack. The craziness of the pre-race crowds two days in a row, combined with the lack of sleep and extra physical pressure I had been putting on myself all came to a head and I just wanted out. I didn’t want to be there. I felt itchy all over. My skin burned and my insides churned. I couldn’t catch my breath and I felt like crying. So I sat on the curb while everyone around me chatted and took a few deep breaths to work through it.
I didn’t plan to wait until World Mental Health Day to publish this post, but it’s fitting that I share it now. Anxiety doesn’t always look like hysterical tears or someone hugging themselves and rocking; sometimes it’s a quiet, forced smile or a stoneface when everyone else is laughing. I’m not going to gloss over my mental health issues to paint an unrealistic picture. We need to break the stigma of talking about these things, and I want to help do that, one blog post at a time. So yes, I had a small panic attack before the start. After a few minutes I was able to pull it together and we went on with our morning, but if you ever feel overwhelmed and scared, just know that you’re not alone!
Once we realized the crowd was moving to the start corrals we headed over with them and seeded ourselves. It was a smaller race so the corrals were about 50 feet apart, which was nice. Mike stayed with me to send me off at the start, and away we went.
Right away, the humidity was an issue. It was hard to breathe and my muscles were super tight from racing Seaside the day before. I took it slow because I still had the goal of adding miles at the end of the race. But by mile 3, my right calf and ankle felt like they were wrapped in super glue: tight, hot, and angry. So I pulled over to a curb and stretched for a good minute or two – clearly this was not going to be one of those “omg I am so strong!” races. I was OK with this.
After mile 3, I was feeling better, my ankle and calf had loosened up, and even though I was drenched in sweat already, I fell into a groove behind these two girls at my exact pace, who had to be twins – they had nearly identical builds and ponytails, even their gaits were similar.
I took my first gel at the water stop near 4.5 and finally stopped for a bathroom break at about mile 6 in the park. Then we turned onto the waterfront path at 6.5 and came face to face with Lady Liberty and the NYC Skyline – and I kid you not – Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York randomly came on my iPod and the run immediately took a turn for the better.
I sang, I danced, I pointed at the skyline – hell, I cried some happy tears – all while running straight for that beautiful city in front of me.
I’m sure the folks around me thought I was insane, but I didn’t care. Seeing the city was just the refresher I needed to get me through the rest of the race. We curled through the park for another few miles, and about halfway through mile 9 we cruised through a water stop manned by a crew of teens who cheered us on with big smiles. I had to laugh though – as I took my second gel and walked through, one of the teens sitting on the curb nearby shouted to her friend across the course, “Oh my god, my legs are SO TIRED!” to which I replied without thinking, “YOUR legs are tired???” She immediately blushed and covered her face and laughed with everyone around her – “I’m sorry!! I mean I ran yesterday so I’m sore! But you’re running so much more than me, you’ve got this!!” It’s always fun to interact with the volunteers 🙂
Around mile 10.5 as we neared the city again, I started to feel some twinge-y pains in my left ankle, possibly from overcompensating for the sore right ankle earlier in the run? Either way, I slowed down a lot here, and even stopped to fish a rock out of my shoe at one point. Then just before mile 11, we turned the corner where a small group of spectators stood. A woman was there with an older woman and a younger guy, and she was holding a sign that said “Almost there!” Of course, I laughed and said with a smile, “You’re not allowed to say that until Mile 13!”
Well, apparently this woman had enough of being heckled by runners the whole race, because she immediately snapped back at me in a super-nasty tone: “IT’S AN INSIDE JOKE.”
I laughed in her face and waved her off. Um, an inside joke with who? One of the thousands of runners out here on the course with me? How about if you don’t like the comments you’re getting, you put that sign down until this inside joker of yours passes by, and you keep that sourpuss to yourself, mmkay?
ANYWAY, it was right about then that Formation came on my ipod and I kicked it into gear for the final 5K. I texted Mike to let him know I was about a half hour away and took off at my now slower pace to keep that tender ankle from rolling. At mile 12 we hit the waterfront and cruised along there for the final mile and a half, and I crossed the finish line at 13.5 miles in a semi-decent time for a training run on tired legs.
Overall it was a perfect course and a well-organized race, just like the 10K. If you’re looking for a nice flat half marathon with pretty views (and a medal, too!), definitely check this one out.
For Throwback Tuesday (which is a thing now that I’ve just made it up), let’s take a little trip back to June, when I ran the NYRR/Front Runners Pride Run 5 Miler in Central Park with my friend Kevin – and then returned to Manhattan for the Pride March the following day!
Kevin has been by my side for a lot of training this year, so I was stoked when he wanted to do this race with me. After having such a great experience last year, I really wanted to share it with someone, and while it wasn’t as… DRY as last year, it was even more fun because I ran with a friend.
As we waited for our 5:32AM train, the rain started coming down hard. No worries, we thought – we’ve got like 3 more hours! It’ll pass by then. Hm. Well, two hours later when we emerged from the subway, it was still pouring. We ran across the street and into bib pickup, then hid under a tree with the thousands of other people who also weren’t prepared to hang around in pouring rain for an hour waiting for the race to start.
The only pre-race photo I was able to take through the plastic bag I stashed my phone in!
It was kind of miserable – and because we were drenched to the bone, our cameras had to stay hidden too, so we don’t have many photos – but once it was time for us to line up in our corrals, the rain slowed to a drizzle and we were grateful for the cooling effect of running while wet.
We went out to have fun with this one. It was Kevin’s first NYRR experience, and first time running in Central Park, so we played a fun game where he’d ask me what hill was coming up next and how long it was going to be, then he’d curse at me for not lying to him. Harlem Hill was especially fun. Sorry, Kevin!
But we hit a good rhythm of running and stopping for walk breaks when we needed them. This race is always a good time – everyone is so chatty and friendly on the course, and we made lots of “hi-bye” friends who shared in our uphill struggles and water-break euphoria. By the time we got to Mile 4, we realized the end was near and picked up the pace for a strong finish with blue skies.
After we picked up our new race shirts, we snooped around for something to eat, realized we (okay, me) were chafing, and headed home. We needed our rest after all – we had been invited by our friend Stephen to ride on a float in the NYC Pride March the next day!
Stephen – aka Lady Champagne Bubbles – is not just a fabulous performer. He’s also worked hard to earn a bunch of letters after his name (MSN, MBA, RN) and works at the NYU Langone Medical Center as Care Manager and co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council. When he invited us to ride on the NYU float that he’d also be performing on, I strapped on my rainbow fanny pack and jumped aboard – and it was SO MUCH MORE EPIC than I ever could have imagined.
My heart is still so full when I think back on it. The music was loud, the hugs were strong, the people were beautiful and the love was real. When this world gets dark, I will remember that day and know that love is love is love – and no narrow mind can change that.
We partied through the streets for hours, waving our flags and singing along with the crowds that lined the sidewalks the whole way.
By the time we entered the Village, the crowds were so thick and loud that I had nearly lost my voice screaming and cheering with them. When we passed the Stonewall Inn, I couldn’t help but get choked up.
The LGBTQ Rights Movement has always been close to my heart, but participating in the March and sharing the love with everyone in NYC really took it to the next level. Seriously, I lost count of how many times I looked at Kevin or Stephen and just said “Thank you!” It was an incredible experience that I won’t ever forget.
After going into detail about the snazzy costumes I ran the Star Wars Light Side Challenge in, I got a lot of positive feedback from folks who had considered Disney races or running in costumes. So now that the Dark Side Challenge is complete, let’s take a look at the costumes I ran in this time (and how I had to modify my plans to account for the heat)!
Originally I wanted to run as Phasma for the half and possibly do Greedo or Han Solo for the 10K. I even went as far as spending an entire evening looking at hip holsters on Amazon (an activity I don’t recommend unless you want your Amazon suggestions to be VERY WEIRD for the next few weeks).
But because this was a Dark Side themed weekend, I decided on Phasma and Vader pretty early on. And here’s how I made them happen!
My search for a Phasma outfit started off rocky: I couldn’t find the right shiny silver top and skirt in matching tones AND performance fabric in my budget. But, as fate would have it, at the same time, my friend Tiffanie (aka Star_Wars_Runnah), announced that she’d be running the NYC Marathon in support of the March of Dimes and would thank donors by making them skirts or full outfits depending on their level of support. The chance to support a good friend, a great cause, AND check my costume off the list while getting something one of a kind?? Thank you, universe!
To top it all off I added some personal finishing touches, including a DIY cape I made the weekend before and the outfit was complete!
This one was easy and functional, especially in the Florida heat:
And as a bonus: I can wear almost all of this costume again, even when I’m not running! Except for the silver gloves. Those things were so soaked through with sweat you could see through them and went right in the trash after the race, lol.
For Vader, my costume was even more simple, and thank goodness: that heat was BRUTAL, and even though I was only in one layer, the sweat had pooled at the bottom of this dress and needed to be wrung out from miles 8-13 (bleh)!
Vader Dress by Her Universe (on sale for $25 when I got it!)