NYC Marathon Race Recap

You guys.

I have some news:

I RAN A MARATHON!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Sure, we got the last 2 seats on the bus and couldn’t sit together, but it was OK, we made it work ūüėČ

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!!)

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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! ūüėČ

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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NYRR Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5M Race Recap

On the Sunday before Halloween, I headed into the city for the NYRR Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5M – my final 9+1 race to earn entry to the 2017 NYC Marathon!

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I was excited to take on this race for a number of reasons – the main one being the fact that it got me into the marathon! It was really cool seeing all of my hard work this year culminate in this final race, and the fact that it was a 5M sweetened the deal: this was the final distance I had yet to nab a PR in this year, and I wanted to be able to say I PR’d in every distance in 2016!

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The morning of the race was shockingly warm: temps were already in the 60’s by the time the sun came up, and rising quickly. I had layered up with the plan to ditch my sweats and sleeves before the start, but ended up shedding them pretty much as soon as we got to the park.

After hanging out in Mineral Spring for a bit we headed to the corrals where I made a quick port-a-potty stop, stretched out, and popped some Run Gum after the first gun went off and the faster corrals took off.

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This stuff really is the bomb – I’ve been using it before and during most of my races and runs for the past few weeks and notice a huge boost. Maybe it’s mental, maybe it’s just the caffeine, ¬†but either way I’m loving it.

Once I crossed the start, I swear I caught a runner’s high within the first quarter mile. It was so incredible: the sun was shining, the crowds around me were pulsing with energy, my pace was on POINT at 9:50, my legs felt fantastic and fresh, and the city was humming. I tamed my inner speed demon a bit as we neared the first mile and I knew my favorite few was coming up fast.

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I mean, come on. Look at that. How can you see that and not be moved? I ran with my phone out just to snap this pic and a few runfies because I was feeling myself (sorry not sorry) and then put it away to focus on the task at hand: nabbing that PR.

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Miles 2 and 3 went by relatively easily – the usual Central Park hills had me pushing a bit harder than expected, and the heat caused me to stop for water more than I anticipated, so I was averaging¬†about a 10:30/mile pace. I was bummed – I was giving it my all but needed to break 10:19 to PR. By the end of Mile 3 I passed a photographer and thought¬†if I’m not going to PR I may as well have a frickin blast!¬†So have a blast I did:

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But a funny thing happened at the start of the final mile – we went downhill. I always forget about that downhill, even though I’ve run that same 4-5-6 mile route around the park more than a dozen times this year and go the same direction every time! And when we went downhill, my pace picked up. A lot. So much so that by the time I made it to 4.5, I was cranking at about a 9:45/mile pace and my average pace had gone down to 10:19.

The rational side of my brain was screaming to slow down; there was no way I’d be able to push even faster¬†for another¬†half mile. But the balls-out competitor in me told that rational part to shut up and run; I’d hate myself if I missed that PR by a second per mile just because I wimped out in the final kick.

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The crowds were¬†thick, so I had to weave around a lot of people. A girl that had been keeping pace next to me must have had the same idea to drop the hammer, because she took off like a shot and nudged her way through the crowds we were stuck in. I was so grateful –¬†she was much shorter than me so she essentially parted the sea of people and I followed in her wake until we turned the corner before the finish line.

Her pace was a LOT faster than I was ready for – I saw 8:45 at one point! – but when I neared the finish and saw my 10:16 average, I left it all out on the course and crossed at 52:45 (Garmin time) with a new unofficial PR.

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Walking through the finisher’s chute was tough on shredded legs – I was wobbly and I couldn’t catch my breath, but it felt¬†incredible.¬†This is racing, I thought. This is why I do this. To chase my former self and prove to myself that I can do things I never thought possible.

Even though I didn’t PR officially by the gun time, I can honestly say I gave it everything I had and my watch says I did it. So I’m counting it ūüėČ And with that, I’m on my way to the 2017 NYC Marathon!!

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NYRR & FRNY Pride Run Race Recap

On Saturday, June 25th, I ran the NYRR/FRNY Pride Run 5M and had – quite honestly – one of the best race experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

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This race was dear to my heart to begin with; I’ve been an ally in the LGBTQ community for¬†as long as I’ve known what those letters stand for and take every opportunity I can to show my pride. The past few years I wasn’t able to race due to vacations or other plans, so this year, I registered as soon as it opened up.

Then just a few weeks before race day, the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando rocked the community. But on race day, we came together to lift each other up and race as one, holding those 49 beautiful people and their families and loved ones in our hearts at every step.

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It was a perfectly sunny day, and as we got to the race site and milled around with the crowd, I hydrated and snapped pics on the way to the corral. I was SO HAPPY to run into my favorite running buddy Mr. Lu and finally snap a photo with him! This guy has run every NYRR race I’ve done, and our paces are roughly the same. He’s gotten me through quite a few difficult miles with his perfectly steady gait and the jingly bells he holds in his hands when he runs. Anyone else every run into him too?

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Once I got to the corral I hung out and caught up on social media then took my place and got ready to run. The crowds were thick, but everyone – and I mean¬†everyone –¬†was kind and happy and supportive. As I’m usually alone in the corral, I tend to put my headphones on and smile at runners around me,¬†but don’t get a lot of smiles back. This time, everyone smiled and wished each other a great race, gave a thumbs up, something.

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Peter Ciaccia opened up the race with a speech that I managed to partially get on video and I’m so grateful I did:

I can’t lie – I shed some tears at those remarks, and still do watching them now. He’s right: the madness has to stop. I don’t care what your political leanings are and I’m not here to get into a debate – this is my blog, not the comments section of a Facebook post – but at the very least, we can all agree that what really matters is humanity and love and respect. And if you don’t agree, then you can take your opinions elsewhere and kindly unfollow me, thank you very much.

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After Peter’s remarks the horn went off and we were off for the 5 mile loop around the park, where I was quickly overwhelmed by the love and support coming from all angles. It was heartwarming. People on the sidelines screamed for every single person, offering high fives, wearing tutus and glitter and wigs, giving out gummy bears – and that was just in the first quarter mile!

Once we cleared the crowds, I choked up as I spotted the signs people were racing with Рsome had written the names of the victims of the Orlando shooting on their bibs, others held posters or made special shirts. I got especially emotional when I came up on one man wearing a laminated collage of the faces of all of the victims on his back. I cried as I passed him, giving him a thumbs up and a nod that he returned.

Beyond the scenery and the crowds and the amazing environment, the run itself was uneventful – I wasn’t gunning for a PR after taking some training time off in the weeks leading up to the race, so I ran my own race and took my time in the growing heat and full sun. I told myself as long as I stayed under 11:45/mile I’d be happy.

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In the final mile I saw that I had kept my promise to myself and was nearing an 11:3x/mile finish, so I gunned it and crossed the line officially at 57:37 (or an 11:32/mile pace).

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Garmin time is always better ūüėČ

I was even MORE excited at the finish to find that not only did I finish fast enough to get a race shirt IN MY SIZE (they’re usually all gone by the time I finish), but they were handing out RAINBOW BAGELS!

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How can you not smile at rainbow bagels??

Because it was a hot day and we had plans that afternoon, we weren’t able to wander around the city like we’d wanted, but it was just as well because I was hot and sticky and needed to shower. And while the event was bittersweet and emotional and turned me into a big ol’ blubbery mess more than a few times, I had to smile when I hopped onto the subway and saw what the NYRR posted at the end of the race:

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A post-race proposal!

Love IS the only thing that matters, plain and simple.

Race Recap: NYRR Retro 4Miler

On Sunday, June 5th, I earned my 5th race towards my 2017 NYC Marathon 9+1 entry and ran the NYRR Retro 4 Miler in Central Park!

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Full disclosure: I almost skipped this race. After hanging out with sick people the weekend before, I came down with a nasty throat infection and a cough that kept me up 3 nights in a row. The medicine I started on Thursday helped almost immediately, but I was left with wheezing and¬†coughing that wouldn’t go away. I wasn’t¬†quite¬†ready for my first DNS though, and decided I’d¬†walk the damn thing if I needed – I wanted that 9+1 credit!

Happily, Sunday morning I woke feeling pretty good. Three days of meds and 12+ hours of sleep a night really did the trick, and while I still felt tightness in my chest, my legs were itching to run after 3 days off. So I geared up with my new Pro Compression Neon Waves and Skirt Sports Ambassador trucker hat and we headed into the city for a warm, rainy race.

The forecast called for thunderstorms later in the day, and it was overcast from the start, which kept us from overheating. After getting there super early and bibbing up (that’s a thing, right?), I made my way back to the corral and stretched for a bit. This was a fun race that I’ve wanted to do for a while: NYRR gets into the whole “retro running heyday” theme by blasting 60’s and 70’s music, encouraging people to run in vintage tube socks and sweat bands, and time-callers on ladders at every mile marker barking out the race time from their stop watches. It was a cool vibe, if I may borrow a retro turn of phrase! [omg I’m so sorry that was so lame. I’ll see myself out.]

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color-coordinated cheeseball

After the gun went off, we made our way around the 4 mile inner loop of the park in a thick pack. I really love running NYRR races – the corrals are packed all the way to the end and it’s just a totally different experience when you’re surrounded by other runners at the same pace and have the opportunity to pass people. It’s so much more motivational!

As we shuffled along, I kept an eye on my pace – to keep from coughing, I aimed to go SLOW, but my body was not having it. I was averaging 10:30 through the first 3/4 mile! Also, I was pleased to realize that running kept my cough at bay. Finally at the end of Mile 1, we rolled up on my favorite terraces and I couldn’t help but stop and smile.

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I had to take a picture – this was the first time this year I saw my favorite spot in Manhattan all covered in lush greenery, and the sight of that balcony breaking through the trees really made my heart swell. I had to remember that moment ūüôā

As we coasted through into Mile 2, I was surprised at my first mile split: 11:07 even with the photo stop! And it felt effortless! Even as the skies opened up and it started raining, my new music was jammin’, the crowds around me were flowing – I even picked off a few people and kept them in the rearview the whole way just to challenge myself. Briefly I thought: wouldn’t it be cool to nab a new 4M PR, even while sick? I did some mental math: I’d need to run sub 11’s the whole way, but shoot – the first mile felt like nothing, why shouldn’t I try??

So try I did. And Mile 2 FLEW by at 10:30 (!!) – I was pumped! So pumped, in fact, that I burnt out [insert sad trombone music]. Hahaha – I had to know it was too good to be true. There was a pretty killer hill around the 5K mark that I charged through at full speed, using my arms to pump and build momentum. As this is something I rarely do, my whole body was on fire by the time I got to the top of the hill, and my breathing never got back to normal. Oh well. That’s what I get for being ambitious after coming off a sick break!

I walked a bit through the last water stop & watched my pace creep back down into the 11:30 range. At mile 3.5, I figured what the hell and took off again. I could do anything for a half mile, right? So I dropped the hammer and rounded the corner to the finish, passing two particularly obnoxious friends who had been walk/running and throwing their arms dramatically out to the sides for the past mile (WHY? There are PEOPLE around you, sweethearts!) and sprinted into the finish for a 45:42 finish at an 11:26 pace.

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Garmin time is always better, dammit.

Once I crossed the line, I slowed to a stop and almost immediately started coughing and wheezing. There was a moment of panic there when I couldn’t catch my breath without coughing even more, so I slowed my breathing, walked carefully, and briefly glanced at the medical tent. But after a few more yards and a big ol’ cup of water (thank you, soaking wet volunteer, for manning a water table in the rain!) I was fine. I grabbed a cinnamon raisin bagel and an apple, found Mike, got my shirt, and we headed home.

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All in all I did much better than I expected to – ¬†my 4M PR is 44:13, so I came pretty dang close – and for a fun themed race, I’ll definitely look to do this one again next year.

UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race Recap

Alternate Title: You Can’t Get the Post-Race Blues If You Don’t Stop Racing!

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At least that’s what I’m telling myself!

After running a 15 minute PR at the New Jersey Half Marathon earlier this month, I didn’t have much time to let the post-race blues settle in: I ran the¬†NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K just two weeks later. I had registered months earlier to keep the momentum going after the big race and while it was kind of a drag to “have to” keep training, it turned out to be the perfect setup for a new 10K PR!

On race morning we woke up nice and early, then headed into the city on the usual 5:37AM train. It was shaping up to be a¬†beautiful¬†day: mid 70’s, sunny, and clear. My previous 10K PR (1:16:22, 12:17/mile) was set at the Trenton 10K in November, and I’d just blown that pace out of the water at the NJ Half (11:51/mile) two weeks earlier. My daily runs post-half were in the 10’s and 11’s, so it was entirely possible to PR. I decided to bear with the heat,¬†push as hard as I could (within reason) and leave it all on those Central Park Hills.

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Before the race we hung out at the party sponsored by the United Arab Emirates and the Healthy Kidney Foundation – an odd combo, but where else are you going to get to hang out with sheikhs¬†and¬†Sidney the Kidney? I met up with my sis-in-law Mere who was¬†running that day too, and we couldn’t resist having some fun with Sidney and his photo booth props:

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After some good luck hugs, we squeezed into the corrals just as the national anthems wrapped up. And right before we started moving towards the start, fellow Mermaid Club gal Lizzie texted me Рshe was right outside the corral! Luckily we managed to connect, I got another good luck hug, she took off for the second half of her training run (hooray for her not being injured anymore!), and we crossed the starting line with cheers and fist pumping.

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I kept a good 11:30 pace through the first two miles, sipping from the bottle of Cocogo I carried with me when I needed and powering over the¬†rolling hills. The only downside to it finally being a gorgeous day: it was HOT. I’m talking stifling. When you’ve only run in cooler temps, rain, and snow¬†for 6 months, 72 degrees is like running through soup. But I motored along and clocked in the 5K at just under¬†36 minutes. Not my best, but considering I was only halfway done, I still had plenty in the tank, so woohoo.

Fun fact: The day before, the internet was abuzz with news of the cast of the next Star Wars film¬†landing in Ireland for some intense filming that weekend. So instead of getting lost in my usual “what is life” thoughts, I¬†entertained myself as I ran by imagining what they were doing at that exact moment. Hey, it’s my brain, I can daydream¬†about what I want!

The loop we ran took us in the opposite direction I’d enjoyed during the past few Central Park races I’ve run, so that kept it interesting at least. But at around mile 4, I started to flag – the heat was really intense when we moved into a full-sun area. It was funny watching the crowd of runners slowly shift from one side of the path to the other to stay in the shade. I was grateful I’d decided to bring my bottle¬†with me at the last minute – once I finished the Cocogo, I stopped at every water station and filled the bottle back up with 2 cups of water and left with a cup to sip on as I re-charged with some walking.

I wasn’t too concerned with my pace at that point – my watch had me at about 11:51/mile by mile 5, and I figured I could push through the final 1.2 even a tiny bit slower without missing the PR. For the second time in two weeks I was running relaxed, knowing I had a good PR in the bag. After working for 3 years to get faster, it’s a strange feeling, let me tell you!

At about 5.3, we came up a hill and I spotted a familiar sight pinned to the back of a fellow runner: The Skirt Sports Ambassador logo!

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I took out an earbud, came up alongside her, and said, “Skirt Sports Ambassador?” She smiled, “Yes!!” I was so excited – “Me too!!” I shouted. As it turns out, my “new” friend Jillian was a fellow Skirt Sports ambassador who lived in the area and decided to laminate our logo to help folks identify her on the course! I love that idea by the way, nice one Jillian ūüôā¬†We kept each other company for the next half mile or so, chatting about how we got connected with Skirt Sports¬†and where our running journeys had taken us recently. When she heard I was so close to a PR, she told me to go ahead at around mile 5.8, so I wished her luck and tore off for the finish.

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I glanced down at my watch – this would definitely be a PR, I was so stoked! Two PRs in two weeks, I never thought it was possible. As I spotted the finish line, gave Mike a wave as he snapped my picture, and crossed the line officially at 1:13:30, 11:50/mile.

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All smiles, I accepted my medal, found Mike, found Jillian in the finisher’s chute and snapped some pictures with her, and after saying goodbye to Jillian we all made our way back to the pre-race party area for the finisher’s festival (and to get my snazzy green tech shirt).

When we got there, I re-connected with Lizzie who had finished her training run and joined us for our new post-race tradition of coffee and pastries at the Columbus Circle Starbucks!

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Medium Roast & Raspberry Swirl Loaf: to die for

After we all said our goodbyes, we couldn’t pass up a gorgeous day in the city. So I changed out of my sweaty gear and we headed back downtown to check out the new ThinkGeek store on 33rd & Broadway, had some celebratory pub grub at the Cock & Bull, then made our way back to the train station 10 miles later where I sat down and refused to get up until the train arrived. 16 total miles for the day is no joke, ya’ll!

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Thanks for the edit, Carlos the Runner!

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It was a LONG day, but ultimately I ended it knowing that I’d run¬†another¬†PR just a few weeks after nailing my best half ever. Even with the heat and hills! I’m excited as ever to see what else I’m capable of next, and can’t wait to have you along with me for the ride!

Race Recap: NYRR Run for the Parks 4 Miler

In my journey to complete my NYRR 9+1 I headed to my third Central Park race of the year on April 10th – the Run for the Parks 4 Miler. In all the pictures of past races, people are smiling in tank tops, happily jumping through the air and gamboling about like bunnies in the fresh buds blooming all around the park. This year? Not so much.

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I’ve run some cold races in my life. Frozen hail, snow, pouring rain, driving winds. But even though the sun was out for this race,¬†I felt like I was never going to get warm again, ever.

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Maybe because I  had to wake up at 4:30 for a 5:37 train after running 10 miles on a treadmill the day before.

Either way, we made it into the city bright and early, and headed uptown on the subway to the start at around 70th street. While it was super cold, I will say that this race is going down in history as the biggest surprise of my life: after toiling away at my pace for months, all the hard work has paid off and the NYRR finally bumped me up out of the last corral!!

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No more L for “Last”! Finally! K for “Kickass”!

Just like the consistent improvements I’ve seen in my times, I’m sure this was a fluke and I’ll be dropped back down to L in my next race (because this race’s time wasn’t too hot), but with the race bib above, I can definitively state, with photographic proof, that I was NOT last in at least one NYRR race in my life.

After jumping up and down and squealing over my shiny new K for a bit, we headed to the corral. I kept my big fluffy coat on as long as possible, but once I got behind the corral fence and had to hand the coat off to my hubby, I froze *instantly*. I had layered with a longsleeve and my cold weather insulated Brooks jacket (and a hat and gloves!) but it just wasn’t enough.¬†I usually warm up after the first half mile or so, but not today. My toes and fingers were so cold they ached.

Once the gun went off, my frozen feet even affected my running! They were so numb that I had to change my gait for the first mile, which wasn’t fun. NBD though: I had gone into the race aiming just to finish – having done my long run on the treadmill the day before, my legs were aching to begin with, and I wasn’t about to push too hard so close to race day.

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The funny thing about running 10 miles the day before a 4 mile race: 4 miles seems like NOTHING! Seriously – once I heard the first mile click by on my watch, the second mile felt like it flew by even faster. I finally warmed up to a comfortable temperature by mile 2, and I was even picking some folks off as I cruised along at around 11:50. I hadn’t expected to go that fast!

Mile 3 came and went, and once I hit 3.25 I started to pick up the pace. The arches of my feet were angry at the hills I’d taken so soon after pounding them on a treadmill for 2 hours, but I kept telling myself it was almost over. And once I saw that finish line, I sprinted – finishing in 46:58, avg. 11:46/mile!

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To make things even more exciting, I had a friend waiting for me at the finish line: Lizzie, a fellow member of The Mermaid Club, who lives a few blocks away from the park, came out to cheer me on and warm up with coffee after the race! She snapped all these great pics you see up there ūüôā We all met up at the finish and walked over to a nearby Starbucks where we BS’d about work, life, running, and all that other fun stuff for a while before heading back home to a warm shower and a nap.

Overall while this wasn’t my best NYRR race, my performance after a long run the day before surprised me and I’m pretty excited about checking another race off my 9+1 list too!

Playing Hooky

Last week was one of those weeks that had me screaming for mercy by Tuesday.

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Seriously, my run Tuesday night wasn’t about training; it was running off the crazy. Thank god my Spring Moves app gave me a nice boost by randomly playing a Pumpkins song at the start. I’m really digging this app – not only is it music I like, it’s also timed to match the pace of my running (even angry running like this)! Check it out for free for a month¬†by texting JESSRUNSHAPPY to 41411 ūüôā

So long story short, I ended up doing some unexpected speedwork: I burned out with a super-angry 9:50 first mile and fizzled out with a killer headache by the 5K mark. But thanks to the angry mile, that final pace? #killinit! After that, Wednesday turned out to be a beautiful new day. No, for real: it was like 75 degrees out.

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Actual footage of me on Wednesday.

When I learned that Thursday would be more of the same, I focused REALLY hard on Wednesday to take care of everything at work, and played hooky Thursday! Well not really РI had some family stuff I needed to take care of in the morning anyway. So I asked my boss, checked with my coworkers to not leave anyone in the lurch, and submitted the day off to HR, and I was OFF. Destination: Manhattan!

I had been itching to run in Central Park on my own since I started racing there last year, but I honestly didn’t think I had it in me. How was I going to carry all my stuff with me? What if I got too hot or too cold? Where would I run?

I finally realized that the only thing keeping me from this adventure was ME. So I took care of my business Thursday morning, loaded up my running pack with a clean change of clothes, ran the mile from our house to the train station, and got into Manhattan around noon. My goal was to do 4 miles around the park loosely following the path I’d run in recent races, so after a quick subway ride to 81st street I got out at the museum and took off across Central Park to the East side where I found my landmark: 1040 Fifth Avenue.

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When I see those terraces I just feel peace. Don’t know why, but I’ll take it.

It was a beautiful day: a little warm and muggy at 70-ish degrees, but overcast so not too hot. There were tons of people everywhere, laying on blankets in the grass, running, biking, taking pictures, juggling, singing, so it felt like a party everywhere I went. I even ran through a CBS shoot of Limitless, so keep an eye out on future episodes for me wandering through the shot in my little blue backpack.

I stayed more or less on the main path but went off on little side paths that¬†seemed interesting, like up on the Reservoir Running path, or around the statue of the King of Poland on horseback. Rocking along to my music and taking in the sights – this is what running is all about. Going into the city was easy, I thought, why didn’t I do this sooner??

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After about 40 minutes or so I’d hit 3 miles (with all the stopping for pics and what not), and my knees were screaming. A quick check of my health app showed that I’d done more than 8¬†miles already with all the extra walking – no wonder I was tired! I also hadn’t eaten or drank anything, so I stopped at a little pretzel cart for water, took a gel, and decided to call my run at 3 miles.

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Well, my body had other plans. Once I got out of the park and saw the straight shot of Central Park West ahead of me, I thought, “Let’s try for 3.5.” Within minutes, 3.5 miles turned into almost 4, and I was COASTING at an even faster pace with nothing in my way to stop me. Turns out that little fueling stop was just what I needed, because I finally made it back downtown to Columbus Circle at 4 miles UNDER 11:00/mile!

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I was so psyched! The last mile just blinked by, and that pace? As I hobbled down the subway steps at 59th street to get back to Penn Station, while my knees were killing me, I still felt invincible.

After inhaling a turkey sandwich and picking up a brownie to split with the Mister later that night, I smiled to myself the whole train ride home.¬†It just goes to show; sometimes you need to switch things up and go for it, even if “it” seems impossible. I’ve learned the anxiety I feel about something is almost always scarier and more paralyzing than the actual thing itself, whether it’s a big race or a solo adventure in Manhattan. Once I’m in the thick of things¬†I almost always say to myself, “THIS is what you were afraid of?”

How about you – have you gone out of your comfort zone lately? What happened? Tell me all about it!

Is it Spring Yet?

I know, it’s only February 19th. But can we at least fast forward to like… April 1st? I’ve got SO many exciting races coming up and I want to RUN ALL THE RACES NOW!

Okay, that might be the coffee talking (and the fact that I just keep killing it in training, with sub 12-minute miles becoming the new norm). OR it could be the fact that my favorite running club of all time, the New York Road Runners, just opened up a slew of new spring race registrations and I kind of went on a bender yesterday.

No, for real. I registered for 4 races in one day:
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And if you think that’s nuts, my original list had 7 races! I only cut back because I had to be realistic. I have the April Fools 11K on 4/2, then I’ve got my goal race (the NJ Half) on May 1, so I swore off racing in the weeks before and immediately after that. The races I committed to are all far enough out from those dates that I’m confident I’ll be able to compete at top form. Also, there were a few races where signing up would have meant 3 or more racing weekends in a row, with multiple trips to Atlantic City and NYC. As much as I want to #runalltheraces, I’ve got a bank account and a family and adult responsibilities (dammit). So for now, this¬†will have to suffice.

In short: My spring racing calendar went from “meh” to “whoa baby!” pretty quickly. And because I’m not 100% sure of my fall racing calendar, who knows what else I might add?

All I know is I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed for March 8th, when the NYC Marathon Lottery drawing happens. I want into that race so bad I can taste it!

How about you Рhave you locked down your racing calendar yet? If you could RUN ALL THE RACES what would your ideal list be? Any bucket list races in the works? 

Joe Kleinerman 10K Race Recap

After my surprisingly awesome acupuncture appointment the night before, I woke up at 3:50AM on the morning of the NYRR Joe Kleinerman 10K feeling refreshed, calm, and energized, even on 5 hours of sleep. This was a HUGE difference from pretty much every other early-morning race day wake up, where I usually feel anxious and exhausted. My calm was even tested when the jar of peanut butter slipped out of my hand while I was making breakfast and completely shattered¬†the dish below it. Where I’d usually freak out and get angry or upset over my own clumsiness, I simply laughed and swept up the million pieces of ceramic and pulled out another dish.¬†Score another point for acupuncture!

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The forecast called for overcast skies and a temp of about 44, but since we were driving into Manhattan, walking/cabbing the 3+ miles to the start, and waiting in Central Park for a total of almost 4 hours outdoors in 30-ish degrees, the word of the day was LAYERS. I went with a light longsleeve shirt under a Brooks lined jacket/windbreaker, along with Nike brushed interior full length tights with Pro Compression socks layered on top of them. And because I’m a maniac, I also wore a Brooks skull cap with a fun printed Greecie Girl headband over it. Because, matching.

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I also started my day with coffee from my spankin’ new Kylo Ren mug. Don’t be jealous. Join the Dark Side. We’ve got¬†Guatemalan Blend and Stevia.

My cousin Heather had offered to drive us all in (thanks, Heck!) and so me, Mike, Meredith and Damian all piled into the newly-christened Kleinerman Kab a little after 5AM (nice naming, Mer!) for a quick ride into Manhattan. Traffic was light and we arrived at around 6AM, then started walking. It was COLD – thankfully because the guys came along, we got to wear winter coats over everything that they’d hold while we ran, but that wind was NO JOKE. After what felt like about 3 miles of warm-up walking, we finally caved and took a few cabs to the start at 102nd Street to spare another few miles. After our cab driver misunderstood me and we took a slight detour, we all arrived at packet pickup at about 7, still with a good hour to go before the start.¬†More wind, more cold, but finally the sky grew lighter and the park got more and more crowded.

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After doing our own pre-race potty breaks, lace-tightening, and other random stuff, we said our goodbyes and headed to the corrals. The New York Road Runners recently switched from a color-coded bib assignment system (sayonara, “slow as crap” Brown bibs!) to an alphabet-based system. And of course that means that Heather and I were in Corral L. For Loser. Or Last. (Speedy Mere headed up to D, rock on Sole Sista!).

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Corral L for “Lonely”. Or “Last”. Or “Loser”. Take your pick.

The corrals started filling up and we prepped for the start  Рit was a good sized race of around 5,000 people, which looked really cool at the back of the pack and the top of a hill:

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Once the gun went off and we started shuffling through the corrals, it took us about 6 minutes to get to the starting line, but once we did it cleared out nicely. I started by rocking out to a new mix of music I had just downloaded a few days before – not my usual techno/rock/pop, but some fun differently paced stuff that actually helped take my mind off things and kept me entertained.

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Like this 4-legged mop being walked by his family.

I’ll be honest: the only word I can use to describe miles 1-3 (or the whole race for that matter) is¬†Bliss. For real. I just ran. I¬†smiled, took in the sights, got lost in the feeling of just pounding the pavement, and rolled up and down the hills of Central Park (mostly downhills too, what a great route this was!). Given that I’d just come out of a pretty dark place the past month or two (and hadn’t run that much AT ALL because of it), I was worried that I might be miserable. Those hills aren’t nothing, after all. I’m guessing the acupuncture the night before had something to do with my newfound peace, but who’s to say.

My average running pace was around 11:55, but with walk/water breaks at every aid station I managed to keep a pace of around 12:30 which was A-OK in my book. The total absence of running from my life in the week or two prior to the race wiped any time goals from my plan РI was in it for the experience. And that experience was the best. I took time to admire the skyscrapers that lined the park, focused on the ornate balconies at the very top, imagined hanging out there with a bottle of champagne and watching the race from above. The crowds around me stayed pretty thick (I love the great range of abilities and paces in NYRR races), and the park was starting to get crowded too, which made for good people watching.

That’s not to say I didn’t experience the usual mid-race issues: at Mile 2 I realized one lace was too tight because my foot was numb and cold so I stopped and loosened it. I also realized I’d overdressed by Mile 4 and had to roll my sleeves up. But I just kept on truckin’! By around mile 5 I started to feel a slight fatigue in my ankles and calves, so I took short walk breaks here and there, stretched, got water and took a gel, and felt a new surge of energy for the final mile and change. At 5.75 my new favorite power song randomly clicked on my iPod and I decided to go for it from there.

Who knew Adele could rock so hard??

I lip synced and fist pumped, rocking out with the tune up the final hill and past where we started, actually sad that the race was over. Where I’m usually dying in the final sprint of every race, this one had me legitimately sad that it was ending! Madness, I tell you.

But I pushed through, smiled at all the people cheering us on, coasted down the last hill and into the finish chute at a respectable 1:18:19 (avg 12:37/mile)!

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After finishing I walked through the chute and grabbed an apple from a super enthusiastic volunteer (just another reason I love NYRR races: the people are the best), and chomped on it as I scanned the crowd for my people.

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I prefer my Garmin time to the actual time, but what can you do? ūüėČ

With one earbud still in my ear, I jammed out to my tunes and ate my apple, stretching out my legs and even doing a little dance here and there just because I felt so great. I smiled at the folks who walked past, they smiled back – one even did a little shimmy with me when he caught me dancing! – and I snapped a quick selfie to remember that moment:

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With chipmunk cheeks thanks to a mouthful of apple.

Finally after not seeing my group I texted them and we all met up shortly after, congratulated each other on our finishes, and started the long journey back to the car, talking and laughing and taking in more sights along the way!

All in all it was one of my favorite race experiences yet, in terms of how my mood affected everything and made it all better. The usual pre-race anxiety, mid-race “I suck at this” regret, and post-race rush to go go go just wasn’t there, and made me realize just how much my own mood affects my experiences from start to finish. While it’s easier said than done, I’m going to work harder at being more aware¬†of my mindset, because it makes a huge difference!

Also, I am TOTALLY going back to Central Park to run that same loop just for fun – it was beautiful! ūüôā

NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile Race Recap

I’m 100% aware that this recap is like a month late, but better late than never, right? Right. So when the folks at NYRR contacted me about running the Fifth Avenue Mile, I was super stoked, especially since I’d be running the Media Mile. Where the race is mainly run in age group waves, they also set up special waves for groups like FDNY runners and kids. I didn’t know what “media” meant; because they invited me via Instagram I assumed it would be a handful of other social media peeps like me. But I was only half right…

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My start time wasn’t until 11:45, which gave us plenty of time to get into Manhattan, take a few subways to Fifth Avenue, pick up my packet, and hang out by a pretty fountain, cheering for the earlier age groups and warming up.

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Once 11:15 rolled around, Mike headed down Fifth to meet me at the finish, and just as he left the announcer started talking up the participants of the Media Mile. This made me stop in my tracks. Remember when I said I was only half right? Yeah. It turns out that while I recognized a few awesome IG people (OMG it was like celebrity spotting), “media” actually meant media people, like on-air talent for local news stations, producers and journalists and stuff. Which meant I spent most of my time in the corral pretending like hanging out with celebs was no big deal, while inside my head I was squealing like a tween. I was about to get smoked by the woman from CBS 2 News!!

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OK, maybe I didn’t hide it so well. OK, maybe I photobombed her. Sorry, Kristine Johnson.

There turned out to be only like 50 of us in this wave. And usually the smaller the race, the farther towards the end I finish. It’s just science. I started to get nervous that I could potentially be the last person to cross the finish line in a very obvious way.

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I also had my photo snapped awkwardly by a NYRR photog.

Funny side note: because there were some local celebs in the corral, there was also a lot of media packed into the corral with us. Exhibit A:

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This guy followed this poor girl around for a good 5 minutes.

One nice thing about the corral being so small was getting to actually talk to people. The fella you see below is Arun. This rockstar is currently training for the Marine Corps Marathon, and he’s the kindest fellow runner you’re going to meet. We chatted about our shared fear of being last, and promised that we’d stick together if it came down to it. It was reassuring knowing that I wouldn’t be last alone.

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Suddenly it was time to run, and everyone around me turned into elites. No kidding: they all crouched down, fingers on their Garmins, ready to burst with energy. But instead of panicking, I ducked down with them and pretended like I knew what I was doing (this turned out to be the theme of the day), and at the sound of the gun we were off!

The actual¬†running happened so fast that I can only recall the thoughts I had at the distance markers. At .25 I thought, “Already?” At .5, I thought, “No way.” At .75, I spotted a course volunteer wearing the same pants and we screamed for each other (Go, Skirt Sports sister!). That’s when Arun, who had been steadily pacing behind my left shoulder the whole way, asked, “I’m not slowing you down, am I?”

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I glanced down at my watch to see just how fast I was going and almost shat myself when I saw 6:xx. All I could do was laugh and reply, “No way, not slow at all!” and keep going. Through the last quarter mile downhill towards the crowd at the finish line, I could hear them shouting. Once I got close enough to read the clock and saw 8:xx, I legitimately shouted out loud, “WHAAAAT?!” The girl ahead of me turned around to see what the big deal was. I was astounded – I’ve never seen an 8 minute mile in my life!

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So I took off even faster, gunning for under 9 minutes – and I did it. In 8:51.

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All I could do was laugh and gasp for air. 8:51! Never in my life. There had to be a mistake. It felt great. But even a new PR wasn’t as exciting as what I saw next: MEB.

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It was like seeing a unicorn.

There he was, off to the right of the finish line. No big crowd, just Meb, chilling with a few peeps who popped around the corner to snap a pic with him. So I went for it, too!

Arun had crossed right behind me and as I congratulated him, I asked if he wanted a pic. I figured acting like I knew what I was doing was the best way to go (again, the day’s theme…) and before I knew it, I was stepping up to Meb, introducing myself, and shaking his hand. I wish I remembered what I’d said. Probably something like “It’s such an honor, may I have a photo?”. But he agreed and thanked me and posed graciously, congratulated me on a great race, and I was off. I snapped Arun’s pic for him, and we dissolved back into the crowd.

I was floating. I swear I’d dreamed what just happened. A PR and Meb, within seconds of each other. Mike found me and congratulated me on all the excitement, and just as we were ready to leave, a volunteer told me that my media bib meant that I got to hang out in the Media Tent with all the reporters and legit running celebs. Free danish and OJ and fruit trays while Meb and the media folks do interviews? Don’t mind if I do!

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For real though, my adventure in the VIP Tent was more OMFG than NBD. Continuing with the day’s trend, I squealed inside my head the entire time but acted cool and calm on the outside, like hanging out and accepting the fruit plate tongs from Meb himself is something I do at every race (when in reality we both reached for grapes at the same time and I died four times).

IMG_1830I have to laugh when I think back on this day – it was one of those perfect days where everything falls into alignment and goes smoothly, and reminds you of how lucky you can be sometimes. It was an honor to run an unbelievable great race, make new friends, and meet some truly amazing runners. I’m already looking forward to next year!