Thursday, November 6

NYC Marathon 2014 (or, that time I qualified for Boston)

Ok, let's just start by saying: I QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON. It's been eight years in the making--I ran my first marathon ten years ago in Oklahoma City and just wanted to run under four hours (3:59:50, thank you very much) and ran my second in Chicago eight years ago, when I thought I could maybe run under 3:40 (I couldn't, 3:47). I've made 5 solid attempts to qualify (Chicago, Cape Cod, Pittsburgh, Chicago again, Potomac) and run 2 for fun after having F and B (Marine Corps and Richmond). Every time I've tried to qualify I've gotten faster--every time was a PR. And right when I got fast enough to break 3:40--they changed the qualifying time to 3:35. Which seemed practically unreachable. Not only that, but running a 3:35 isn't a sure bet of getting in--they let runners register based on how much they qualified by--so running a 3:34:59 probably WON'T get you in.

My goal was to run 3:33--the last two years people who ran about 1:30 faster than their qualifying time got in. I felt like being two minutes under was pretty safe and I KNEW I could do it if it was a good day. My training went so well and I felt fast. I had been training for a 3:28 (which seems insane) and if everything had lined up, I think I may have been able to do that. ANYWAYS. Let's talk about the race.

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As I stalked the weather forecast leading up to the race, it looked pretty good--until the forecast changed to WIND. Not just wind--like severe weather advisory wind. I was prepared for cold and was excited to run in cooler temps--but the wind threw another wrench in my plans. It's all anyone talked about leading up to the race--how much was the wind going to slow everyone down and how cold it was going to be. We went straight to the Expo from the airport and miraculously got my number right away. We also met Dean Karnazes. The Expo was not all that impressive--although I did spend a small fortune buying a jacket... I never buy the marathon clothes, but I figured a big race like NYC was the time to do it. We ate lunch at a fantastic Italian place close to the Expo. Ricotta and pesto homemade pasta--I died.

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I got up at 4:45 and caught a cab to the library--then took a bus to Staten Island. I was supposed to be on the 6:00 bus--and for some reason I assumed there'd be like, ONE bus there at 6. Um, no. There were HUNDREDS of busses. Obviously. I got to the start at 6:15... and waited. I had to be in my corral by 8:55, giving me two and half hours to sit in the cold. And it honestly wasn't too terribly cold--until the wind blew. I was one of the first people to the starting area (out of 50,000!) and decided to camp out in a cluster of trees with some other ladies, hoping the trees would break the wind (they didn't.) I did get my picture (hilariously and terribly) taken by a Runner World photographer--you can see the gallery here. I wore my race outfit (t-shirt and shorts with arm warmers) with my post-race outfit AND some Goodwill sweats over it. I also wrapped up in a sweet foil blanket that helped to cut the wind a little. I agonized about whether to race in pants or shorts and was SO glad I picked the shorts--after the first few miles I was feeling great and not cold at all.

The race starts on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge--two miles with nothing to break the wind. They ended up starting the wheelchairs three miles into the race because it was so dangerous. I was seriously SCARED the first two miles, we were being blown so hard we couldn't run in a straight line. My first mile was a TEN MINUTE MILE--and my overall average was 8:07. It was uphill and windy. ESPN was reporting that this was the slowest NYC Marathon since 1984--making me so proud that I was still able to run well... and also annoyed that I didn't get to run as fast as I probably could have in better weather. The start was a little anticlimactic--they have three different starting areas and I was on the lower level of the bridge so it kind of felt like we weren't with the main race. After we got off the bridge and turned into the city, things got fun. Everyone was gradually peeling clothes off--the whole race was littered with gloves and hats and shirts--even more so than a normal race.

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I was making a solid effort to run the first half at a 8:05 and then letting myself speed up on the back half. I always go out too fast and never run negative splits. Everything I read about this race cautioned runners about going out too fast. There are quite a few ROUGH hills and its easy to get caught up in the energy of all the crowds and go out too fast. I was able to keep myself to a slower pace--I finished the first half in 1:47:22 and the second half in 1:45:11. Negative splits!!! That's an 8:11 and 8:02 min/mile pace.

My thoughts about the race are still a big jumble, but I wanted to do my best to write them down. The hills and wind were rough--we ran into the wind for the first 21 miles and had it at our back for the last 5. Although during the last 5, it still was definitely blowing the wrong way a few times. #rude My Garmin was a little off because the bridges screwed it up--and the starting line clock wasn't working when I started, so I had no idea how close I was to being on pace. I ended up checking the runner tracking app around mile 18 to see if I was on pace--and I was. I wasn't even sure of my official time when I finished--as I was trying to check it, my friend Michelle texted it to me. Kind of a very 2014 way to find out your finish time. I also took a selfie on the Queensboro Bridge so Sol would know what I was wearing. I'm praying that I beat that guy in the tutu behind me.

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The last half I tried to push it to closer to 7:56 miles and had quite a few faster than that--and two super slow ones thanks to some pretty serious hills. I passed people pretty much the whole race and was so proud that I was able to keep racing until the end. It felt so good to be able to keep speeding up and chasing people down. Once I got in Central Park (about two miles to go) I just went as fast as I could--I was pretty sure I was going to qualify and I knew that every second mattered for actually getting into Boston. It felt like the finish line would never come--but eventually I finished--in 3:32:33.

And that was it. I qualified for Boston. I knew I could do it--and I'm so glad the wind didn't thwart my plans.

After you finish you have to walk a mile and a half to get out of Central Park (I'm not even kidding a little.) I was in serious pain--everyone was walking SO MUCH faster than me. I was barely moving and freezing. After about a mile I must have looked like I was in pretty bad shape because I got grabbed by the medical people and sat in the medical tent for 5 or 10 minutes to warm up. I felt infinitely better after sitting for a bit--and finished the epically long walk to Sol. And can I just say--that dude is amazing. He's so supportive of giving me lots of time to train--and encourages me to always go faster and do more. There's no way I could have done it without Sol. So I'm planning on giving him a turn wearing my medal occasionally.

I was able to see Vic's friend Andrea at mile 12 and Sol at mile 24 ( I missed him at 18.) The crowds really were amazing--I got overwhelmed by all the cheering four or five times and had to choke back tears while I was running. It's just so amazing to be part of something so BIG and feel so supported by millions of strangers. Honestly, there's absolutely nothing like it. That being said--I don't necessarily want to run NYC again. I LOVE running Chicago and can't really think of anything that NYC has on it (except for being in NYC.) I'm so glad I did it--especially because it was the race where I finally got my BQ. And it was amazing. But it was also huge and hilly.

We walked approximately 8 miles around NYC on Monday which was tough but I think was so good for helping me to recover. I'm barely sore anymore and really feel good. No injuries--just one sore toe that should be better soon.

Thank you so much to everyone who emailed/IGed/texted. I feel so so loved and so so blessed. Everyone is invited to Boston in April 2016 (assuming I get in...) It's going to be a party that's been a long time coming. I'll bring the pasta.


  1. It's nice of you to offer to bring the pasta, but I would rather have Giacomo's.

  2. What an accomplishment! Congratulations. Such hard work!

  3. Yeah Rachel, yeah Rachel, yeah, yeah, YEAH RACHEL!!!

    So so so proud of you. Loved this recap of the race.

  4. Congrats Rachel! That's amazing you qualified for Boston. What a rock star!

  5. Awesome, awesome, awesome! Congrats!


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