Gina just completed her first marathon, TCS New York City Marathon. Not only did she complete the marathon, she also fundraised for Eluna, an organization that supports children impacted by a loved one’s addiction. We have been following Gina’s journey from doubt to triumph at the NYC Marathon.
Race Day Realities: Overcoming Challenges
Her work is stressful and she works as a program manager for an intensive children’s mental health program and runs an overnight camp for children who have been affected by addiction in their families. We’ve followed her the last few months for her preparation. You can read her first interview here. Her second interview gets into the challenges of balancing running, work, and strength training. The third interview discusses her training plan as gets ready for the race. Last month focused on her training progress, with the New York City Marathon just a week away. Now here we are celebrating her success!
Mental Toughness: Inside Gina’s Mind
It was so hard!! It was harder than I thought it would be. But so much fun!
I think I really underestimated the marathon distance and how I would do mentally. I consider myself fairly mentally tough, I’m not super emotional and tend to stay level-headed in life and in running. I felt really prepared for this race and did well in my workouts and long runs but I still felt underprepared in the race!
Race morning was super smooth. I was able to get dropped off by my family at the start so I had a really relaxing morning and didn’t have to hang around Athlete Village forever. I lined up in the corral around the 4:45 pacer. I thought on a great day I could run 4:30 but realistically my paces would be around 10:30-11:30 per mile (spoiler alert, they were slower).
Gina’s Marathon: Mile by Mile
The New York City Marathon start is amazing and I just tried to go at a pace that felt sustainable which was around 10:45. I maintained 10:45-11:20 pace through the half and felt good. Brooklyn was great and the crowds were out of control, so loud! Around the half, it started to feel really warm. My race started at 11 am so the heat of the day came quickly. It topped out at like 65 which I know is great for many people but felt so hot in the sun.
Then I hit a dark place. The heat slowed me down, I was climbing mile 16 at the Queensboro Bridge and my legs were tired. At that point, I still had more than 10 miles to go. This mental slog really took me by surprise, and I genuinely wondered if I’d be able to finish (I know, dramatic). Interestingly, pictures from this point show me literally with hands in the air, smiling. I actually look like I’m having the time of my life on the whole course!
The Power of Support: Family and Crowds
I got a surge of energy coming off the Queensboro because my family was there and the crowd support was truly insane. That surge was short-lived. Miles 15-20 were some of the hardest of my life. First Ave is so long and it was hot and my hips were so sore. I was taking walk breaks at this point (although I didn’t feel much better walking than running).
Something happened mentally though when I hit mile 20-21 or so. I know this is usually a grind for people, but I really liked the Bronx and Harlem. When I turned onto Fifth Avenue I just felt like I suddenly knew I would finish. I knew I could make it 10k and even though I was far off my anticipated finish time, I felt pretty pumped up. I didn’t really notice the 5th Avenue hills or the hills in Central Park. At one point, a woman screamed at me “This is what it’s supposed to feel like, you’re doing it right!” which made me feel better and pulled me out of my head even more.
I saw my family again at mile 25ish which gave me the energy to run it in. I finished in 5:27 something which was so so far from what I envisioned but I was so proud of the race.
Post-Race Reflections: What’s Next?
For the entire race, I told myself I was never doing this again, but I actually feel like I do want to try at least once more. I feel like I learned a lot just about the marathon distance and honoring how hard it is, and also just about my own mental game and how to get through hard things. I think I have a better marathon in me based on my training. If I do another, I think I want a smaller race. The crowds in NYC were so amazing, but I am really used to running alone and at times the amount of people was overwhelming which I don’t think always helped.
What Would You Do Differently?
My watch was also a problem. For miles like 10-16, it was marking the mile like 0.25 early which totally sucked. But something happened and then it was like 0.5 behind which was better than early I guess. Next time I will turn off auto lap. I also didn’t even end up with a marathon on Strava because it says I only ran about 25 miles!
One More Marathon? Gina’s Dilemma
Anyway, marathon training was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. No one really talks about how hard and how time-consuming the training is. The race itself is of course challenging but it’s so much more than that. I’m so glad I did it and I think I’ll do it again, but only when I feel like I have the time and mental energy to give to training I’d probably do best training for a late summer marathon which isn’t so bad weather-wise in the PNW.