Welcome back to the saga that was my last training cycle as I returned to the marathon. My goal was to PR which meant running a 3:05. Add to that daunting goal that this would take place at The New York City Marathon. If you know anything about this last year’s 2022 NYC Marathon it was a hot one! Following is my 2022 NYC Marathon experience. I hope you enjoy it.
Honestly, it was just my luck! For some reason, whenever I run a major marathon this triggers Mother Nature to create extreme weather conditions. When I ran The Boston Marathon in 2018, there was a Nor’easter. On the eve of The New York City Marathon runners were expected to run in record heat! Weather seems to not be a friend of mine at big events.
It was frustrating to say the least. It should have been a guarantee for perfect fall running weather. Looking at the prior year’s race day weather I was excited to run. Fate would not have it that way.
The Night Before The Race
The night before I did my best to push the doubts out of my mind. I continued to remind myself that I did all I could to prepare for race day. There was no point in wishing for better conditions, it was out of my control. But how I choose to prep and show up was still within my control. I prioritized my hydration, preloading of electrolytes and easily digestible foods. I chose items that I knew my body would respond well too. How did I know how much to drink, how many electrolyte supplements to take and what foods to eat? Practice prior to every long run leading up to this day.
I was in Wave 1 of the marathon’s staggered start. This meant the trek to the Verrazano Bridge would require a 3:30am wake up call. Thankfully, the weekend of The New York City Marathon also was the weekend of daylight savings. I have never been more thankful for that extra hour of sleep. Regardless, that meant having an early dinner (4-430p), and early bedtime (~ 8pm.) This would ensure my food was fully digested by the next morning. In addition to that, I would be as rested as one can be the night before a big race!
Preparations for the Marathon
The night before I laid out my race kit and shoes. When the early morning came, all I had to do was put it all on. Throw an old pair of old sweats over that and I would be ready to go. I knew the sweats would be donated at the starting line so no need for extra bags. I had also pre-packed my starting line bag plus my post-race backpack. This would further reduce the morning’s to-do list.
It is important to note that NYC’s bag drop off occurs in the days leading up to the race. Your bags are dropped off in Central Park near the finish line. Anything you bring to the starting line must be taken with you. You can also choose to donate, in the designated bins, or throw away prior to the start of the race. I decided to have a friend in charge of my post-race backpack versus using the bag check. My post-race bag had all my necessities (change of clothes, shoes, protein shake and other snacks.) This would make reuniting with my family after my finish just a hair quicker.
Race Day Morning
I woke up just before my alarm went off and crept off to the bathroom. I was trying to be respectful of my sleeping family and friends who came to support me. Somehow, I managed to sleep soundly. Despite the sirens and city noise that accompanies any stay in NYC, my sleep was very good. My morning routine consisted of getting dressed, putting my hair up in my signature top bun with a braid, brushing my teeth and grabbing my bag. After completing that dance, I was on my way to Midtown to catch the bus to Long Island. Staying in lower Harlem meant a 20-minute subway ride followed by a 10-minute walk to the New York Public Library. This is where the buses were parked for departure to the start of the NYC Marathon.
My 2022 NYC Marathon Experience
I ate my first breakfast during this initial journey to the start line. Breakfast consisted of a bagel with peanut butter. I also had a banana in my bag for later in the morning. Despite it being only 4:30am, the air was already sticky and hot. Because of this, I was also sipping on water with an electrolyte supplement mixed in. The one debacle of the morning was my coffee spilled on my walk to the T. But I wasn’t panicked cause I knew at the startling line there would be free coffee supplied by Dunkin Donuts. Not my personal favorite, but it would get the job done to sufficiently caffeinate me before race time!
The entire journey from my Airbnb to the bus to the start took about 90 minutes total. It was fairly easy despite the crowds and security checks. Some runners were annoyed at how slow and long this made the journey to the start. Personally, I appreciated the thoroughness and repeated check marks they had at different stages. This helped to ensure all those headed to the start were supposed to be there. The starting village was a bit of a maze. I ‘may’ have gotten lost finding my way to my wave’s starting village. Eventually, I found my way and set up camp. At this point, I still had three hours till Wave 1’s start time. Pro tip: Forgo the map they provide and just follow the arrows to your starting wave and corral number!
The Starting Line and Corrals
Now at the start, with my free coffee in hand, I was expecting the anxiety to set in. I had nothing to do and plenty of time until the gun went off. I did spend this time making new friends while repeatedly using the porta potties. Plus I got to enjoy petting the therapy dogs they had on sight! I could tell the temperature was climbing but I was truly relaxed leading up to the race. Time of course went quickly. With 30 minutes till my corral closed I said goodbye and good luck to all my new friends. I then headed for a quick 10-minute easy warm up before entering my corral.
The vibe in the corrals was a mix of anxiety and excitement. And of course, everyone was talking about the heat. I tried to joke with those around me as we began to walk from the starting village to the starting line. It was 70 degrees and 70% humidity at this point and it was only 9am! Why not put some humor into the corral? The gun went off and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” started to play. We crossed the starting line and made our way up and over the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn.
Despite this being my fifth marathon and understanding logically the impacts of the weather, I naïvely believed I could still go for my “A goal”. I tried to follow my original race strategy of running even splits throughout the marathon. While researching the course I recognized the significant elevation gain in the last 5k. I decided that a negative split race would be difficult. This strategy was not the best decision looking back.
Brooklyn was a blur of crowds, music and me re-hydrating at every mile’s designated water station. After only 30 minutes of running, I was drenched in sweat. I am typically a heavy sweater, but this was a whole other level. The weather forced me to constantly readjust my shorts. They kept slipping off me due to all the moisture. By the 10k mark, I started to feel the impact of all the water and electrolytes lost. My heart broke a little knowing I had to make a change. Either I could continue trying to race at a high intensity and end up in the med tent because of heat stroke OR I could pull the emergency brake and just enjoy the ride to the finish.
Logically choosing to slow down wasn’t that hard to do in the moment, I knew it was the right decision. The mental hurdle I had to then overcome was knowing how long I would be running for. 4 hours? 5 hours? More? But instead of panicking I decided to just stay present and focus on one mile at a time.
The Impact of the Weather
Because of how hard I took the first 10k, the remaining 17-ish miles were a run-walk. This allowed me to take in everything along the course. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever smiled so much in a race as I did at the New York City Marathon.
The spectators that lined every inch of the course, aside from on the bridges, made the race for me. The outpour of love and support from so many strangers filled me with so much pride and joy. The atmosphere carried me through even the toughest moments of the course. Then there were the spectacular views of the city as you made your way through each of the five boroughs and over the connecting bridges. Where for a moment, all you could hear is the sound of thousands of runners’ shoes hitting the pavement. Every part of this journey to Central Park was breathtaking and inspiring.
Seeing my support crew at mile 19 and the run through Harlem reinvigorated me to get to the finish line! The best part in Harlem was a violinist playing 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”. I now find it a blessing that I chose to run the NYC marathon versus race it. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have been able to take in as much as I did. A sole focus on my time goal may have limited my joy of the race.
The Finish Line and Post-Race Thoughts
Once the finish line was in view, a wave of relief came over me. I ran through the finish line beaming with pride that I made the decision I did. I had completed yet another major marathon (in terrible conditions). My official time was 3:40 something. This is the slowest I have ever run a marathon but that didn’t matter in the moments after. I chose to focus on the fact that I finished a marathon in record temperatures. I ultimately walked away with more fitness than I had started with that day. Add in the many lessons re-learned about modifying your race strategy when the weather changes. That equals success.
Flash forward to one week after the New York City Marathon. I was realizing just how much my potential was unrealized completing my first run back at my normal training pace. By the end of that run, I knew I had the chance to potentially continue my training and, in a way, gain redemption after Mother Nature stole my chance at a 3:05 PR. Alas, as fate would have it, CIM and Houston Marathon were approaching in the coming weeks and months. Both of which I was eager to one day race!
What happened next? Stay tuned for next month’s story!
If you missed Lauren’s story of her decision to return to the marathon: CLICK HERE!