By Ashlee Lawson and Stephani Franklin
Less than two weeks have passed since we ran one of the largest and most coveted races in the world–the New York City Marathon. The fact that this race came at the end of the race season and followed the high of the Chicago Marathon, we knew we had to hold down the crew and make a strong DRC debut in the Big Apple. That said, while the NYC crews welcomed us with open arms, the city gave us all types of hell along the way.
Here’s a recap:
Pt. 1 – Training is the hardest part.
The best part about pushing your limits and training for a huge feat like a marathon is having others around you that are just crazy enough to do it with you. Initially, it seemed like a cool idea to be “outliers” and run a completely different race than many others in DRC (shouts to the Chicago and Marine Corp Marathoners), until they ran their races and we still had four weeks until ours (womp). This is where having each other’s support became crucial. With long miles still left in those last weeks, we both needed the accountability and dedication to each other to make it through to the end and collect on all we had worked for.
Pt. 2 – Stay ready so you ain’t gotta get ready.
Fun fact – a little under two weeks prior to the NYC Marathon, neither of us had bibs, travel arrangements or a place to stay. All we had were the encouraging texts from all of our fellow runners saying they were coming up to NY to cheer us on (gulp) and the miles we had racked up all summer. It wasn’t until a week before that our prayers were answered in one e-mail: “You’ve been invited to participate in the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.” That was followed by a response of, “Oh sh*t, this is actually happening.”
Pt. 3 – Arriving in New York
Within a week, we scrambled for bus tickets and a place to stay – which all, thankfully, came together beautifully. However, it wouldn’t stay that way for long. We arrived in New York on Friday afternoon/evening (shouts to the random high-speed chase on 95 that turned 4.5 hours to 6.5 hours of travel), spent the night in the Bronx and then made our way to Manhattan the next morning. In efforts to preserve our legs (and coins), we tried our best to use public transit as much as possible. However, in true New York fashion, this was not the most efficient nor the simplest option. Between multiple trips to the Under Armour store, going to the race expo, doing a shakeout run with the New York run crews and searching for food with some of the DRC crew (oh, by the way our first meal of the day was at 3pm), we ended up walking the equivalent of a half marathon (13.4 miles to be exact). So much for staying off our feet and fueling properly before the BIG day. Be better than us.
Pt. 4 – Race Day + “Ferry” Godfathers + Mother Nature
We woke up at 4:45am, snacked and gathered ourselves mentally before heading out, all the while diligently refreshing our weather apps to check for rain. We left the hotel at about 6:30am to ensure we made it to Midtown to catch our 7am ferry to Staten Island. Things were looking good. There was no rain in the forecast, and we arrived at the dock by 6:45am; however, there was one tiny problem–the Midtown ferry didn’t exist. After 2.5 panic attacks, we found another marathon runner Steve who was just as confused as we were but had a plan. He said, “Let’s just get an Uber to the Staten Island ferry and hope for the best.” And that we did. After an hour of waiting and 20 minutes of pushing through a sea of thousands of people (no lie), we made it onto the ferry.
Once arriving on Staten Island, we then took a 25 minute bus ride to the start line–again everything in NY takes effort–but were mostly grateful that we made it in time. At that point, we separated and went to our own corrals to wait until the start. It was so exhilarating to be around so many other runners of all ages and to see the elites running across the Verrazano Bridge. You truly feel like you are about to be a part of something big. With “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra blasting everywhere, the sense of camaraderie and excitement takes over and next thing you know, running the largest marathon in the world doesn’t seem that scary at all. That is, until it starts raining and you realize you actually have to run 26.2 miles.
Pt. 5 – The Race
In Ashlee’s words…
The moment I finally toed the line on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge, everything became real. It was actually happening. The last 4+ months of training would lend themselves to that next 4+ hours of running. I put my phone in airplane mode, said a prayer and started my Garmin. The Verrazano was incredible. By the time I made it to the Girls Run NYC & Resident Runners cheer squad at mile 9, I had gotten into a groove and was feeling strong, excited even. The energy from the crowds in Brooklyn pushed me through the first 13.1 and on through Queens (not to mention, Steph and I did a training run on this portion of the course). Upon my approach to the Queensboro Bridge, I gave myself a pep talk. If there was anything I was determined to do, it was make it across that bridge and to the wall of cheering spectators that greets you on 59th still feeling strong. Although I made it across without stopping, something just wasn’t quite right. I began to cramp on the descent, and the feeling of impending doom remained until mile 17. I STRUGGLED through miles 17-20. The rain heavied, I was freezing and my mental state began to deteriorate. It was then that I had a decision to make–pick myself up and push through, or struggle like this for another six miles. I chose the former, and boy am I glad I did. Also, who wants to look a mess running through Cheer Squad (thanks, Clif)?! With a couple of miles to go, I picked up the pace in an effort to salvage what could be left of a sub-5 hour marathon. Although I missed the mark by one minute and some change, I couldn’t be prouder of my NYC Marathon finish.
In Steph’s words…
The race itself was an out-of-body experience for me. Once I started running, I couldn’t stop. The first stretches through Brooklyn and Queens were smooth–so smooth I nearly missed Cheer Squad at mile 9 (thanks again, Natalie, Na’Tasha, Jasmine and Denaz for shouting across the street lol). Once I crossed into Manhattan, the crowds were next-level. Rolling through the dopest cheer squad ever at mile 21.8 (because DRC is never where they say they will be) took me to the next level. After that, I just kept reminding myself to stay in the present moment and trust in my ability to finish strong. By mile 24, I hit the wall and began to breakdown but refused to walk. With only 2.2 miles and a few rolling hills to go, I convinced myself that New York would NOT get the best of me. And it didn’t. Btw, there’s a slight hill at mile 26 going into the finish line. They’re rude for that.
Pt. 6 – Lessons Learned
-Enter the lottery and confirm your bib early. This way you can make adequate travel arrangements and will never have to be routed to a non-existent ferry (or at least makes it less likely to happen).
-Study the race course and try to do a few runs in that city if you can. It helps your mind get prepared and acclimated to the conditions. We took an overnight trip to NY halfway through our training to do a long run through the Brooklyn and Queens portion of the course. Could not be happier that we did that. It helped 1000%.
-Run in all weather during your training – you never know what you’re going to get race day. The random, torrential downpours all summer in D.C. were rude and annoying, but they sure did come in handy when pushing through on our rainy race day.
-Never trust a person who says New York does not have hills. These are lies. There are nothing but hills and bridges and more hills. In all five boroughs. Trains for hills. Period.
-Run your race and find a homie (or a twin) to take on the challenge with you. Running alone can be gratifying and challenging, but running with others holds you to your greatness. Don’t cheat yourself.
Pt. 7 – The Moral of the Story
Getting to New York can be trash.
Getting around in New York is difficult.
The New York Marathon is a tough race.
…But the things that are worth it in life are never easy, right?