There is little else I think about right now. The marathon consumes my thoughts. Here are some examples of my thoughts as of late:
- In exactly two weeks, at this time, I will be at the marathon expo.
- In exactly two weeks, at this time, I will be at my last day of work before the marathon.
- In exactly two weeks, at this time, it will be the day before the marathon.
- In exactly two weeks, at this time, I will be standing near the bridge about to start my first marathon.
- In exactly two weeks, at this time, I will be running my first marathon.
- In exactly two weeks, at this time, it will be the day after my marathon.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Last weekend I ran my final 20 miler. The peak of my training. The last “really long” run before tapering. I put “really long” in quotes because I had a 12 mile run the following weekend, which used to be what I worked for months to build up to in half marathon training but is now considered a shorter long run. Perspective is a crazy thing, kids.
I was nervous about this run. My first 20 miler was actually a planned 19 mile run that turned into 20 when I finished at 19.4 and determined it’s silly to not make it 20.
Knowing that I’ve done 20 miles before and was capable of running this distance eased the fear a little, but it is still such an overwhelming sounding distance that I was still nervous. My plan was to run 5 miles alone and then meet my friend Melissa Z for the last 15. We had no route planned; all we had was a meeting spot.
A coworker who happens to be a hardcore marathoner told me I should run the Queensboro Bridge before the marathon. The uphill going towards Manhattan, he said, is a lot longer than the downhill. He also advised me to practice running the bridge as my first mile, since the first mile of the marathon runs up the Verrazano Bridge.
I actually live very close to the Queensboro Bridge and in all my running-route tedium, I never ran over the bridge. I don’t really know why. I’ve lived in the same apartment for 5.5 years and I’ve been running for a little over two. I decided to start my run just like my coworker advised and finally ran this path that is quite literally in my backyard. Seriously. I have a backyard and it’s right behind it.
From the beginning, it was amazing. The run felt effortless and I felt like I was flying. I ran over the bridge to Queens and then back. Because my run was just beginning, the bridge didn’t feel bad at all and the views were incredible. A gorgeous run! Five miles later, I was meeting up with Z.
We both wanted to practice bridges and we decided to run back over the Queensboro. Once over, we thought it would be nice to run through Astoria. When we reached the end of that main road that runs under the subway, at the Con Ed plant, we turned right and just kept running.
I am from Queens. I grew up at a five-minute drive from La Guardia Airport. But I was still extremely surprised to arrive at this sign:
It is so weird to arrive at a place you’ve been so many times from a totally different perspective, angle, approach, route, mode of transportation.
How did I never know where Riker’s Island was? How did I never know it was so close to me my whole life? How did I never know it was near the airport?
Did you guys know this?
Mom, did you??
The entire run to this point — 13 miles — felt easy. I felt amazing, chatting with my friend, discovering new sights, running in a brand new place and discovering things we never saw. Garmins are an expensive running toy, but I love that mine allowed me to run an unplanned route and see where it takes me. For the last super-long run of marathon training, this was exactly what I needed. A change of scenery, not knowing where I am going and focusing on the sights rather than the run. It didn’t hurt that we had the most gorgeous day and perfect running weather.
On our way back, which of course felt shorter than our way out (it always does, doesn’t it?) we came across a sign from above. Or really, the coincidental name of a bank.
Let’s just pretend it is a sign.
At this time I placed a quick text to Andy to tell him I had four miles left and to be ready to eat in less than an hour. 20 miles = hungry for banana hazelnut stuffed french toast.
By the time we got back to the Queensboro Bridge for the long uphill trek, we were in our 18th mile. The bridge is mile 16 during the marathon, so this was the perfect practice on tired legs. Although in all honesty, my legs were not feeling bad at all.
The run over the bridge — marathon direction — was tough but not terrible. We pushed along and as we ran over Roosevelt Island some festival was going on and music was playing and that pumped us up. We got over the bridge, ran a little bit more in the city and we were DONE.
20 miles. When I used to think about the 20 mile run I knew I’d have to tackle during marathon training, I imagined it to be this long, rough “How many more miles left? Must. push. through”- type thing. But it wasn’t Instead, this 20 mile run was by far one of the best runs I’ve had during training. I felt incredible the entire time.
Most importantly, no hip pain. No stomach pain. And most importantly, if someone told me I had to run another 6.2 miles, it might not have been pretty, but I could have done it.
This run gave me the confidence I needed. I felt no doubts at all about my ability to run a marathon three weeks later. And I was especially excited because now that the 20 was finished, it was TAPER TIME!
I began taper time the next day with a massage from the most amazing professional ever, Danielle DeMaio. The massage was not relaxing and I did not wear a giant fluffy robe. This was a real sports massage and it hurt. Like, really hurt. Like, I looked forward to it being finished hurt. But after, I felt better than ever.
I was actually experiencing a minor twinge in the back of my left leg, at the very bottom, starting at the Staten Island Half Marathon. After this massage, that twinge disappeared. All my muscles were (unsurprisingly) ridiculously tight. This massage was exactly what I needed to go into tapering with reduced tightness and fresher legs. Apparently I am the tightest person she’s ever touched. And I have another appointment a few days after the race. I hope she goes easier on me.
My runs during the week felt good. And my 12 miler this past weekend went well too, especially considering it included the last 10 miles of the marathon route! Speaking of the marathon route, the route signs are up:
I am so happy I did this organized group run with The Running Center because while I know Central Park very well, I never thought about the minor uphills in relation to the last two miles of the marathon. I now know when to brace myself during this incredibly difficult time during the race; I know when to hold back in preparation. I also know what to expect in the Bronx and Harlem, as well as the inclines of First and Fifth Avenues.
Also exciting was how as we finished the 10 miles at the spot of the marathon’s finish line, they were busy putting up the bleachers for the spectators!
To say I am excited is a pretty big understatement.
And in exactly two weeks, at this time . . . I will be telling you all about my experience running the ING NYC Marathon.