If you had told me six months ago that I would have successfully finished the NYC 1/2 Marathon, I would have told you that you were talking crazy talk. But here I am a week after the race, still in a bit of a post race glow. I ran a half marathon, yes I did. I ran a 1/2 Marathon in 2 hrs. 13 mins, yes I did.
Four months ago a bunch of friends sat down at breakfast and one of them suggested that we start training to run a half. We all bravely agreed that this sounded like a great idea and we convinced ourselves we were going to do it. I am sure a couple of people, myself included, left thinking “Ya, that’s never going to happen!” And then a funny thing happened, we started a little running club. This fabulous group of moms started meeting three days a week after drop off and ran in Central Park. We encouraged and inspired each other and week by week the miles started to build. We were doing it!! So, our group of ladies decided that we would all put our names in for the NYC 1/2 lottery and whoever got in would run and the rest would sign up for the More 1/2 in April. We would all have a 1/2 marathon race goal. Two days after Christmas I received an email that I was IN, I had a spot in the NYC 1/2. I have to admit, I felt equal parts dread and excitement. I was in, there was no turning back now, the training started for real.
To say I was nervous in the days leading up to the race would be an understatement. Just ask my poor husband and my visiting friend Matti. I obsessed about the course, my abilities, hydration, what I was going to wear, etc. I am sure that they were sick of listening to me. The night before the 1/2, I laid out all of the things I would need in the morning and then I went to bed relatively early, hoping to get in a few hours of sleep before my nervous energy and terror of sleeping through the alarm (which has NEVER happened) would have me waking up hourly checking the clock.
Of course I woke up before my alarm and started getting ready at 5:15. As I was dressing by the light of my bedside lamp, I looked up and caught Ron’s eye. I let out a nervous giggle and said to him “Look at me, I am getting up a the crack of dawn on a Sunday to go and run 13.1 miles, who the hell am I ??!!” He told me how proud he was of me and that meant everything. I gobbled down a bowl of cereal, went to the bathroom at least three times, laced up my shoes and then headed out the door to meet Jessica and Rachel at 77th and Central Park West. It was still pitch dark out. Again, I questioned my sanity. I expertly dodged the vomit (St. Patty’s Day remnants) as well as a few drunken revellers on their way home and made my way to the park.
I met up with Jess and Rachel and then we headed to our corral. Before we took our spots we all stopped for a quick pee and of course, I had to go again while we were waiting in the corral. Being a nervous pee(er)- is that a word??- really does suck. At the corral line ups we parted ways with Rachel *insert hugs and tons of words of encouragement and inspiration* (she was in a different color group) and then we lined up in our own corral.
I think waiting in the corral is one of the hardest parts of the race. There is tons of nervous energy and bouncing around as people try to stay warm and calm. But in the end it is just a whole lot of waiting and more waiting. At this point my body just wanted to GO! The race started at 7:30 but our corral made it to the start line at 8:01! Yep, there was a whole lot of waiting. We were lapped before we even started. Seriously. 25 minutes after the race started while we were still edging closer to the start the elite athletes started whizzing by us, already completing a FULL loop of Central Park. Unbelievable. On the downside, we hadn’t even started to race yet, on the plus side, getting to see these runners in action is truly awe inspiring. They are beautiful.
At 8:01 we finally started and I have to tell you that it was an incredible experience right from the beginning. There really is something to be said about going for a run with thousands of other people. Their energy rubs off on you and even though running can sometimes seem like it is a solitary sport, not so in a road race where there is always someone beside you, trying to achieve the same goal, one foot after the other… The course started with one loop around Central Park. After training for months in this beautiful space, I really feel like I know the park intimately. I know each and every dip and curve. It is a great feeling running on your own turf. Jessica and I kept our training pace and ran smoothly towards the Harlem Hill. Oh Harlem Hill, how we love to hate you. We hit Harlem Hill with confidence and huffed and puffed to the top. A big THANK YOU and lots of LOVE to one of our running gals Babette who was standing at the perfect spot to cheer us on and encourage us to make to the top, it was exactly the encouragement we needed. After the Harlem Hill, there were the four little up and down hills and then we were home free, down hill as we exited the park. I was excited to get out of the park. I couldn’t wait to head down 7th Ave and through Times Square. Running through Times Square is exhilarating and you really can’t help but be awe-struck by all of the buildings and flashing lights. Also, there is no other time when you will have that much pavement to yourself or the freedom to move. It was spectacular! I think I had a goofy grin on my face all the way to the West Side Highway.
One of the great things about running this race was running it with Jessica by my side. Her past race experience helped us to navigate the crowds, stay hydrated “Sandra, you need to keep drinking” and just having her running with me gave me additional strength to keep going. The West Side Highway is one loooong flat stretch. At around mile 10 I started to feel “it”, I was getting a little tired and there seemed to be no end in sight. At that point I remembered what Matti had told me, I could do this because I was Sandra Fucking Guirguis. Oh ya, that’s right and I picked up my pace a bit. By mile 11, I told myself, I got this. By mile 12 I couldn’t believe that I was almost there. 12 miles was the longest distance I had ever run. 13.1 was in my reach. At the tip of the island just past Battery Park we ran through a tunnel, at first it was a bit unnerving but then runners started cheering and the echo in the tunnel carried their voices and it was the last little push I needed. As I made my way to the finish line I was in a bit of a daze. This was it. 13.1 miles. My first ever half marathon. I did it!! At the finish it is a bit surreal, the crowd is cheering, people are congratulating you and moving you along, pictures are taken… I savoured each and every moment!! We met up with Ron, Matti and the girls and I was very proud to be able to share this time with them. I definitely couldn’t have done it without Ron’s support. He is my biggest cheerleader
The rest of the day, I spent a lot of time on the couch and it took a few days before the stairs didn’t make every little muscle in my legs do a little “ouch”, but I am ridiculously happy to have accomplished this. I could not and would not have wanted to do it without my moms running group that inspires me daily. Our friendships have grown deeper as we have pounded the pavement through laughter, tears, vomit , heart to hearts, various weather and the occasional near miss with a bicycle. I love you all dearly. Thank you Coach Rachel, Jessica, Rena, Babette, Meilan, Deb, Robin, Jen, Nell, Lisa and Bien. I am looking forward to see where our next running adventure takes us!
But right now, I think I am going to go and put my feet up.. And please, don’t even ask me about a FULL marathon… I guess I should never say NEVER!