Getting to the Start: A bunch of us met up at Ben’s corner in the darkness of 5:50am, looking pretty homeless. It was agreed by all present that the temperature was promising – 39 degrees before sun-up meant a comfortable waiting-around period at Fort Wadsworth. We made our way to Borough Hall, boarded a 5 train, got to the ferry in no time, and boarded that shortly after arriving. Ben and Graham even managed to snag seats for everyone! An auspicious start all around. I had never taken the ferry to the start before, but I’ll do it every time from here on out. The ride was so lovely. Watching the sun rise over Brooklyn and feeling kinship with all the other nervous runners from around the globe was a treat. Almost two hours after congregating on Court Street, we arrived at Ft. Wadsworth. Despite the length of the journey, it was totally pleasant, and so nice to be with teammates to calm the jitters.
The Start: As predicted, there was far less shivering and grumbling than usual. We disbanded briefly to ditch our bags (and, in the case of me and Dana, to ogle the hilarious neon get-ups donned by the internationals) and reconvened in time for a team photo and huddle before the first wave started. This was my third time at Ft. Wads, and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly every time. There is a buzz of excitement and conviviality that is unmatched by any other pre-race experience I’ve had. My only gripe is that the entrances to the corrals were poorly marked this year, which led to a mad dash just as they were putting up the ropes. Also, REALLY gross bathrooms, but what can you do?
The Race: I’m not sure how to say it without sounding like a jerk, but this was the best race of my relatively short running career. The weather was glorious, I went in with no/low expectations (and thus no/low anxiety), and the crowd was as energetic as ever. At the last minute I decided not to wear my watch, so I didn’t have a chance to obsess about the seconds ticking by between clocks. I went completely by feel. At each mile marker I asked myself, “Do you feel okay? Are you having fun?” and adjusted my pace accordingly.
I felt great all the way through Brooklyn and Queens due in no small part to the fact that I saw everyone I was hoping to see along the way. I was cruising, but was aware that my pace was conservative compared to last year’s first, hubristic half. Also, at around the 7.5 mile mark I grabbed my Gu Chomps from Male Lindsay and Live-Your-Life Laura and ate them constantly for the rest of the race – another good decision that I decided not to make last year when I was feeling so unstoppable.
In years past I’ve started to hate life at around mile 17, so when I got there and was still answering “yes” to both of my questions, I was psyched. I yessed all the way through the Bronx and realized at mile 22 that I wasn’t just feeling okay and having fun, but that I actually had something left. In an uncharacteristic move, I started to pick up my pace. That dang 5th Ave. hill gave me my only trouble of the race, the long, slow slog that it is, but when I hit the interior of the park, I was golden. Those rolling hills kept me going, and by the time I hit Central Park South, I was actually smiling. (Last year I was walking and contemplating suicide.) When you start seeing the signs that say “X meters to go,” it’s time to lay it all out, so I did. 800, 400, 300, 200, 100 – I could only think about how happy I was that Ben made us run all of those miserable repeats and intervals. When I crossed the finish line, the two guys who finished with me and I fell into a big group hug and high five party, and then it was over. I was happy! I had fun! Yes! I knew that I had bested my PR, but had no idea by how much since I had been paying very little attention to the clocks. 3:27?! Again, Yes!
Afterword: The single thing that I’ve been returning to over and over in the last week and a half is the insane amount of gratitude I feel toward this club. Running with SBRC has been such a joy, and any progress I’ve made this year I attribute to the companionship, support, and expertise provided by every single person I’ve met. I can’t thank y’all enough!