This is my first race report on a SERIOUS race that I’ve been training for since I bonked last year, at the same race, at mile 21.
I’m always late to races. I am always sprinting to the start line. NOT THIS RACE! (Only because I drove four of my friends who were running the half marathon, which started over an hour before the full). For months I was distressed about the change of starting times for the half and full. When I got to the race (late), I understood it all. I was able to drop off all bags for my sister and friends who were running the half. Once the half started I took pictures of them on their journey.
After the half started around 7 am, I was able to go to the bathroom (no lines) and sit around with Melissa (who was also running the marathon) and RELAX until it was time to get started. The only problem I experienced before the race was the bag check. We had to put the tag from our bib on the bag (as usual) but they also gave an extra sticker with a number which identified the bag. I always understand double security, but this made it difficult for the friends/family we checked bags for when it came time to pick them up.
Melissa and I sat around (literally, on the ground, RELAXING, it won’t get old for me), for about 30 minutes before I met up with Sky (my running partner for the day) and Marcy. Unfortunately, they had the same issues with the bag check as we did, but after we figured it out we decided to use the bathroom (or, salsa our way to the bathroom) one more time before we started. During the bathroom waiting I asked Marcy her time goal (I thought she was going to say 3:40 or something crazy) but she said 4:30. At that point I knew my running partner would stick with her and I might have to embark on this journey alone. I didn’t let it get me down. I had a goal in mind and I was going to stick with it (whether I told anyone what the goal was or not).
We started the race PUMPED UP. The three of us (Me, Sky and Marcy ran together for the first mile. Marcy said she wanted to back off the pace as she did not train for this pace. I decided to maintain the pace and go off on my own, I had a goal in mind and I did not want anything to stop me. I understood when Sky stayed with her (as they are good friends as well).
9:15, 8:56, 8:55, 8:55
JUST as I settled into a pace (and met Thy, the guy who said he didn’t train for the race but wanted to run anyway, hmf), I hear ASHLEYYY, and it is Sky, saving my life as usual. She caught up and my anxiety suppressed.
9:09, 9:10, 8:52, 8:57
Sky and I both ran the marathon last year (I was trying to catch up with her the entire time, making mine a complete failure). This time around, we were both in better shape, from running and weight lifting and cross training. We chatted thoughtlessly and the miles ticked away. It was nice to have a slight different course (it basically took the opposite route into Long Branch as it did out of Long Branch last year).
8:53, 8:47, 8:43, 8:50, 8:52, 8:40, 8:41
At this point last year, I had already taken off my shirt (underarm chaffing issues) and had burned through all a majority of my energy. This year was different and I knew it. Sky and I were relaxed and calm and settled into a natural pace. However, we decided the best idea was to back off the pace a little (in order to survive the rest of the race). We both tried to slow down, but we knew my family (and ALL OF MY FRIENDS who ran the half) were going to be at mile 16 to cheer us on!
***IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: I cannot express the importance of having people come to support me during the run. It helps me get through my negative thoughts that I cannot cross the finish line alive. SO if you ever have the opportunity to support a runner friend, please do.***
When I saw them all I was worried about was how my sister and friends ran the half marathon. Once I found out (by way of forcing the times out of them), I was overwhelmed with PRIDE for their PR’s. Knowing that my sister and friends had pushed themselves also helped me continue on.
8:56, 8:59, 9:00, 9:01, 9:08, 9:21
The course from miles 13-end is an out and back from Long Branch to Asbury. Because of this, my family was able to just cross the street and I saw them again at mile 22. HUGE HELP.
Generally, this type of course normally does not bother me, except when there are 2 people per mile on the course cheering the runners on. In case you didn’t notice, our time/mile decreased as we moved on. It was hard to motivate ourselves with lackluster crowd and the legs that just realized they were running a marathon. At this point last year, I was crying and contemplating jumping in the ocean to end the misery. Being able to put one foot in front of the other at a great pace (for me, at mile 22) helped me realize how far I’ve come in one year. At mile 22, I will take any form of inspiration I can.
9:16, 9:23, 9:30
At this point, I was checking my Garmin every .1 seconds. I wanted Sub-4 more than anything. I did so many intervals below 7 min/mile to get there, I just had to. I couldn’t let my alarm down, especially because I took a screenshot of it.
Sky told me to dedicate the last few miles each to one person. I kept forgetting. I’m pretty sure Jessica, Lauren, Ritsa, Alisha, Brittany, Matt, Shelley and my parents each got a quarter-mile? Maybe? Sorry to my friends/family that I forgot. Anything to help the time pass and to help me ignore my throbbing quads.
We got off the road and went onto the Long Branch boardwalk area (aka the worst paved running area in history). During the last miles, I’m pretty sure the only words Sky and I spoke were, WE CAN DO THIS and HOLY SHIT, WE’RE GOING TO DO THIS. I saw a marathon photographer during mile 24 or 25 (who knows at that point) and I pulled Sky over to take a picture. I cannot wait to see how it comes out! (UPDATE: here it is)
The end of the race was a blur, we ran and we finally saw the finish line. I was overcome with emotions and I knew I only had about a minute until the clock hit 4 hours. I started sprinting, then stopped and ran back to Sky saying, lets finish together. She said go, and I did. I sprinted to the finish. I saw my family and friends along the side and I put out my four fingers and said SUB FUCKING FOUR!!! (with the biggest smile ever). I crossed the finish line with so much happiness. My arms were up and I pointed to the photographer like I had just took his family captive. (UPDATE: he must have not like the pointing, the picture was MIA. I got this one instead).
8:32 for last .2
FINAL CHIP TIME: 3:58:41 (almost a 26 minute PR and SUB 4!!!!)
I cannot express how happy I am after this race. I have come such a long way since my first marathon just one year ago. During this marathon I kept a general consistent pace, I fueled appropriately (considering I forgot my handheld water bottle and drank Gatorade instead of Nuun), I did not walk once and I did not cry. HUGE STEP UP. I was able to run with a friend who is motivational 100% of the time. Together, we accomplished something amazing.
Things I will try for during next marathon: consistent but faster miles, negative splits and I also want to try fueling with actual food. After this race I am confident in my current abilities but I know I can accomplish new goals I set for myself. It sounds cliché but its true. This race has given me the confidence I needed as a runner. As of now, I do not know what my goal will be for the next marathon, but I do know I will train HARD for it.
I also know that I will not be running the NJ Marathon next year. I am happy I was able to run it twice. The first time, the race won, the second time, I won 🙂 But in general, I need liveliness and crowds and cheering. This race did not provide that. SO – please feel free to join me (and my wonderful friend Erin) for some serious NJ Marathon/Half Marathon spectating in 2013. The more the merrier, obviously.
In case you wanted them, Garmin Splits below!
Did anyone else run the NJ Marathon? How did your race go? What did you like about the race/course? What would you change?