GUEST POST - NYC Marathon Recap: Alison Williams
THIS, this is the story I so desperately wanted to share after I ran my first marathon last year. It may have taken me a little longer than I had hoped to get here, but all that matters is that I finally did! I ran a full marathon last week. I actually did it, and it was one of the best days of my life!
Unfortunately, my right hip had started to bother me two weeks out from race day, and when I ran on the Tuesday before the marathon, it really didn’t feel good. In typical Ali fashion, I began to obsess over it, fearing the worst. After running through an injury in Chicago and not having the best experience, I was so fearful of the possibility that it could happen again, after everything I had worked for. I let this fear of the unknown, the shear possibility that it could all go hay wire, cloud my logical thoughts. After all, Chicago had been pretty miserable, and I am not naïve, marathons are painful. These negative memories really flooded my thoughts that week, and overshadowed the positive moments from my first marathon. I didn’t realize how much of an impact it still had on me. Could I handle that pain again? Would I quit the race? I was so full of paralyzing doubt. Even if it all went right- could this really be one of the best days of my life?
Fast forward to morning of: I truly couldn’t believe that the day to run the New York City marathon had arrived. How would I run a MARATHON in a few hours?!? My fears that it would all turn out like Chicago quickly came flooding back, even though I tried as hard as possible to keep those thoughts away as I got dressed, covered my body in body glide and foam rolled. I drank a cold brew coffee but couldn’t get anything in my nervous stomach just yet. However, as soon as we arrived at Bryant Park, which was flooded with thousands of other Staten Island bound runners, my doubt disappeared. This was happening.
Immediately as I entered the corral my heart rate jumped up to 140! I also realized I had to go to the bathroom AGAIN and was relieved to see they had bathrooms in the start corrals. I was completely overtaken with excitement. Luckily I was pretty close to the front of the corral, and it was so cool to look behind me and see the THOUSANDS of runners as we walked up to the start. We waited for a bit and the energy was unreal. People were signing along to the music playing overhead, and I couldn’t stand still.
After another runner in our start corral sang "God Bless America" over the speakers, the start cannon went off (very close to my ears causing me to jump), and we were OFF. As I had been told, "New York, New York" started playing overhead and I was very quickly overcome with emotion. I was choking back tears, not believing I was actually there. I didn’t even let the thought of how long the course was get in my thoughts- I was legitimately excited to run 26.2 miles.
Now, I’m not totally crazy, and I can’t lie to you- it’s not like I was running along in no pain happy as can be. At mile 20 I was tired physically, but was still feeling great mentally. You can tell this when you look at my splits at this point. I had slowed down a fair amount as the crowds thinned out again and we climbed up the Willis avenue bridge. However, while I felt the fatigue in my legs, I simply chose not to think about it or engage with thoughts about being tired. I am SO proud of myself for this because this is something I struggled with all summer long on hot training runs, and especially something I struggled with on my last LONG long run of 33km. On the other side of the bridge my hamstring started to cramp in a way I had never felt before. It was like sharp twitching pains, almost like someone was poking it and pinching it really hard every few seconds. But, I didn’t panic. Instead, I actually said out loud “not now hamstring. We are not doing this today” and hit it a few times. Luckily, I was able to grab some salt from the medics on course a few steps later and then just a minute later there was a Biofreeze station. I slathered Biofreeze all over my fatigued legs, allowing myself to stop for the first time in the race, but quickly getting right back out there.
The funny thing about a marathon is how after running such a far distance, the second you cross the finish line and know you are done, your legs just don't seem to work anymore. I very, very, very slowly shuffled along with thousands of other tired runners, happy that it was not too cold and in awe of what had just happened. Once we had showered off we celebrated with pizza, champagne, beer (and lots of water) and then headed out to have MORE beer (beer is a carb okay, and carbs are crucial to replenishing glycogen after a marathon). This felt so much different than after Chicago because while I was exhausted and my body was destroyed, I just felt SO GOOD. Nothing could have ruined my runner's high.
I could not fall asleep that night, thinking to myself "this may have actually been the best day of my life next to my wedding day". I lay there thinking about everything that had happened and how grateful I had felt to witness everything I did; The girls in central park cheering on their friend as they ran with her, the runners I passed who were struggling, everyone giving them pats of encouragement on their back, filling me with love for everyone who did the same for me in Chicago. The girl who ran by a cramping man on the course, stopped, turned around, and went back to him to offer salt pills. The two guide runners signing “respect” on the Queensboro bridge, seeing my friends out there cheering for me, the families lining the streets cheering for strangers, the live music, the funny political signs, the whole city turning into a big party- just all of it.
In a way, I feel like this race was my true marathon debut, since I was actually able to run the whole thing with no walk breaks (minus the Biofreeze stop) and hit a finishing time that I knew I was capable of. This has given me such a confidence boost and ignited my passion to keep going and working on myself, making my next impossible possible. If I was able to run such a hard course in such high spirits, I know I am capable of doing so much more, and I can't wait to see what that more will be. In a strange way, I finally feel like I can now call myself a true runner. It's an amazing thing to see what can happen when you actually show up for yourself and put in the work. There were so many days where I almost let my fear of failing get in the way, and yet here I am on the other side of it all, after one "failure" and now one huge success, so glad that I kept trying anyway, despite the unknown, because I let go of that fear.
And now, a week later, I am STILL riding my runner's high. Every time I see a friend and tell them about it I get comments like "You are glowing", "something about you just seems different" or (the best one) "you are such an inspiration". My heart is just so full. New York was truly everything I had hoped it would be and so much more. While the race was incredible, the lessons I learned in my training are arguably the most important part of this whole experience. Mainly, to dream the big dreams and get back up if you are knocked down. I urge you, if you ever have the slightest inclination to run a marathon, try and make New York the one you run, it may just be the best day of your life!
Thanks for your contribution to the TRP Blog, Alison! To read more about Alison’s journey to the NYC marathon, follow her at http://squashingmiles.com/2018/11/nyc/.