Ahh, the 5:15am alarm. I’m either traveling or racing a marathon, because those are the only 2 reasons I’d be up this early. Okay, time to get dressed, eat my bagel, use the bathroom (TMI, but for reals: it’s a MUST before a race. Trust me), then head out to Eisenhower Park for the Long Island Marathon. I won the race in 2013, then in 2014 did a much hillier, but very scenic, race in Southern Vermont where I came in second by 2 seconds. Yes. Two freaking seconds.
Anyway, I digress. I’m back at the 2015 LI race, but I almost didn’t make it to the start line: a few days before the race, I was talking to my aunt and she was asking me things like, when does the race start? What’s your bib number? In other words, all things I really should know. So, I look on the website. OK, race starts at 8am. Great. What’s my bib number? I search for my name in the list of registered entrants and it says, “You are registered for 0 events.” Aaaaand commence freak out. After a string of 4 letter expletives, I take a deep breath, and search my email. Apparently, I never registered for the race. FAIL KELLY. Thankfully I was able to register in person two days before the race, but holy cow, talk about high anxiety.
The weather for Sunday was supposed to be warm — a high of 76 — which, if you ask me, is about 25 degrees too warm for a marathon. Plus, with almost half the course being on the Wantagh Parkway, I knew I’d have to be careful with hydration and not wilting in the sun. I spent the first few miles trying to settle into a comfortable pace, as I didn’t want to go faster than 7:05-7:10 (memories, painful horrible memories, of going out too fast in the 2014 NYC marathon have scarred me for life).
At mile 10, we leave the side streets and turn onto the Wantagh Parkway where we’ll be until just past mile 22. I actually kind of love this part of the course because it’s wide, mostly flat, and quiet. This is where the race really started for me — I picked up the pace and was running 6:50s pretty consistently and felt great (probably also due to the fact that I just had my first Honey Stinger energy gel). I saw Sam and got a surprise visit from my aunt, uncle, and cousin around mile 13, where I found out I was in 4th place and the 2nd and 3rd place girls were about 60-90 seconds ahead of me. I asked how far ahead the first place woman was. Sam said, “just run. Just keep going.” HA. Translation: She’s FAR.
Around mile 14, I picked off the 3rd place girl, and then at the turnaround point at mile 16.5, I saw the first place woman make her hairpin turn and head back. By my watch, she still had a good 4 minutes on me. Bollocks. At mile 17, I caught up to the 2nd place woman and the strangest thing happened: as I passed her, she stopped running. Like, literally stopped in her tracks and started walking. I asked if she was okay and she said, “oh yea I’m fine.” Uhh, ok…
Now I’m in 2nd place, about 4 minutes back, and I was on a mission: I had to catch up to the leader. Open Honey Stinger gel #2 and keep on truckin. For the next few miles, I notice something: all the female spectators would say some form of “you go girl!” and other encouraging words, whereas the male spectators were yelling things like, “she’s only 2 minutes ahead of you and she looks TERRIBLE!” or, “you’re only 90 seconds back, and she looks AWFUL. Go get her!” Hmm, I might actually have a chance at this.
I pass Sam and my family at mile 20, they tell me the leader is 90 seconds ahead and is apparently not shy about the fact that she’s not doing so well. I open my Honey Stinger Energy Chews, I know I’ll need them. I keep my pace a steady 6:50 or so, and… MIRACLE! I see the lead bikers! At mile 22 I catch up to them and the woman and I exchange a few words, I say great job keep it up, she tells me how awful she feels. I’m feeling pretty shitty too, but I think I’m hiding it better than she is. I pass her, and have just over 5km to go. Less than 24 minutes. If I can just keep it together for 24 more minutes, I’m good.
The lead bikers escort me off the Wantagh Parkway, and we cover 2 of the longest miles ever, down some road whose name I don’t know in a town I don’t recall because I’m running part of the time with my eyes closed, willing the race to be over. I’m really feeling it now and am up to about a 7:10-7:15 per mile. I open my eyes wide enough and like a mirage, I think I see orange cones. YES. That means we’re going back into Eisenhower Park, the marathon is almost over, and I can eat ice cream and drink soda. Mile 25 comes and goes, I have no idea how close the girl is behind me, I start having paranoid thoughts that somehow she got a second wind. Mile 26, thank freaking god I’m almost finished, I make the last right turn, I see the finish line ahead, I wave frantically to my family. I manage not to trip over the tape. I did it!
Phew. I could really go for some ice cream.
But before I do, I have many people to thank: thank you to Coach John Hirsch for getting my legs and my brain ready, to New York Health and Racquet Club and their amazing staff for getting me strong, to Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled, and to my family and friends. Thank you for putting up with all this running nonsense. You all are amazing.