I’m a Marathoner!! Honestly, I thought I would never say those words in my life. I didn’t call myself a runner until 2014 when I got accepted to be in the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco! It wasn’t until then when I knew I had become a “runner.”
Fast forward to 2015, getting ready for my 2nd half marathon in SF – I was sooooo ready. But at mile 7, I was struggling & my mind just kept telling me “you will never do a marathon – this is miserable and you’re only at mile 7!” When I crossed that finish line, I was sooo happy that it was over and that I will NEVER EVER run a marathon.
In January 2016 – applications for the NYC Marathon raffle opened up. I’ve signed up for the NYC Marathon before through the raffle but I have never been picked. I remember signing up this time and not even thinking about it – I paid the $10 to donate to NYRR and then I submitted my name and didn’t think anything about it. Then on March 8, 2016 – I got the email saying “CONGRATULATIONS!! You have been accepted into the TCSNYC Marathon 2016!!” omg omg omg. I remember this date so clearly because it was the same date I got laid off on my job. It was a horrible HORRIBLE day. I had been let go of my job that morning & me being so emotional – I was crying and I was so down on myself that day, it was just the worst day ever. I remember going grocery shopping (cuz life goes on) and I got the email at Smith’s and I was just in shock. But it also made my horrible day turn into a not-so-horrible day. I was going to run the New York City Marathon and this has been something on my bucket list since sophomore year of high school! Even though, I had told myself I would never run a marathon – I could not NOT do this!! (Also, they charge your credit card immediately once you get picked – so bye bye $200 – either way I might as well make the most of it)
I knew I had to start training ASAP. I created a training program through the Nike Running App and it had me start my training on Monday, May 9th – which is about a 5 month training program. Luckily, by that time – Steven and I had moved to Carlsbad, California and I had the best running route – along the ocean!
I trained super well the month of May & June – I was consistent and my miles were going up every week! I also ran the Lake Tahoe Half marathon with my amazing friend Brittany in between training so that helped a ton.
Then July came… Steven & I traveled to Paris, Amsterdam and England that whole month! and I did not run at all. Then August… Steven started his new job in Los Angeles and we had a temporary place in Studio City, CA and my training was alright. I ran a ton in August up and down Ventura Blvd. At the end of September, we were moving into our new apartment in Playa Vista. Luckily, we have our own little gym here so I could run on the treadmill, but I’m not a big fan of training on a treadmill so I avoided it when I could. In October, I ran my longest run – 16 miles in Santa Monica along the oceanfront. I was so shocked that I could do 16 miles after my sporadic training. I ran 6 miles and then walked 2 minutes then ran another 2 miles and kept doing that until I hit 16 miles. I felt good when I did that. Definitely sore by the end of it, but now I knew how I was going to pace myself come race day.
I should’ve ran 2o miles for my last long run training because everyone always says “if you can run 20, you can run 26!” I obviously did not listen and ran my 16 miles. During my last weeks of training – I barely ran at all which was dumb of me. The week of the race – I ran probably 8 miles total.
We left for New York Friday, November 4th and arrived around 10:45PM! We ubered to our cute Airbnb (Thanks Tom & Sharon!) and felt right at home. We were so tired so we went to bed early and my brother Mark and his wife Imee and their baby Mila drove from Virginia Beach to hang out with us in NYC for the weekend! They arrived around 6am the next day and we slept in until about 9AM. I was too excited to get out and explore / pick up my bib and race #!!!! We went straight to the race convention center and the expo was packed full of different vendors and Asics selling a ton of NYC Marathon gear – it was packed! We picked up my race # and headed to the Highline! I was excited to take Steven to one of my favorite spots in NYC and show him where I used to hang out with all of my friends when I interned there back in 2014.
We walked on the Highline and then went to Chelsea Market – but unfortunately got out of there quick because it was again, SO PACKED! We headed to Ramen-ya (best Ramen in NYC) and then to Central Park! We saw the finish line (eeeek!) and all of the flags of the participating countries all lined up. I got to take everyone to Sheep Meadows (my favorite spot to have a picnic) and we relaxed until we figured out our next plans to meet up with my Dad, stepmom and baby brother George!! They flew from Florida to see me run!
We met up with my dad and his family in Flushing (the REAL Chinatown!!) at a Chinese Restaurant. Note to self: chinese food before a race is not the best idea. do not do it. We ate soooo much food. It was so good to see my dad and his family! My baby brother George is almost 4 years old! and he can speak fluent Chinese!!! He knows English but they speak more Chinese to him than English. We headed back to our Airbnb because baby Mila was getting tired. She was such a good baby on the entire trip!
My transportation time was scheduled at 7:30am – Staten Island Ferry. But my start time was at 10:40AM – I was super confused! But I woke up around 6:15AM and got ready for the race. I slept pretty well but actually woke up around 5am and then couldn’t go back to sleep. My brother and Steven drove me to the ferry place and I made it just in time to get on the 7:30AM ferry. It was packed with runners!! I scoured the place to see if I could make a quick friend. I sat by this girl who came all the way from Australia! It wasn’t her first marathon ever but first time running NYC. She gave me some advice on the marathon and she basically said to “just have fun.”
I got off the ferry and we were in long lines for security checking that we had our bib on and that no spectators go any farther. I was walking by this girl who looked alone so I introduced myself and I immediately made a new friend – Renata, from San Paulo, Brazil! We rode the bus together all the way to the Runner’s Village and it was so good to be with someone instead of by myself. I had friends at the Runner’s Village but it was impossibly trying to find people because there were soooo many runners. At the village, they gave us bagels, energy bars, bananas and water. Renata and I talked the entire way to the village and we kept saying “I hope we finish!!” “I’m so nervous!” “We are CRAZY!!” Renata got chosen through the lottery as well and she came to NYC by herself, no family. I was super impressed. I got her email just in case we got separated so we could stay in touch. She started in the same wave and corral as me! It was a nice, sunny day and we were ready to run!! The first wave went at 9:40AM and we had a lot of waiting to do.
It was finally time to line up with our corrals and it was almost start time!! Renata and I were so anxious to start running and get the day started! As we were walking towards the starting line, an announcer greeted all of us and someone sang a patriotic song (not the National Anthem though) – then someone started up the cannon and we heard a loud BOOM sound and that was our que to start going!!!
The Starting line was at the beginning of the Verrazano Bridge that crossed over to Brooklyn! My phone died right as I started running and I had my charger in my fanny pack because I definitely was going to document this race as much as I could – as I was pulling my charger out, my credit card and ID fell out so I immediately had to stop – losing my friend Renata! It was okay though… I kept on going and I don’t know why, but it was super hard to breathe running on that bridge. The Verrazano Bridge was about a mile long and once we got off the bridge, spectators were there cheering us on. It felt SO GOOD. My Spotify wasn’t connecting, so I decided not to run with any music and rely on the spectators to keep me motivated. Every chance I had, I high fived all of the little kids and that’s what kept me going! At every mile, they had bands playing which help me stay motivated. I loved the signs and people screaming “Welcome to Brooklyn” or “Welcome to our home.” It was amazing.
Honestly, Miles 1 – 13 were a blur. I felt like it went by so fast. I did remember someone (a spectator) at Mile 5 feeding me half a dunkin donut lol and I ate that thing like a savage. I kept with my pace and running strategy. I ran 6 miles straight, walked 2 minutes and then ran the next 2 miles. When I got to mile 8, Steven was cheering me on! It was so good to see him! Miles 1-13 was all of Brooklyn until we crossed another bridge into Long Island City / Queens / Lower Manhattan. Mile 15 was not the worst, but we were under a bridge and spectators weren’t allowed under the bridge. So it felt really quiet and it was a little bit of an uphill battle. I had already walked my 2 minutes so I had 2 more miles to go until I would let myself walk again. I pushed through that bridge and when we got to mile 16 – the spectators were back and I had to keep going! Also, I kept thinking – don’t die, don’t die because 16 miles was the longest I trained – could I get past 16 and finish this thing?
Mile 16 -20 again were a blur. At Mile 19, they were giving out energy goo which I think mentally was telling me “you can do this.” When I got to mile 20 – I made it to The Bronx. There was a huge sign that said – “Welcome to Mile 20 – say hello to The Wall!” I thought that was pretty funny but I hadn’t hit my wall yet. I loved running through The Bronx – the culture and vibe there was amazing. We finally crossed over our final bridge to Manhattan and at mile 22 we were running down 5th ave. By that time – I was definitely feeling it. I had hit “my wall.” I had friends and family tracking me the entire time and one of my best friends, Andrea texted me at mile 23 and said “3 miles more! Don’t stop running!” I was so tired that I was walking soooooo slow that my dot on the tracking app looked like I had stopped! But when Andrea texted me, that helped me keep going! I knew my family was waiting for me at mile 24 and when I kept going – they were around the corner when I entered Central Park! I loved seeing all of them cheering me on. I’ve never had family come see me run (except Steven) so it was amazing to share this experience with all of them.
Okay – so after I saw them at mile 24, I knew that I couldn’t stop. I was only 2 miles away!! At mile 25.5 we ran through Columbus Circle (where my old Internship was – hey Y&R!) and then ran back through Central Park. At this point, the track was lined up with flags from all over the world. This time – I could see the finish line so close!! I heard my name get called as I was crossing the finish line and I was smiling so big for the cameras because there were about 20 of them! I couldn’t believe it. I had finished a MARATHON. 26.2 miles. Wow. A volunteer put a medal around my neck and I got my picture taken with my medal and kept on walking with the other finishers to pick up our post-race bag full of food and drinks. I immediately ate an apple and chugged a protein shake that was in my bag. This was probably the worst part of the race – they made you walk another mile to get out of the race area to meet your families! I was so sore that my face was just stone cold. Volunteers kept asking me – “do you need medical?” hahaha I just kept on walking and finally got my race poncho and met up with Steven and my family!!
I am so happy the race is over! I’m so happy I had the chance to run the NYC Marathon and cross this off my bucket list. If you are hesitant about doing a marathon – just do it! Your body can handle it even if you think you can’t. (if you train)
P.S – I finished at 5 hours & 22 minutes!
P.S.S – I didn’t make it on ESPN but I did make it onto the NYC Marathon Snapchat story!!
Lizzie Lin Johnson