Oh hey, remember the time I ran the New Jersey Marathon and completely forgot to write a race report? I guess that’s what happens when your brain is fried from a month of traveling.
Here’s the abridged version—favorite race ever, beautiful course, incredible family and crowd support, no sleep, old shoes, hip pain, 12 minute PR, 4:01:XX finish. If your interest is piqued, read on friends.
We left Birmingham on Friday afternoon, drove through the night, and got to my parents’ house in NJ Saturday morning. After a shower and 3 hour nap, Zack, my sister Natalie and I drove down the shore to the race expo. This being my first big marathon I was looking forward to a great expo, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. We met up with my sister’s friends for dinner, played on the beach, and went to bed way later than we should have for a 4 a.m. wake up. Mistake #1.
Race day started at about 40 degrees—perfect for running but a tad chilly for standing around. The half marathon started an hour before the full, so I got to cheer Zack and Nat on as they took off. The start of both races was great—the traditional horse racing man in the helmet and red coat played the bugle (descriptive, aren’t I?), then they played Sweet Caroline in honor of Boston, and then the runners started to Springsteen’s Born To Run. If all that doesn’t get you pumped to run 26.2, nothing will.
I made it a point to hook up with the 4:00 pace group in advance to meet the pacers and introduce myself. Our pacers were Kino and Otto, two ultramarathoners who can run circles around anyone and still keep you entertained and laughing. These guys run a marathon or ultra every.single.weekend. I wanted them to come home with me and be my best friends!
Ok, on to the actual race. Sometimes you just know when it’s not your day. The miles flew by the for first 10K—I felt strong and was making friends with everyone around me. Around mile 7 I got a little tired, which usually means it’s time for some fuel. I had trained using only Gatorade for runs up to 13 miles, so my race plan was to not take a Gu until mile 14. Mistake #2.
At mile 11 I saw my parents for the first time and actually got choked up. They had never seen me race before, so having them on the side of the road cheering me on meant the world to me. But despite them lifting my spirits, I knew something was up when I wanted to stop and hang out with them. I also had developed a nagging hip pain that I had never felt before, which confused me. By mile 14 my new friend had dropped me because I had slowed so much. By “drop,” I mean that she was running with Kino at a 3:58 pace and I hung back with Otto at a 4:00 pace. I let Otto know that I was struggling and he immediately moved to run next to me and told me stories about all of his ultras. When I or anyone else would slow, he would shout out encouragement. he also led group cheers and sang songs.
By the time we hit Asbury Park I knew I wouldn’t finish sub 4. The pace group was pulling away with every stride, and my hip pain had spread to my legs and feet, making me realize that my shoes were too worn down and I should have run in my Nike Flyknits. Mistake #3.
The scenery and crowd support kept me going here for sure. It was so much fun to run past the legendary Stone Pony and heartbreaking to see all of the Sandy devastation. I also got to see my parents and Zack two more times for some pathetic photo ops courtesy of my mom.
I tried to run the last 5 miles all-out, but my body just wasn’t having it. I tried to lose myself in the crowds playing music and dancing, but I honestly just wanted to sit down. Which pissed me off so much because I had been looking forward to this race for months. A good friend that had run the half and I hadn’t seen in years happened to find me along mile 24. She jumped into the road, hugged me, and pointed to the finish right up the road. My parents, Zack, and Nat were waiting at mile 25—I did a double take at the medal hanging proudly from Nat’s neck because she didn’t think that she’d finish with her stress fracture. Zack jumped onto the course and ran the last mile with me, telling me stories, taking pictures, and encouraging me to finish strong.
The finish line atmosphere was absolutely perfect. The crowds were three people deep the entire final mile, people were calling my name, waves were crashing on the beach, and Bon Jovi was blasting over the speakers. Those final moments of a marathon are what all runners look forward to and cherish—they’re why we put ourselves through the “suck.”
Despite barely missing my goal of sub 4 and not having the best day, NJ Marathon is still my favorite race thus far. I still managed a 12 minute PR, my family was overjoyed to experience it with us, the weather was perfect, the course was beautiful, and Zack and Nat has kickass races too.
Here are some more shots: