It’s here! I made through marathon training injury-free! (Knock on wood.) I reached 22 miles this time around! I’ve covered 22 miles in training before, but I never reached this particular milestone after getting injured in the middle of Chicago Marathon training last summer. As a result, I’m elated to have made it up to this point of preparation for NYCM. In addition to running the marathon with me, my sister is hoping to get in the NYC Half Marathon lottery for next March’s race, so naturally I want to run it, too. Rather than chancing the lottery myself, I opted to do four borough races for guaranteed entry, which is how I found myself facing 22 miles that included the Staten Island Half Marathon last Sunday.
I wanted to avoid breaking up this run with a gap between the half and my additional miles, so it was clear that the best tactic would be to get to Staten Island bright and early to cover 9 easy miles before practicing marathon goal pace during the race. Like a good little runner with a 4 AM wake-up call, I was in bed by 9 PM the night before—and yet I managed to find myself wide awake during the 2 AM hour. Awesome. I tossed and turned for a while, but I didn’t start to doze off until about 3:30, when it was nearly time to get up anyway. I know they say it’s the night before the night before that counts for pre-race sleep, but I’m sure “they” didn’t anticipate the night before’s shut-eye to be this minimal. I felt like a total zombie when I stepped off the 5:30 Staten Island ferry and set out for my solo miles, but I still managed my planned 10:00 pace for them and hoped I’d be able to summon some more energy for the half.
A few weeks ago, Gabby had asked around for a sub-2:00 pacer and I wanted to help her out, but since I’d be running 9 miles prior to the race, sub-2 was going to be a reach goal of my own. I did want to practice MGP (approximately 9:00 miles) on tired legs, so I agreed to start with Gabby and see if I could hang on to that pace the whole time. I studied her splits in her Brooklyn Half recap and gathered that she was good at negative splitting, so I figured we could try 2 miles x 9:30, 2 x 9:20, 2 x 9:10, and then 9:00 or faster for the final 7.1. We started off according to plan, with our first mile clocking in near 9:30; however, it was crowded and a lot of initial weaving got us way off the tangents early on. I was worried about pushing the pace too soon, but my watch was ticking off 9:10 miles at least 20 seconds before we hit the actual mile markers, so I knew if we didn’t work to make up the difference the whole time, Gabby would have to seriously book it to come in under 2 hours in the end.
We trucked along at around 9:00 pace for the first 8 miles, but not long after the turnaround my hips and knees started to feel sore and achy, which has been typical on my really long runs this training cycle. I’m not sure if this is due to higher weekly mileage, 10 years of running catching up to me, just getting old (at the ripe old age of 26), or perhaps all of the above, but I’ve never felt this stiff and creaky as a result of hard training before. Anyway, at this point I was still holding a decent pace for being at mile 17 of my 22, but I could tell Gabby was ready to pick it up, so I told her to go on without me, that it was just my long run while it was her goal race (spoiler alert: she crushed it!). I was still managing to hold a steady pace and figured maybe I’d still have a shot at my own sub-2 finish.
I rounded a corner and a hill that hadn’t looked that bad to me on the first half of the out-and-back seemed to have transformed into a mountain before my very eyes. I’ll be honest: I gave up on this hill. I refused to let myself walk it, but my “run” (if you can call it that) was hardly faster. I kept my head down, didn’t look at my watch, and just did what I could to make it to the top. Mile 10 split: 10:42. Fail. As soon as I clocked this mile, I started beating myself up: What the hell was that? This is a race! A marathon goal pace workout! What if that had been in the middle of the marathon? On the Queensboro Bridge? THERE WILL BE NO CRAWLING ON THE QUEENSBORO BRIDGE. PICK. IT. BACK. UP. Somehow I got my head back in the game and slipped right back into my previous pace for the remaining 3 miles.
When I saw my splits, I was happy that I was consistent for most of the race (even if most the miles were a tad slower than I would have liked—blame it on having been awake for nearly 8 hours by the time I was done with 22 miles?), but I was still mad at myself for not even trying on that hill. I could have pushed to make that split almost two minutes faster, and if it had been, I probably could have still come in under two hours! Alas, there will be plenty of sub-2 half marathons in my future (without needing to run all the miles before the race), so I’ll cut this loss and be happy about the bigger picture: Gabby got her sub-2, I made it to 22 miles, we’re now less than three weeks away from the New York City Marathon!