The Long Road to the 2013 New York City Marathon

If you had asked me one year ago if I planned to run the New York City Marathon, I would have laughed.  This race was not on my bucket list.  Boston and Chicago have been the races I’d focused on, but several of my running friends aspired to, or had run, in New York.  I am a mid-pack runner.  I basically wrote it off because I knew I would never qualify, and the chance of getting in through the lottery was slim.

If you’re reading this blog, you know enough about running to know that Hurricane Sandy caused the cancelation of the 2012 NYCM.  Thousands of runners opted to defer their entries in the 2012 race to the 2013 race.  The chance of getting in to the 2014 through the lottery was very low.

Earlier this year, I was lucky to squeak in early to the registration page of the Chicago Marathon site, snagging a bib when so many others failed to because of major website problems. I was all set to run Chicago sustained an injury following the Eugene half marathon.  Injured throughout May, I still decided to throw my name into the NYCM lottery because I mistakenly believed the “three strikes you’re in” rule was still in effect. [Note: the rule is no longer in effect; if you apply to the NYCM lottery three times and lose, the fourth application does not mean a guaranteed entry.] I applied the very last day of the lottery. I entered only because I knew the likelihood of getting chosen this year was extremely low, and I wanted to log another strike towards my goal of a guaranteed entry. I most certainly did not want to get picked this year.

Capture - nyrr useAnd, wouldn’t you know, they picked my number!

Unfortunately, I was injured. I was doing physical therapy three times a week and hadn’t been released back to running.  And I was already registered for Chicago, which is in mid-October. I didn’t want to be in the NYCM this year. I’m not one of those back-to-back marathoners, and I don’t have large piles of cash laying around with which to fund running travel. Fortunately, my gimpy body worked it all out for me, because I was too hurt until mid-July to run for any length.  With about 10 weeks until Chicago, there wasn’t enough time to train. New York it was.

In July, I decided to hire a coach to guide my training. Kris, my coach, is a strong runner and a very positive, motivational force. Plus, she’s just about the most glamorous runner I’ve ever seen. She designed a training plan with the goal of getting me across to the NYCM finish line, injury-free. Kris wanted me to take it relatively easy with training so that I wouldn’t reinjure myself.

Fine photography practice at the Seawheeze.

Fine photography practice at the Seawheeze.

Training started in August and it was rough. I ran a half for which I had registered (pre-injury) in January: the Lululemon Seawheeze. Kris ordered me not to race it but to run it like it was just a long, slow distance run. Ugh. I ran it as she told me, and took photos of what I saw along the course as well as a race selfie (first ever, and I don’t think I can bring myself to take another one) in order to slow down my pace. It worked! I ran a PW (personal worst) but had fun along the course and, more importantly, emerged unscathed.

The rest of my NYCM training cycle was pretty low-key. No races. No speed work. Kris built my mileage slowly, and it worked. By early October, a few weeks before the race, I felt fit and strong. I was able to do a long run in 80+ degree heat in Palm Desert and it felt easy. I was going to do it! I had only one more 20-miler to run, and I would be in taper mode. Almost all the hard work and training was done.

2013-10-10 08.55.16Until I went to Chicago, and decided to sneak in a run along the Lake Shore Path before work. It was a beautiful day, my feet were light, and I felt really strong. Everything was great except for the path itself. I tripped on uneven sidewalk panels and flew forward, jamming my left middle finger–and then my left shoulder–into the pavement. I was a bloody mess.  And by “bloody” I don’t mean like the Brits mean it–I was bleeding all over the place.

I almost lost it. I could see my hard-won goal of running New York slipping away. And how coincidental that I would destroy my NYCM participation by injuring myself in Chicago? I was about ready to throw myself into Lake Michigan. Fortunately, a really nice young woman instead helped me find a cab which took me to my hotel, and then I went to the hospital. X-rays ruled out fractures to my collarbone and finger, but I was convinced I was screwed. The ER doc told me not to run for at least a week. A week? The most important last week of “real” running before taper? Argh.

I flew back home in terrible spirits. I bided my time over the following week and worried about my shoulder, which hurt even when I would just walk or even sit.  I guess Northwestern educates its residents well, though, because Dr. Chicago was right: in a week I felt decent enough to run.

I ran slowly at first but within about two weeks from my accident I was running at my pre-accident pace.  Thank you, running gods. The finger was still a nightmare (and still is) but at least I didn’t have to worry about that shoulder throwing off my stride.

Two weeks before race day, I ran my last long run: a 17-miler. Not the 20-miler I needed, and it shortened my taper by a week, but I had to log that last long run. I was done. I was done! Kris confirmed it when she told me “the hay’s in the barn.”

With that, I taped my name on my shirt. It was official: I was going to New York!

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