It’s been 10 days since I’ve ran the TCS New York City Marathon and it’s ALL FINALLY sunk in. I’ve never thought I would be able to ever run a marathon, because I was never a sporty kinda girl. But ever since I feel in love with running 5 years ago, the longest I’ve ran was a half marathon and that took a lot of training. I thought if I can do a half, maybe I can do a full. It’s always been in the back of mind like “One day I hope to run my one and only full marathon and it would be in New York City!” It’s been on my “secret” bucket list for a couple of years. Then when I turned 40, I felt this was the year to start crossing things off that list.
March 2017: Hitting the Jackpot.
When I found out I won a spot to the TCS NYC Marathon, my jaws just dropped with disbelief and excitement. Then reality hit me and I thought to myself, “Shit is about to get real!” To be honest, I secretly didn’t want to get in, because I knew how much work was ahead of me. But good old Mr. Fate made the decision for me. Lesson: Be careful what you wish for.
April – October: My Training.
The perfect person to train me was Peter, my husband. With his athletic background and an Ironman finisher, he knew what it takes to complete a race. He drafted an 18 week running program that was suitable for me. It was a compilation of adding miles per week consistently and resting when I needed to. The key is to build endurance. As any of my races, I always allow extra time to prepare myself for training. Basically starting from scratch.
It hasn’t been easy, especially when I travel. It took some time off from training, but the extra months I gave myself to train allowed the weeks here and there off. There were days I was too exhausted to run, but the words of encouragement from Peter, “No. You have to run today.” Then I say “Ok!”. Get my lazy butt off the sofa and go on that run for the day.
After putting 7 months of running 767 miles, 136 hours and 152 runs, I felt READY! The hard work is done! Now it’s time for the victory lap!
October 31st – The Manhattan Attack.
The day before I left for New York City, I learned about the terrible news of a terrorist attack in Manhattan. It made me feel dishearten. When will it ever stop? My heart was broken for the innocent lives that were lost. I decided to run in their honor. For the first time in a long time, I felt unsafe in my own home, especially when I’m about to participate in one of the world’s largest race. It did cross my mind if the city would cancel the race. But they didn’t. NYC is too resilient to back down.
November 2nd – Taking it all in.
With all the awful news in the past few days on the back of my mind, I had to refocus and keep my eyes on the prize. It was time to pick up my race packet and bib number. I arrived at the Jacob Javits Center full of adrenaline and excitement. I was jumping up and down all over the place. People probably thought I was nuts. One volunteer said “Is this your first marathon?”. “Hell yeah!” I said.
November 4th – The day before the marathon.
I’ve been worried about the weather all week, checking every single day. All the weather channels said it will rain. I’m starting to freak out on how it will affect my race, from my race gear to how I will wear my hair. Then I start to second guess everything. Will it be too cold? Do I have enough nutrition? At this point, I’ve done all I can to prepare. Peter says, “Trust your training. You’ve got this!”. For this, I feel more at ease.
November 5th – RACE DAY.
I woke up and put on my race clothes. The sky was covered in grey with slight rain in the 60’s. It’s the perfect running weather. I’m used to this type of forecast from all the training in Seattle. So it didn’t bother me. I was just hoping it doesn’t get windy and I had enough layers to keep me warm.
My usual morning breakfast is a Starbucks flat white, madeleines and a banana. Many coaching professionals suggest to eat your normal meals and to not over eat on race day, so you don’t get an upset stomach. So I did just that.
I took the 1 train to Whitehall Staten Island ferry terminal, where the race starts. On the train, I made friends with a fellow runner named Anne. It was her 7th marathon. I’m thinking “whao she looks like she knows what she’s doing! I’m sticking with her!” She wound up being the coolest person ever! It was nice to have a buddy to help settle in the butterflies. We even had the same wave start, so we stuck to each other like glue.
Once we arrived to Staten Island there were wall to wall people in all shapes and sizes, waiting to get onto the bus that’ll take all the runners to Fort Wadsworth, where the race started. The feeling in the ferry hall was anxiety, excitement and bundles of nerves between everyone. We all wanted to just get it started. My new friend Anne made the lonely long wait go by much faster. Our conversations were light and fun, so it kept me calm.
Once we got onto the bus, it was another 15 minutes ride to the starting area. The atmosphere was quiet. As we got off the bus, we go through a strict police security search. We then walk to the race area with signage of “TCS New York City Marathon“ everywhere. I knew it was about to get real. While walking through a sea of people, I saw runners getting ready. Some were stretching, some taking off their clothing layers and others going to the porta-potties for their last relief. I’m a nervous bathroom goer, so I went at least twice.
As we walk through the village of people, there were tons of vendors offering nutritional food and volunteers directing people. I saw tons of racers with their names on their shirts and I realized I didn’t have my name visible anywhere. Experienced racers had told me to put my name on my shirt, so spectators can cheer me on. I found a medical tent that has a red sharpie. So I had Anne write “Elisa” across my chest. I’m so glad I did this, because without it my race experience wouldn’t have been the same.
Now I’m feeling pumped and my energy was on an all time high! Double checking my nutrition and gear to make sure I have everything in place. Hundreds of us are ready to go!
There were lots of nervous chatter, energetic music and announcements on wave starts. They finally called out our wave start to get ready. “Wave 4 Corral E are you ready?” Here I am screaming my lungs out “woohoo!” Then I hear the gunshot “BOOM”! Started to walk towards the start line. It took me 4 minutes (yes it was that many people ahead of me) to cross the start line.
1 Mile – Staten Island
I started with a very light 12:30 minute/mile jog, getting my stride. We were on the start of the bridge and runners were yelling with excitement. Some were standing on the barriers in the middle of the bridge to take pictures. I didn’t have time for that. I needed to meet my sub 5 hour goal, so I just kept going.
I chose not to listen to music so I can take it ALL IN. I didn’t care. I want to hear all the spectators cheering for me, the noise, music and excitement.
6 Mile – Brooklyn
Running through Brooklyn was one of the longest sections of the course. I saw DJs, bands, choirs and singers coming out in the rain to support the runners and providing entertainment to the spectators. I’m feeling fantastic here and had a bulk of energy left in me. This is still the beginning.
At this point Anne had to slow down and run her own pace. Now I’m on my own to run my own race. I realized I was getting tired and forgot to eat. I quickly took some Shot Bloks, energy chews that are 100 calories per block. It was my only form of nutrition. Ten minutest later, I was back on track.
I finally saw some familiar faces. Peter, Kinsley and a group of friends were waiting for me at Williamsburg. I was so excited to see all of them. It gave me an extra bolt of energy to go on. My friend Kim also joined me for a one mile run. That mile made it go by so much faster with her.
16 Mile – Manhattan
A wall of noise came coming out of nowhere, as I descend down from the Queensboro Bridge. The most excitement from spectators definitely came from Manhattan. That energy definitely left me feeling good mentally and physically. Seeing my sister and her family holding up a giant pink sign saying “go ah-yee! (go Auntie!)”, made it even better. I was very touched they came to support me, while standing in the rain.
20 Mile – The Bronx
Checking my watch from time to time on my pace, which is about 11 minute/mile. I’m feeling a little tired but trying to keep up my pace. There are slight sharp pain in my knees and the back aches are starting to bother me. However, it didn’t stop me, because every time I needed more energy, I’d run on the side to hear the cheers of my name. I felt like a celebrity, everyone knew my name. It gave me a recharge of energy to carry on.
24 Mile – Central Park. Almost there.
As all the runners make their way inside the park, I’m finally feeling exhausted and tired. At this time, everything was a blur. I knew it was mind over matter, but the last 2.2 miles felt like eternity. I can’t even hear the people screaming my name. But I know I can’t stop. All I wanted is to get it done!
The last 600 yards had an incline and it was brutal. My quads hated it and so did the rest of my body. Then I hear this loud cheer from Peter, Kinsley and my parents from the bleachers right by the finish line. I just wanted to hug them, but Peter yells “finish and get it under 5 hours”. So I ran as hard as I could!
26.2 Mile – The Finish Line!
I crushed it! I beat my goal by 2 minutes. As tired as I was at the finish line, the range of emotions from feeling excitement, pride, exhaustion, adrenaline and pure joy came over me with tears running down my face. The time, hard work and dedication I’ve put in, finally paid off. Giving up was never the answer. I knew I had to push through and came here to FINISH. So I did!
Accomplishing something that’s bigger than you, is like being on top of the world. If you asked me 10 years ago to run a marathon, I would look at you with crazy eyes. But now that I’ve done it, I truly believe I can do anything!
The best part is I ran it in my hometown with family and friends cheering for me from near and far. I felt the exuberance of support from everyone and how proud they are. New York City will always be home. I’m grateful I got to run my first, may not be my last marathon, with my city.
With the support of Peter, family, friends and coworkers, I was able to complete this bucket list. Extra special thanks to my husband who’s been my biggest cheerleader and coach, taking the time to train me mentally and physically. It was not just my effort, it was ours. Thank you love!
Hey, if a little girl from New York City, Chinatown can run a marathon, anyone can!