RACE REPORT: 2018 Baltimore Marathon

I’ve been slightly avoiding writing this race report because I don’t want to accept the fact that it’s over. It’s also been quite some time since I’ve written a race report and I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to write one.

Nonetheless, here it goes.


Since running the Baltimore Marathon last Saturday, October 20th 2018, I’ve been on an extended runner’s high from this race, which is something that I haven’t felt in a very long time. However, I do have to accept the fact that it’s over and now, I can finally relax, recover, and reboot for the next one.

If you haven’t read my race report from Marine Corps Marathon, which is the last full-marathon I ran in 2016, then you’ll know that this race basically ended up being a disaster. I was well-trained and essentially followed the same plan that I followed for Baltimore Marathon, but what caused Marine Corps Marathon to be a disaster came down to pure lack of pre-race preparation. 

I didn’t plan or properly execute travel well for Marine Corps, which snowballed into me breaking the cardinal rule marathon training, which is,

“Don’t try anything new”

Lo and behold, I learned from my mistakes in preparation for Baltimore Marathon and I made it a point to be as articulate about race weekend planning as possible.


I purchased my Amtrak tickets from New York Penn Station to Baltimore Penn Station well in advance (a little over a month in advance) which made it easier to find cheap tickets.

(*Note: When planning ANY type of travel, always get your tickets for transportation FIRST. Then, plan everything else afterwards. Making sure that your travel arrangements are solidified is probably one of the most important things, followed by lodging.)

Since the race fell on a Saturday as opposed to a Sunday, I planned to arrive in Baltimore early Friday afternoon so that I gave myself enough time to settle into my hotel, go to the marathon expo, and do a bit of sight-seeing. I also gave my work sufficient notice that I was taking that Friday off.


I arrived in Baltimore around noon on Friday with my sister. We dropped our belongings off at the hotel which was only a ten-minute walk from the expo, then headed straight to the expo.

The first thing that I was able to do was pick up my race bib. Immediately after, there was an area with a backdrop for photos (And of course, we took photos).

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We didn’t stick around too long, as most of the vendors were based in Baltimore which meant a lot of the prizes would likely have to be claimed in Baltimore. I did however purchase a mug that was featured on the virtual race bag website, which the event did a great job of promoting via email (And it clearly worked because I ended up buying something).

One of the main things that I loved about the expo was getting to meet the marathon pacers before the race. I met one of the 4-hour pace group leaders who gave me some great info on when to be at the start line along with an informative write-up on marathon tips as well as a short bio for every pace group leader who was running.


After leaving the expo, we ate lunch nearby, got manicures (so that I could truly relax before the race), and then explored other parts of Baltimore. Fell’s Point was my favorite area because it was right near the water, had a ton of restaurant and bar options, and the cobble stone streets made it feel homey and eclectic.

Once dinner-time came around, I stuck to a traditional “carbo-load” meal and went with Italian. We ate in Little Italy at a place called Germano’s which had authentic Italian and the best bread that I’ve had in a really long time.

From there, my day was done. I had already laid my clothes out along with everything else I needed to get ready in the morning. I was in bed by 11PM and ready for my 6AM alarm the next morning.


In the morning, I left my hotel around 6:45AM with my sister and my boyfriend who were seeing me off at the start line. The marathon race info said to arrive 90 minutes prior to the start time of the race, which was 8AM, but this was factoring in time for checking bags.

Fortunately, I wasn’t checking bags and after talking to the marathon pacers at the expo, they assured me that it was okay to arrive 40-45 minutes prior to the start.

Once I arrived at the start line, I headed straight for the restrooms which were conveniently located inside the Oriole’s stadium. This was a nice surprise and huge perk since everyone is so used to disgusting portable toilets.

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Afterwards, I went straight to finding the 4-hour pace group. Once I found them, I met every single pace group leader as well as the other runners who were either trying to run a 4-hour marathon or break 4 hours.


Once the gun went off, the sun had already rose and it was light outside. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for race day. It was in the high 50’s and slightly overcast.

I hadn’t really studied the marathon course too much because I kind of wanted to be surprised. Before the race, I had reached out to a friend from high school, who was the only person I knew who actually ran this marathon, and she reassured me that it was a great course which went through some great neighborhoods and had a lot of community support along the way.

The first half of the marathon was really pleasant. The start line was near the convention center, where the expo was held, located in Downton Baltimore. From there, we made our way up to Johns Hopkins University, then ran through the Baltimore Zoo where there were some animals being held by the zookeepers whom were cheering us on.

The squeeze through the Zoo was a bit narrow, but since it was a smaller marathon, everyone was courteous enough to make room for each other.

As we made our way to the half-marathon mark, miles 9-12 had a turnaround point where we had to loop back from where we came from. Afterwards, our pace group leaders gave us a heads up that we would soon be joined with the half-marathon runners around mile 16.

This threw me for a loop.

To give some background, not only were people running marathon on their own, but there were also runners who were on 4-people relay teams to run the marathon distance, and then, eventually the half-marathon runners would merge with us. It was a lot to work around.

This was probably the part that made it the most difficult to stick with my pace group. Given the number of people who were running different distances, it became a bit crowded at certain points.

I managed to find my way back to my pace group through the half-marathon merge and I was able to stay with them as we ran around the lake, which was located near miles 20-22. Then, that’s where the rolling hills started taking place.


From what I had heard from my high school friend who ran the race, the course was relatively flat, but based on the second half of the course, I found that it most certainly was not.

I started losing my pace group  after mile 22 and had slowed down significantly during miles 23-25. Step by step, they started getting further and further away and that’s when I started losing hope of breaking 4 hours.

I pushed through the last 1.2 miles with everything I had left, which resulted in negative splits, but I ended up missing a sub 4-hour marathon by less than two minutes.

My official time was 4:01:54.

I later found out that the 4 hour pace group finished in a time of 3:59. Though I was disappointed to not break 4 hours, I did however come out with a 6 minute PR! And this was mainly what I came to do.

I followed a solid training plan, was both physically and mentally prepared for the marathon, and ended up breaking a 5-year-old marathon PR.

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This marathon will definitely go down in the books as one of my best races (so far). It has also taught me a lot about how to really prepare for marathons the right way.

The fact of the matter is that marathon training takes time.

You have to stick to a solid plan, fuel your body properly, sacrifice a bit of your social life, and most of all, you have to put in the work. It is not a race to be taken lightly and that is what makes it so humbling.

The time and dedication that I had put into this race was exactly what made it as memorable and successful as it was. And now, I can learn from this, improve on it, and continue to better myself for future races.

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27

Not only is today Thanksgiving, but it also so happens to be my birthday. I’ve been overseeing this WordPress blog for nearly five years now. That’s five years of memories, five years of storytelling.

When I look back at the things that I’ve written about, I’m always surprised at how quickly it takes me back to that moment. I think that’s why I love writing so much. It’s one of the closest things you can get to an actual time machine. Photographs and videos may serve the same purpose, but with writing, it’s your own words; your own version of a story that you are telling to yourself and to other people.

This year, and this month in particular, in addition to my five years of WordPress writing, I also celebrate five years of living in New York City. It’s especially meaningful to me because I’ve found this past year to be the most transformative.

When I was in college, I remember watching a documentary in a Psychology class about a study where these Psychologists chose a select group of children and followed up with them every seven years until adulthood in order to examine how much they have changed over time. In science, and in psychology, it’s theorized that we as humans drastically develop every seven years. If that’s true, then I sure am interested to see who I become in my next wave of development.

As I celebrate this five-year milestone, this half decade of living in this city, I also acknowledge how far I’ve come and how much I have changed (and not changed). As of now, there are two things that have drastically changed, but also somehow stayed the same. These things are my job and my boyfriend.

I recently started a new job at the first company that I ever worked for upon graduating college and moving into the city. Similarly, about a year ago, I got back together with the first person that I ever fell in love with.

It’s a curious thing to go back to something of which you are already familiar, yet have a completely different experience.

There’s a quote that I really admire. It goes,

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

In five years, I’ve experienced many things, I’ve met many people, lived in different apartments, had many jobs, encountered great joy and great sadness. And through all this, I have still come back to where I started.

It’s amazing that despite everything that has happened, through so much change, I am inherently the same. Going back to that study that I watched in college, maybe it’s not necessarily the person I am that has changed, but instead, the way I look at life. Maybe, it’s less about the actual changes and more about the maturity through all of it.

Attention

As we’re approximately three-quarters of the way through 2017, I’m already getting ahead of myself by looking back at what has happened so far in this past year.

I think that most of us can agree that 2017 has been quite an eventful year to say that least (I’m primarily referencing the United States). Even today is a noteworthy one in history, being that it’s the first time in twenty years where North America is able to witness the Solar Eclipse.

Though I refrain from individually listing events one-by-one, I will say that it’s been a huge eye-opener in many ways.

Looking in on my own personal life, I’m solely comparing 2017 to 2016 and I already see such significant differences.

This is the first time in a while where I’ve had a steady enough year that I didn’t have to put 100% focus on myself, but rather, I was able to focus on other people instead.

Last year, I had started a new job and moved into a new apartment. All of my energy was honed in on how to settle in at work and at home. I was able to be a little more selfish than usual. I was in year of grounding.

Last year, I didn’t have much time to pay attention to what was happening with the people in my life. And fortunate enough, it was a year where I didn’t really have to.

This year, now that my life is steady and I’m firmly rooted at home, at work, and even in my relationship, I can shift the attention towards the people and things in my life that actually need my full attention.

Two years ago, I had written about how one of my best friends was getting married. Well, this year, another one of my best friends is getting married and a decent amount of my time has been put aside towards making sure that my undivided attention was being placed on the events leading up to the big day.

In addition to that, I can also point out other major milestones my friends’ lives.

One friend gave birth to her first child, another friend is expecting her first child, two friends moved across the globe, another friend experienced the loss of a loved one, and the list goes on.

For me, I fell in love all over again.

It’s amazing the things that you can celebrate for others when you’re life doesn’t revolve around yourself.

It seems as though the years that I provide the least amount of time to others is when I am able to provide the most time to myself. Similarly, the years that I can provide the most amount of time to others is when I provide the least time to myself.

I’m thankful that I am finally grounded and able to be present for other people’s big moments. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to miss anything.

It’s funny how when we shift the focus away from ourselves, we’re able to witness other people’s joy, hurt, struggles, or big moments. When we take the attention off of ourselves, we’re able to give it to others. When we can’t give it to others, we need it for ourselves.

It always balances out and that’s the beauty of life. It’s one big balancing act.

Long Strides

For someone who was, and still is, as impatient as me, I often find myself waiting. I find myself waiting for things to happen as if I already know something will happen soon. It’s like I’m always anticipating the next move.

But the thing about me is that sometimes, I don’t wait long enough. I wait just long enough until I can’t wait any longer and then I make my move. The irony is that my move usually happens just before a move is made by some other force of nature. It’s like I’m taking a half-step too soon or coming in a beat too early.

And that is my biggest downfall.

I wait, but speak to soon. I wait, but act too soon. I wait, but react too soon. I think it’s because I’m afraid that if I don’t, then nothing will happen.

I think it’s because I don’t trust that the stars will align as they rightfully should. But, as I have learned in the past, the stars have never let me down.

The biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life were due to my own impatience. My own pre-emptive actions. My unwillingness to wait just a little longer for a breakthrough. But lo and behold, that breakthrough always happen. I just end up taking a step forward and two steps back in the process.

When I look back at the past five years since I’ve graduated college, I feel as though I’ve come a long way, but still haven’t gone very far. And I know that I still have a long way to go, but that’s where my impatience kicks in. And I know that this continuous solo dance of one step forward and two steps back will just tire me in the long run.

One of my greatest fears is not fulfilling myself with the life that I dream of. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Actually, I know that I’m not alone in that.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It seems like such a silly thing to be afraid of. But if you think about it, it really is a bit scary and slightly overwhelming to think that we are actually capable of the things that we set our mind to. It all just depends on our willingness to do what it takes to get there.

For me, I always thought that my preemptive actions were shortcuts, but they’re really detours. And the times where I have found the most peace and clarity was when I was able to really sit and think about what I wanted in life. Though I’m still figuring it out, the picture is much clearer now. I’ve learned that by taking fewer short quick steps, I’ve been able to take longer strides.

A Year in a Life

Not everyone is big on birthdays. Some people like to go all out, invite a hundred friends, drink until they can’t remember anything, and celebrate like it’s their last.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Frankly, I used to do the same. But on the flip side of things, when it comes down acknowledging to yourself that another year of life has passed, I tend to also enjoy being alone to really think about what I’ve accomplished in that past year of life.

My birthday isn’t for another 3 days, but this exact day last year in particular was of extreme significance to me.

A year ago today was one of my biggest failures to-date. I’d say that it was a turning point in my life. (Certainly not my last and most certainly one of many to come in the future, or so I hope.)

A year ago, I was let go from a job for the first time in my life. I never thought I’d have to experience that. At the moment, it really defined me and I’m grateful for it.

After that failure, the things that I thought about myself could have been the end of me, it could have been the end of my future successes.

But I’m glad that it wasn’t.

Failure is a funny thing. Depending on how you receive it, it can define you for the rest of your life. It can throw you off course, shape your perception of yourself, it can bury you. But you don’t have to let it.

Failure and rejection makes you feel like you’re not good enough, like you’re not worthy. But at the same time, it can empower you. It can make you strive to be better and you can come back ten times stronger after accepting and overcoming that failure.

No matter how big or small the situation, whether it’s a failure in school, in a relationship, at a job, an apartment or house you were trying to get, whatever it may be, you’ll always gain something out of losing.

I never thought I’d end up where I am now. Had I rolled over and called it quits, I’d probably be in a much different place. A much unhappier place.

You may not recognize an opportunity when it’s actually happening, but you will. I promise you will. Because something good always happens amidst failure. You just have to push through the bad until you get there.

Setback

My personality, my profession, my mentality towards life highly revolves around my perspective on time and planning. I get easily fixated, and even somewhat obsessive, when it comes to making sure that I’m prepared to meet a certain goal or deadline. And for the most part, it works out pretty well. But, then there comes the days when things don’t go according to plan and life gets in the way.

I’m in the process of training for my third full marathon which is taking place in a nearly a month. Throughout my training, I always anticipate running the amount of miles that are scheduled for each week. However, it doesn’t always happen that I reach the exact number that I set my mind to which, naturally, upsets me a great deal.

With each race that I prepare for and each race that I complete, I get slightly better at managing my expectations and getting more familiar with the way that I train. I’m learning how to handle my schedule and accommodate for days that I didn’t run. I’m learning how to be more flexible. And from this, I’ve become a lot less stressed or worried about the outcome because honestly, when it comes down to it, anything can happen in the 26.2 miles during the race.

I’m writing this in lieu of a recent injury that I experienced.

About two weeks ago, I injured my foot which cost me 12 whole days of running which means 12  whole days of being behind in my training plan.

I ran for the first time in 12 days today and to my surprise, it felt great. If anything, the rest actually helped a tremendous amount. It helped me to think, to re-strategize, and even just take a break from obsessing about my marathon for a short period of time.

It always seems to me that the universe somehow always finds a way to give me rest when I need it most. I never ask for it, but I do need it.

Though not everyone may agree with my approach, that’s completely fine. But I’ve found that rest can be extremely rewarding and extremely beneficial to both the mind and the body.

Sometimes, we spend so much time running around, chasing things, and staying busy that we don’t slow down to give us the peace and relaxation that we actually need. Whether it’s training for a race, dating, working, or just constantly being on the move, we need rest.

After all, we’re only human.

RACE REPORT: 2016 NYRR 5th Avenue Mile

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a race report.

Frankly, up until this year, I have been a little out of the game when it comes to determinedly training for a race. Now that I think about it, I’ve completely neglected to write a race report for my most recent race, the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon.

In any case, this blog post will serve solely to recap the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, which I recently ran this past Saturday, September 3rd 2016.

After having been through a wave of changes from the Fall of 2015 up until now, I was eager, more than ever, to get back into a race training mentality.

For this Fall, I signed up for the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, NYRR Bronx 10-Mile, and the Marine Corps Marathon. So far, one down, two to go.

The last marathon that I had run was the 2014 New York City Marathon in which I completely fell apart and regard as possibly the worst race of my entire life. This race taught me one valuable lesson: You get what you give. 

After the 2014 New York City Marathon, I told myself that I would never under-train or even run a race that I knew I wasn’t prepared for.

I used to think that squeaking by based on pure will and determination was enough to help me succeed – The truth is that unfortunately, it’s not.

I’m drifting off topic – Now, let’s back to what I really wanted to recap

I’m not too sure why I even signed up for a 1-mile race in the first place. The last time that I ran a timed 1-mile race was during spring track of my senior year of high school. I chose this race mainly because:

  1. I had nothing better to do on Labor Day weekend
  2. I heard good things about this race and figured I’d see how fast I can still run

I had absolutely no expectations or goals in regards to time. I had no idea where I was in terms of speed. I had not even done a single speed workout since I’ve started training for the Marathon Corps Marathon. Ultimately, I had nothing to lose with this race.

On Friday night, the night before the race, I picked out my race outfit, did yoga, and was asleep before 10PM.

Saturday morning, I woke up around 6AM, ate a light breakfast, did yoga (again), changed into my race outfit, and departed for the race. I showed up well over an hour prior to my start time and had a decent amount of time to warm up.

When it came time to finally line up, all that was going through my head was “run as fast as you feel.” And just like that, the race had started.

Short distance races don’t give you enough time to think. All you can do is just go.

So, I started off strong, kept a steady pace, and by the time I realized that I had more in the tank, the race was over.

I crossed the line in a finish time of 6:08, shocked that I was even able to get that close to 6 minutes. After replaying the race in my mind, I knew I could have gone faster, but my body just didn’t know how to do it. It didn’t know how to incorporate “the kick” at the end. I replayed it over and over again in my mind, thinking of how else it could have gone until I finally came to terms with the fact that I had not trained for this distance. 

My mind has been set on Marine Corps Marathon since the minute I signed up in June and I didn’t take into account the importance of speed training.

When that realization came to mind, I thought back to my performance at the 2014 New York City Marathon again and I just kept thinking, ‘You get what you give.’

In race training, in relationships, in work, in life, it’s always the same concept: You get what you give.

The amount of time and effort that you put into anything you do will eventually reveal itself in the end.

Refresh

I was introduced to a new friend at church this past Sunday who was visiting from another country. I learned that it was his first time visiting New York City – and the United States in general – so I ended up giving him a mini tour. Yesterday, we walked throughout the streets of Lower Manhattan, trekking from the Meatpacking District to Union Square.

It was one of those unexpected, special New York City nights.

Whenever I encounter someone who is visiting New York City for the first time, I’m elated at the chance of being able to show them how spectacular I think this city it. Because for me, it truly is a city that I am constantly in awe of.

After living here for nearly four years, I’m still discovering new people and new places every single day.

I recently moved to a new apartment outside of Manhattan nearly three weeks ago. It’s my first time living in a new borough and at first, I was slightly devastated to not be able to say, “I live in Manhattan.”

After guiding my new friend throughout Lower Manhattan, I realized how refreshing it is to look at New York City through a different lens; through someone else’s eyes.

Sometimes, if you’ve been in the same place for long enough, you become jaded, desensitized, and un-phased by your surroundings. It often happens to people in a city as large and ever-changing as New York.

New Yorkers are somewhat known for their ability to block out the loud noises, ignore the distractions, and go about their daily lives almost as if they never blinked; as if their eyes were never even open to begin with.

Similar to a young child who is excited about learning something new, it often feels that way for me when I’m talking about New York. I’m overjoyed for someone to experience something the same way I’ve experienced it – in awe.

The thing about New York City is that your experience is completely dependent on how you want to experience it. You can choose to see everything or choose to see nothing. The same goes for your life. And for me, I want to see it all.

Overcome

I used to think that you could only really have something meaningful to write if you went through some kind of trial or tragedy. I used to think that the best writing came from pain and struggle. Some of the songs, books, poems that truly impacted me were written in sadness (or so I interpreted it).

It’s been a while since I’ve been genuinely happy. And I can say, now, that I actually am – which is such a relief.

I realize, now, that great creations do not come solely from hardships. Instead, there are products of overcoming and overpowering those hardships.

It’s funny how the things you consume change as you change.

Your mental state affects how you treat your body, the kind of music you listen to, the people you surround yourself with, even the activities you participate in.

It’s funny how we work sometimes – When we’re sad, we sometimes want to expand on that sadness and continue on that path. The act of “self-destruction” or so it’s called.

But on the lateral side of that, we can amplify positive emotions as well – When we’re happy, we want to keep being happy. We couldn’t imagine not feeling good or not feeling alive.

In life, things happen and we have to deal with those things. It may take time, but eventually, we do have to move on so that, eventually, we can be okay again. And when that time comes, you couldn’t be more relieved that you got through it and found that happy place.

It Starts and Ends With You

Over the past few years, and more specifically the past few months, I’ve come to learn that no one can stop you from feeling happy or sad except for yourself. Everything you feel and whether or not you allow things to get to you is completely within your control.

This is not to say that we should never feel the feelings that we feel, but instead, realize that we can ultimately choose how we react to the things that life throws our way and what we are going to do about it.

In life, you have two options: Do or do not. 

It seems silly to say, but it really is that simple.

In the past few months, I’ve encountered obstacles that, at first, I wasn’t completely sure I could overcome. From an outsider’s perspective, some would say, “It could have always been worse.” And its true. It could have been worse, but I thank God that it wasn’t.

Everything that happens to you, whether good or bad, affects your life. The challenge is how we’re going to deal with it.

We all have our own problems to deal with. Some may be bigger than others. But when bad things happen, it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let it take you down or rise above.

It’s hard not to get discouraged or upset when things don’t go the way we expected them to. It may seem impossible to push through whatever happens in your past. But, at the end of the day, it starts and ends with you.

Only you can decide when you’re ready to stop feeling sad or sorry for yourself. Only you can decide when you’re done being miserable. Only you can decide when you’re ready to move on. It starts and ends with you.