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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RACE REPORT: 2018 United Airlines NYC Half

This past Sunday, March 18th 2018, I ran the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon. The last double-digit race that I ran was the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon, so it’s been some time since my legs have felt the way that they do right now. In all honesty, I was kind of dreading it at first.

I entered the lottery to run this race back in the Fall and had almost completely forgotten about it. When it came down to when they were going to draw the lottery, my initial intentions were to revoke my entry last minute. However, fate had a different plan and I didn’t take my name out of the drawing. Ultimately, my name was chosen.

When I first signed up for this race, I knew that I was in need of getting back out there and running again. Marine Corps Marathon ended up being a huge disappoint for me and I was devastated, as any marathon runner would be, after the months of long, hard training that I had put it. Often times, I wonder why I even put myself through it, but after every race, I remember why. It’s because these races humble you.

My experience at the NYC Half was pretty incredible, which I’m very relieved to say. I began “officially” training in mid-December which gave me about three months until the race. Like all my other races, I [loosely] used the Hal Higdon Intermediate 1 training program, because it always fits my schedule the best.

In terms of my longest distance run, I had only gotten up to 10 miles, which was just 2 miles shy of what I should have really done. And what ended up happening was that I crammed miles into the last few weeks I had left, then just let my body do the work once it was officially race time. I ended up paying for it at the end.

I hadn’t done any formal hill training, speed work, or strength training at all. I didn’t a gym membership either, which is a first for me. As one would suspect, this essentially ended up being my downfall.

I had hoped for a PR (personal record), but I knew in my head (and my heart) that this was not going to happen. As they say, you reap what you sow and I knew that I hadn’t sewn much during my training.

The course was 100% brand new from previous years, which I was a little upset about, but I ended up absolutely loving it. It started near Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, went over the Manhattan bridge, through Lower Manhattan, up into Midtown, through Times Square, and finishing right in Central Park. The weather was below freezing at a temperature of 28 degrees fahrenheit. Luckily, the sun was shining throughout, with zero precipitation.

Typically, I loathe running in the cold. In the Winter time, I get extremely lazy, have no motivation for running or working out in general, and basically hibernate until Spring. But I knew that I needed to break this cycle, which is why I chose this race in the first place.

I finished in a time of 1:50:33, which is an average of 8:26 per mile. Overall, I was quite satisfied with my time, especially with having the most minimalistic training. The New York City views were beautiful and I had both my boyfriend and sister cheering for me at mile 8, right in the heart of Times Square.

Though my legs are definitely on the sore side, it was completely worth it. It restored my runner’s high and left me wanting more — A feeling that I had really missed.

I would recommend this race without hesitation.

5 factors to consider when signing up for a marathon

As a former employee of Runner’s World Magazine, I had the privilege of running my very first marathon through the Runner’s World VIP Program (formerly known as “Runner’s World Challenge”). I was able to gain first-hand experience and extensive knowledge on how to properly train for a marathon with the help of my colleagues along with our robust amount of published content within the magazine.

Being that it was my first marathon, I took it very seriously. I made sure to allow myself the proper amount of time for training as well as dedicating myself to following a specific marathon training program (In this case, it was Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 Marathon Training Program)

Although I had no expectation for a specific goal time, I did want to ensure that I gave it my all and was as prepared as I could be.

I finished in a time of 4 hours and 7 seconds, with a decent amount of energy left over afterwards. In hindsight, now knowing that I was well-prepared enough, I wish I had aimed for a time of under 4 hours, but that’s besides the point.

After running Big Sur Marathon, I had never felt more accomplished in my life. I had assumed that since I had one marathon in the bag, every marathon following this one would be a piece of cake. Little did I know, that’s completely untrue.

Just because you ran one doesn’t mean it will get easier or that it will be a similar experience for your next. Just like any job or any relationship, you never have the same experience twice. There are many factors that go into running a great race. One thing is for sure – Never lessen your efforts or level of integrity.

Here are some of the major factors that can make or break your marathon experience:

  1. The Course. Some people don’t like to research the course beforehand. I personally think that’s ridiculous. Knowing the course can play a huge role in how you train. Knowing whether or not it’s hilly and knowing where the hills are located can help you both physically and mentally. Being prepared for running up or downhill will affect performance and fatigue in the long run (no pun intended) based on your training. Other factors in the course include altitude, scenery, and terrain.
    • Altitude falls under the “hilly or not” bucket. Running a race in Colorado versus New York are two completely different experiences because of the altitude levels, which ultimately affects your breathing.
    • Scenery can psychologically affect your performance. Visually stimulating courses may or may not improve your running pace, depending on how affected you are by your surroundings. If you want to see more trees, sign up for a race in a more remote location. If you want to see more buildings, sign up for a race in a larger city.
    • Terrain is in reference to pavement versus dirt. Depending on where you primarily train, your legs, and more specifically your knees, can be severely impacted by the texture of the course. Pavement tends to put more strain on your joints as opposed to dirt trails.
  2. The Crowd. Similar to the way people are affected by running with music, running a marathon that has great crowds can aid performance. One of the things that I loved most about running the New York City Marathon was amount of support you received from the local communities as you are running through the different boroughs and neighborhoods.
  3. The Training Plan. Not all training plan works for everyone. When it comes to running, everyone has different levels of expertise and physical fitness. Some training programs cater specifically to elite runners, while others cater to beginners. In addition, people also have such varying schedules throughout the week that not every program fits their daily routine. However, when it comes to marathon training, you do have to be flexible as well as dedicated. Skipping out on long runs or refraining from speed workouts can really hinder performance.
  4. The Season. In the United States, primary marathon season takes place in the Fall. Most of the major big-city marathons occur between September and November (and they fill up fast, so make sure you sign up early!). Fall in the United States can be wildly unpredictable. Temperatures tend to fluctuate and so do the chances of precipitation, high-wind factor, and humidity. If you are running a race in the Fall, be cognizant of the fact that a majority of your training takes place in the Summer, so the temperatures will not be nearly the same. You also must consider the chances of rain, high winds, and high humidity. Be properly dressed and well-hydrated.
  5. Size of the race. The size of a marathon can widely vary from a range of a couple hundred to thousands among thousands. I’ve run three marathons thus far, which include the Big Sur Marathon, New York City Marathon, and Marine Corps Marathon. Of the three, New York City and Marine Corps were very large races that took place in larger cities, with participants upwards of 30,000+ runners. The Big Sur Marathon, on the other hand, only had approximately 6,000+ runners. The size of the race can affect your performance depending on your preference of running alongside more people or fewer people.

From my personal experience, the best marathon I have run still remains the Big Sur Marathon, my first one. And this is because of the fact that I was so adamant about training.

So my advice is this – You get what you give.

The amount of preparation you set aside will not be in vain. Give it everything you have and it will come through in the end.

A Reason to Run

One of the things that I find most incredible about being a runner is the unwavering support that comes from the running community. Through the years, it’s never ceased to amaze me of how much the running community truly gives back.

As a former employee of Runner’s World Magazine, I’ve had the honor of being directly involved with many large races, such as the New York City Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Big Sur Marathon, and many more, where I’ve had the pleasure of meeting dozens upon dozens of people who have a story to tell behind the reasons why they run.

For me personally, it’s always been something that I did just for myself, but when I’ve spoken to many others, it’s always been about so much more. It’s for a cause.

Aside from working at Runner’s World, I’ve also been a runner for nearly my entire life. I’ve ran enough 5K’s to lose count and eventually made my way up to long-distance races such as as half-marathons and full-marathons. It was only recently that I realized how many people ran for causes instead of just for fun. Those causes have been a pivotal driving force in the fruition of the thousands of non-profit organizations and non-profit races that are in existence today.

In complete honesty, running (especially long distance running) is not for the faint of heart. It’s a love-hate relationship that people often try to shy away from. Not everyone enjoys it or is motivated by the act of running alone, which is why running for a cause is a much more compelling reason to start.

I’ve had many friends and colleagues ask me suggestions for races to sign up for and I can recommend many that I’ve run, but I’ve always found that it’s more meaningful to sign up for races that actually hold a place close to your heart.

At the end of the day, after the miles are completed and you’ve proven to yourself that you can do it, you can pat yourself on the back and move on with your life. But knowing that you’ve ran those miles to affect change, to make a difference – That is something to show for.

And that is why I’d encourage anyone to become involved in running for a reason.

With Spring underway and half-marathon and marathon training right around the corner for the Fall season, try to see if you can find it in yourself to run for something that matters; or even just try to get more involved with a non-profit that means something to you.

For more ways to get involved, check out websites like Eventbrite.com for opportunities. They have great resources for fundraising.

RACE REPORT: 2016 Marine Corps Marathon

This past Sunday, I ran the 41st annual Marine Corps Marathon which took course through our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this year, after running the Brooklyn Half Marathon back in May, I had my sights set on completing a full marathon by the end of 2016.

I had a devastating experience after running the 2014 New York City Marathon and had taken a bit of a break from training for any races up until this year.

It felt good to be back in a regular running routine and have that feeling of working towards an end goal.

Initially, I had no idea what marathon I would end up running. It wasn’t until June that fate stepped in and a friend was looking to transfer her Marine Corps Marathon bib to someone. The minute that I found out, I immediately reached out to her and before I knew it, I was signed up for it.

I had almost forgotten what it was like to train for a marathon. The last time that I was actually following a legitimate training plan and taking it seriously was when I ran the 2013 Big Sur Marathon (which is my marathon PR to this day.)

When I began training for the Marine Corps Marathon, I told myself that I really had to get back into race mentality – that I had to take it seriously instead of just “winging it.” I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Marathon Training plan, which is what I typically have used in the past. It’s straightforward and easy to follow.

After 4 months of training, and a few weeks of setback due to a foot injury, I felt that I was ready as I could be. When it came to travel arrangements, however, not so much.

I booked my hotel in Alexandria, VA which was conveniently located near both the race expo, start line, and finish line. I booked my flight very close to the weekend leading up to the race. In that time, train prices from New York to DC had already drastically gone up, and the bus just didn’t seem like an appealing option.

My sister and I landed late Saturday afternoon after already experiencing some flight delays. We went straight from the airport to the expo and arrived there only half an hour before the expo closed. I picked up my race bib and hardly had time to scan the exhibitor booths. When we left, we were starving after not eating lunch, so we went right to our hotel and ended up ordering Dominos (Not the wisest decision I’ve ever made. More on that to come)

That night, I laid out my race clothes, did yoga, and just tried to relax and mentally prepare for what I wanted to accomplish the next day.

I woke up at 5AM the next morning with a ton of energy and pre-race jitters. It hadn’t officially hit me that I was running a 26.2 mile race until that morning.

The hotel shuttle transported us near the start line, where we ended up walking nearly a mile to get to.

By the time we arrived, the sun was starting to rise and so were the temperatures. It was forecasted to reach near 80 degrees fahrenheit that day and surely, it did.

The race took off around 8AM.

I took the first 5K of the race very slow, knowing not to make the mistake of starting too quick too soon. I was feeling good when I started, but stopped at mile 6 to use the restroom. From that point, I already knew that I’d be behind and would have to make up for it later on. Stopping for the restroom took about 10-15 minutes off my time, so I tried to pick up the pace.

I ended up crossing the 13.1-mile mark in a time of 2:04, which I was fairly pleased (and surprised) about.

With half of the race behind me, I continued to feel good from miles 14-19. I managed to keep a steady 9:30 minute pace and had planned to really crank up the gears at mile 20.

And then, my worst fear happened.

I hit a wall at mile 21, was having stomach issues, and made the heart-breaking decision to stop, stretch, and walk a bit (which I had told myself I wouldn’t do). From there, it was a long and grueling 5.2 miles of alternating between running and walking.

At that point, I had to accept the fact that I was not going to make my goal time of finishing near or under 4 hours.

I did finish strong, using everything that I had left in the tank to stride across the finish line with a time of 4:38:44. I wasn’t ecstatic, but I wasn’t nearly as devastated as I was after the New York City Marathon.

Though I didn’t finish near my goal time, I did learn many lessons, which I’d like to pass along. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone reading.

  1. Give yourself an extra month to train just in case something happens along the way such as an injury or a cold
  2. Pick a training plan and stick to it
  3. Do NOT order fast food (especially with cheese or dairy in it) the night prior, or even 2 nights prior, to your race. Don’t even order anything out of your normal diet. The last thing you want is an upset stomach.
  4. Make sure your bowels are empty before the race
  5. Get to the expo early. If you can’t make it a day before, then try to make sure you go a few hours before it closes. It’s not worth it to rush or be stressed about whether or not you’ll get there in time
  6. Try as hard as you can to reach 20 miles for your furthest long run
  7. Look at the course map and elevation early on so that you know what to train for
  8. Incorporate speed training
  9. Even if it’s a flat course, incorporate some hill training just in case there are even the slightest of inclines
  10. Make sure to stretch A TON in the days after the race 
  11. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t the time you were hoping for. Even finishing a marathon is a huge accomplishment in itself

12 Days Until Marine Corps Marathon

I’m only 12 days away from running Marine Corps Marathon – My third marathon in the books for me.

I ran my last long run of my marathon training this past Sunday and felt quite relieved to have not been as slow or as sore as I anticipated.

In the past, I’ve always underestimated the difficulty and dedication that comes with running a 26.2-mile race.

It definitely isn’t easy.

Yet, little by little, I’m getting better with each training period because I’m understanding the weight of the consequences that come with being unprepared for a race of this distance.

Two years ago, I ran the worst race of my life – The New York City Marathon. What was supposed to be a magical and exciting race ended up being one of the most awful experiences of my life. It’s not that the race itself wasn’t magical or exciting, it was my performance in running it that made it the disaster that it was.

The reason why I’m so intrigued and so passionate about training for a race is because it truly tests a person’s character, will, and determination. It sure did test mine. It humbled me.

Running is a love-hate relationship and not everyone loves it.

The reason why I love it is because it forces you to struggle with yourself. And sometimes, the best thing you can do is face that struggle. Running is a solo act. Even with team running events like Cross Country or Track & Field, you still only have yourself. You can’t tap out or have substitute anyone in your place. It’s you, your two feet, and the ground beneath you. And I think that’s something that people always struggle with, even if they love running.

With my marathon coming up right around the corner, I’m looking forward to seeing what this race will put me through; what it will do to me.

Even with the training that I have behind me, there are still those external factors that can make a difference The fun part is seeing how I how I handle it.

RACE REPORT: 2016 NYRR New Balance Bronx 10 Mile

This morning, I ran the NYRR New Balance Bronx 10 Mile race.

This race, for me, was particularly nerve-racking due to the setback that I had with my foot injury a few weeks ago. Somehow, I managed to run one of my best races in years.

I finished 10 miles with a time of 1:19:49. 

Again, I did not feel mentally or physically prepared leading up to it.

To backtrack, my weekend wasn’t off to greatest start. On Friday night, I had a stomach bug and was in bed by 9PM. The following day, I went for a short 2 mile warm up run in the morning, walked around the city all day, then hung out with my sister and a friend at night. When it came time to go to bed, I couldn’t get my head in a pre-race mentality. I ended up tossing and turning for hours and probably didn’t sleep until around 2AM (maybe even 3AM).

A few hours later, it was time to wake up. My first alarm went off at 5AM on the dot.

My sister and I left around 6AM and faced, what could have been, one of the worst journeys to a race that I have ever gone through.

The trains took forever, I had to pee entire time, and we thought we were going to be late.

Fortunately, we arrived with enough time for me to go to the bathroom, warm up, and even calm my nerves.

When the race finally started, my corral moseyed through the start line and we were finally off. The sun was shining and it was perfect race conditions with enough shade from the buildings surrounding to keep everyone from getting overheated.

My first mile was fairly quick and I only sped up from there. It wasn’t until mile 8 that I felt my speed impacting me.

The course was relatively flat with some slight elevation, but not overwhelming. It was my first time running this race and running in this particular part of New York, so I had no idea what to expect (even though they do provide you with the course info ahead of time).

The crowds were great and coming to mile 9 and 10 felt just like running during the New York City Marathon.

My sister was there to cheer me on right at the finish and I held my pace to get under 1:20, which was the unconscious goal that I placed in my head once I knew I was feeling good.

It was an amazing morning and a nice surprise. I honestly loved this race, not only because I was pleased with my performance, but the overall course, crowd, and distance. 10 miles is the perfect distance to know how much you can handle and know how to pace yourself properly. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested at trying their hand at a longer distance race.

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.

RACE REPORT: 2014 New York City Marathon

On Sunday, November 2, 2014, I ran my first New York City Marathon.

I arrived at the starting point in Staten Island, New York near 7AM after having little to no sleep the night prior. The nerves and anxiety kept me awake from 4AM on. I headed to the subway from my sister’s apartment at 4:45AM.  It was still pitch black outside and there wasn’t a soul was to be found anywhere on the streets. Thoughts kept circling in my head to convince myself that I was actually running this race and that there was no backing out now. I arrived at the Sheraton Hotel on 53rd and 7th avenue around 6AM and there was an ocean of runners flooding in and out of the hotel lobby. Right then and there, I finally knew that this was all real.

I met with my former co-workers from Runner’s World and was filled with joy to be on a bus with people I knew. As we were seated to depart for the starting point, I couldn’t stop mentally rehearsing how I wanted to run this marathon. In previous races, I’ve never had an issue with turning my thoughts into actions. However, this race was different. I knew I wasn’t physically prepared, so I had to try to put mind over matter. I was hoping that some spontaneous burst of energy that was stored somewhere in my body would arise and make me run the best race of my life (that was not the case)

My wave was scheduled to start at 10:05AM. It was still only 7:30AM as I was walking around looking for a bathroom to use. I kept thinking to myself, “I wonder how many times I can use the bathroom before I actually start running”

I was under-dressed and freezing cold as I wandered the parking lot near my corral. I was with my former co-worker from Runner’s World as we both searched for the best place to hide from the wind while we were waiting. We found a safe haven inside of a Poland Spring truck and sat on pieces of cardboard boxes with strangers who were also trying to keep themselves warm. It was approaching 9AM when I couldn’t handle waiting anymore. I headed to my corral and waited with the other runners who were just as impatient as me. I’ve never wanted to start running so badly in my life.

As the officials started letting us through the gates of our corrals, all I could think about was how cold my toes were and how I wished I brought gloves or a hat.

We slowly started jogging to the bridge where the race was to begin. My body started warming up from excitement. When the alarm went off for us to start, my mind went blank.

As we ran over the bridge, the wind was blowing so hard that I almost tripped over my own two feet. I tried to remain focused and find my balance. When we entered Brooklyn, I started hearing the distant cheers of neighbors who were all lined up on the sidewalk along the blue tape that created a barrier between the runners and them. As the crowds grew larger and the noise grew louder, I couldn’t help but smile. This was really happening. With each passing mile, I kept looking forward to mile 11 where my sister and best friend were waiting for me. My legs felt great and I was at a perfect pace to run a 4-hour marathon.

When I finally arrived at mile 11, I saw the bright, yellow Powerbar poster that my sister’s roommate made for me. I couldn’t be more ecstatic to see them. I stopped and gave them each a hug and finally felt that spontaneous burst of energy overcome me. From there, I thought “This is cake. I have this in the bag”

Once I hit mile 13, the tables started turning. Sharp pains were running up and down from my feet to my shins to my quads. By mile 14, I felt everything. My legs felt like giant cinder-blocks  and the pain became more intense. I wasn’t familiar with this feeling and I didn’t know what to do. Every step was more difficult than the last. I kept telling myself, “DO NOT WALK. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT WALK”

I walked.

I walked almost every mile from 14 through 26 and I couldn’t be more disappointed. I’ve never walked a race in my life and I couldn’t understand how this happened to me. I began ignoring the cheers of the crowds as I ran through the Bronx and Manhattan. All I wanted was to finish with this race. At one point, I even considered just completely being taken out by a medic. I’ve never felt this amount of pain before.

Then, I thought about how much more disappointed I would be if I didn’t finish the marathon. After such a difficult year, I owed it to myself to earn that medal. Once we finally entered Central Park, less than 2 miles left from the finish line, I saw my sister and best friend at mile 25 and they were still cheering.

I cried to them, “I’ve got nothing left.”

“Yes, you do!” screamed a stranger in the crowd.

In my head, I just thought, “No. I don’t.”

I mustered up every bit of energy I had left to run the remainder of mile 26. As we approached the grandstand, I saw the finish line in sight and tried to speed up the snail-like pace that I was running at. When I crossed the finish line, I felt everything- All of the emotions, physical pain, memories, everything. But, I finished. I didn’t even care about my time. It seems impossible to really describe how difficult this race was for me. All I can offer now is advice for those who plan to run New York City Marathon or any marathon for that matter.

1.) Use a training plan

Train. Stick to a plan and don’t skip out on long runs. I was no where near the mileage that I should have reached for this race. My legs gave out because they were not used to running further than 10 miles. I now understand that wishful thinking DOES NOT carry you the entire way. Being unprepared for a race is the same as being unprepared for a test in school. The information doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Be prepared.

2.) Bring MANY layers

Whatever the weather is predicted to be, bring more layers than you think you need – A hat, gloves, a sweatshirt, sweatpants, a blanket, a sleeping bag, anything. You can always get rid of it before the race. It’s better to have more clothes than less. Bring things that you don’t mind getting rid of. This gives you an excuse to do some spring cleaning.

3.) Get enough sleep

I may have slept a total of 1.5 hours the night before, but thankfully got 10+ hours two nights before. (And I’m pretty sure that I was half-asleep from miles 16-20) Get in bed an hour or two before the time that you actually want to sleep. Trust me, you won’t fall asleep that easily. The nerves are real.

4.) Write your name somewhere, anywhere, on your clothing

The crowds helped A LOT. During the miles when I was walking, it felt amazing to hear someone still cheering for you even if you’re walking. Feed off of their kind words. It will carry you.

5.) Take the food that they give you at the finish line

All I can say is that if I didn’t eat or drink something afterwards, I probably would have passed out. You need to eat or drink something after your race. Your stomach will be crying for it and you need the sugar and protein to help your muscles recover immediately.

6.) Understand that anything can happen

Running a marathon is extremely hard. Running in general is hard. Despite your level of athleticism, you never know what could happen in 26.2 miles. Don’t get discouraged by pain. It happens to everyone. We’re only human.

7.) Don’t give up

When you want to give up, try your best not to. I was in an extreme amount of pain and was convinced that I was going to quit, but I’m so glad that I didn’t. The medal that you will get to wear around your neck will make you more proud than you’ve ever been in your life.