Phew! It's been a while and I only just managed to bump my training log before it fell off page 1
November 6th was quite a while ago now, but the New York Marathon was an amazing experience, from the nervous suspense amongst me and my fellow runners being ferried over to Staten Island, to the way we all suddenly roared madly when we heard the starting gun for the elite runners. Even listening to The Star Spangled Banner was an emotional moment.
About half a mile in I encountered a Brooklyn-based vegan runner also aiming for 4 hours. She was running with a garmin so that was really helpful for me as it turned out that none of the pacers were anywhere to be seen. We formed Team Vegan, resolving to pace each other and spent the first 14 miles or so working the crowds, fist-pumping to every band we passed, acknowledging everybody, high-fiving the onlookers, cheering the runners wearing costumes. Brooklyn and Queens; those were spirited times. I was wearing a Vegan Runners top, with my name stuck onto the front and back. Wearing your name is an excellent strategy for getting crowd participation going, which in turn is uplifting and motivational for you.
After that, when we hit 1st Av in Manhattan for the long, gradual uphill climb, the tiredness gradually crept in. By about mile 16 we were both mainly thoughtful, focusing on running, and having a little less fun. I fell back a couple of times and caught my running partner after half a mile, but by mile 21, when we'd passed into the Bronx, I properly hit the wall.
The last time I ran a marathon I ended up doing a lot of switching between running and walking in the last 5 miles, but this time round I was determined to keep running. I ended up having a very miserable mile, and completely lost sight of the other half of Team Vegan.
When I hit Manhattan again for the final 5 miles, I started feeling a second wind (although in reality I was abjectly worn out but just coping with it better). I pushed as hard as I could and in those miles there was even more enthusiasm from the crowd than back in Brooklyn, but much as I heard my name being called out and really appreciated it, I found it hard to muster the energy to lift my head to the cheering too often. When I did, it kind of felt like I was being British and responding politely
I hit the finish line in 4:13:20 which was a bit off my 4hr target but still a 23-minute improvement on my previous marathon. Turned out that the other half of Team Vegan had kept a pretty steady closing pace and finished 5 mins ahead of me, which meant I'd slowed down by an extra minute per mile in the last five miles. I felt like that was still a pretty good recovery after the darkness of mile 21. All in all, it was the most worthwhile pain I've ever put myself through - New York is such a great place to experience under any circumstances, but running the NYC Marathon was something else.
Immediately before the race, I felt like I was sick of running and wanted no part in further marathons. I trained a lot more and a lot better than last time round, and I had a number of other projects planned for the year which, frustrated, I mainly had to shelve in favour of running. But about 2 hours after I finished, when I was sitting down in a Chinese restaurant in Park Slope, savouring my cramps and aches and pains, all I could think of was how much I really wanted to better my time, and perhaps aim for a flatter, easier course so I could finally beat that 4hr mark. Also, I figured that right now I'd be in the best condition to prepare for another, rather than leaving it for a couple of years and losing my fitness again...
However, I have decided that this year I really need to make some headway with other projects - mainly musical projects - so I want my training to be quick and efficient and flexible enough to fit around anything else. So right now, I've been doing interval training and HIIT bodyweight exercises. Mostly my workouts are 20-30 minutes, although at weekends I'm making the most of the daylight to do an hour's run or so. My upper body strength is pretty feeble so it is kind of good to be working on that for a change, instead of just running. But I'm enjoying the feeling of sprinting 100m, 200m bursts repeatedly, intending to work it into a reasonably regular 5k park run (if I can just muster up the nous to get to Hackney Marshes by 9am on a Saturday)...