I woke at 4:45 am after a sound sleep and reached Grove path station at 5:30 am without rushing, met Abhi outside the station, Patricia inside and Ravi caught us in Newark Penn station. We were relaxed, talked, walked easily and took a few pictures too. The Long Branch train was in time at 6:22 am and the 80 minutes journey was pleasant and comfortable. Outside, I could see the clouds covering the skies and wished for them to stay there the whole day. Looking back, our pre run photographs show that we were going for a vacation.
I had good confidence going into this race as the training schedule I had followed, I had exceeded and done well. All the motivation and thanks go to the running with our fellow JC Runners meetup group members.
The race area was overflowing with the 10,000 runners and their friends. Soon our JC Runners group separated as we had to collect our race package, get ready, pin our race badges, drop our bags and wait in long lines to use the portable toilets. Abhi and me had planned to run together, luckily we managed to stick together, even after I ran back to get my heart monitor strap. All the excitement, the cloudy sky and seafront breeze helped me in forgetting it was hot and humid.
The race for the regular runners began after 9 am. I ran with Abhi for the first couple of miles, we started at a 9:30 min per mile pace and then I lost him in the crowd. There were so many people running packed together that running side by side was not possible all the time. I was selfish in not watching out too much for him, maybe he went ahead or is still behind nearby was my thought. During discussions of our paces I had been talking of me going to kamikaze this marathon at a 9 min mile pace to finish within 4 hours.
At the 1/2 marathon mark I had finished in 2 hours, and was meaning to finish strong. At that time I was strong on my feet, feeling good with my form, all body parts were running smooth, perceived effort level was as good as I expected at this juncture.
I kept pushing myself for the elusive 4 hour finish. I did run the next 4 miles at 8:30-9 minute mile speeds :-). In hindsight, I think this time I could/should have slowed down a bit and run within myself. It was getting really hot, the clouds could not cover the sun any longer and the little gusts of hot oven like air could be felt more and more. I was even sloshing some water on my head, neck and back at the water stops. In between the ambulance sirens and runners collapsing being helped by the emergency medical services had started occurring. One guy collapsed a little in left and front of me before 17, I think because of cramps, he was holding his legs in exhaustion and pain, I stopped and bent to encourage him, saw a volunteer coming to him, left him and trundled along. The same situation happened around mile 22 too. This did remind me to not try anything too much, it may be you next. Pain is temporary and pride is forever was still with me and I kept going. People say it went in the high eighties and it was definitely pretty epic conditions to run a marathon. Well it felt the hottest I have ever run, even counting my training runs. Then there were these great people who were spraying water on us with their garden hoses and cheering us on. For me, the nicest part about the NJ marathon is the great crowd. Yes, in their mind we are all Kenyans, and if the marathon was an easy thing to do then everyone would be doing it.
After 17 miles I slowed down to a 10 to 11 minute mile pace. Mile 20, I get my second wind and try a last ditch effort to run 9 min miles. Ran hard for 2 miles, saw that even with the extra effort the result was around 10 min miles, so I took it easier for the last 4 miles, or you can say I ran out of strength, taking walking breaks every mile & dreaming about the soup and food I would eat at the end.
Aaah, there were only bananas left, the best thing is that I like bananas and I learnt that they are one of the best nutritious and medicinal things to eat after the race. Additionally I had some other food with me and Patricia too gave me some bars to eat.
I tried the free massage this time but would not say it’s a must do for me, as it did not help my sore calf muscles much, though the stretching must have helped other parts. Thank you very much volunteer who was a student studying massage therapy and was a good person.
I finally found Patricia who looked cool and fresh as the other spectators, and for someone who does not run in the summer heat she had completed in a very fast time of under 2 hours. Abhi had completed his first marathon, for a guy who started running outdoors six months back in November he was very happy. Ravi had a harder time in the heat but never the less finished the race in one piece. We all took the Feeling Good Train (air conditioned) back at 4:06 pm.
Despite the horrible heat, all in all it was a Great Race day for me. I learnt a lot from this workout to carry forward for the next race, lot of things worked during the race and the journey before that.
For me the NJ marathon and its course shall be always be fondly remembered as very nice, neat nice houses, greenery, blue waters, clean white boats, live bands & the awesome spectators and volunteers along the entire way with sprinklers, frequent water stops, food etc and an ocean front finish. It’s enough to overlook some small things.
PS: My time this year was 4:13:54.75, last year’s time was 4:57:00, improvement of 43 min, yayyyy… Patricia asked for the pacing team’s small orange flag and we carried it back with us. I saw it first thing today morning to be reminded, 3:45!