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  • New York City Marathon 2014 Write Up

    Posted on November 6th, 2014 Michele Sun No comments

    Waking up in the middle of the night and feeling my neck hurts, right ankle hurts, the bottom of my feet hurts and I was extremely thirsty; I opened my eyes and saw the reflections of New York high-rises in the window. “Ah.. I am in pain because I just ran a marathon today,” and not just any marathon but the New York City Marathon. The recollection of the race day, and the complaints of how complicated the race day logistics were and how strong the gusty winds were slowly came back to me, and I couldn’t help but laughed at myself. What a wimp, Michele!! At breakfast on Monday morning, over the hearty oatmeal, my normal self came back and I told Marcia “You must run New York next year, because it’s such amazing experience like no other races, and you have to forget the whining and complaints I said last night!”

    Sunday Nov 2nd, I woke up around 5:00am before the alarm went off; the night before I had set up both alarm at the night stand and on my phone, plus the hotel morning call just to make sure that I wouldn’t oversleep. And it just happened that the Daylight Saving ends on Sunday at 2:00am, I was so worried that my iPhone would not know how to function (haha..). The night before I had a stress-free carbo-load dinner with Mike, Marcia, Proxy and other runners on this NYCM trip, the 18 of us had a nice dinner at Orso thanks to Mike’s arrangement. I simply can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for me that brought me to New York City Marathon, and how he saved my life last fall when we were training for NYCM.

    Since I had already laid out the race day outfit the night before, it didn’t take long to put on my short sleeve running shirt (a gift from Julie from NYCM last year), arm sleeves, running skirts, compression calves sleeves, Injinji toe socks, and gloves with hand warmers (thanks to the tips from Marcia). For running shoes I had decided a week ago that I would switch back to Brooks Pure Cadence after almost losing my toenails with Newton at Chicago. There would be no gear check, no hydration pack due to security rules, and I would only carry my phone, credit card, metro card, and 6 GU gels in Root Beer, Salted Watermelon and Cherry Lime — all the yummy flavors 🙂 I got quite stressed two weeks ago for runners are not allowed to carry hydration pack; the on-course electrolyte isn’t what I want or can use, and carrying a fuel belt with bottles just didn’t sound comfortable to me. Thought about carrying my 7 oz Salomon hydration flask with me to mix my own electrolyte with GU Brew, but at the very last minute I killed that idea and it turned out to be a right decision.


    Took the elevator down and met up with Shen in the lobby; she had jacket, sweatpants, scarf and beanie while I looked too minimalist by comparison. I had a Marine Corps Marathon jacket made of Tyvek over my shirt that Marcia gave me, and I had a garbage bag over my upper body. We walked to the metro station on 53rd for E train, and saw couple more runners like us trying to figure out how to get to the South Ferry station. A guy from Irvine was clear about where and how to get there, so we just followed him to make our 7:30am Ferry. When we got out of the metro station and walked toward the ferry building the amount of excitement was just un-concealable — mega zillion watts!! We met up with Mike and Susan and went down to the bottom of ferry as Mike has suggested; we tugged and stayed warm together while enjoying the view of Hudson River and clear morning sky. Our Lady, the Statue of Liberty, got closer and closer on our right hand side and it’s so amazing to see her on race day morning!


    Once we got to Staten Island, all the runners got bused to Fort Wadsworth where the race Start was. I had to say bye to Mike, Shen and Susan soon because I was the only one in the 10:30am Blue Start, while they were in the 10:45am Green Start. That means I would be on the upper deck of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and they would be on the lower deck. Yes the logistics to get to the race is the most complicated I have ever experienced, and for that I would write a separate blog post about them. Fort Wadsworth is a military zone, and even with the below 40 degree temperature we had to stay at where we were allowed — out in the open lawn area. Standing in the 40mph blasting wind waiting for our individual race start time was brutal, funny that just the day before I was eating shaved ice in 80 degree sunny California. But I was super stoked about crossing the start-line of NYC Marathon with Sinatra singing New York New York! I have waited this day for 18 months, and finally made it and about to run the greatest marathon in the world!

    I’ve done other big destination races before and just three weeks ago I ran the Chicago Marathon, and I have been to Tokyo Marathon, Paris Marathon, but none can compare to the scale of New York City Marathon. I said “scale” not size, because this marathon consists of 50,000+ runners, 10,000 volunteers and 2 millions spectators, and I would be running across 5 bridges and through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan, finishing at Central Park. And from the runners that I have come across at the hotel lobby, the shakeout run on Sat morning, at subway..etc, this race must have the most international runners and they bring so much enthusiasm with them to New York.

    At 10:30am sharp, the announcer shouted “On the Mark” and the rifle, musket, and musketoon all went off at the same time and I went out and ran into the winds onto the first bridge. It’s a 2-mile long bridge and soon I had to worry about getting blown off the bridge, and I could hear the bibs on me and my fellow runners all flapping rapidly in the air like sails. The wind was so strong that my right foot was kicking my left foot and vice versa. I tried to move to the center of the bridge to stay safe, and I started seeing runners losing their hats, beanies and even water bottles to the strong wind. Glad that I had my Stevens Creek Striders buff on that kept my hair off my face and ears warm; that day I ran with my gloves on the whole time and never took them off till I got back to the hotel after the race. Due to the strong wind, NYRR has changed few things about the race the last minute, for instance that they removed lots of signage & mile-markers, and wheelchair race started elsewhere for safety reason..etc.


    I was feeling great this morning, and was running without watch or music — purely running on “how I feel,” and soon I found my “happy pace” and I locked into that pace. I was on a cruising mode from 5K to 15K, all the way through Brooklyn, and when I saw the clock at 20K I had roughly run 2 hours and 5 mins I think. The sky was so blue and I could see Manhattan skyline on my left, which was so beautiful and amazing to look at. “My dream race“, I thought about that and so many things fast re-winded in my mind and so many people are here with me chasing this New York dream! They say anything is possible in New York! Crossed another bridge and ran into Queens, and I took a picture of that glorious moment and posted on Facebook. A lot of runners stopped here to take selfies with Manhattan in the distance, and I totally understood and felt their excitement. But my plan is to “run” NYC Marathon, so there should be no stopping, no walking, and NYCM deserves my 100% attention and effort!


    When I crossed Queensboro Bridge (mile 15 to 16), I started slowing down my pace because I needed to find Marcia. This morning I found that I made a small but serious mistake of leaving my “NO BAGGAGE” wristband at my hotel, and without that I would be treated as “BAGGAGE” runner and would not be able to exit the Finish village quickly. Even without an actual gear-checked bag I would still need to go through the whole process that could take up to 2 hours, and one more important thing was I would not get my infamous NYCM poncho. When I realized my mistake I had texted Marcia at 8:00am and asked her to look through my stuffs and bring that wristband to the course for me. Now I just needed to find her or be found by her among the sea of runners and spectators.

    I could hear the cowbells and cheering roared at the foot of Queensboro Bridge as we made a right turn on 59th Street and onto 1st Ave, and there I came face to face with the most energetic crowds that I have ever been. Almost wanted to stop and high five with everyone, but I NEEDED to find Marcia. I moved myself to the right and searched every face, and people were shouting “Pretty in pink, you are looking great.” “You can do this girl, keep it up.” Now I see why Mike has his name imprinted on his race shirt, the crowds are just amazing at the race. Feeling hilarious and thankful how supportive the crowds were, I wish I could tell them that “Yes I know I can do this, but I am slowing down because I am looking for someone.” I continued slowing down for about 6 or 8 more blocks, then remembered Marcia posted on Facebook last night about “cheering on 1st Ave with beer in one hand“, so what’s the cross street? I took out my phone and pulled up Facebook app, “71st Street and 1st Ave” she posted. There you go!! And at the same time I saw Karl commented about the picture I posted, “how can anyone posting picture during a marathon?” And Mark “I am tracking you live on NYCM app, focus on your run“. And Usha commented “Finish strong, girl.” Thanks to Facebook and now I know I am being “watched” from thousand miles away.

    Right by the corner of 71st St @ 1st Ave, I could see Marcia scissoring her arms in the air and shouting “Michele!!” I was so moved and touched that almost peed in my pants; you have no idea how excited and grateful I was to see that familiar face and hear her voice. She was standing there by the band in this cold and windy morning, OMG!! She put the wristband on for me, and we hugged and took selfie, time to continue this marathon!!


    I have been running into the headwind since 10:30am this morning, and the wind blew in multiple directions which I do not understand! I saw the paper cups flying on the street at each aid-station creating tiny tornadoes with them, and I was stepping on so many flying cups that just so unbelievable. So glad that I wasn’t refilling my water and mixing my own electrolyte with my shaking hands! My pace was completely messed up from mile 16th to 17th while looking for Marcia, and I found the bottom of my feet really hurt now but not sure where exactly — I was too numb from the cold. I thought about Usha telling me to “finish strong,” so I told myself “see how many people are cheering on you, you have to tough it up.” On Willis Bridge I started seeing people walking with their heads down and shoulders hunched, but I told myself “No walking, Michele!!” I crossed the bridge and entered into Bronx, and my feet hurt so badly that I was cursing these concrete bridges!! I was getting annoyed and there came another bridge again – the Madison Bridge. I thought about Karl and Mark and how they were tracking me mile by mile, “You can’t let them down!! You need to run a good race on the map!” I don’t know how this happened, but the visual of me being a strong moving dot on a map was so important to me at that moment!

    5th Ave was uphill and I had no idea where I was mile-marker wise since there was none to look at, and I was seriously slowing down and my feet were screaming at me “Why is 5th Ave so long? When is this race going to end?” Then I entered into Central Park! The crowds were shouting ” you are almost there!” and I saw a small mile-marker “23”, what??!! This is only mile 23?? The last three miles inside Central Park was the hardest 3 miles I have ever run and they were very deceiving — the rolling hills were just non stop! I felt I was running hill after hill, turning right, cold, more hills, another right turn, cold, more hills and one more turn with Columbus Circle in sight … this is nothing like the shakeout run I did on Sat morning!! Usually I would sprint at the last 1000 meter, but today I simply had no juice left in me. I was running on empty and my wheels were falling off!!

    I saw so many people were walking and the scene was so de-motivational, so I refused to look at anyone and only focused on my solo run — MY marathon. It’s dusky, windy and cold, and suddenly the finish line was right ahead of me. I was so happy to see that panda hat — Toby was at the center of Finish line as he had told me. I smiled and waved at him as I ran crossed that finish line!!! There was no tear of joy, no emotional choke up, no ear to ear grin — I was so numb from the cold that I felt nothing when I finished NYC Marathon!! I moved along with other runners and just wanted to get out of Central Park and go back to my hotel. Reached the West Central Parkway walking down toward the 72nd, the wind continued blowing onto my face and my body was achy and numb. Thank goodness I finally got that heated poncho, and slowly made my way down into the subway station.


    That night I was so traumatized from the tough and horrible race condition, and I kept complaining and whining about how cold it was, how painful my feet were..etc. I couldn’t believe that I felt nothing exciting about finishing my dream race!!

    But waking up in the middle of the night and found “ahha, my ankle hurts,” I came out of the zombie mode. The memory of seeing Statue of Liberty, running on the upper deck of the bridge, seeing Manhattan in distance, the most amazing spectators support, face of Marcia in the crowds, the morale support of Karl and Mark from mile 20 and onward, the strangers offering me their seats on subway…etc. This is a tough race but I overcome it!! The 37 degree didn’t beat me, the 40mph wind didn’t beat me, the hard 26.2ml didn’t beat me, and CANCER didn’t beat me. I finished NYC Marathon, running every single mile with no stopping no walking!! By comparison, I had spent 5X more effort running New York than Chicago. It’s my dream race and I had come a long way to chase this dream, and I did it!! It has been a tough journey battling with cancer, and why would New York Marathon to be easy?


    New York, New York, I hope I have made your proud!

    “We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”


    1 responses to “New York City Marathon 2014 Write Up” RSS icon

    • Awesome Michele. You are amazing. And you deserve that race, because it’s amazing too…here’s to next year.

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