It's one of the greatest days in the New York calendar - thousands of marathon runners making their way through the five boroughs on their way to the famous finish line in Central Park. Five of those runners will be fundraising for America SCORES New York and we have asked them to update us here as they prepare for the big day!
Suzie's marathon experience "The race today was HANDS DOWN my favorite marathon I've ever raced in (I've done 4). The start village had a lot of energy despite the chilly weather. And coincidentally I started chatting with a fellow Californian, who lives in the East Bay. We both had done long trail runs before NYC.
"The moment the cannon went off and my feet hit the bridge my face was smiling. Even more so when I got into Brooklyn and saw how packed the sidewalks were... for miles! Seriously the entirety of Brooklyn was cheering, and singing, so much music. It was amazing, and heartwarming. So heartwarming.
"That smile was plastered on my face for every mile. I was even more smiley when I saw my fan club of friends and family who came out and weathered the weather to cheer me on. All of the adrenaline helped me run faster than I thought I would today, and while it wasn't a PR it was easily much more meaningful, especially being able to run for an amazing charity like America SCORES.
"Thank you so much for the opportunity to run. Hearing about everything you guys do for the program, and the poems and soccer enthusiasm from the kids is so inspiring. Thank you!!"
Suzie "I've had the best week ever. All I did was eat! All of the food! Sunday was double helping of ice cream! And my coworkers baked a lot of breads and cookies, and someone else brought in Krispy Kreme, and I was in food heaven. It felt good to just revel in post-race-pastry-bliss. I did absolutely zero activity. Sunday and Monday were the days I was most sore, and using the 2 flights of stairs to get to my apartment were the worst part for sure. But by Tuesday I was walking normally, and Wednesday I even did a super slow, super short bike to work.
"To counter all of those good feels, the Napa fires began late on Sunday, and on Monday I awoke to the smell of smoke in my apartment. San Carlos is only 2 hours from the origin of the fires. This make any outdoor activities much more perilous because of the increased PM2.5 levels, and general air pollution. Makes me happy I didn't have to run much this week. I did start to loosen things up on Thursday with a 20 minute shakeout. I ran super easy, just trying to awaken pastry-laden muscle groups. It felt pretty good! But I was glad I was only doing 20 minutes :)
"Looking ahead to the weekend, I think I will need to step foot into one of those gym institutions and use a dreadmill. There is too much unhealthy air pollution and smoke to risk running even a little bit outside. Playin' it safe! Hopefully we get the anticipated rain next week to aid in the vanquishing of the fires. Next week also resumes marathon training so the less time spent on the dreadmill the better!"
Suzie "The Dick Collins 50-miler had a 6am start, so accounting for driving time, breakfasting, and morning race prep, my alarm woke me up at 3.30am. I slept pretty well, and I was in bed by 8pm the night before, filled to the brim with lasagna, dates, peanut butter, and a beer. So despite the hour, I jumped out of bed and started the race day preparations:
- big bowl of oatmeal (always)
- braiding my hair
- (re)packing my drop bags
- writing arm mantras (I sharpied two messages on my arm for moral support: "are we having fun yet?!" (to which my mental reply was always "you bet your ass we are!" - part of a song from a running club I'm in) and "you are stronger than this".
- miscellaneous other items to pack
- a cursory application of sunscreen.
"I was out the door by 4.40 and at the race start by 5.15. It was dark. It was cold. It was perfect. I spent the next half hour or so getting my bib, putting my shoes on and making sure my drop bags were ready, and my finish bag had everything I needed. I hit up the bathroom, and did a little pre-race warm up jog and then it was time.
"We gathered around the informal start line a little before 6am. The race director went over some course info and then suddenly we were off! It started off on a paved bike path that went around the lake. It was quite dark, and a few people (myself included) missed the first turn onto a bridge. Luckily the guys behind us shouted until we turned around. Such great people in these events! Thankfully, I wasn't too far from the missed turn and only had to back track 100 meters. Around mile 3 we hit up with the trails and started our first climb of the day.
"This moment will always be with me: everyone hiking up that first hill with their headlamps, in the dark. It seemed so crazy that everyone was out here doing this 50 mile race. Everyone had their own reason for being here. But here we all were, doing this together. I dunno, it was just magical, and heartwarming. It was a long climb and my strategy was just to hike all the climbs on the way out. I took it really easy. I fell into a groove early on, and really gently cruised through the first half. It was pretty chilly and I didn't need to drink a lot. Everything felt right. I would run the flats / downhills, and walk the uphills. A leisurely pace. I hit the turnaround point about 30 minutes earlier than I projected (I had a very conservative projection). My friend Steph was there to cheer me on (and relay my progress to my mom). I felt SO GOOD at that aid station. The way back was a different story though.
"At this point it was starting to get really warm, and a lot of the course was exposed. I hiked pretty much the whole way from the turnaround to the next aid station (4.4 miles). It was tough. But I was still in good spirits! At that aid station, I picked up my headphones, and a bandanna to tie around my neck & keep me cool from my drop bag. The next section was a bunch downhill, and then a climb to get to the next aid station. By this point, I was downing both my water bottles (17oz each) between aid stations. It was verging on hot. But I was still having fun. Between here and the next aid station I made another wrong turn :( It cost me about half a mile, and I met up with someone else who went the wrong way. All in all not so bad and it didn't affect my spirit.
"There was a lot of hiking to get out of the valley I had run down into, but the scenery was just so beautiful I didn't mind. The next aid station, ~35 miles in, was the last time I could get things from my drop bag. I didn't take a lot, but Steph sprayed me with sunscreen, which was probably a good idea. I was outta there and luckily the next stretch was a little bit more shaded, and full of redwoods. It was beautiful. I saw a woman walking her cat on a leash.
"I think it was around this point that I started not fueling as well as I should've. I didn't feel hungry, and all food tasted too dry. But still, I was in good spirits! Between these next aid stations, I made yet another wrong turn! Luckily a guy shouted at me before I got too far uphill. Very nice camaraderie out here. At the next aid station I joked with a guy manning the station about mimosas when I asked for water. The next stretch I can't remember clearly. I think I was starting to fade. The sun, the lack of good fueling, the miles, were all catching up to me. And by the time I got to the next aid station I felt pretty spacey.
"At that aid station there were only seven-ish miles to go! But they were a tough seven miles. Very exposed, very hot, one gnarly hill. I did a lot of hiking, and slow running. Hills were tough, even the shortest and smallest of them. I hit the last aid station with three miles to go, filled up on water, and began the trip to the finish! It was TOUGH.
"Even though it was mostly downhill (and I usually thrive on downhills) I was going slowly, and braking a lot. I was pretty miserable, but kept on going, telling myself I was stronger than this. Finally I got on to the bike path and knew I wasn't too far away. I kept up my hiking/running routine, and the mini inclines were hard. And then I saw Steph up ahead and knew the finish was super close. So I tried to pick it up with all I had left and push it to the finish! I crossed the timing mat and pretty much collapsed because my legs did NOT want to be vertical any longer.
"I took time to catch my breath, and take it all in. I was really proud of myself for what I had just done. I was really happy with how the whole race turned out. I couldn't have have asked for a better race, honestly.
"I hung around the finish for a good two hours while I rested my legs, and fed my face with whatever I could eat (not a whole lot). In the end I came in 4th female, 14 overall, 1st in my age group (got a bottle of wine for that!) in 10:42:53 😊
"This was a truly wonderful experience and I am so unbelievably happy about how it all came together."
Suzie "In the last eight months, I've run 1,492 miles and gained 164,819 feet of elevation in roughly 255 hours on the roads and trails. I've always been a big runner - I started out as a midfielder in youth soccer, then crossed over into the cross country and track world. It wasn't until college that I really learned to enjoy my time running - without external motivation like the goal-oriented play of soccer, or hounding of track coaches.
"Running became my time. My time to focus on how I was doing, to escape any pressures I was feeling related to school work, to reflect on relationships, to foster new relationships with friends who joined me on my runs. It became deeply ingrained in who I was.
"Quickly I set my sights on long distances. I liked the short bursts of speed every now and then, but there was an allure to seeing how far I could go. I trained for and completed my first half marathon in 2010. It wasn't fast by any means, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment at the finish. I did my second half in 2011 and ended my college running chapter by completing my first marathon. It was the worst run and race I've ever experienced. I hit the customary wall at mile 18 and shuffled the last 8 miles, my dad running along side me, trying to keep me motivated and moving. At the finish I was beyond exhausted.
"But I had also finished a 26 mile race, and knowing I was both physically and mentally capable of pushing through the negative moments of the race was a small bit of foreshadowing to where I am today.
"This Saturday, October 7, I'll be running my first 50-mile endurance race. When I tell people that I'm training to run 50 miles, I get stares of incredulity. A lot of 'wow! you're crazy!' comments. I get unsolicited opinions on how detrimental running that much is on your joints. But mostly I get the same question: Why? It's a terribly good question. It seems wildly unnecessary, incredibly time consuming, and just plain exhausting.
The Dick Collins 50 takes place in the East Bay town of San Leandro. It starts at Lake Chabot and travels outward and northward into Berkeley's Tilden Regional Park, and then back.
"The idea first came to me back in March of this year. 2017 was not off to a great start. I felt stagnant and unhappy with work, unable to find motivation or perseverance. And on top of that, things in my personal life were falling apart. I wasn't feeling like myself, I was super stressed all the time, losing weight that I really couldn't afford to lose. It was a turbulent time. In March, I took some semblance of control back and left the long-term relationship I was in - a large contributor of the stress I was feeling. But despite that, I still felt listless, and lost. The stress lingered. I knew I needed a goal, a project, something that would hopefully bring me back to life, and help eat up all the empty time I now had on my hands. Obviously I turned to running. I set my sights on running 50 miles.
"At this point in my running career, I had completed countless half marathons, three full marathons, and a 50k ultramarathon (31 miles). I wanted something big and 50 miles seemed attainable. After I had mentally committed to running a 50 miler in the fall some time, my friend Colin called to offer me the opportunity to run the NYC marathon! That was a total no-brainer. It's not everyday you just get handed a mostly free entry to a race - especially one as well known as NYC.
"So now I had two fall races on my calendar. I recruited a friend of mine to help me with training and preparing for these two races. He was an experienced distance runner, and set me up with target weekly mileage goals, and a Saturday long run progression. It was great to have that focus again. To have something to get up and out the door for.
"But something was still off. While I threw myself into my new running routine, I still had not fully bounced back mentally from everything. I was still feeling listless at home and at work, still dealing with lingering stresses of a bad breakup, not sleeping well, not eating well. And it took a toll. Despite having what I thought would pull me up out of the funk I found myself in, I felt even more lost. Running, the one thing I thought could count on to revive me, wasn't cutting it.
"Looking back on that time, there were other factors that contributed to those feelings. I was taking an online class to further my career. I joined a public speaking group to try to get over those fears. I was dramatically increasing my weekly mileage to levels I had never run before, my work schedule was equally demanding - I was gone from my apartment for around 12 hours a day, making it hard to carve out any time for myself outside of working and running. I had no energy left when I got home to complete any sort of extracurricular projects. My life became a mundane repetition of wake up, run, work, sleep.
"But I recognized that this was happening and I made deliberate decisions that I believed would be beneficial in trying to maintain this lifestyle I was living. I changed my work schedule to better fit with my life outside of work. I looked into, and eventually committed to getting a running coach to help manage the increased mileage, and become a better runner in the process. I took a hiatus with the extracurriculars. I went back to the basics. And at the same time, was lucky enough to have friends come across the country to visit. And oddly enough even being sick for a month starting in August helped by forcing me to focus on eating all the chicken noodle soup, drinking all of the tea, and getting unheard of amounts of sleep (going to bed at 8pm like a grandma!) in order to feel rested enough to run a 50k training race.
"By the start of September, after making all of these adjustments and letting them settle into a new routine, I finally felt like myself again. Maybe even better than myself. I recently emailed John (Development Associate, ASNY) a mini diary post, and mentioned the fact that this was the first time I was doing consistent distance racing only months apart (a 50k in August, 50M in Oct, and 26.2M in Nov). He commented that he was worried about my mental well-being. And a fair point to that. There is a lot that goes into preparing for this challenge. But when I thought about it, I felt like this journey I've been on from the start of March has really helped to distill my life back to the nuts and bolts of what make me tick.
"Choosing to tackle a 50 miler, the NYC marathon, and all the training that those events encompass brought some clarity to my life when I felt like I was in a fog. It was not an immediate payoff, but when is it ever? At the beginning of 2017 I was running at someone else's pace. I found myself swept up in an emotional roller coaster, and trying to grasp at anything that would help ground myself. At first, this only fueled the spiraling feeling that I had, and I found that I had bit off more than I could chew. But singling out the one thing I loved - running - and putting all of my effort into proper training for the races I had committed to, everything slowed down and fell back into place - at a pace I was comfortable with."
Suzie "Yesterday I did my last long run pre-50 mile race and repped America Scores! It was all about getting the time on my feet, and enjoying all of the views - which I think I was very successful at. This is my first time training for 'back-to-back-to-back' endurance races (50k, 50M, 26.2M). Overall, I've been approaching each race as its own milestone, and trying not to get too ahead of myself, which can prompt feelings of being overwhelmed, and second guessing being able to actually run everything. At this point I'm feeling pretty confident in heading to NY after my October race. I've been incorporating a lot of strengthening routines (mainly lunges, planks, and push-ups) and feel like it's a big contributing factor in making my body stronger and being able to handle all the mileage that I am putting in."
Suzie "Thankfully, I'm feeling a bit better this week - still not 100% but heading there. The 50k race in the Marin Headlands went as well as it could have! I made sure to have a good time with it, to keep up a positive attitude when things went bad (inevitably they do), and take a lot of pictures.
"It was a cold and foggy start to the day (see left) but that eventually gave way to blistering heat. I took the first third of the race pretty easy - a lot of walking up the hills but flying on the downhills. Eventually I got to a point in the race which I had scouted a few weeks prior so I knew what was coming at this stage and I was able to kick it up a notch. This was the point where it got hot, unfortunately (90 degrees!), and I ran out of water on several occasions.
"It wasn't fun to battle dehydration with the steep climbs. To keep my mind off it I tried some meditative breathing, or just singing songs in my head.
"The last 15 or so miles featured the two toughest climbs, which I just power hiked. Luckily, it was a 3 mile downhill finish - nothing better than that! I finished in 6:24, and was the first in my age group! Overall, the race was 50k (31 miles) with 7,300' of elevation! My favorite photos were of the lagoon of fog that we climbed out of at mile 5, the dry landscape at mile 20 when the heat was in full effect and that trail ladder we had to climb at mile 26."
Suzie "I'll be running a 50k on Saturday in the beautiful Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. This past week I've been battling a compromised immune system - aka I'm sick. I'm glad that it happened during my taper week for this 50k. All the runs I did were very very easy, and I've been able to really focus on keeping up my hydration, eating properly, and getting plenty of sleep. Not that it's been working! I do find that moving around and running definitely clears up my sinuses, so I'll take that as a win. Hoping to get a good night's sleep tonight for my race tomorrow!"
Sara "I've been trying to transition my 'long' run into the work week so I can better enjoy the Fall season! I'm up to 12 miles and feeling great! My knee is much better and I've been enjoying the feeling of a productive day after a good and challenging run on Thursday/Friday mornings."
Little known Alex facts "I finished 16th in my age group in the Brooklyn marathon, I have been to over 34 countries, I have 10 siblings, I played soccer for 20 years and I won a state-wide poetry competition in 5th grade!"
Suzie "This past week was rough for training, but wonderful for regular life. A very good friend of mine came to visit SF for 10 days. It was a blast! But also could be overwhelming to juggle training, and being a host/tour guide. We covered a good chunk of CA by car: From SF down to Santa Cruz to Monterey to Paso Robles in one weekend (South), and then back to SF, and up to Napa Valley, Santa Rosa, and Petaluma (North) for the next few days. It was entirely exhausting, and positively enjoyable. I managed to fit my runs in either in the AM when I could wake up early before we traveled, or in the evening when we returned. The evening runs were tough because we would have such a big travel day and I would have loved nothing more than to just lay on the floor and relax, but I laced up my shoes and ran some easy miles. This happened only twice during the 10 days, luckily. And as much as I love running in the sunshine, there is something equally enjoyable about running at night (with a headlamp!!), when there is less traffic on the roads. It's really peaceful. In the past, I probably would have opted out of these night runs claiming to be too tired, but with a few hard races coming up, I really told myself that I had to get out there and get the miles in. Before we headed down to Santa Cruz for a beer festival, I was able to run from my apartment to Edgewood Park (pictured below) and I covered nearly all of the trails (it's a small park) before making my way back home. It was an 18 miler!"
Liz "I was SO excited to sign up for my second marathon through SCORES! I had a great experience running New York last year, and was ready to do it again and improve my time. The season didn't start off the way I expected, to say the least - I severely sprained my ankle back in May on a run, and then learned I had a torn tendon that would need to be fixed surgically. However, after 3 months of physical therapy, I've just gotten back to running this week, and my doctor has OK'ed me to knock out my second marathon before going under the knife. It's been a really emotional process--I've been a distance runner since age 10, and having to take extensive time off has been tough. I've had to channel a lot of my energy into strengthening key muscles, and have learned to love Bikram yoga as a way to de-stress. After a long setback, your motivation has to be that much more powerful, and since I'm running for these kids I love and teach I have a clear goal in mind. I may not run my fastest time this year - but I WILL raise the most money I've ever raised!"
Sara "This is my first marathon but I've always wanted to run one. I play on a soccer team with friends from California but I was introduced to America SCORES by my good friend Alex (junior board member and SCORES marathon team mate), who I met on a street corner in Argentina when we studied abroad three years ago! I found out last week that I sprained my ACL but if anything, that's pushing me to train harder to strengthen the surrounding muscles. I'm loving the routine of a long Saturday morning run followed by a bagel with eggs, avocado, and hot sauce every week. I run pretty much everywhere around New York, not one place in particular. Running is a great way to get to know a city, especially one as colorful as New York!"
Alex "Someone recently told me that to achieve a 'competitive time' you have to incorporate speed and strength training into your long-distance routine. Although I am by no means trying to clock a competitive time, I would like to improve upon my last marathon effort. So, this last weekend I went to the track to turn the burners on and do some lunges. Two sprints around the track, proceeded by lunges from side to side, and I was sufficiently spent. For the past four days I have been walking around like I desperately need to find a toilet. The tension in my hamstrings is so severe that straightening my legs sitting down is nearly impossible and the first step of each day is a brutal reminder of what's in store for the entirety of my waking hours - as well as how much farther I have to go - plus a growing fear that I have already done irreversible damage to my legs! Today marks the first day since that overly zealous track tear that I feel confident enough to run without both legs permanently snapping in half. Consider this a warning to the people that have heard similar speed and strength advice, maybe start slow!"
Suzie "When I emailed my coworkers, and running friends, I made the body of the email into a poem explaining how I was given the opportunity to run the NYC marathon, which I thought was clever. It was fun to write poetry, something I haven't had to do since middle school. And my running friends responded with their own haikus. It was a good email thread!!"
Introducing our team of marathon fundraisers!
Alex Wathen lives in the East Village but originally hails from from Denver, CO. He works for a start-up which specializes in urban technology and “smart cities” and he recently turned 25. (SUPPORT ALEX!)
Suzie Farrell is a 27-year-old Software Engineer living in the Bay Area town of San Carlos, CA. This will be her fourth marathon and she's also training to run her first 50 miler in October. (SUPPORT SUZIE!)