I can officially consider myself a marathoner! The New York City Marathon was nothing short of eventful and challenging. I am so proud of my accomplishment. Running 26.2 miles was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but I still find myself getting misty-eyed when I think about the whole experience. Nov. 1 was also Type 1 Diabetes and the first day of Diabetes Awareness Month, so kicking it off with the marathon was amazing!
I had a beautiful time in New York with my family (my mom, sister and husband). We got into the city early Friday afternoon. We headed to the Jacob Javitz for the expo. I picked up my bib and browsed the race merch. I got my ankle taped up by JackRabbit Sports, and my mom bought me an awesome New York Marathon bag!
On Saturday, we enjoyed a walk around Central Park, a “Wicked” matinee (we won tickets in the lottery) and in the evening we saw “Finding Neverland.” What better way to rest your legs than watching Broadway shows?
I slept really well the night before Marathon day. We gained an hour of sleep, which was helpful. Overall, I did well, but I’d panic slightly if I thought about the magnitude of 26.2. I finally got out of bed just after 6 a.m. and started to get ready. At 7, I met up with my sister, who escorted me to the Staten Island Ferry station. The subway was PACKED and by the time we got to the ferry dock, that also was packed. It was 7:45 and my ferry was supposed to leave at 8. There was such a jam that they blocked off the entrance and were only letting people in in waves. I barely held back tears, hugged my sister, and maneuvered my way through the crowd. Because I am so short, I squeezed my way into the front and made it onto the ferry on time.
After the ferry ride, we took a long bus ride to the start at Fort Wadsworth. I had been feeling calm, but the bus delays created a lot of anxiety. Once we finally got out, security blocked the crowd from entering into the start villages. Everyone was freaking out, and that wasn’t helping me. Once they opened it back up, I had just enough time to use the bathroom, grab a cup of water, and head to my corral five minutes before it closed. Because of my diabetes, I have to eat right before I run. Otherwise, I risk getting high blood sugar if a lot of time passes between the time I eat and when I start to run. I quickly ate a bagel with peanut butter and two bananas with a half unit of insulin. I left my base insulin on since we still had like 20 minutes before actually starting.
Wave 3 lined up and geared up for the 10:40 a.m. start. As I tried to get in a good mindset, One Republic’s “I Lived” started playing and I got misty-eyed. I look at that song as my own personal anthem, and it was an emotional moment. Getting to the start line uninjured was a feat alone, and I took that moment as a sign that I was going to overcome this challenge. Soon after, the cannons went off, “New York, New York” started playing and we were off!
I ran on the bottom deck of the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, so that, along with all the other reception issues, made it tough for my Garmin to get a signal. I didn’t know what my pace was or how fast I was running. Everyone says it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, and I was trying really hard to center myself, especially since this is the steepest incline of the whole course (I didn’t feel it). Before the first mile, I noticed someone had collapsed and runners were going to her aid. We pointed the medics in the right direction and I said a prayer for her. We hit Mile 2 right after getting off of the bridge and we entered Brooklyn! Right after Mile 3, I saw my family!
I was so happy to see them! I gave them all hugs and set off again. Brooklyn was a party! There were so many spectators and I had such a fun time high-fiving all the kids along the course. They were so cute and enthusiastic. It was awesome! There was a great energy there. At around the 10K mark, I shut off my base insulin and I realized I hadn’t put Body Glide on my feet. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get blisters so I asked my sister to take it out for me so I could apply it when I met them just before the 8-mile mark on Atlantic Avenue. I passed where she should have been, but I found my mom and husband. They told me my sister had moved up to try to find me, so I had to run back to catch her. I passed her AGAIN, she called me and I turned around. I was so frustrated at this point, and I was a brat haha I put the Body Glide on my feet and went off again.
At this point we were still in Brooklyn. I was still feeling pretty good, and when I hit Mile 10, I overheard a runner say “We’re not even halfway there yet.” I freaked out a little bit, but I was mentally counting down until I could hit the half marathon mark. I took my first gel at this point. I kept thinking that this is where I usually hit a wall during the half, but I was good, and I kept going. I finally hit the half marathon mark crossing the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. Brooklyn lasted FOREVER, but as I made it into Queens, I just thought that all I had to do was make it to Mile 14.5 to see my family again. At around Mile 14, I started to walk a little bit. I got 44th Drive and 44th Road confused, so I didn’t realize I missed my family until it was too late. I immediately texted them and panicked. At that point, I wouldn’t be seeing them until close to Mile 20, so it was at least another 5 miles. I started to cry and I turned the corner to cross the Queensboro Bridge aka what everyone says is one of the worst spots of the race. I felt defeated/sad, but as I looked to my left, I saw the Manhattan skyline. I felt bad for melting down, texted my apologies and got a brief second wind before hitting First Avenue.
First Avenue was amazing! The roar of the crowd as we turned from the Queensboro Bridge was unreal. It was like I was running in a parade and everyone was cheering for me. However, I wasn’t feeling so well. My blood sugar had stayed steady and in range throughout the race up until this point. I was taking sips of Gatorade and water at each mile to help it stay steady, and air was starting to build up in my chest, creating discomfort and tightness. I looked at my CGM, and I saw that I was starting to drop. I took another gel and grabbed water/Gatorade at the next closest station. When the arrow is down as I am running, it tends to go quickly. Miles 17 and 18 were a bit of a blur. I remember grabbing a wet sponge and holding it to my neck. My stomach was turning and I stopped at the Mile 18 bathrooms.
As I was waiting, I saw an athlete of Achilles International, an organization that pairs runners with athletes who have disabilities. My heart swelled. If these people had the guts to keep going and overcome all of their obstacles, I could, too. There was no reason I shouldn’t be able to get it together. It was an inspiring moment.
Somewhere around this point, my blood sugar spiked really high and it was going up fast. I turned on my base insulin for periodic insulin release rather than just giving it to myself all at once. I felt sick and tingly.
I mainly walked to Mile 19, where my family was waiting. I saw them and immediately started to cry. I was ready to be done, and I was approaching Mile 20–the most I had ever run. Everything beyond that was foreign territory. I told them about the Achilles athletes and they sent me off with words of encouragement. As soon as they were out of sight, my phone flooded with their messages to stay strong and keep going. My husband had written me a note that I kept and waited to read until I felt I couldn’t go anymore. I took it out and read it, and it gave me that boost I needed.
I crossed the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx just before Mile 20 and stopped to stretch out my left hamstring. It was getting really tight and uncomfortable–that pain continued/got worse for the remainder of the race.
The Bronx section of the race was a total blur. I walked the majority of it because I got horrible hiccups. All the air in my chest had affected my breathing, I guess. Hiccups are an issue I struggled with throughout training. I haven’t been able to find that right balance–I either have enough Gatorade and my blood sugar is good but my chest is not OR I skip the Gatorade and then my blood sugar starts to drop. Double-edged sword.
Mile 21 took us across the Madison Avenue Bridge and back into Manhattan. I took two cups of water, held my breath and chugged them to get rid of the hiccups. My levels were dropping fast AGAIN, so I shut off my insulin again. I was so sick of gels and Gatorade at this point that I took a piece of banana that someone was offering. I nibbled at it because I was having a hard time stomaching anything. A volunteer looked at me and offered some words of encouragement–“Come on, Heidi. You can do this! Keep your chin up and do it, sweetie.” I gave her a weak/thankful smile, thanked her and said I would do it.
At Mile 22, I left all the negativity behind and started to run again. My hiccups were gone, I told myself that all I had left was the length of a small training run around my neighborhood, and I went for it. I took another small piece of banana, nibbled it, and kept going. Fifth Avenue is a steady incline, and while Mile 23 is a moment of agony for a lot of runners, I hardly felt the incline. We entered Central Park on 90th Street. I had run this part of the park back in June when I completed a 5-mile training run–only this time, I was going in the opposite direction and it was DOWNHILL. I welcomed the downhills throughout the park and used them to try to gain some momentum. During this last stretch, I passed a lot of people. Some were struggling to stand while their partners held them up, others were just slowing down. I could see The Mall (my favorite place in Central Park) to my right…
I hit Mile 25 and started to get excited! I had 1.2 miles to go. Soon, this would be over. I used everything I had to keep going.
I turned onto 59th Street and was elated to see Columbus Circle. My family was waiting for me inside the park just before Mile 26.
I turned back into the park and immediately saw my family! I started yelling, “I’m going to finish! I’m going to finish!” and I bolted up toward the finish line. We had walked that final 0.2-mile stretch the day before and my sister pointed out that it was on an incline. I can honestly say I didn’t feel it at all! I was so happy and I smiled from ear-to-ear when that finish line came in sight. I lifted my arms, shrieked and crossed it. Then I started sobbing! I was flooded with every emotion in the book. I was thrilled, I was happy, I was excited, I was tired, I was sick, I was disappointed…I WAS PROUD. I crossed the finish line in 6 hours 26 seconds…almost an hour more than I had intended (and that my training supported), but I crossed it. I could have quit so many times, but I didn’t. The only time I stopped was to use the bathroom at Mile 18. If I wasn’t running, I was walking…I was MOVING. And I finished with a smile on my face!
The volunteers were amazing! They handed me my medal and all congratulated me and the other finishers…they could see how much it meant to us to finish. I took my usual post-race/medal selfie, sent it to my family and started the long walk from 67th to the exit at 77th.
Volunteers handed us our recovery bags and wrapped heat sheets around us. My hamstring was killing me and the adrenaline was starting to wear off. I felt disgusting. A volunteer asked me if I needed medical attention because I think I was still crying (I felt lethargic, too, and it must have shown). I just said I was happy to finish. Aside from gels and a few bites of banana, I hadn’t eaten all day. I took out the PowerBar in my bag and slowly took little bites. I thought I was going to throw up, but I focused on limping out of the park and getting my poncho. Those things were WARM! Getting that and exiting the park at an earlier exit was worth not checking any bags. After getting out at 77th, I walked to the 72nd subway station (stairs…yuck) and rode to Columbus Circle where I met my family.
We walked back to our hotel on 57th Street. I rested for 45 minutes and ate two cookies from Schmackery’s that my sister and mom bought as my reward for finishing. They were holding them all day for me and it really hit the spot! I devoured them. That was all I needed to get my strength to shower and get ready for dinner. We went to Guantanamera, a nearby Cuban place. It was great! I seriously could not have done it without them and my family/friends back at home who were sending me words of encouragement to help me get by!
I wore my medal that night and on Monday. My husband and I went to the pavilion for some finisher gear, too!
I immediately proclaimed that I would never do another marathon again. ONE AND DONE! No one in my family seems to think that’s true (they keep saying “next time”) haha I don’t know if there will be a next time. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, despite having Type 1 Diabetes. And I did it!