Finally here is the end of the “road.” Last we spoke I was taking my first break on the Queensboro Bridge. 1.5 mile incline that felt like an eternity uphill. I decided here to stop and catch my breath. With 8 miles to go I didn’t want to burn out now. Once at the top I started running again. Reaching the bottom the roar of the crowd picked up again….welcome to Manhattan! The next four miles are small yet rolling hills that are so incredibly deceiving. I spent countless days/nights in the city, since when was it so hilly?? As I trek on my quads are getting tight, my steps are getting heavy and the weather is turning an almost bitter cold. The energy of the crowd is now fueling me more than any sports gels and waters I could consume. The signs, yelling, cheering kept one foot in front of the other.

Around mile 19 I started feeling my toes in my left foot rubbing against my shoe. I’ll just ignore it, I got this. All the training I’ve done I’ve never had this problem before. This is fine….yeah right. Crossing into the Bronx I am wondering if my pinky toe is even attached to my foot anymore. Is my shoe filling up with blood? Am I leaving red footprints behind as I trudge along. I’m starting to wonder if I should stop at a First Aid tent. But what would they really do for me? Isn’t that for people who are really suffering? Suck it up girl! I keep moving.

Mile 20 and there are my family and friends! I stop briefly to say hi and switch out my water bottle for some tasty and much needed BCAA’s. After one sip I am super charged! I didn’t realize just how depleted I was. A few hugs and I am off on my second wind to the finish line. Five more miles…that’s it!

Up and over the Madison Ave Bridge and here it is…Man-freaken-hattan! This is it, the home stretch. Unfortunately I have hit the dreaded “wall” and I am beyond beat up. I decided to switch to intervals running about half a mile and walking about a quarter. Miles 21-22 are in Harlem, the most boisterous, energetic, loud and borderline obnoxious section which was a sight for sore eyes and mostly legs. The Harlemians as I refer to them, were the most inviting crowd. They welcomed me every step of the way. With probably the saddest smile on my face I keep moving as I try to absorb their energy and keep moving. The sun is starting to go down, tall buildings are creating wind tunnels that just cut right through you.

Mile 22-23 is Fifth Ave. This is where the elites kick it in, last straight stretch of road before turning into Central Park and the finish line. 5k left, no big deal right? I enter the park and am almost transported to a different world. It’s quieter, greener and of course up hill-er. In an attempt to keep strong I raise the volume on my iPod and push on. I was surprised with the smaller than expected crowds on the sidelines. Hoping to see my family I keep an eye out as I trudge along. I’m cold, I’m hungry for solid food and I am convinced that my toe is the size of a hot dog.

Mile 25 I am at a 13/13.5ish pace and I will done…soon! Two more right turns. Running out of the park and back in I am reflecting on the last 20 something miles. This was an actual adventure. All the training, miles upon miles logged in, countless GU’s begrudgingly digested, weights, carb/protein and not that much alcohol all comes down to this. Wishing that the excitement of the finish line would speed up my pace I move along thinking about it all. I can’t believe it’s almost over!

Mile 26…800 meters to go…what??? I hear yells of “keep going,” “almost there,” and “you got this.” Thank you New York. I seriously couldn’t have run a marathon without you and your big stage. It really is the People’s Race as the founder Fred Lebowitz had intended. The ground has lines to follow as they bring you home. I follow ahead and see photographers, volunteers, just about everyone waving me in. There it is…the monstrous blue finish line. I am sprinting (though I doubt it was faster than an 11 min/mi). I did it. I expected to be more emotional but a sense of calm and accomplishment just spread throughout me. Turning off my iPod and my Garmin I start walking ahead. It’s surreal. A few hundred more feet and a young girl puts a medal around my next and congratulates me. Thank you medal girl, I think I love you.

Medal around my neck, salt crusted from head to toe I am being shuffled through the longest march of my life. I was handed a bag of snacks which oddly enough I wanted none of. My stomach is catching up to me and it hates the idea of food. Next was a poncho that I gladly wrapped myself in. Did I mention how cold it was. Ahead of my was 57th Street. I step foot and it’s officially over. I find my family and head home. I can barely sit on the subway, train and car. My legs are going through rigamortis…is that possible? Back at my parents house I relive the entire race with my family and pizza, after inspecting my pinky toe that has the biggest blister I’ve ever seen, it might be a medical phenomenon.

I didn’t sleep much that night. Maybe it was adrenaline, maybe it was excitement or maybe it was that I couldn’t move my legs more than two inches without feeling excruciating pain. But I did it. I ran not just a marathon but the Big Apple, The Big Show, the New York City Marathon. And it was worth every minute of it. I earned this medal. I earned this pain and I love it.

The Big Show (The Finish Line)