A runner recounts her debut marathon

This guest post by Khris Della Pace of the New York Flyers will take you right back to how you felt after your own first marathon – exhilarated, amazed, and most likely, addicted. If you haven’t yet run a marathon, this may just compel you to change that.

Khris D. P.
I did it!  After two years of being a Flyer, running with the Flyers 6AM group led by Francine A, and having the best mentor/coach/friend, Flyer Kettia M, I finally completed my first marathon at the NYCRUNS Central Park Marathon and Half Marathon.

I originally trained and was ready to complete this task in November 2012 at the ING NYC Marathon, but we all know how that story ended.  So what does one do when they are disappointed and can’t run a marathon?  They sign up for another one.

Over the Thanksgiving break I heard about the NYCRUNS inaugural Central Park Marathon from Kettia.  This would be a marathon with some historical significance.  The first NYC Marathon was held in Central Park in 1970 with 127 male-only competitors (55 finishers) because the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) refused to sanction marathons that included women.  But in 1972, after the AAU relented, six women competed as the NYC Marathon has ever since been open to men and women.  However, in 1976 the NYC Marathon course was expanded to go through all five boroughs.  And so the historic new marathon, scheduled for February 24, 2012, would be the first marathon for both men and women run entirely entirely within Central Park since 1976.

Kettia convinced me that it would be good for us by “keeping us training throughout the winter.”  As we all know, we had a cold winter and so I was unable to train as I did for the NYC Marathon. And as the marathon approached, I was getting quite nervous. Could I actually run 26.2 miles, physically and/or mentally?
A week before the marathon, Kettia slipped and pinched a nerve in her neck.  Doctor’s orders: no running!  I panicked.  I have always run with Kettia.  Could I survive 5 loops by myself?   I knew I needed back-up.

Sunday arrived and my husband decided to walk me over to the start.   We (the marathoners) had to wait for the half marathoners to pass before getting into our corral.  Several other Flyers also ran the Central Park Marathon and even more Flyers ran the Half Marathon.  I waited nervously to line up until I heard Francine, who was running the half, cheering me on – she is always a cheerleader!
And They’re Off…

The fanfare for this race was lacking compared to the typical big-city marathon. From talking to other marathoners, I knew that the fans can be the heart of the race because they keep you going mentally.  Although the crowd was small, many Flyers were out on the course cheering us on while Bob C was taking race photos for the Flyers website.  And Flyer Jodie F from the 6AM group was on West Drive enthusiastically clanging her cowbell for all the runners!

During the first lap, I had Kettia and my husband on the west side to give me a little cheer.  Kettia joined in for the 2nd lap and ran along with me to the 72nd Street transverse. The 1st and 2nd laps went quickly… it seemed like a race.  There were other racers around me (I had caught up to the half marathoners).  I was feeling good; no aches or pains and I was keeping my anticipated pace.

 By the 3rd lap I felt alone.  Yes, Kettia would show up in different places and keep me going but again not much other fanfare.  I do need to give a shout-out to the woman who was walking the opposite direction ringing a cowbell (Jodie wasn’t the only supporter who brought her cowbell :)  I started to look for her each lap to try to figure out where I would pass her next.
By the end of the 3rd loop I felt like the only runner on the course.  Don’t get me wrong, Central Park was full of runners, but I did not notice another race runner.  I started to feel a little down, like I really wasn’t ready for this race. I started to doubt that I would finish.
At Mile 16, my friend Tracey, who is training for her first half-marathon, joined me to finish the last 10 miles.  She did a great job of telling me stories, keeping my mind off of my worries about finishing and getting me through the next few miles, but it did seem like we were just running in the park on any given Sunday.  The course was set up so that I would pass the finish line 5 times.  Even in that area there was very little fanfare, no cheering, no encouragement to keep going, just someone telling me which lane to enter was all I received.

At Mile 21, Kettia and her friend Elizabeth were waiting for me.  Elizabeth decided to join me and Tracey to help me finish the race.  These 3 women were an amazing support group and they each had their own way of helping me. Tracey was always asking if I was okay, Kettia was the ultimate cheerleader and Elizabeth was giving me running advice.

Last Mile With Kettia (at left) and Tracey (at right)
By Mile 22 my legs were heavy with a few pains here and there.  When I reached Mile 25 all three women were running with me.  I could not believe I had only 1.2 miles to go.  I was going to finish!  At Mile 25, Elizabeth gave me a challenge when she pointed out a runner who was a good 200 feet ahead of me and told me to pass him.  It was just what I needed to complete the race.  Not only did I finally pass him, I found that last minute surge to finish the race with a sprint (ok I use that word loosely…it was Mile 26).
With my Daughter at the Finish!
Finishing the race was a real accomplishment.  Two years ago when I started running and training for the NYRR Mini 10K, I never dreamed that I would run a marathon.  I was not a runner.  But I was then “bitten by the bug.”   The following January I became a Flyer and was enrolled in 6 races before June including 3 half-marathons.  In May 2012, I decided to run the NYC Marathon and joined Team For Kids.

These past 2 years have been an amazing journey for me.  I have met some wonderful people in the 6AM running group who have been a great support system.  I FOUND MY PASSION!

Finally running my first marathon was a great way to kick off the new year.  I look forward to more racing and reaching some new goals in 2013!