The New York City Marathon - the story

Okay, here we go. Most of you might already know that I ended up with a torn calf muscle at mile 8 of the New York City Marathon. Here's the story, and all of it! Yeah, it's a long one!

Waking up
Early, very early! 4:30 AM alarm to get ready. I needed to be at the busstop by 5:30 AM. It was a bit of a struggle to get ready in time, but I did. Barely, but I did get on that bus on time!

And off we go!

For the long drive to Staten Island. Due to traffic. All these marathon busses seemed to be on the Verrazano Bridge at the same time, so it took a while before we actually we're allowed to get out of the bus. Amazing views of the ocean, though, while we were in the bus - waiting. Plus, it was pretty cold outside, and the bus was nicely heated. :) The weather was great by the way. Sunny and 48 degrees Fahrenheit/10 degrees Celsius by the time I was half way in the marathon. Just how I like it! :)

The start villages

I was in the Green Wave (lower deck on the bridge) and as soon as I got out of the bus I followed the green arrows. Almost immediately I ran into Dana from 52beginnings (http://www.52beginnings.com/), and told her how amazing I think it is what she is doing. Go check out her website! This girl is running 52 marathons this year for a good cause! Amazing!

When I passed the first line of portapotties I figured this must be the green start village, sat down in the grass and snuggled up with my blanket and extra layers of throw away clothes (that you could donate to charity; great initiative!). And texted Tracy (http://www.gotracygo.com/) that I was waiting for her at the Timex booth. Tracy and I miraculously were given the same corralnumber, so planned on waiting for the start together.

The search for Tracy

I figured I was waiting in the green village. After texting and phoning Tracy about a zillion times, I found out that I wasn't. Nope. Apparently a masters degree doesn't give you any guarantee that you can actually read signs. I was in the orange village. Ofcourse it took me almost an hour to figure this out, and finally get to where Tracy was waiting; in the green village. Yeah, so much for my level of intelligence. Fail!

Let's get this thing going

Tracy and I waited together for this thing to finally get going. Although the start village and the check bag drop-off were pretty well organized, the corrals weren't. You really had to be at your corral at least an hour before the start, otherwise you just wouldn't get in. Leading to lots of runners being refused to enter their corral. At one point Tracy and I looked at each other and both said 'Is this actually the start of the New York Marathon?'. The whole corral had this amateuristic feel about it. A bit disappointing, but at that point I was already so excited that I just wanted to get to the start line!

And we're off!

The outfit - some called it a bit too excentric... I say 'There's no such thing!'

All the stories about it taking half an hour to get to the actual start line are not true. At least, in my experience! It literally took me three minutes and I was in the 4th out of 6 corrals. Great! :) I didn't hear the promised 'New York. New York' by Ol' Blue Eyes, though. Maybe because we were on the lower deck of the bridge, I don't know.

I actually liked being on the lower deck of the bridge, by the way. It was somewhat quiet and 'peaceful' there. Something I really needed with my nerves. After leaving the bridge, we entered Brooklyn. Amazing crowds! I still can't believe that all these people actually take this entire day to be there and cheer for the runners. Never seen something like it!

I'm a slow starter. I'm one of those nutsos that usually ends up with a negative split. So, I was easing into the marathon for these first couple of miles. I had my sub-4 bracelet on to check my splits and I was right on track. Loved the crowds, although the course was pretty crowded, which sometimes made it difficult to hold my pace.

Just a quick shout-out to the volunteers; the aid stations were extremely well equipped and organized!

Bad luck mama

The first 8 miles went by in a blur. I felt good, nervous, but into it. I remember spotting the 8 mile mark and feeling a sharp sudden pain in my left calf. I figured it would go away, but it didn't and hit me to a point were I lost control of my leg and had to stop and stumble to the side. Immediately two police officers wanted to escort me to an ambulance. I refused and told them I wanted that medal. I didn't come to New York to drop out with an injury! So, they took me to the medical tent instead. The nurse examined my calf and told me that she could feel that the muscle was torn/ripped. Fan-FFFing-tastic! She asked me if I wanted to limp it out. It was ripped anyway, so I figured 'let's kick this marathon's ass!'. The nurse put some ice on it and let me go do my thing. Limping that is. I promised her to check in every other medical tent.
I honestly don't have the slightest clue how this could happen. I was in shape and trained hard! However...the course was very crowded, there were drink cups all over the place and I was focussing on everything en everyone around me. I guess the logical explanation would be that I must have stepped on something or in a hole or something. And that's what made the muscle rip.

Tylenol junkie
And limping is what I did for the next 18 (!!!) miles / 29K. I couldn't run. Heck, it was impossible to run, because the muscle in my calf wasn't functioning like it should. Plus I was in excruciating pain. At mile 18 I hit the meditent and they immediately gave me a double shot of Extra Strong Tylenol and some salt. Never took Tylenol before, but at that point I didn't really care what they gave me. It didn't help lower the pain, though. However, it did make my fingers tingle, and make me giggle. Continuously. Yep, I was high on the Tylenol.
My poor mom was waiting for me at mile 18 to cheer me on, but after me texting her that I got injured, she walked miles and miles (with her service dog!) along the course just to see me and give me some much needed support. Priceless! Thanks so much, Mom!

At about mile 19 (First Avenue: amazing crowds!) I ran - yeah, yeah, alright - LIMPED - into an older man. A runner, but also limping. 'Quad or calf?' he asked me. 'Calf' I answered. 'Ripped?'. 'Yep...'. 'Same here'. He was in the Wave before my wave, so he already had been on that course for an extra half hour. When I started complaining about me being right on track for a sub-4 until mile 8, he told me that he was aiming for a 3:17 finish, and that he'd been into running for 50 years now. That honestly did put this marathon in perspective for me. Still high on the Tylenol, I limped along.

Partner in crime for the last couple of miles

The crowds in Harlem and the Bronx were even more amazing than I'd expected. At one point a guy jumped in front of me and told me 'Christel, you're amazing! When you cross that finish line, you earned that medal, girl!'. I immediately teared up - obviously! :)

At about mile 21 I overheard a Dutch runner talking on his phone. He obviously hit the wall and was ready to finish this thing. I limped up to him and asked him whether or not he wanted to feel miserable together, and explained that I had ripped my old calf muscle and could really need some mental support. He liked the idea, so we stumbled along together. Chatting and hitting every aid station en route. Trying an easy jog once every couple of minutes, but with the calf I just couldn't. Plus, he was too tired at that point. Yep, the odd Dutch couple on its way to the finish line!

Fifth avenue had amazing crowds again and Central Park was just overwhelming. My mom was cheering for me at mile 24, and at that point I realized that I would finish this thing - with a torn calf!
Finally, the finish line!
Sooner than I'd expected I spotted the finish line, and started a pathetic attempt to limp/run to the finish. Fail! It looked funny on camera, though. ;) Finished in 5:18:46. I'm still surprised that I only lost 1 1/2 hours with the torn muscle and the not running, but limping for 18 miles. Although I'm disappointed that I didn't get the much wanted sub-4, I realize that this was just a bit of bad luck. You can't expect to keep running at a 8:50 pace with a torn calf. It just wasn't possible! But finishing, apparently was, and I'm pretty glad that I did pull through and limped it out.
Strangest thing about it: I wasn't tired - at all. I didn't feel like I had just finished a marathon. I was just in a lot of pain. I didn't even have any soreness in my 'good leg' afterwards and in the following days. Weirdest feeling ever!
By the way, it sure helped that there were marines waiting for us after the finish line to congratulate us. The marine wanted to give me a high five, I told him I needed a hug. And I got one! :) Yeah...that's me...limping along and still charming the guys. ;)
Death March
After the finish line we got our medals, a photo was taken, and we were handed a blanket. And then the Death March began. It took us half an hour to get out of the park. They forced us to follow the 'exit route'. With the injury, I didn't like it. It was just a bit too much. I saw several runners fall down and faint. Not a pretty sight. They were immediately handled by the medical staff, but still - not a pretty sight.
When I finally got out of the park, I couldn't find my Mom and waited on the steps of the Museum of Natural History, where I was handed Salonpas patches. Being in so much pain and the package saying 'pain relief', I immediately put one on my tortured calf. And was photographed for the Salonpas Facebook page because of that! ;)
My mom was waiting for me in an extremely overpriced bicycle cab (since it was impossible to get a normal cab, and I was injured) to take me to the hotel. I was so glad when I finally found her. People actually applauded for me when I got out of the cab at the hotel. Amazing! :)
As soon as I arrived at the hotel the PT on deck taped the calf and told me to rest it. Stay off of it. So, I did. We ordered room service and I watched some TV.
The next day, it really hit me that I was seriously injured. I couldn't even stand on my left leg. So, I was forced to walk around on crutches for at least a week. That's a whole different way to do sight seeing in New York City! ;)
The New York City Marathon - again?
Despite of the injury, I loved this marathon. Every single minute of it!
I guess you could say that the New York City Marathon had given up on me at mile 8, but that I refused to give up on the New York City Marathon!


The Hungry Runner Girl said...

Thank you for sharing your story! I can't believe you finished the race, you are hardcore. I am glad you still loved it even though you are injured. What are your plans now?

Silly Girl Running said...

@ The Hungry Runner Girl: Thanks! :) Plans: a couple of half marathons. Next marathon will hopefully be Paris marathon in April 2011. But for now, I'll need to recover from this injury, so lots and lots of cross training and therapy!

Emz said...


too excentric??????? Are you joking?! Too tame.

You are wonderwoman. seriously. So impressed.

Silly Girl Running said...

@ Emz: Okay...you officially made me blush. :)

dawn @ running the dawn said...

what an amazing story! you are so strong and courageous! i can't imagine going that far in that much pain. i hope that you heal fully and get back on track as soon as possible.

jamie@sweatyhugs said...

You are incredible! Seriously!

Bethany + Ryan said...

wow, so sorry to hear of this! what a major bummer but congrats on sticking it out and finishing! truly amazing!!!!

Amber said...

you go girl! what a trooper!

Silly Girl Running said...

@ the down: Thanks! Fingers crossed for a somewhat speedy recovery. :)

@ Jamie: Thanks! That's so sweet! :)

Silly Girl Running said...

@ Bethany + Ryan: Yep...definitely a major bummer, but unfortunately that's all in the game of running. ;)

@ Amber: Thanks! :)

Run Jess Run said...

You are so awesome for finishing!!! Many would have given up at mile 8!

Johann said...

Well done! Pushing through like you did is fantastic! You will see the benefits of hanging in there in future marathons when things will go much better. Rest well, I hope the calf heals nicely.

Kevin said...

In 20 years you will do a Throwback on that outfit and then I will have my revenge. :-)


Silly Girl Running said...

@ Jess: Thanks, that's sweet! :)

@ Johann: Well...fingers crossed for said benefits... At this very moment I'm not sensing them yet. ;)

Silly Girl Running said...

@ Kevin: LOL! Probably, yeah! ;)

rinusrunning said...

Gefeliciterd en een grote doorzettingsvermogen om door te zetten.Het lijkt mij ook verschrikkelijk moeilijk om in Newyork af te haken en dan ga je door.
de vraag over het hoe en waarom zal altijd moeilijk blijven denk ik, wel is het gewaagd om met blote benen te gaan lopen, zeker gezien de best wel koude temperaturen bij de start..Je geeft aan dat je niet meteen vol gas zou gaan en dan zou in mijn beleving een lange loop broek beter zijn geweest, kou op de benen in het begin van een marathon is niet best.

Verder was het parcour het eerste stuk naar beneden en liep het te gemakkelijk naar mijn idee, ook daar zit een gevaar in.

Verder natuurlijk was het oppassen geblazen met al die bekers op de grond,stilstaande lopers, enz.

Natuurlijk kan het wezen dat je je verstapt hebt?, maar de temperaturen waren in mijn beleving best wel koud.
Ik zelf ging niet vol gas deze marathon en daarom een lange broek aangedaan tegen kou op de benen wat weer effect heeft op de spieren.

In ieder geval een mooi verhaal en ik ben trots op je doiorzettingsvermogen en goed gedaan.
Lees van deze marathon en herstel goed en het belangrijkste, geniet!.

Groet Rinus.

Silly Girl Running said...

@ Rinus: Volgens de sportarts was de kou het niet. Zeker niet omdat ik compressiekousen aan had, en m'n kuit nu juist de blessure heeft. Misschien komt het door m'n wedstrijdski-verleden, maar van koude beenspieren heb ik nooit zoveel last. Tegen te warme benen heb ik nooit goed gekund; op de een of andere manier verzuur ik dan sneller. Denk dat het inderdaad eerder de bekers zijn geweest. Dat viel me al snel op, dat ik bij de waterposten echt wel moest uitkijken waar ik liep. Misschien dat de organisatie daar volgend jaar een betere oplossing voor heeft!

En ik moet nu natuurlijk wel revanche nemen op deze marathon, he? ;)

T said...

Finally getting around to catching up on my blog reading. I love your report, even if I hate your injury! And, don't forget, you still beat my - by over a mile a minute! - even though I have no excuse. I'm sad I didn't catch up with you at the end, although it sounds like you were in good hands!

Quinton J said...

Hey you…I’ve been meaning to catch up...just busy and way behind. I’ve been waiting on this RR before you even ran and I even printed it so I could digest it (going to try recycled paper next time because this stuff didn’t sit right with me). Anyway…CONGRATULATIONS! Of course I’m sad to hear about the tear but 'let's kick this marathon's ass!' is what I expected from you and exactly what I got.

I also think the outfit was the best. Those “some” that called it a bit too excentric…yeah…send them to me for smacks and body-slams!
Thanks for this awesome RR and the chance to be apart of this race “in spirit”. You did amazing under the circumstances and you should be proud.

RunningRonald said...

wow, wow, wow and wow. Diep respect Christel.. in 1 adem je verhaal gelezen.. wat moet het afzien zijn geweest. "Normale" lopers zouden allang uitgestapt zijn maar gelukkig ben je niet normaal ;)

Deze marathon zal je altijd bij blijven.. als je het even moeilijk hebt denk je gewoon aan de NYCM2010 ... nothing is impossible!

ps: you teared up? It's a good thing you can't see me right now *snif*

Ik vind je een MEGA KANJER!!!!

Anonymous said...

I still think you did an amazing job! Congrats and I hope your calf heals quickly!