Last weekend was by far the best weekend for us in 2018. On Sunday November 4th, we both ran the TCS NYC Marathon 2018. Our first Marathon Major, and Elien's first marathon overall. How did we experience this day? Did we achieve our goals? And what ran through our minds as we were running through the streets of the city that never sleeps? Let's find out!
It had been raining all day on Saturday 3rd of November, but when we woke up the day after … all that was predicted was a blue, blue sky. Marathon-day, Sunday November 4th 2018, had been blessed and approved by the weather gods. Ready to ‘Rise and Shine’, we woke up eager for our very first Marathon Major: the world-famous TCS NYC Marathon 2018.
[4h45] Alarm goes off. We are scheduled to leave the hotel at 5h30 in order to walk to the pick-up spot where shuttle busses would start transferring about 52.000 (!) marathoners. Like always, Elien had slept like a baby whereas Daisy had suffered from another insomniac night of 4 hours of sleep (the 6th in a row that week!). Waking up, we packed our bags (incl. breakfast, drinks, six 6D gels, four 6D energy cakes, five 6D caffeine gums), dressed up … and start knitting. Turned out the little Belgian hearts we intended to iron to our shirts didn’t stick. Taking needle to hand, we started knitting like mad-women, racing against time.
[5h30] Proudly presenting Belgium on our left arms (we managed to knit the hearts to our shirts – more or less), we left the hotel towards the NYC Public Library.
Outside temperatures felt like 6 degrees Celsius, but energy, good vibes and an early shot of coffee kept us strong and going. Soon, we were united by a thousands of other runners waiting at the Public Library for a shuttle bus to pick them up. Being on time, we could soon enjoy the warmth and good humour of our lovely bus driver.
[7h00] Our bus, in a row of a zillion marathon busses, is speeding up towards Fort Wadsworth on Ellis Island where the iconic race of 26,2 miles (or 42,195 kilometers) will start. Daisy and Elien start in Wave 3, which leaves at 10h40.
We have another 3h40min to go, which means: breakfast time! In the next hour, we ate the following: 2 containers of Choco Krispies (130G in total) with 1 Fage yoghurt 0% fat, 1 Nestlé Nesquick Double Chocolate milk, and 1 banana, which provided us with 189G carbohydrates, exactly within the range of 1 - 4 G carbohydraytes / kg Bodyweight. Given the circumstances, we had to switch our beloved pancakes for Choco Crispies – which was just as good in terms of one final carbloading session. Eating about 4-2 hours before the start of your race allows your stomach enough time to transform your food intake into actual fuel for your body.
[8h30] Finally, we arrived! Although, it felt more like a festival Tomorrowland entrance than that of a marathon. Thousands of thousands of people were queueing up for the security check, before they were allowed into the Marathon zone. Even though it took a little while, the entire process ran extremely smoothly.
Enthusiastic police men and women were encouraging us to walk in line, while cheering for our upcoming race. Knowing what happened at the Boston Marathon a couple of years ago, everyone takes these security measures very seriously and we were amazed by the smooth organizational flow. Prohibited items: Camelbaks. Those who know us a bit better, know that we are profound advocates of these runners’ backpacks to store water or sports drinks. We discovered this two weeks before the start and, at first, it caused a little heart attack. “How on earth would we be able to run without having our 6D Sports Drink glued on the back of our bodies?” Then again, as soon as we understood that as of mile 3 (KM 5) they would provide both water and Gatorade (their local sports drink, comparable to our European Acquarius) – our worries were soothed. We wouldn’t die of thirst.
[9h15] Finding a toilet, you would think this is easy. To those who have run a marathon before will know the following saying: uw laatste ‘stress kakske’ doen (going for that last final ‘shit of stress’). It’s particularly hard to push those intestines when you’re so very excited about your upcoming race. Even though the NYC Marathon was the “longest urinoir in the world”, it was still a good 20 minutes wait before one could go for the ‘royal flush’ (that’s how their local “Dixi” toilets are called!). We will spare you the details, though know that we stood 3 times in line.
[10h15] Gates are open! Wave 1 had left already – the elite runners! – Wave 2 had proceeded to the starting blocks, so Wave 3 (Aaah, that’s us!) was admitted into the final Marathon rest zone. The great thing about the NYC Marathon is that they actively promote you to wear extra layers of warm layers of, preferably old and to be missed, clothing before you advance to the race. As said, it was 6 degrees Celsius when we had left 4 hours earlier. Yet, you don’t run a marathon with 10 fleeces or onesies on. What to do with those extra layers? Donate it to the poor! They collected all our overweight clothing, which would be used to benefit the New York homeless for the upcoming winter. It’s a heart-warming initiative that we actively supported by donating multiple pieces.
[10h25] Green light! We are allowed to advance to the starting blocks. Extremely well organised, we are led with thousands of others in Wave 3 towards the start of our adventure: Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.The minutes start ticking and positive stress levels are steaming up. Our natural heart beat in rest, which is usually below 100 bpm on average days, was going up to 116 bpm out of mere excitement.
[10h35] Only 5 more minutes to go and we’d be hitting the streets of NYC for at least a solid 4 hours. In order to release some of our excitement, we started exclaiming some of our iconic ‘Woop Woops’, which were answered throughout the crowds. Some minutes before the final shot, Elien told Daisy: “Goddamn, in 4 hours this will all be over!”, to which Daisy answered: “Don’t say that! We have to enjoy every minute of this”. A funny fact that Elien would remind Daisy of later in the race. At the final cue, they start playing “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra. They could not have chosen a better song for us to start running on!
[10h40] THREE – TWO – ONE…. GO! Going up right at the start, on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, we had a lucky wave. Our coach Marathonman had very well advised us to start off at an easy pace, as the NYC Marathon is an intense race with 5(!) bridges and a final steep finish line in Central Park. Many people start too fast, burning up their energy levels right away from the start. Well warned about this inside fact, we started off at an easy 6:10min/km. And so was everyone else around us! People even stopped on top of the bridge to take ample time for selfies with the NYC skyline. Having ran multiple races already, this one was quite surprising as we hadn’t expected people to be so chill. This was extremely encouraging. Elien even had to tell Daisy to slow down, back to the 6:10 min/km, in order to stay in line with our strategy: start slow to be able to end #instyle.
[Next 2,5 hours] Truth be told, we have no recollection whatsoever of what happened exactly at what time in the first 30 kilometres. As we descended the bridge, and started running in Harlem, we soon encountered the first cheerful crowds. And the crowd was just endless… This was the best of the best, “la crème de la crème”, people of all sorts, of all races and ages, cheering for you with billboards, reaching out bananas and Kleenex handkerchiefs, playing music, dancing, shouting and singing … for a FULL 42,2 kilometres, non-stop, on end. This was magic! Not in our craziest dreams, did we dare to have imagined this madness. We were sucked in by their energy, pushed forwards, and ran the first 25 kilometres as if on clouds. As we weren’t allowed to wear our Camelbacks, we stopped for a short 5 seconds pause at every mile in order to take: 1 cup of Gatorade, 1 cup of water. This caused Daisy to stop 3 times for a short toilet visit, always catching up again with Elien (whose bladder must be gigantic as no need to pee ever came up). Passing borough by borough, we visited NYC from bottom to top. The only neighbourhood that was a little less on energy was the Jewish streets, and even this had its own charm.
[As from KM 27] At mile 17, Pascal, Daisy’s husband and Rise and Run’s professional photographer, would be waiting, cheering and snapshotting us for a first time. As soon as we passed the Mile 17 signal, we started looking out for the promised Belgian flag. Seeing none, we barely missed Pascal. Luckily Elien did spot our photographer, thinking that her smiling, clapping, running like a penguin would be spotted by Daisy. Nothing of that happened, so while Pascal took cheerful pictures of an all-too-enthusiastic Elien running by, Daisy kept focused on the roads. Jut check out the pictures.
[Last 10 kilometres] Coming back to our strategy: start off slowly so as to end #instyle. By this time we must have passed our fifth and final bridge, or must have been in the midst of finishing it. At the penultimate bridge, which seemed endless, some funny conversations took place. While Daisy was clearly done with it: “Ik heb het gehad. Ik kan geen brug meer zien. GE-HAD met die bruggen!”, Elien tried to cheer her on: “Komaan, we gaan alweer naar beneden. We zijn al boven!” (even though, we were clearly not). Trying to fool a ‘done’ Daisy is not easy, as she replied: “Gij zijt zot zeker! We zijn belange nog niet boven.” Truth be told, Elien had the (rather painful) benefit of having performed her very last LSD- trainings of 36, 38 and 23 km at high altitudes in the mountains with up to 2000K height ascents. These heavy trainings made the 5 bridges of NYC feel like flat ground to her. Instead, she used the spare energy to push on Daisy beyond all 5 bridges.
[Last 7 kilometers] We were running for 3h30min when suddenly only 7 more kilometers were ahead of us. God, time really flies by when having fun. It would be over so soon! Suddenly, Elien’s legs must have received Speedy-Gonzales energy as she started pushing the two of us at a pace of 5:30 to even 5:00 min/km. 30 minutes… less than 7 kilometres … the competitive pusher was awake! Finishing below 4 hours seemed plausible! Yet, we had made a promise. We would train together, run together and … finish together. Finding a compromising speed, while Elien pushed on Daisy (for once, it was the other way around!), we made it to Central Park. However, we weren’t done yet by then. At that moment, Daisy had been running already for 20 minutes at her max heart rate, fully in the red zone, while suddenly she said: “Fuck, my foot is giving up”. This Achilles-spot in the body of one of the strongest women we know would NOT obstruct this run! Daisy her greatest strength came to light again: fierce and determined she caught up speed, went beyond her limits, and kicked ass BIG TIME for the last 2 kilometres in Central Park.
[Last 2 kilometres] As we passed the border of 40 kilometres – how iconic! – we, together, ran up to the finish line. Passing Pascal one more time, making time for one last jump into the air, speeding up again… passing by hundreds of people who were walking by that point, while we took each other’s’ hand and jumped over that bloody 42.195 border straight into our glorious end.
[Aftermath] So, that was it. Months of training, thousands of kilometres, … and suddenly, 4 hours 6 minutes and 48 seconds later it was … over. Daisy’s first Major Marathon and Elien’s first Marathon… this was a thrilling experience.
The crowd was mad, the pace challenging, and NYC Marathon was everything we had dreamed of and more. It was our "baby project", the very start of Rise and Run InStyle. We have been through challenging moments in order to get here, many heavy trainings in the darkest of winter and the hottest of summer. But we did it all together. We trained, ran and finished, together.
Elien & Daisy