It’s been a while! Things have been pretty busy here in Virginia and suddenly it was New Jersey Marathon weekend. About 10 days out from the marathon I came down with a cold. I felt crappy but wasn’t overly concerned since I figured it was far out enough from race day that I should be feeling better. My plan for this race had been to just run a moderate pace and enjoy the course. Unfortunately, my body was just not recovered from the cold and I ended up opting to take a DNF instead of trying to push through for no reason.
We arrived up in New Jersey on Friday and stayed the night at my uncle’s house. I met up with Hollie from Fueled by LOLZ for a diner dinner and had a really great time. It was so nice to finally meet in person after years of chatting online.
Saturday night we headed up to Point Pleasent to have dinner with my mom’s childhood friend and then walked down to the boardwalk. This was probably my favorite part of the entire weekend. It was such a beautiful evening, great food, and so nice to be at the Jersey shore.
Runner communication for this race was horrible. I actually checked my email the week before to find my registration confirmation because I hadn’t heard anything from the race and was afraid that maybe, I’d somehow forgotten to register! There are claims they sent an email out about a week before the race, but my friend who ran it also didn’t hear anything aside from a confirmation email after registration.
We were told there would be really obvious signs for runner drop off at the start. Fast forward to Sunday morning — there were zero signs. In fact, volunteers keep trying to direct my mom into a parking lot until she finally rolled her window down to tell them she wasn’t parking but was dropping off. The guy literally said, “Uh, just pull up over there and drop off.”
Once inside, I got in line for the bathroom. There were two men’s rooms open, one women’s room open, and a lot of empty port-a-johns outside in the rain. I was there early enough that I opted for the real bathroom and my friend arrived at the start while I was waiting in line. We met up afterward and pondered where bag check would be. We decided to follow the pacers out, figuring they would know where to go. Bag check ended up being right by the start line and then we got into the corral.
The start was uneventful, as many tend to be (especially compared with the Columbus Marathon). The rain tapered off right before we started and I was feeling fine despite blowing my nose, oooh, every few minutes or so. My running buddy and I had agreed to start out at an easy pace and hang onto it for a while. I knew I couldn’t run any faster than 8:45-9:00 and survive to the end. It was pretty obvious right from the start that I wasn’t 100%. Usually, I’m super chatty (thanks, VO2 max), but I was struggling to get enough air so I was much quieter. We did chat in the beginning with a guy who gets a small tattoo on his leg for every marathon he runs, but he hadn’t done one in NJ yet.
After about three miles my buddy started to speed up and I just hung back at what was comfortable for me. I knew he would want to pull off a PR if he could and didn’t want to hold him back. He ran a little too fast at the beginning of Shamrock to give me company for the first 10 miles and I didn’t want to hold him back on the opposite side of things for this race. He turned around to check on me a few times, and at some point, I told him I was okay and to just go up ahead. Then I watched him fade into the sea of people in front of me.
I continued on and chatted with a guy from Brooklyn who had traveled down with his wife and kids — and arrived only to realize he’d left his family’s bag on the side of the road in Brooklyn! Amazingly, he had his shoes with him and went to Target the night before the race to get some clothes. He kept randomly saying the F-word while we were running, and it was a hilarious reminder that I was, indeed, running in Jersey. The marathon was his second, having done NYCM in the fall as his first. He said he went out way too fast, learned a lot, and had a really good time. I told him I needed to take a break and he wished me luck and continued on.
I was happy to see a few spectators on the side of the road with Virginia Tech clothes on and I yelled, “Go Hokies!” to each one I saw. I yelled it out to a woman, and a man running next to me asked me if I had gone there. I told him my sister had, and he commented that his brother is a professor there. I told him I was from NJ, but live in Virginia now.
“And you came all the way up here for this? God bless you!”
“I’ve been struggling with a cold this week though, so I’m not feeling too great.”
“And you’re running the full? God bless you! And you’re doing great for coming back from being sick. Good luck to you, God bless you!”
This was seriously the most Jersey of Jersey exchanges during a marathon that I’ve ever had, but I think you have to be from Jersey to even understand what that means.
Shortly after this, I was just feeling tired. My energy was so low and I was starting to think I couldn’t get to the end after all. I decided to look at my heart rate and WHOA, it was way too high. Like, marathon-second-half high at mile seven. I actually saw my mom right around mile eight and told her I was maybe going to stop at the half and I would call her.
At this point, the course started to split to send the half marathoners down to the finish and the full marathoners on their way. I knew I couldn’t finish without possibly causing some damage to myself and started to debate what I should do. Run down to the finish and get a half medal or keep going and drop out when I needed? I got on the side for the half marathon, telling a volunteer trying to point me in the other direction that I had to take a DNF for the day. Honestly, this was not a hard decision for me. I just knew I didn’t have it in me. The harder thing I contemplated was to go to the finish or drop out elsewhere. At the very last second, I veered to the right to continue on with the marathon. Maybe I would get a second wind?
But at mile 12.95 I looked at my watch and wished with everything in me that I had just gone on to the finish. It just didn’t feel right crossing the line for a race I wasn’t actually going to finish, but now I had to figure out what to do. Shortly after mile 14, I went up to a volunteer and told her I was done. She kindly told me to go just down the street to the next volunteer and that she could help me. It turned out, that was her mom! As I was making my way down there, she called her mom, so her mom was ready for me when I got down there. She asked me if I was sure, or if maybe I wanted to walk for a little bit. I told her no, I was done.
The police officer seemed concerned, but I assured him I was ok. Just getting over a cold and I didn’t have it in me to finish that day. The volunteer let me use her phone to call my mom, and then gave my mom directions on how to get to me. The weather was perfect — in the 50s and breezy, but once I stopped I was cold in my shorts and tank top. The volunteer (oh, I really wish I could remember her name!) gave me a sweatshirt and went to her car for a blanket for my legs. Then I just hung out and chatted with her and the police officer and cheered on the runners until my mom could finally make her way to me.
Once she picked me up, we headed down to the finish area so I could pick up my checked bag. I texted my friend to let him know that I had dropped out, and then we headed back to the hotel so I could shower.
I was a little disappointed, but I knew this was the right decision so I wasn’t upset. I had such a fun weekend visiting my favorite state and got to spend some time with my cousin, his wife, and son. Plus I ate my favorite Jersey foods – bagels, hoagies, and pizza!
Next up, I have two-ish months of downtime until I start training for the fall. I plan to take full advantage of this “off-season,” especially with the warmer weather rolling in.
(Me with my cousin’s pet rabbit, Buck. He’s hilarious.)