On Sunday, November 6, 2011, I ran the ING NYC Marathon for the first time. All of my training and hard work was completed and it all came down to one day, marathon day. I woke up on marathon morning feeling a mix of emotions.

I was excited to run the most amazing marathon in the world, but also scared, 26.2 miles is not a simple Sunday morning run. Who was I kidding, I was more than ready for the race of a lifetime and no doubt in the back of my mind, was going to stop me.

I ate breakfast and gathered everything I needed before the start. I was as ready as I would ever be. My dad drove my running partner, Kaitlyn Dunphy, and I to Fort Wadsworth where the race began. I have volunteered at the NYC marathon for the past five years and every year I had the most incredible experience. However, running is completely different than volunteering.

My start time was at 9:40 a.m wave one right after the elite men. At 9:20 a.m we were lined up on the bridge and I took a deep breath and took the entire experience in. I was about to run the greatest race in the world with 47,000 runners, two million spectators, five boroughs and one incredible city. People wait years for the opportunity to run the NYC marathon and my opportunity was about to begin at sound the of the cannon.

With five minutes to the start, I made sure my laces were double knotted, said a prayer to be safe and to finish. With the sound of “New York, New York” we were running across the Verrazano Bridge. We shifted all the way to the right because previous marathoners warned us that people will go out very fast and will run right over you, the last thing we needed was to get hurt right before the start. Our goal was to run under four hours, which set the pace at 9:07 miles. The plan was to run 8:55 miles as long as we could so we would have more time for the end, because we knew we would need it.

Miles 1-5 Staten Island/ Brooklyn: I felt amazing we averaged 8:55 miles, which was the perfect pace for our goal. Brooklyn was my favorite part of the race. The crowds were wild and I enjoyed every second of it, because at this point there was no pain. I still felt like it all was a dream. I waited my whole life for this race and I could not believe it was here.

Miles 6-13 Brooklyn: At this point I was feeling strong; there was not a doubt in my mind that I would not cross the finish line in Central Park in about two hours. We saw Dunphy’s family at mile 8, which gave us an extra boost of energy and excitement. I came through the half marathon at 1:55:43, which is exactly what I predicted while training. About nine minutes slower than my personal best for a half marathon, which is exactly where, I needed to be in order to run the second half of the race or another half marathon. I was beginning to worry, I kept thinking, “Should I still feel this good? Should I be going faster?” I have enough running experience to know that I was doing great and all I had to do was keep it up.

Miles 14-16 Queens: Every previous marathon runner, every book I read, warned me to “beware of the Queensboro Bridge”, it is said to be the worst part of the whole race. When we reached the Queensboro Bridge, Dunphy and I looked at each other and said, “There is no way this is worst part, because we still feel great.” More than half of the runners were walking the bridge; walking was never an option for us. The bridge was very windy and the only part of the entire race with absolutely no crazy screaming NY fans and no water and Gatorade station. We were told that once we got off the Queensboro Bridge we would see crowds that took our breath away. When we hit mile 16, about to approach Manhattan, we looked at the clock; still on pace even with the bridge’s hill. The NYRR (New York Road Runners) official clock at mile 16 had a huge sign next to it “If you think only having ten miles left is easy then welcome to easy.” Ten miles left did not sound too bad, after completing sixteen already, but we did not get too excited, the hardest miles were ahead.

Miles 17-19 Manhattan: These three miles flew by. We were running the streets of Manhattan that usually have thousands of students, workers and tourists trying to get to work on time, hundreds of taxis doing the same and the fact that the entire city shuts down for Marathon Sunday was enough to keep my mind sane for these three miles. We saw Dunphy’s family again and the more we saw I could not wait to see my friends and family in Central Park but, we had to get there first.

Miles 20-21 Bronx: My legs were starting to feel it now. Mile 21 was a big deal for us. We never ran more than 21 miles at a time until that moment. For me, the Bronx was very quiet at a time, where all I needed was screaming fans to keep me moving. I wish all the spectators in Brooklyn took a trip up to the Bronx because that could have made all the difference. I was hurting but my mental state was still strong. Before entering Manhattan again one of the wheelchair racers was beside me and I thought to myself how could I possibly be complaining? A guy who is bound to a wheelchair is competing in the same race as me, I have no right to complain. We were soon about to be back in Manhattan and everything was going to be all right, so I hoped.

Miles 22-26.2 Manhattan Harlem/Central Park: Dunphy and I ran the entire race together until this point. We also were on perfect pace for less than four hours. I had to slow down a little my body was really beginning to feel the pain and I knew I had some extra seconds to spare. Dunphy went ahead, she was still feeling okay, I was happy she went. We both always promised each other we would not hold each other back. For me, this was the absolute hardest part of the entire race, but I had to push, there was no giving up now. Miles 23 and 24 were tough but nothing like 25 and 26. I figured by mile 25 I would be running on adrenaline, but for me, I do not think I even had adrenaline left in me. There was a group of people chanting “living strong” you can finish, (which I had written across my shirt). I knew they were cheering for me, but at this point, I really doubted that I would finish.

It was a pain that is indescribable. I still cannot even remember it myself when I tell you the last two miles were a blur, they truly were. I was running just over 11 minute miles, something I did not ever expect. With a half a mile to go, I saw all of my best friends. There was ten of them cheering and screaming I only caught a glimpse of one, but I certainly heard their screams. At half a mile to go I looked down at my watch it I was just over four hours. At that point, time did not matter; all that mattered was crossing the finish line. As I approached two hundred yards to go, I saw my mom and my uncle screaming and I knew this was it, the final stretch. Before I know it, I will be hugging them and this pain would be over. As I crossed the finish line I was relieved but I could not stop running. I know I sound crazy, but I was too dizzy to stop. The only way for me to stop was when I saw water and that was still a way down the road. I would like to joke and say I didn’t run a 26.2-mile marathon but maybe more like a 26.5. I jogged my way to get my metal and fuel bag. Water and pretzels have never tasted so good. I finished the marathon with my official time of 4:02:58. Dunphy finished in 3:57:00.

A marathon can easily be compared to life. In life nothing ever goes according to plan. I did not plan on feeling like I died at mile 23 but, I fought through the pain and finished. It is said that the last couple of miles separates the good from the great I am not sure what category I fall into but for myself I would say the great. I could not be happier with a time of 4:02:58, for my first marathon.

My body certainly felt the result of a phenomenal race on Monday when I could not even walk to the bathroom. Every mile I ran before the marathon and every ache I feel now, was worth it. It was an experience of a lifetime and I am lucky enough to have experienced it at such a young age with one of my best friends by my side. Now I would not say that I want to run another marathon tomorrow, but, running is part of my life and we will see what the next chapter may bring. But, for now a comfy bed and big bowl of ice cream is exactly what I need and deserve.

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