The Positives and Negatives

They say when you finish your first marathon you are hungry for another.  You want to look at every aspect of your training and what to improve on and what to chop out.  I enjoyed the marathon distance but it hasn’t consumed me to the point that I only want to do marathons now forever.  I was going to add this to the end of my race recap but the post was so long and I figured it would be easier to space it out.  After giving my objective thoughts about the race I thought I would talk about various aspects of the race and my personal thoughts.  I learned a lot of lessons from the race that I would never learn without running it.

First people can tell you this 100 times but you have truly experience it for yourself.  The marathon is not two half marathons.  The difficulty of the race is equal to five half marathons.  For me, I can break the race up as the first 15 miles and then the last 11.2.  Most people say it is a 20 miler and 10k pain train but I boarded the 10k early at mile 15.

The course itself would be one of the most hated and grueling courses if there were not so many people cheering and supporting you.  What I didn’t know prior (because I didn’t do my research) is that people don’t come to NY looking for a fast time.  What people don’t realize is that it has a lot of bridges but when running in the neighborhood boroughs, the road is still a gradual incline.  Since the course is point to point, it doesn’t mean what goes up must come down.

I don’t think I took the race out to fast at all.  My plan was to run the first half in 1:35 and then see where the second half of the race went.  I knew it was very unlikely that I would be negative splitting my first marathon.  I would rather finish happy and strong versus dying.  That was my original goal but you know by now I still finished dying.  Finishing your first marathon not about to peel over is an overzealous goal.

I think I had two phases of bonking.  First, when my quads began to tire and cramp at mile 15.  I was mentally still capable of running the same pace and I didn’t start to die too much.  After talking to several people they tell me due to the elevation of the NYCM course your quads will be sore.  Since it was so hilly it was working quads.  (Before the race I was sure my calves were going to be the most sore).

My second phase of bonking was when my glycogen was completely gone from my system around mile 18-19.  I could have probably eaten a dozen krispy cream donuts and it would not have been enough sugar for my blood stream.  I think that comes from an effort of 7:15 pace for 2 hours.

Incase you wondered what I ate and drank during the race: a gel at mile 8, 14 and 20.  I took Gatorade at every mile except for 7,8 13, 14 19 and 20.  I took water at those stops so I didn’t mix Gatorade and gel.  I believe I read on Janae’s blog to take fluid at every stop so that is how I decided to do that.  I think it worked out really well.  I think my fueling was fantastic for me and I think my bonk came from not running enough speed workouts.

Positives of the race:

I finished my first marathon.  I trained for a marathon and I finished it.

I ran a smart race.  I was 210th woman overall and 10th in my age group.  I am pretty proud of that!

I liked my fueling.

I still plan to run my next full conservatively.  My next goal will be a 3:10 and I will still plan to take it out in 1:35 and hope I have more energy.

What I’ll change next time:

I’ll look for a flatter and less challenging marathon course.  Does that make me sound lazy?  I don’t know but I think on a better day (less wind) I am fully capable of running a faster time.

Final New York thoughts:

I liked the race and I like the distance.  I am not 100% hooked that I need to do marathons and only marathons.  I do plan to do another marathon but I plan to work more on a half again right now (after I have recovered).

Will I do NYCM again? Yes, most certainly.  You cannot beat the crowds and cheering.

Questions for you:

Have you done NYCM?  Have you ever cheered there?

What is the toughest race you have ever done? 


  1. Sounds like you are being very smart – do another marathon when the time is right, but don’t forget other distances in the meantime. And there is nothing wrong with looking for a fast course to see just how fast you can push yourself to be. You might really like the Myrtle Beach course.

      1. And as far as big city marathons go, it’s pretty easy to deal with logistically. Loop course, easy bag check, and your half time puts you in corral A so you’d cross the start line just a couple of minutes after the gun. Biggest downside is unpredictable weather, but it’s been perfect the last two years!

  2. You should do Chiicago next fall-I’ll be there!! I would love to do NYC but I hate hills (lazy POS right here..) maybe one day though. I’d rather do the MCM.

  3. 3:17 at NYCM is an incredible first marathon; I loved your recap and reading about your training. If you’re still in Jersey next year, you should definitely come run Philly! Fast course with only a few hills in the beginning — you would destroy it!

    I think you have mentioned before that you are a type 1 diabetic, and I am really curious about how you managed that over the marathon distance. That blood sugar stuff seems like it could be tricky in a marathon context (especially in a “first marathon” context) and I wonder how that extra wildcard affected your approach to race-day fueling and your experience.

    1. I will for sure be in NJ next year. We know we will be there at least for four years. 🙂 I’ve got a lot of friends running Philly this year. I’ll have to do a post about nutrition eventually but I didn’t have any issues with sugar actually. It was about “normal”. 🙂

  4. Living in Atlanta hills are part of I am finally getting use to them but I am a slow ass runner! I am toying with the idea of running a road marathon in VA with an elevation gain of 7000. I however, will be rocking a 5+ on that 😉 I wont qualify for NY anytime soon but I do plan on getting in the lottery starting this year fingers crossed cause im obsessed.

  5. Sounds like you have a good approach to the marathon distance, especially in terms of goals for the next one. In better conditions, though, you might not have such a grueling time (those winds were no joke).
    My BF really likes the New Jersey Marathon in May, though the weather can be iffy and there are many turns on the course. I believe he’s pacing 3:15 next year, but if you want more info I can put you in touch with him.

  6. Of course you’re not lazy for wanting to run on an easier course! Some people never challenge themselves at all and always look for the flattest courses possible – you chose to run your first marathon on a character building course, and therefore you’ll be better prepared for any tough moments during your second race.

    It’s not great for anyone to run just marathons unless they’re *very* motivated to do hard speedwork on their own on a regular basis. I believe that half marathons are highly beneficial for marathon runners (heck, even for ultra runners) because they are (for me) more painful and get you accustomed to putting up with a higher level of discomfort. For me, fast half marathons are more challenging than plodding along for a full 26.2 miles. Of course the toughest challenge of all is running at your speed for 26.2 miles, but you’re not like type of runner to get lazy enough to just amble through a marathon (I, unfortunately, am. Which is why I still run half marathons even though I absolutely hate them compared to fulls).


  7. You learn something new everyday – I wouldn’t have thought for the NY marathon to be one with much incline, huh, but it makes perfect sense as it’s point to point. I really like your write up with mentioning the positives, and opening paragraph when you say you learned a lot of lessons from this race that you wouldn’t have learned without racing. That is just proof to show that we never really know about something before we experience it personally. I’m happy that you left feeling good and inclined to do the race again! 🙂 Cheers!!!

  8. I want to do the Chicago half next year (hopefully I’ll be running 13 miles then like it’s no big deal). I don’t think it sounds lazy to want a flatter course! When you’re just starting out at those distances, I think it’s wise to choose that way. Get yourself in the swing of things before making it harder than it has to be! I still think you did a great job! And 10th overall in your age group is amazing!!!! So is 210th overalll! Whenever I go running now and feel like dying, I think to myself, “Hollie feels like dying sometimes too and she runs 26 miles and way faster than I do.” Makes me feel better knowing really good runners still struggle and not every mile comes easy!

  9. I second the Philadelphia marathon, especially if you’re looking for a flat course!

  10. 1) As you know I ran NYC in 2010. After running my first marathon in January 2010, I ran my second marathon in June 2010 (Rock N Roll San Diego, which I signed up for before I entered the NYC lottery pretty much on a dare). While I improved 10:25 between my first and my second, NYC humbled me. I ran that only slightly faster than my first marathon, and it hurt like hell!!

    2) Thus, my answer to this question is found above. Out of the seven I’ve done now, NYC is absolutely the hardest. I’ll take Heartbreak Hill in Boston over the Queensborough Bridge any day of the week!!

    I don’t think anyone could really want to do only marathons. Yuck. Other distances are great for variety, speed, and also as tune-ups for marathons. Variety is the spice of life! Your next one should be flat and fast – like Chicago – but could even be a smaller race. Although, you’ll never have to deal with crowds and interminable waiting like you do in NYC.

  11. Most of the races I have done have been pretty big ones so I am looking forward to some smaller races. The marathon I want to do in March is capped at like 200 or 250 people. I am really glad you came out feeling good and now you have a base for comparison. Really great job though Hollie!

  12. I’ve only run one marathon (Indianapolis Monumental), and it’s actually a great course for people looking to PR. It’s super flat (like everything in Indiana), only in its 6th year (small, but organized), and usually fast since it takes place during the first week of November. Indy also has some pretty cheap hotels and a ton of good restaurants (if you know where to look). I chose that as my first marathon instead of Chicago, because I didn’t want to fight crowds and I wanted the guarantee of cool weather. Chicago can be in the 80s some years! Alana Hadley also just ran her OTQ at the Monumental. 🙂 That girl is a beast!

    Now that I live back on the East coast, I definitely have NYC on my radar, but not for a while. I’m planning on running my second marathon next fall. I’m trying to decide between Richmond, Philly, or a second round of the Indy Monumental. Richmond is closest, but my family could spectate Philly, so I might be leaning towards that.

    I am still so in awe of your time! 3:17 on that course is awesome! 🙂 Enjoy the rest period! I’m trying to gear up for half training right now, as well. I am VERY out of shape, so it will be a long hard winter of training for me!

    1. Thank you so much! Where did you move on the East coast? I’ve been hearing the Philly full is flat and fast. I’m thinking of spectating it this year so I will have to look! I don’t know much about Richmond just that it’s 90 minutes from VA beach LOL 😉

      1. Home for me now is Charlottesville VA, aka Hill City. I love me some Blueridge Mountains, but a girl needs some flat ground once in a while! I’m not in the Midwest anymore! If you’re ever around Cville and want to get some hills in, let me know! 😊 Richmond is about an hour away, so that’s why I was considering it. My parents live in central NJ about 45 min from Philly, so that’s why I was thinking about running there. I’ve thought about the NJ marathon, as well, but I think November is the perfect month to attempt 26.2.

  13. I have cheered at NYCM but this was my first time running and just amazing if not for the crowds I may have thrown in the towel! My quads took a beating too during the race (and dumb bc I live up here that I was not prepared) but I am going to be qualified in 9 + 1 for next year and plan to return.
    I have only run Miami and NJ on top of this (well a DNF at Hartford but cannot report on that course in full) and have to say while NJ is flat it is almost TOO flat. And boring. I actually don’t know if I can bring myself to run it again next year.
    Dying to run Chicago though!

  14. Hey Hollie! Congrats on your first marathon finish 🙂 I ran my first half marathon a couple weeks ago, and was wondering how you would recommend fueling during the race. After reading how you fueled during your marathon, I realized that one of my mistakes during my race was not taking enough water and gels.. I definitely suffered because of it! I’d appreciate any advice you can give (and I’m sorry if you get asked this a lot)!!

    1. Oh no of course please feel free to ask away! I actually don’t take any gels in a half marathon but I’ve also been extremely lucky that I’ve been able to eat 2 hours before (I love French toast Panera bagels. I consider them my good luck half charm). I take water until mile 6-7 then I tend to take Gatorade. I hope that helps but if you have more questions feel free to ask 🙂

  15. I’m so proud of you for the race, and how you are responding to everything. You ran an awesome first race, and you are 100% right…some of those things you just can’t learn until you run it. You have so much ahead of you, this much I know…and that includes various race distances… marathon is not be all end all– but I know that NYCM and the 26.2 distance has not seen the last of you!

  16. You did amazing and are so inspiring! 10th in your age group is pretty awesome 🙂 Congrats, you’re braver than me, I think I’m stuck at half distance forever

  17. I agree the marathon is about equal to 4-5 half marathons as far as difficulty goes! Nothing people tell you really prepares you for it until you experience it. I also like how you posted this a few days later, for me my thoughts about my race changed from the day of the race to the week after and to now (over a month after). It’s one of those things that’s such a big experience that it takes a while to process. You still did a great job, I don’t blame you to try another marathon that is flatter too and try to improve your time even though your time is still amazing for the first marathon and a difficult course. Looking for a flatter course isn’t lazy at all, it is smart especially if you want time improvements and PRs 🙂

      1. Well, everyone I ran with and talked to basically felt like a marathon “high” for the first day or so. A couple of my friends (I had a lot of friends running mine), got the post-marathon blues. As for me, I basically just sorta accepted it and signed up for a lot of 5Ks and 10Ks :).

      2. Nope, none planned right now.

        If I want to do another, I’ll think about late 2014 or early 2015. Thing is, we want to try for kids eventually (we’re both 28), and marathon running usually isn’t too conducive to that- although my friend found out she was preggers a few weeks after her full.

        Right now I don’t have the desire to run anything more than a half though. I’ll never say “never” because I am only 28 and I have years and years to run and who knows, maybe when I’m older I would like marathons better.

  18. Everyone I’ve talked to at work absolutely loved the race’s atmosphere and would do it again too. And if it makes you feel better, the only reason I figured out NYC was a challenging course is because I was surrounded by more knowledgeable runners/coworkers at work. Honestly, I would’ve thought the course would be flat. Nevertheless, glad to hear you’re happy with how you did–what a killer first marathon performance!

  19. Disclaimer – your PR is really 20 min faster than mine, so take this with a grain of salt. 🙂

    I think your fueling could be better. You said you bonked and had low blood sugar. Sure, more speed workouts will train your body to run more efficiently and use less glycogen, but IMO more fuel can fix that problem in a more reliable and easier manner. I’ve also found that mile 8 is too late to start. You’re behind the power curve at that point anyways. My suggestion would be miles 5,10,15 and 20 so you stay ahead of the low glycogen and fit in another Gu. I’ve heard the first should be at 45min and then take one every hour after that.

    But like I said….just my $0.02….you totally kicked ass!

  20. Great report! I too am not overly taken with marathons. I enjoy them, but not necessarily that much more so than any other distance. Granted, I just started running, but it’s been really fun to see how much more my times come down on the fast distances. You can’t beat the feeling of running a 5:40 pace when a year ago you could barely run at 7:45 for a 5k.

    I’m not sure I agree with the marathon being like 4-5 half marathons though… just my experience, perhaps it’s because I took it at too fast a pace for my first of that medium distance, but my half hurt more than either of my marathons before or after the half.

    My hardest race was the Mad Marathon in Waitsfield VT. (It was my first marathon). In my opinion, it’s only a step away from a trail marathon (I’m doing one of those next year). According to my GPS, there was about 2500ft of elevation gain, so it’s actually MORE gain than the trail marathon I’ll be doing! It was absolutely insane, and looking back, I’m shocked I finished such a hard course for my first marathon, and still wanted to do another only 3 months later. I do recommend it if you want a challenge, and not a PR. (I talked to someone after who’s run 54 different marathon courses, PR of 3:10, and followed it up with a 3:50 at this marathon the same year. Yikes.

    I’ve never done NYCM, but after reading your report, I’m actually considering it! I want something challenging next fall after I try for a shot at Boston in the spring.

  21. FYI, Empire Marathon is half price ($55) during the early bird special, only 300′ of elevation change too. I may have already signed up for it next year (What am I doing!? Lol).

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