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Sara's New York City Marathon 2016

It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had!

I signed up for my first MoonWalk Scotland in 2009 because it sounded like a fun thing to do and also because it would (hopefully!) motivate me to get a bit fitter! I have continued doing MoonWalks and other Walk the Walk challenges because they are fantastic fun and I have made some lovely friends… and also because over recent years a few people I know have been diagnosed with breast cancer, so raising awareness of, and fundraising for breast cancer has become a cause very close to my heart.

New York is quite possibly my most favourite city in the world, so when entries opened for the NYC Marathon in the year that celebrates 20 years of Walk the Walk, I just had to enter! Having completed quite a few MoonWalks, I was quietly confident I could do the distance… the big challenge for me was could I walk a marathon in less than seven hours?… I hadn’t completed this distance in less than eight hours in the past!!

The challenge was on …

I try to keep fit and go to the gym when I can, however I can be a little bit lazy and find any excuse not to go. I started training about six months before the big event and decided to do a variety of exercise so I wouldn’t get bored… gym sessions, pilates and Walking of course! I made myself a calendar to record what I was doing and set myself mini goals. After just four weeks my Walking pace had improved by almost a minute per mile!

I decided to do the first quarter of the Thames Path Challenge (25km) eight weeks before NYC to test my pace and see if my training was on track. It was a gorgeous Walk and I did it in a good time, so I was pretty pleased with myself.

I kept following the Training Plan until disaster struck when I pulled a muscle in my back with only five weeks to go. Sadly, my training had to on hold for a couple of weeks before I could return to the plan again gradually, just hoping I could get back up to speed in time and my back would behave itself.

Just under two weeks to go and I completed my 20 mile Training Walk in less than five and a half hours. I was pretty pleased with that… this was a great confidence boost and I finally believed I could do the NYC Marathon in less than seven hours. My top tip for anyone doing a big challenge is to follow the Training Plan and don’t leave your training until the last few weeks… starting training early means that you can cope with any little setbacks. 

One week to go and I was feeling pretty good… 20 mile Walk done, fundraising target achieved and the fabulous bra decorating was well underway. At least I was feeling pretty good until my husband downloaded the NYC Marathon app so he could track me on the big day… panic set in when I saw my name on the app with my bib number… I was really going to be doing this!

Just two days to go and I finally met the others who would be doing the NYC Marathon at the airport. We had been sharing our excitement and anxieties about the marathon as well as photos of our fabulous bras via the Facebook group over recent days so it was lovely to be able to put faces to the bras! Everyone was excited (and maybe just a little bit nervous!) about our big adventure.

Saturday morning was dawning in New York as we set off from the hotel nice and early to walk to the United Nations Plaza for the start of ‘The Race To The Finish’, with Nina leading the way as well as leading us in song. The atmosphere in the plaza was amazing and we got to show off our fabulous bras for the first time. Trying to get a group photograph was interesting as so many random people wanted to have their photo taken with the ‘bra ladies’… we felt like celebrities!

Flaunting our fabulous bras and waving our flags, we walked 5km through Manhattan into Central Park where we crossed the same Finish Line that we were all hoping to be crossing the next day after 26.2 miles.

Race To The Finish done and it was off to register for the big event itself before an afternoon of sightseeing. There is so much to see and do in New York, it’s almost impossible to know where to start. After checking out a few sights, some of us decided to go to the ‘Top of the Rock’ to check out the views of New York. It was a gorgeous afternoon and the views were incredible… we could see Staten Island in the distance where we would be starting to Walk the marathon and the Verrazano Bridge that we would be crossing for the first two miles of the marathon. 180 degrees in the other direction was Central Park where we would be crossing the Finish Line after Walking through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx… the NYC Marathon takes you through all five boroughs of New York.

 

Saturday evening and time for an inspirational tactics talk from Nina and a pasta party… time to get to know each other some more and share what we had spent the afternoon doing. After a fabulous pasta meal, we had special birthday desserts with candles and sang happy birthday to 20 years of Walk the Walk in NYC. Then it was off to bed to try to get some sleep before our big day tomorrow. Very excited and nervous in equal measures!

Sunday morning and the big day had finally arrived. A very early start to have breakfast to get us ready for the day ahead. New York really is the city that never sleeps… 5am and it was buzzing.

6am and we are all ready to set off… two coach rides and a ferry to get to the start line along with over 55,000 other marathoners. The atmosphere was very exciting and it was amazing to meet and chat to people from all over the world who had come to do the NYC Marathon.

At the start line, it was time for some stretching, photos and group hugs before we set off on our adventure with our fabulous bras on display for all of New York to see!

After crossing the Verrazano Bridge, we Walked into Brooklyn. I had heard that the atmosphere would be amazing but it was even more incredible than I was expecting. People were lining the streets of Brooklyn waving and cheering us on with musicians playing on street corners… it was just like being part of a huge street party! So we Walked, waved our flags and enjoyed the amazing atmosphere.

My husband and a couple of friends were following me and it was lovely to see them a few times along the route for hugs and an update on how well we were doing. It was especially lovely as one of my friends had breast cancer a few years ago and she and her husband have been huge supporters of all my Walk the Walk challenges… their hugs were very special.

 

I was Walking with the lovely Angela who I had only met at the airport a couple of days previously. We had the same Walking pace and stayed together from the start of the marathon. She was an absolutely brilliant Walking buddy… think she was a bit shocked when I confessed about mile 20 that I had never walked a marathon in less than eight hours and she was determined to help me achieve my goal of less than seven hours.

After walking through Queens and the Bronx we returned to Manhattan and walked into Central Park just as it was getting dark. As we approached the Finish Line, there were so many people cheering us on and the atmosphere was incredible… I knew I was so close to finishing but just didn’t want my NYC Marathon experience to end.

We crossed the Finish Line, had a big hug and received our medals… the medals are pretty impressive and it is worth doing the marathon just to get the bling at the end! I then picked up messages from some of my friends and family who were tracking me to tell me I had completed the marathon in 6 hours 24 minute … wow!! I had definitely achieved my goal of finishing in less than seven hours and had knocked over an hour and a half off my previous marathon distance times. All that training had definitely paid off. A big thank you to Sam at Walk the Walk for her regular emails that kept me motivated and on track when I was having a lazy week… and a huge big thank you to Angela who was a fantastic Walking buddy on the day.

Marathon completed, it was time to make our way back to the hotel and start celebrating. The celebrating continued with breakfast the next morning at Ellen’s Stardust Diner… a real American diner where all the staff are performers and entertained us signing songs from the Broadway shows. The highlight was all of us singing ‘New York New York’ while Nina was presented with a special birthday cake to celebrate 20 years of Walk the Walk in New York. What an end to an amazing experience!

Although it wasn’t quite the end… there was still time for lots of shopping and sightseeing before we headed home.

So, would I recommend doing the NYC Marathon? Definitely yes… it was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had! New York is an amazing city with loads to see and do, the marathon route is great and the atmosphere is electric… and you will definitely make lots of great Walk the Walk friends.

Would I do it again? Again, a big yes!

Sara

Join us for the New York Marathon 2017 -  unite with us against breast cancer!

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