Monday, November 06, 2006

I ran a marathon!!!!!

It's the day after the marathon, I've just slept 9 1/2 hours, and may go back for more. But first of all, I DID IT!!!

I ran the NYC marathon. And I achieved 2 out of my 3 goals. My first goal was to run the whole way (aside from the few seconds it took to drink water), my realistic time goal was to be within 5 hours, and my ambitious time goal was to do it in 4 1/2 hours. I ran the whole way (albeit slowly), and finished with a net time of 4:48:59.

It was incredible. Overwhelming. Emotional.My preparation started the night before with a pasta dinner at home, and I went to bed at 9:30. Wasn't able to fall asleep until 2 am--kept tossing and turning, thoughts running through my mind. I tried to envision myself running the marathon successfully, but only managed to picture myself tripping, or limping through it. Felt imaginary knee and leg pain all night, and my foot kept cramping up. I was itching to run, though, to feel the concrete beneath my feet. And when my alarm went off at 5 am, I was ready.

I took a cab with my roommate Rose to midtown, for her to take an official marathon bus, and me to go to the Fred's Team breakfast for bagels and coffee and fruit. After a team photo in Times Square, we set off in the buses. Buses everywhere! I had arranged to meet Rose and her friend Paula at the food area, and I'm glad I did. Despite how prepared I thought I was, I realized I had forgotten my wrist band and my watch, and also did not have enough clothes with me. It was freezing cold, and we had two hours to wait on Staten Island until the race began. But Rose had an extra sweatshirt and a blanket, and I tried to bundle up. We chilled out on a blanket, pretending to be at a beach, reading magazines. When the time got closer to line up, Rose alarmed me by saying that she was planning on taking an 8-hour Tylenol dose once an hour.
"But it's 8-hour Tylenol!"
"But I'm running a marathon!"
Paula read the package. "Do not exceed 3 doses in a 24-hour period."
"Fine. Well, I'll take one dose now, and then as needed."

I had a dose in my pocket, too, just in case. Didn't want to take it unless I needed it. Boy, would I need it.

Rose and Paula left me to line up with their numbers, and I searched the crowd for my friend Paul whose number was close to mine, and amazingly found him. We started the race together, winding up to the Verrazano Bridge, dodging the minefield of clothes. There were clothes everywhere--just as Rose, Paula, and I did, people just discarded their clothes and blankets rather than bother with checking them. It was funny to see clothes fly through the air to the sides as people discarded more while running.

I told myself to savor the whole race, that as was the case with skydiving, it would be over before I knew it. I was planning to take the first 3 hours slowly--but because I had forgotten my watch, it was hard for me to calculate/remember what my time was for each mile, but maybe that was for the best. I just ran. The view from the bridge was beautiful. Volunteers and workers cheered us on from the median. When I made my way down to the bottom of the bridge where people lined the route, I was psyched. The main thing that had made me consider running a year ago was the warmth and support of the crowd. As a spectator, I wanted to lift the runners who went by, to encourage them. I loved yelling out their names, cheering them on. And it made me want to be one of the runners, benefiting from the cheers of the crowd.

I had debated whether to spell my name on my shirt phonetically, but decided against it. I just wanted my name, the way I spell it, on my shirt, and thankfully I think I only heard one "Al-vine-a" and two "Alvinia"s the whole time--not bad! I ran mainly along the sides, partially to keep an eye out for friends, but mostly to give people high fives and hear my name. As people, these strangers, cheered my name on the sidelines, I got verklempt at how wonderful the support was. I loved giving high fives to little kids lining the route, and truly, it buoyed me, energized me. One of the best stretches was running along Lafayette Street in Brooklyn, because the narrower street was more intimate with the spectators. Just as Rose had told me from her experience last year, the cheering of the names has a domino effect--if one person yells "Go Alvina" then people farther along the route will hear that and look for "Alvina" and continue the cheer. During one instance of this happening around mile 8, I hear "ALVINA!!!" and I look back and there's Rose, making her way towards me. As we're hugging we hear someone saying, "In a marathon of 37,000 people, what are the chances..." and there, beside us, is Heather, Rose's friend. Amazing.

The first friends I saw, a Randoms contingent, were camped out on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. I stopped to take a couple bites of a Power Bar and say hi. Then Sachin was a mile later in Greenpoint, with my camera:"How do you feel?"
"I feel good--but we'll see how I feel 10 miles from now."

I looked out for Peggy and Antonella by the Queensborough Bridge, but didn't see them--but I did see Cathy, twice. I was feeling great. Happily, my left knee which had been bothering me, popping when I walked, was silent and fine. I felt good. Both the Randoms and Sachin commented that I didn't look like I had just run 11 or 12 miles.

Getting into Manhattan finally was amazing, both because I knew there was less than 10 miles left, and also because I was looking forward to running by Sloan Kettering in my Fred's Team shirt, and seeing my roommates near my own apartment. But 1st Avenue is my hood, and I felt comfortable there, familiar.

A woman spectator was running really fast trying to cross the street, and dropped her scarf in front of me. I picked it up and ran after her to return it (man, she was running fast!)--that was my good deed of the day.

I started feeling tired up in the 90s, but then saw Connie and Matt unexpectedly. "What are you doing on the Upper East Side?!" I said as I gave her a hug--she had told me she'd be in Brooklyn, but I hadn't seen her. "Cheering you on!" she said. It helped.

It took forever to get to the Bronx, but I just counted the streets as I went by. And then in the Bronx, I once again saw Cathy! Truly a dedicated spectator. "You're everywhere!" I yelled as I ran off. Once I knew there was less than 6 miles left, I knew I was homefree. That I had made it. 6 miles is once around Central Park, a run I do all the time. People say you hit the wall around mile 21 or 22, but I was just excited to be running the farthest I've ever run in my life, and I didn't really feel so bad. "It's not that hard!" I thought, amazed. I mean, it was hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be. I remembered the quote Amy and Bryan had sent me from Jimmy Dugan: "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great." In fact, I was a little disappointed. I wanted it to be hard, I wanted it to be great.

But then, with 4 miles to go, it hit me. My left knee. Sharp, stabbing pain. Ouch. I felt that each step was tearing something. Of course, I immediately regretted thinking what I had thought before, that it wasn't hard enough. I wanted it to be "easy" again. I started limp a little, trying to keep my left leg as straight as possible.

But I kept going, thinking about professional athletes who play through pain. I could make it 4 miles with a hurt knee. I had less than 4 miles left, I wasn't going to give up. I took out my 8-hour Tylenol and took it at the next water station. It helped a little. I stopped limping. I was going to make it.

I saw another unexpected friend cheering me on--Nancy and Jonny in Manhattan just as we were leaving the Bronx. I saw her too late, and the route was narrow, so I couldn't stop to say hi, but she jumped up and down cheering "Alvina! Alvina! Alvina!" and I laughed and waved at her.

The last 4 miles were the hardest, mainly because my knee, but also psychologically, because I felt like I was so close, but really, there was still miles and miles to go. Each mile marker took forever to come. I got a little emotional when we finally made our way into Central Park, because it felt so much closer then--but I knew that it was still a long way from East 90th Street and the finish line on the West side. As with the 20-mile training run, it was the second-to-last mile that was the toughest. And after I finally passed the mile 25 marker, it seemed like forever before I ran 0.2 miles past that and saw the 1-mile-to-go marker. But I sped up then--I was determined to finish under the 5 hour mark, and I was cutting it close.

I crossed the finish line at 4 hours, 58 minutes, and 59 seconds. When I checked my net time later, I saw that I must have taken exactly 10 minutes to cross the starting time, because my official time was 4:48:59.

Done. Got my medal. I ran a marathon. Hard to believe.

Sachin met me at the family reunion area with flowers:
then it was home for a long, hot shower. Ahhhhhh. And then on to Mo's Caribbean to celebrate with Rose, Paula, and friends where I saw this sign in the window:I found out later that Antonella had left it there for me--she had gone to cheer, but couldn't get to the side of the street she had told me to look for her, and so I passed her by. But I knew she was there somewhere, cheering me on!

Drinks and wings at Mo's was followed with Ethiopian food, and then a blissful deep, deep sleep. All in all, a very good day.

And today...I'm sore, but okay. My legs are stiff, my knee still hurts and feels swollen. Going down stairs is tough. Will I run it again? I think so. It was so much fun, so exhilarating. And I'd like to improve on my time. But maybe I'll take a year off. We'll see. Stay tuned.

Thank you everyone for your support! I couldn't have done it without all of you. And during my training, I've inspired my father to run--he's training for the San Diego marathon in June.

Here's Rose, me, and Paula at Mo's: And now it's time for a nap.

Note: a couple of photos were taken from various flickr sites. All other photos were taken by Sachin.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Alvina! I felt like I ran the marathon with you after I read your post. I missed you guys and NY a lot yesterday and wish I could have been at Mo's to give you a hug!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!!!! We were cheering for you in Pennsylvania. Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

Hurray, cheers, salute, gold stars to you, Alvina!! I'm so impressed, so excited, so inspired. Let's hear it for GOALS!
Take care of yourself, now, and savor every memory, every step --well, maybe not the painful ones?

Grace Lin said...


I thought about you all day Sunday, wish we could've been there to cheer you on in person--we were there in spirit!

I'm most impressed that you were able to go out afterwards. I would've just konked out.

Anonymous said...

Yay! That was an amazing, and inspiring post.

Libby Koponen said...

BRAVO ALVINA! What a run, what a description! Reading this brought tears to my eyes: and I am so impressed by what you did. The way you describe it makes me able to imagine it: thanks for writing it up in such detail for all of us.

I thought about you all day yesterday, too -- I wasn't there in person, but I was there in spirit, cheering for you. Bravo, Alvina! And sweet Sachin, to meet you with flowers and take all those great pictures.

Anonymous said...

way to go! i am so inspired to get running now! thank you for the wonderful story. you have much to be proud of.

stacy hwang

Lisa Yee said...

Wow! And your dad's in training now? How cool!

Janie Bynum said...

Al-VEEEE-na! I wish I had been there to yell your name. I thought of you, though, all weekend--from way down here in TX. You are officially my "bloomability" idol. You did it. SOOO cool! You've inspired me to get a little more serious about my tiny 3 mile fast-walks! Who knows? Maybe SOMEday I'll turn that into a 5k run. (Umm, probably not a marathon!) Yay, ALVINA!

Janie Bynum said...

Al-VEEEE-na! I wish I had been there to yell your name. I thought of you, though, all weekend--from way down here in TX. You are officially my "bloomability" idol. You did it. SOOO cool! You've inspired me to get a little more serious about my tiny 3 mile fast-walks! Who knows? Maybe SOMEday I'll turn that into a 5k run. (Umm, probably not a marathon!) Yay, ALVINA!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I was thinking of you on Sunday, too. I'm sorry I couldn't cheer so you could hear me. A marathon. 26 miles! Wowee. Very impressive.


Anonymous said...

Alvina! You ran negative splits, which is a very postive thing! (You ran the second half of the marathon faster than the first half--the perfect way to run a marathon, for the non-runners out there.) Congrats! Can I say I'm proud of you without sounding condescending? :)

Anonymous said...


saramoohead said...

You ROCK, Alvina! Well done. I hope you are still celebrating. Not many people can tick off their big goals, and now you can!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Way to go, Alvina!

Anonymous said...

Rock star!

Congratulations, Alvina.

Jenny Han said...

LOVE the Jimmy Dugan quote. I had such a crush on Tom Hanks in that movie.

Great seeing you tonight, Alvina!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Congratulations! That's quite an accomplishment. Hope dem body parts don't ache too much.

Anonymous said...

wow- way to go! sounds like a memorable and amazing experience. wish i could run that far!

Lisa Albert said...

Congratulations, Alvina! You should be very proud. Obviously, your dad is!

I see a father/daughter marathon in your future. :)

Anonymous said...

woo hoo and way to go Alvina!!!

The next time I don't want to run down to the mailbox, I'll think of you. :)

JavaBeanRush said...


I have a question that has nothing to do with your marathon run.

I couldn't find your email address, so I'm posting the question here.

How much do Copyeditors make?
How much do Acquisitions editors make generally?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alvina,
Congratulations. You have inspired me to set a goal and get more active! I feel like I just ran the marathon with you after reading your story - exhausted but extremely excited!
Tsuann Kuo

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Alvina! What a fabulous accomplishment. Your description was breathtaking -- I feel like I was right there with you. Great job!!

Anonymous said...

YAY!! YOU DID IT! Gong Xi! That post was tiring to read. I felt like I should be cheering you on while reading it! Vanilla! Vanilla! You sure did get Dad pretty excited about running now. So far he's done 3 miles. Only needs TWENTY three more! Jeesh. See you soon!

Nancy Mercado said...

jonny and i were SOOO excited to see you and you looked fantastic!!!! congrats on finishing.

too bad we weren't on the right hand side where you were, cuz i was handing out Snickers bars. that mighta been just the thing for your knee pain!

as a spectator it was quite the crazy many people on the subway, so much confusion, and sadly, i missed seeing my sister and her husband in two different locations!

Nancy Mercado said...

P.S. Have you read Terry: Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope by Douglas Coupland? It's a really inspiring book. Especially if you decide to run another one!

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS ALVINA! I saw a bit of the marathon on TV last Sunday when I was at Paolo's parents' place. Amazing! After reading your blog, I feel like crying (I'm at the office now, so not such a good idea). So proud of you!!!And cannot believe ou went out after! You officially have bragging rights! Take care and hope to see you soon.


Montreal, QC

alvinaling said...

Yay yay yay! Thank you all for your comments--it was fun to see them all come in. And I'm happy to report that I am almost back to normal--hardly sore at all anymore!

Anonymous said...

Hi Alvina... I'm so proud of you. I'm glad you achieved your goals.
Miss ya.

Jen Lai

Anonymous said...

I know we already said this, but congratulations! Owen says sorry for being too young to come out and cheer for you, but we are proud of you out in JC!

Rita said...

Alvina, you look so happy in these pictures, it's awesome.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D :D