Thanksgiving Marathon Recap

The race started and finished at the tortoise and the hare statue

As promised, here are some of my reflections on completing this year’s Thanksgiving Marathon in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York City, NY.

As I’ve shared before running a marathon is an ambitious task.  Most don’t just get up and decide they’re going to run a marathon today.  It takes time, energy, and lots of training.  But something I’ve relearned through my experience on Thursday is that you can be a runner at any distance.  People can get so caught up in the “I could never do a marathon” or “I’m not a runner” or “I admire people who can run, but it’s not for me.”  What I loved about Thursday’s race is that runners could choose from a multiple of distances – 5K, 1/8 Marathon, 10K, 1/4 Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 3/4 Marathon, and Full Marathon.  It was also clear that you didn’t have to be Ryan Hall, Jesse Owens, or Carl Lewis to get out there and run.  There were runners and walkers of all ages and abilities.  I loved it!

Regarding my experience, the day was perfect – sunny and cool.  We arrived at the park in plenty of time to find a parking space at the Van Cortlandt Golf Course.  As we walked through the park, we could see people gathering across a flat open field.  I thought to myself that this is a good sign the course will be somewhat flat.  Was I ever wrong!  As we arrived at the starting line, I grabbed my runner’s bib.  I love that they give all the runners number one for these holiday races.  I stretched out and began to find my place at the starting line.  Before the race started, the race organizer gave some instructions at informed runners that the marathon course had been changed due to the previous two days of rain.  Now, we were running 8 hilly trail laps instead of 4 flatter trail laps.  That didn’t sound too exciting, but there was nothing I could do about it besides get moving.

Coming off the trails for a lap around the field

As the gong went off to start the race, I started my watch and my GPS to track my time and mileage, and I started my marathon journey.  About 1/2 mile into the race, we split off of the flat open trail and turned onto a gradual uphill trail that began to narrow.  Every twenty or thirty yards there was a railroad tie to hop over.  I’m pretty sure they were placed to control erosion, but they became quite an obstacle as the race wore on.  The course proceeded to run up and down through the wooded and sometimes single track trails.  As I popped out of the woods the first time, I was greeted by my own personal cheering section.  It was such an encouragement to see Leanne and the kids throughout the morning as I made my way through the course.  (Apparently, they were the only spectators for the race, and they received many thanks from other runners.)

Bringing me into the finish

Despite the challenging course, I was off to a good start.  I ran the first half of the marathon on pace to finish at 3 hours and 20 or 30 minutes which would have beat my marathon PR by a huge margin.  But…  I kind of knew that this was probably a bit too fast for me – especially on this course.  As the race continued, the uphills became more and more of a challenge.  Eventually, I was walking most of the uphills and trying to run the downhills and the flats.  It’s amazing how the body breaks down over the course of a marathon.  I didn’t quit, but it was a real challenge to keep my body moving as fast as I wanted it to go.  As the laps continued, I also realized that a marathon course that requires this type of repetition is probably not my favorite type of course.

The Gong - The privilege of the finisher

Nonetheless, I kept going until the finish.  My daughter ran the last quarter-mile with me as I approached the finish line.  You could tell that she was proud of her dad.  What more could you ask for in a marathon experience?

If that wasn’t enough, Leanne and the kids reminded me to hit the finisher’s gong after I crossed the finish line.  I collected my finisher’s medal – a 12″ serving fork!  And I signed into the race log book where I entered my time of 4 hours 1 minute 0 seconds.  Years ago, I would have been more disappointed that I didn’t break 4 hours but not this year.  I was happy to run!  I was happy to finish!  And I’m already thinking about the next one!

Slow and steady wins the race

Hope all is well with the Stretched Community!

How was your Thanksgiving?  How did you counteract the calorie intake?