Saturday, December 31, 2011

my dream marathon: part 4 | “i've got a pocketful of dreams... and gu's!”


After months and months of anticipating, planning, training, raising funds, etc., 6th November 2011 finally arrived.

Nana and I pre-booked our 7am ferry to Staten Island (Shanaz went with her Autism Speaks teammates) where the starting line of the NYC Marathon was set up. This meant that I had to rise at an ungodly 5am even though my wave's flagoff time was at 10.40am.

The early-morning autumn weather was pretty unforgiving. Even with our thick hoodies—purchased just the night before only to donate to the biggest charity recycling drive in NYC by dropping off our unwanted warm clothings at the starting pens that morning—I felt like my ears and fingers were gonna freeze over!

Taking the ferry over to Staten Island. Sejuk!

Camwhoring on the ferry  ;)

Bird's-eye view of runners exiting the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
and entering Brooklyn. There were 47,438 starters in the 2011 

race, the most in race history, and 46,795 people crossed the
finishing line, the most of any marathon in history!  

Anyways, upon reaching Staten Island Nana and myself had to catch a bus to the marathon village, where we met up with Shanaz. We tried keeping warm by refueling ourselves with bagels, buns, and the like. And when the loudspeakers called for our respective waves, we hugged each other and bade our “good luck” farewells.

Soon after, the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” filled the air and off us Wave 3 runners went onto the first of five bridges, The Verrazano-Narrows, which took us from Borough #1 into Borough #2.

The minute we hit Brooklyn, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people all around. The New Yorkers came out in full force, which pretty much lasted throughout the five boroughs (#3 was Queens, #4 was The Bronx, and finally #5 was Manhattan, finishing in the beautiful Central Park). The support was nothing short of amazing… it’s like the whole city erupted into a big party!

Throngs of people crowded the streets handing out fruits, chocolates and the lifesaver for my sinus, tissues; the amazing street performances and cheers were endless. My favorites were Brooklyn—where screams of "BROOKLYN LOVES MARATHON RUNNERS" were in abundance—as well as Harlem for its multi-genre live music extravaganza and “YOU’RE THE SH*T!” posters that would put and keep a smile on any runner’s face :)

My favorite posters. Harlem.
(Photo courtesy of ING New York City Marathon)
(Photo courtesy of ING New York City Marathon)

This one made me chuckle!
(Photo courtesy of

On a personal level, I’d never worked so hard for anything in my life. Fatigue set in early for me (KM 17!!) and though my whole body continuously begged for a break, I focused on eradicating non-running thoughts. Silly me forgot to wear a pace band, which was a blessing in disguise as this kept my mind active with ways to not stray too far from my targeted 35-minute-5K-chunks as well as limiting my walk breaks to only 100m per kilometer.

I also kept repeating the words from Alicia Keys’s “Empire State Of Mind” in my head, and they proved to be priceless mantras that kept me going. My favourites were …
“There's nothing you can't do
now you're in New York, New York, New York…”
“These streets will make you feel brand new... 
Big lights will inspire you…” 
And especially “I'mma make it by any means, 
I got a pocketful of dreams… and GU’s! Hehe  ;) 

The ONLY time I posed for a cameraman, believe it or not.
This was very early on in the race in Brooklyn

The insane elevations throughout the NYC Marathon 2011 course.
Note that the second-highest bridge was at 24-26km. I basically
brisk-walked up the 130-or-so-feet-high Queensboro Bridge;
my only walk-break which stretched for more than 150m!

As usual, I got over The Wall at KM 32. Fortunately the second wind hit me, but unfortunately by this time my lower back, right hip flexors and left ankle were screaming for a good, long stretch break. The only thing that stopped me from doing so was my hunger for a sweet n’ sublime sub-5 finish in my dream city and birthday month. I knew that if I slowed down now, I would never forgive myself.

Before I knew it, I was at Mile 22 (note: I reckon following the markers in miles instead of kilometers makes it way less painful mentally!). Braced myself for the rolling elevations of Central Park and picked up speed. When I arrived at the Last Mile, I psyched myself up with a reminder of why I did 1,600m speed intervals during trainings. The “Last 800m” signage was my cue to sprint like I never sprinted before and the “Last 200m” mark was where I unfolded the Jalur Gemilang and waved the Malaysian flag high above me as I crossed the finishing line.

Last 250m! Getting ready to unfold the
Jalur Gemilang for my sprint to the finish :)

4:58:37! I did it! What an astonishing and emotional ride! Although this was my fourth 42K race (done exactly 11 months after my maiden Full Mary), never before did I wrap up the journey with tears in my eyes. Hell and back. Absolutely overwhelming.

A Personal Best by 42 mins at the 42nd New York City Marathon... That’s one minute faster for every km on average. The best (advanced) birthday present ever to myself. I never thought that I could run almost all the way for a Full Marathon. Okay, okay, so I actually did a combo of run 900m/walk 100m from KM 15 onwards, and pretty much resolved to brisk-walking for a whole klick when walkers were overtaking me on the godforsaken Queensboro Bridge (I’ve since christened it as Jambatan Haram Jadah, by the way!) at KM 22. But still.

What made it sweeter was that each step I took was dedicated to Shoe4Africa and its star effort at the moment: building the very first children’s hospital in Africa.

Some random person caught me while I was
sprinting to the finish. This total stranger turned
out to be a friend of Shanaz's sister's  ;)

What an experience! My face says it all.
BTW the clock is showing gun time

At this point, I was holding back tears of joy.
Thanks for this color treatment, sweet mama Kash  :) 

So overcome by emotions was I that I held my
Malaysian flag up the wrong way  =P

My G sistas and I each received flowers from a guy
called Pakwe (bukan nama sebenar) for our PB's...

... and we made it into The New York Times!  ;)

One hand in the air for the big city! And the other hand in the air for everyone who was involved in this unbelievable journey of mine: My fellow OG’s, Captain G and Princess G (you ladies totally rocked it with your first sub-4:15 and sub-4:30 finishes respectively! I’m still so very proud of the both of you!); Apprentice G and Glory2 G for burning the midnight oil to keep track of our progress; Heazry for being my #1 supporter; Kim and Rob for your hospitality in NYC and New Jersey; everyone who contributed to my cause; all the people who gave their endless words of encouragements; and last but not least, my parents and siblings for being so proud of me, and especially my Abah who partly sponsored my trip as a birthday present. TERIMA KASIH from the bottom of my heart.

So, there you have it. My dream marathon in my dream city done during my dream 11/11/11 birthday month... and completed in my dream time of sub-5 hours. I ♥ NY!  :)))


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Ms Road Runner said...

yayyy on all of the posts!!! good job senorita!!! you did amazingly well on that day.. So proud of you and congrats again on the a-we-so-me pb ;P