“I run…because that’s where I can think about my life, but in 3rd person. My best life changing decisions have been thought while running…” JB
Kristen Beren has been a member of DWRT since July of 2012. A seriously smart individual, she is a graduate of MIT, and during her time there started a running habit as a result of challenges faced during a hike in The White Mountains. Before that Kristen maintains that her athletic prowess was confined primarily to bouts of Freeze Tag as a child. However the progression took place, she is now the veteran of 3 marathons, and set yet another PR at NYC 2013! Kristen can always be counted upon to lend her positive commentary on Facebook, and I the next time we suffer a toothache, we know exactly where to go. Enjoy Kristen’s journey as she tells the tale below…
Photo: © Da Ping Luo
In 2012, I guaranteed myself entry for the 2013 NYC marathon through the NYRR 9+1 option—run nine races and volunteer for one. I met this goal in August at Team Championships, which was one of my worst races ever. I completely wilted in the heat and humidity, but the silver lining was that I would be running the marathon the following year. Even though I had other races, I began to anticipate November 3rd, 2013 right away.
After battling hip bursitis through the end of 2012 and two marathons, I really wanted to avoid any significant injuries or layoffs from running in 2013 at a minimum. Truthfully, I wanted to run under 4 hours for the marathon, which, in retrospect, was a very bold goal given my performances at my two other marathons: 5:54:42 in Istanbul and 5:19:52 in Dallas. I knew it would be some time before I could realistically achieve a sub-4 marathon.
When people asked me early in the year which race I was training for, the answer was “New York, I guess.” It just seemed so far away and I assumed I would run another marathon before then. Instead, I ran 5 half marathons, achieving a PR in 3 of them.
Somehow, Sunday, November 3rd finally arrived. I had laid out my clothes the night before, so all I had to do was stay calm, apply Body Glide, and get dressed. I put on clothes my brother-in-law and his wife had given me to donate at the start as my extra layers. After a light breakfast of banana bread, my husband Eric kissed me good-bye at the door and as I was turning to leave, I asked “Is this really happening?”
I immediately caught a cab and headed to the Staten Island ferry at 7:45am. I showed my bib and looked around at the massive number of people. Could this really be happening? Even though I’d run a marathon before, it felt so surreal. Was I really going to travel 26.2 miles on foot?
I boarded the 8:15 ferry and walked to the back. I sat down and looked across the aisle to find a friend, Jen. I knew there was a chance we would be on the same ferry, but having not coordinated, the chances that I’d find her were super slim. We chit-chatted until we entered the corral.
Jen went off to find a four-hour pacer and I settled in around where I was. The crowd started to move forward towards the start line. Someone sang God Bless America and then the cannon went off. Frank Sinatra filled the air and I found myself singing along. I tried to take the first mile up the bridge ‘stupid slow’ but even trying to rein it in, I ran a 10:51 mile instead of the 11:57 my pace calculator suggested. I was feeling pretty good and not too worried—after all it’s only the first mile. I cruised down the back side of the bridge, still holding back but still running a little too fast (9:53 v. 10:05). To the left was a beautiful view of the New York skyline and I thought to myself “Manhattan, I’m coming for you.”
The next few miles went uneventfully with alternating Gatorade and water at aid stations while walking a few steps to avoid choking/taking in too much air. I felt strong and super happy. The vibe from the crowd was amazing and I loved it—the music, the people, the signs, the runners. Just before mile 8 around Atlantic Pacific, I saw Simon D. and said hi. Shortly thereafter, my husband Eric was cheering and I high-fived him as I went by. I knew that I’d be seeing another friend Kira around mile 11, so I started looking forward to that.
At mile 10, I got a very pleasant surprise. My sorority sister, Ploy, was also running but due to starting in different waves and picking up packets at different times, we weren’t able to coordinate. Somehow, I saw her stretching out at an aid station and got her attention. We ran together for the next 4 ish miles, which was super random and cool.
Until about 20K I was running 32:30 splits for each 5K. However, I slowed down a lot on the Pulaski around halfway. Steep, short hills are not my strength and I started to feel my hamstrings a bit. Nothing too bad, but they were like, “Yep, we are back here in case you forgot about us.”
After a brief stint in LIC, we turned onto the Queensboro Bridge, which actually turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the race. It was such a nice, quiet time to really enjoy the moment and reflect before getting to the madness of Manhattan. I felt very serene. I saw a Whippet stretching on the bridge that I didn’t know and I cheered her on as I jogged by. I hope it helped!
As I reached the end of the bridge, I could already feel the buzz from First Avenue and I started to feel a bit emotional and teary eyed. I was entering Manhattan! I told you I was coming for you! Shortly after getting off the bridge, I knew to look for my high school friend Liz and her husband Ralph at 62nd street. I didn’t see them at first, but I heard Liz scream my name and was able to high-five her, while Ralph captured an awesome video of the moment…
I soaked it all in and kept moving until 90th street, where my parents were waiting. This time they were the ones who didn’t see me and I ran over and gave my dad a big hug before going forward. It was awesome and having spectators every couple of miles really helped break the race into pieces mentally.
The Whippet cheer station at mile 19ish caught me off guard even though I was looking for them. I saw the pizzeria first and there was a gap in the crowd there, so I figured they had gone over to Perfect Pint to start celebrating already. Then! A block later, they shouted my name and high-fived me. It was the perfect boost at the perfect time.
My left calf was tightening a bit, so I started drinking both water and Gatorade together at each aid station and taking longer walk sections—closer to a minute than 30 seconds. I never really felt like I hit a wall; I just didn’t feel like I was capable of moving as quickly as at the beginning, even though I was mentally doing well.
Annette and Michelle spurred me at mile 21.5. The lungs on those girls! So awesome. Then it was back to my parents at mile 23ish. The long, gradual hill up Fifth Avenue was draining; apparently, those types of hills aren’t my strength either, especially not at that point in the race. I was starting to feel a little tired and had less energy than the first time I saw them.
I turned into the park and was prepared mentally for, but not looking forward to, the undulating hills. Peri saw me at mile 24 and I grabbed his hand for just a moment. We were both in some pain, but just running 100 yards together really helped me. I knew Eric would be waiting at mile 25. He shouted my name and I high-fived him again. It’s amazing how much energy you pull from that and hearing your name. Then my brother-in-law Jason and his wife Kavita shouted my name from the other side of the road, just before I turned onto Central Park South.
When I turned back into the park, I couldn’t believe it. What seemed so surreal in the morning was reality. After a couple of curves, I could see the finish up ahead and I had to hold back my emotions. I tried to push up the final hill and I raised my hands up as I crossed the finish line. I did it!
It was not sub 4, sub 4:30, or even sub 4:45. But! It was a PR by almost 28 minutes and it was my first sub 5: 4:51:59. It was also a major step in training for me with no major injuries or layoffs during the year and the most consistency I’d ever strung together. I know I can continue to improve and I’m optimistic about my performances in the years to come.
I would not change any part of the day. I enjoyed the race from the beginning to the end. Someone online had described it as a 26 mile block party and it truly was. I’ll be coming for you again, Manhattan.
This post is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Dashing Whippets Running Team, its board, or its captains.