The One I’ve Been Waiting For: Laura McDonald’s New Jersey Marathon Recap

During the New Jersey marathon, a fellow runner asked me how many marathons I had done. I replied, “This is my 5th, but it’s the one I’ve been waiting for.” The New Jersey marathon was the one where I finally got a BQ. It’s a strange feeling to accomplish something you’ve wanted for such a long time.  I definitely would not have done it without the encouragement and support of my family and teammates, especially over the last few months. I love this team, and am so proud to be a Whippet.

The Beginning

My journey for a BQ actually started when I was about 14 years old.  I watched my Dad go for his BQ at the Austin marathon in 2003.  He had triedand missed a few times, but at this race, he had 2 friends who were doing the relay to pace him-one doing the first half, another doing the 2nd half.  He made it, and witnessing that excitement was so inspiring, even at a young age.  I did not really become a runner until much later but still look back on that day of watching my Dad accomplish so much, and I am incredibly thankful to come from a family of runners.

The Training

I followed a scaled down version of the Whippet plan- doing the lower end of the Tuesday/Thursday workout and adjusting the long runs to increase a little more slowly.  With the ridiculous winter, I did far more treadmill runs than I would have liked and did not feel super confident going into the second half of my plan. Then, I did the NYC half with the ultimate DREAM TEAM of a pace group (Thanks to Melissa Wolfe, Heather Weneck, Cici Pandol, and Michael Astarita!) I went under 1:40, which gave me so much confidence going into the end of the training plan.

I ran very few training runs alone, and I know that contributed to my success. There have been so many teammates who have been incredibly supportive of me and my goals during this training cycle, which helped me be consistent and stick with my plan-even on days I didn’t want to.  The consistency paid off. At 22 miles, my last long run was the longest training run I had ever done. I felt great and was excited to be going into the race knowing I was ready.

The Race

I have never had so many nerves going into a race.  I knew I was physically ready but so much can happen over 26.2 miles and was worried something would go wrong. Noel and I started in our corral about 15 seconds behind the 3:30 pace group.  I knew immediately they went out too fast. We were tempted to catch up, but kept our pace. A Van Cortlandt runner overheard us and said, “They’re going fast, right?” We said yes and she asked if she could hang with us because “I feel like you Whippets are good luck after that 5th place in Boston” (so proud to be your teammate, Jessica!)  The three of us ran together for the next few miles right on 8 min pace.  About mile 4 Noel told me that his ankle was hurting and something was definitely wrong.  

I was so disappointed for him to drop out; I knew how hard he had worked and that he was more prepared to run that 3:30 than I was.  I also have never run a marathon solo. I always have had a family member, teammate, or made a friend along the way. Luckily, the 3:30 group calmed down and I caught them about mile 6.  It felt good to not worry about pace and just relax at the back of the pace group over the next several miles. Passing the two whippet cheer groups gave me some extra motivation. I was feeling good and let myself think about crossing that finish line with my BQ.  About mile 14, I got excited knowing I was going to see Melissa at 15, and sped up a little to leave the pace group. When she saw me, she shot a confetti cannon over me, and off we went.  She asked how I was feeling.  I said, “Actually I feel really good”-and I meant it.  I was surprised by how easily and quickly the first 15 has passed by. She sped up my pace a little at that point, which made me slightly nervous but I was feeling too good to slow us down.  The next four miles went by easily. At 19, we hit the 180 degree turn around. When I went to get back up to speed, I started to feel all those miles for the first time. The next few were painful, but I was able to keep pace and Melissa distracted me while I answered her conversations with one-word responses.  When we hit mile 24, I checked my watch and saw that I had 90 seconds on a 3:30. I looked over at Melissa, teared up, and said, “Holy shit. I’m actually going to do this.” When she asked how I was feeling, I told her I was in pain, but I knew I could gut through 8:45s and make it under 3:30. She responded, “But you’re not running 8:45s”.  My legs were dead, but I was able to keep the pace thinking about crossing that finish line. Seeing the whippets at mile 25 was a HUGE boost. Megan yelled, “Go get that BQ”. Luckily, I had on my sunglasses because….more tears. When I hit the finish chute, I realized I might could go under 3:28. I gave it all I had for those last few yards.  Crossing the finish line was an overwhelming feeling that is hard to put into words, but it is definitely one I’ll always remember.

More about Jennie Cohen

Jennie is a member of the Dashing Whippets.

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