Race Report: Tales from the course… The good and the bad at the NYC Marathon

While any number of Whippets have had exceptional years, few have accomplished as much as Hannah Ursillo, who capped off an amazing season of improvement with a huge PR at NYCM.  Why don’t I stop writing and let her tell you all about it?  🙂 JAK


Photo: Atsede Aemro-Selassie

For me, marathon training got off to a rocky start. Right before I intended to begin training I ran the Queens 10k and just before the finish line, someone tripped me. That fall put me out of commission for five weeks, and caused me to miss the first month of training. I had ambitious goals for myself, and when I finally started to train, I thought I might have to adjust them. Fortunately, after my shaky start the exact opposite happened and my training went so well that I exceeded all of my expectations. 

Running as a part of the Whippets was a huge help, it was great training and I enjoyed getting closer with the team. I followed the Whippets training plan exactly and threw in a couple of races just for fun. I knew that I was getting faster, but my race times still came as a shock to me. It started with the Fifth Avenue Mile where I ran a 5:51 (a 31 second personal record!). Two weeks later, I raced the Bronx 10 miler where Ab [Brody] and Steve {Wo} paced me to my first sub seven minute mile. Two weeks later, I was somehow able to average 6:54 minute miles– finishing the Staten Island Half in 1:30:11. With these times under my belt I was thrilled with how my preparation for the marathon was progressing.

Those successes may have caused some delusions of grandeur, because rather than giving myself time to recover from the Staten Island Half,  I ran eighty minutes at marathon pace two days later.  Not the best decision: I strained my quad. I took a few days off and went to the track later that week only to start limping after four miles. I took a few more days off and then tried to do the Blue Line run. I made it about 16 miles before the pain was too much.  I found a physical therapist who sternly advised me not to run until the marathon. I spent the full two weeks before the marathon resting, stretching, foam rolling and NOT RUNNING. This stressed me out, but I tried to stay positive. I trusted my training and knew that I could push through a strained quad if pain happened at the marathon. I was determined to get through this no matter what!

The day before the marathon my worries about not running the previous two weeks hit a fever pitch. I was no longer feeling pain in my quad but I did not know what would happen once I started on the course. Would it hurt as soon as I started running? Would it feel fine and then start hurting half way through? Would it be fine the whole time? There was no way to know.  I was especially panicked because two years ago I did not finish at the Philadelphia marathon due to problems with my nutrition and hydration. I tried to be more prepared this time but worried that it could happen again. To cope, I had a nice brunch with some Whippets and then my parents took me out for coffee. My mom left me with some homemade spaghetti and meatballs, my favorite pre-race dinner. I had my dinner and hung out with my friend Amy. This all calmed me down a lot, but I still had trouble sleeping that night.

The day of the marathon, I woke up at 5 AM and met my friend Alicia for a 6 AM bus.  Once I got to my coral and the race was about to begin I felt more relaxed because by this time whatever is going to happen will happen.

Sarah and I started off together, and I was feeling no pain in my quad. The Verrazano Bridge was a joke; the strong gusts of wind were pushing me into Sarah [Weaver].  But, once we got in to Brooklyn, we were having so much fun. The crowd was amazing and strangers kept calling out our names. We ran by both of our parents. I was feeling so good that I started off WAY too fast. This too fast pace for me was just right for Sarah who proceeded to crush the marathon. I needed to cool it around mile nine because I started feeling some pain in the back of my knee.

I started to get really down when the pain started. All my worries about how this was going to impact the marathon and ruin my time came creeping back. At that moment, I heard my name being belted out from the crowd. It was my friends Scott and Katherine, right where I needed them to be. I was so excited to see them that I forgot all about the pain and continued running happily. Of course the pain returned but then I had a strategy: I just had to make it to the next person cheering me on. I made it over the Pulaski Bridge, and I was halfway there and feeling pumped. The Whippets cheer station was next and was a great source of support. I was hurting but still having a lot of fun.

I started thinking a little more about the pain in my leg as I ran along the Queensborough Bridge. The silence was a little eerie, but then I heard the roar of the crowd as I reached mile 16. I checked the splits on my wrist and I was still on pace for my 3:20, seeing that buoyed my spirits. I knew First Avenue was going to be great! I was going to see so many of my friends cheering. But, that’s when my nutrition came into play. Things weren’t great, I started getting very tired and missed seeing my friends and family as I passed the blocks in the 80s and 90s. I kept pushing though, knowing I just needed to get to 100th street to see another group of friends. This time, I spotted them, and even more good friends were at 116th street. Then I was on the bridge to the Bronx.

On to the last borough! The Bronx was great. The music was wonderful and I knew I was almost done. When I got to Fifth Avenue…things were a little tough but I just needed to make to the next group cheering me on. My friends surprised me by being there again at 100th street, then I saw my parents, then I turned into the park. I knew that I was almost there, except nobody told me that the course leaves the park. Some friends that I paced with all season had passed me already and were looking strong. I was feeling disoriented and hurting but I knew I just needed to make it to the finish.

Finally, I was back in the park, really on the last stretch, when all of a sudden a volunteer strolled across the race course and blocked my way. I stopped short and all of the muscles in my legs seized up. After limping for a few seconds and expressing to him in the politest of words how totally uncool that was, I was running again and the finish line was in sight. Then it was all over: 3:29:02. A 33 minute personal record!

In talking to other people who ran the marathon, it seems like the general consensus is that everyone is both happy and disappointed in their experience. This is how I feel. How can I complain about such a huge personal record? I had a great time running the race despite the pain that I was feeling. I had so many people supporting me. My training went so well. I qualified for Boston. For all of this, I am thrilled. But there are still the nagging questions: what if I hadn’t hurt myself? What if the weather was better? What if I hadn’t started off too fast? What if I had gotten my nutrition right so that I wasn’t so disoriented in the end? For now, I’m just trying to enjoy completing the marathon, and am looking forward to answering some of those questions next time.


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.


More about Dashing Whippets Running Team

The Dashing Whippets Running Team is a New York based running team that is founded on, and driven by, the diversity of our team members. With team members from all over the city, the country and the world, and with greatly different running goals, we find unity in recognizing and appreciating each others differences and our mutual enjoyment of running and participating in the New York running community and beyond.

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