You cannot always win

Last Sunday, I ran my fifth marathon. I am ashamed to admit that I did not run a smart race and that, as a consequence, I was disappointed with the result.

I basically did not sleep at all Saturday night. I kept tossing and turning. I set my alarm for 4:20am but, comes 3:00am, I couldn’t stand staying awake in bed any longer and I started getting ready.

I grabbed the 1 train to South Ferry at 4:50am. On the train, I sipped on some water and ate a toasted bagel with honey. I met some Whippets along the way and that made the subway ride fly by.

We ended up catching the 5:50am ferry. While on the ferry, I finished my water.


We made it to the athlete village with lots of time to spare. Courtney, Alex and I waited for the corrals to open for approximately two hours. The weather was chilly (yay!) and the sun was shining! I took advantage of this time to finish my breakfast: 20 oz of Gatorade Endurance Formula, a banana, a chocolate PowerBar and pure black coffee from La Colombe. After using the bathroom for the umpteenth time, it was time to head to the corral. I was feeling extremely nervous, but it was not the usual pre-race nervousness, the one that is accompanied with excitement and adrenaline: I had the feeling that something wasn’t right. I tried to think positive, to believe that it was going to be OK but, truth is, I started the race already defeated. I ate my gel, hugged Courtney for the last time, started my Garmin and, before I knew it, I was on my way to Brooklyn.

I ran New York three times and this was my first time on top of the Verrazano bridge: I thought I would feel so excited, but I hated every second of it. I was in shorts and a cropped top, but I was already feeling so hot. The views were breathtaking, but all I could think about was the fact that my legs weren’t feeling as fresh as they usually feel at the beginning of a marathon.

I followed my plan to a T: go SLOW on the uphill, let it go on downhill without killing yourself, and then enter a comfortable rhythm. Doing so, I hit the 5K mark in 23:32 (7:34 min/mile): right on pace.

Fourth Avenue is always a huge party! So many kids who want to high-five you! Was I invited to the party? Yes, but it seemed like I forgot my invitation at home. I could not find the energy to high-five one single kid. I kept looking straight in front of me while trying to maintain a rhythm that did not feel as comfortable as it should. 10K split: 47:15 (7:36 min/mile).

After the 10K mark, I forced myself to eat my first gel. We turned on Lafayette Avenue and woah! It was SO crowded. This section was uphill and I was weaving left and right because people were slowing down considerably or stopping altogether to grab water. I had no choice but to slow down myself. I was ok with it though: whatever goes up comes down, and I could make up for it on the downhill. 15K split: 1:11:02 (7:37 min/mile).

The halfway mark was approaching and I knew that I didn’t have it in me to keep the rhythm I had been keeping until then. I kept trying but, once I started climbing the Pulaski Bridge, I gave up: my legs were feeling relatively ok, but my heart rate was too high for being only 13.1 miles in. I had no choice but to [finally] listen to my body. I crossed the halfway mark in 1:40:26 (7:39 min/mile).

For some reasons, I never liked Long Island City: too many turns and you know the Queensboro Bridge is coming… not the greatest combo! I took my second gel hoping to get some much-needed energy. I saw Moses and, by the look on this face, I knew that I must have been looking terrible. He kindly offered me a bottle of Gatorade, but I passed. All I wanted to do was crossing that damned bridge and finally enter Manhattan.

On the bridge, my Garmin went nuts. I knew I was slowing down step after step and, before I realized it, the 3:30 pacer passed me… and I didn’t even care about it. 25K split: 2:00:10 (7:44 min/mile).

I got on First Avenue and all I wanted to do was stopping. I knew my fiance would be at mile 17 and I kind of did not want to see him: if I’ll saw him, I’ll stop. Sure enough, I saw him and I stopped. I started crying hysterically. I told him that I was sick and that I did not want to finish. He knows me way too well and so he asked me if I was really sick or I was just freaking out because I started falling apart. Meanwhile, the whole First Avenue started yelling: “You can do it! Don’t give up!” Calling it a day was so tempting, but I am not a quitter: I had to make it to my beloved Central Park. This feeling lasted until 110th Street, when I saw Celia and Kaitlyn cheering at the corner of the street. I stopped again and I started crying again (did I ever stop crying since mile 17?). Kaitlyn tells me that, if I really do want to stop, I can do so and give it another try in two weeks in Philly. I thought about it for a few seconds, but I knew what the right thing to do was: finishing THIS marathon, even if that meant not getting the time I trained so hard for. But I felt I couldn’t do it alone and that was when Celia jumped on the course and started running with me, professional camera around her neck and all. She only ran with me for a few blocks, but that was all that I needed: I calmed down, started going at a steady pace again (albeit it was over 30 seconds per mile slower than the pace I had kept until then) and, most importantly, I changed my whole perspective. I had 6.2 miles left at that point. I was not going to run a PR, but I could still have the time of my life in the city I fell in love with ten years ago and I moved all the way from Italy for. So I put a huge smile on my face and got the party started! I started high-fiving as many people as possible, thanking spectators left and right, grabbing slices of orange and even glasses of coke along the way because what did I have to lose at that point? Then, when I saw the Whippets’ cheering station, I just lost it (as you can clearly see from the pictures). Stopping twice cost me quite some time, and I hit the 35K mark in 2:53:40 (7:59 min/mile).


I took my final gel at mile 22. My stomach was a mess, but I knew I had no other choice. Then Fifth Avenue came and again, I had two choices: whining about my quads hurting like hell while going uphill or smiling even harder because Central Park, my favorite place in the whole world, was finally approaching. I chose the latter and, for the first time in my life, I had a blast while climbing Fifth Avenue! I spent that entire mile joking around with the spectators and I was so happy to see so many people I knew or was familiar with. I saw Team Fox and thought about Jennie Kelly and the outstanding work her family does for this important charity. I saw Christine and Carolina, who recently killed the Berlin Marathon and provided me with so much inspiration. I saw Tiffany and thought that, exactly three years ago, we were both attempting to break four hours during our first marathon and now I was still on pace for my third BQ while Tiffany just destroyed the Hartford Marathon (made a mental note to ask Tiffany what training plan she followed to achieve that eheh). I saw Kaitlin, who stuck with me during those awful summer runs.

I entered the park and my fiance was waiting for me with the Italian flag. I grabbed that flag with pride and we both made our way to the finish line while a lot spectators started yelling: “Go Mexico!” Lol. I saw coach Chris at the mile 25 mark and my smile disappeared for a second: I knew I ran a stupid race and was feeling embarrassed. That didn’t last too long though because, once I got to Central Park South, I heard the loudest “Martina!” I have ever heard in my life: it was Caitlin and Megan Jones’ parents (well, mostly their mom ;)). That gave me the last boost of energy that I needed: I started dashing towards Tavern of the Green, raised my flag and crossed that finish line in 3:31:49, over eight minutes slower than my PR from Boston and over ten minutes slower than the time I had trained for.


Sunday was the first time I did not PR in a marathon. I know you cannot PR at every race and I am more than ok with that… unless that race is a marathon. I run two marathons per year (when I do not get injured) and I train for them with so much passion that yes, I do expect to run a PR every time, even by just a few seconds. But, truth is, you cannot always win. To be honest, all the signs were there: my training had been a struggle thanks to the heat. I tried as hard as I could, but I could barely run the same paces I was running before Boston last April. I fainted during Team Champs in July. I ran Staten Island over four minutes slower than my half marathon PR from the NYC Half. On Sunday, I did not feel confident, yet I still tried to go for it. I thought I was not looking for much: “just” a 3 minute-PR. Well, you know what? Numbers are just that: numbers. Had I listened to my body from the very beginning I would have still missed a PR, but I would have enjoyed the experience much more and I would have run a smart race. That is what upsets me: the fact that I wasn’t smart and the fact that I fell apart emotionally. Would I change anything about Sunday? NO! I needed a marathon like this one. I needed to learn those lessons. Remember: you cannot always win, but you can still make the most out of every situation. I wish I could tell you that I hate marathons now, that I feel so defeated after Sunday. However, I do not. I love marathons even more now and I feel more motivated than ever.

It was hard for me to write this recap. It is not easy to admit failure and to show your vulnerability. However, I am like that: I love running and I love sharing the bad and the good about it. I hope people will be able to learn from my mistakes.

Thank you for reading and, especially, thank you all for your immense support.


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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *