Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the New Jersey Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
So it’s done – I’m a 2x marathoner! I’m so pleased to finally share my recap of the New Jersey Marathon that took place over the past weekend. Let’s get straight to it!
I’m linking up with Debbie, Lora, and Rachel for the Running Coaches Corner and Annmarie, Nicole, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday! Check out their blogs for plenty of running and fitness tips and motivation!So excited to share my full recap of the @njmarathon on the blog - I was able to achieve a huge PR! #njmarathon #bibchat #njmaraBR Click To Tweet
Signing up for the New Jersey Marathon was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my running journey. After completing the Philadelphia Marathon in 2016, I knew that one day I wanted to do another marathon, but I just didn’t know where or when. Being a BibRave Pro, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sign up for this race for free this year. All I knew was that it was “fast and flat”, not too far from home and that it would give me the opportunity to train for a marathon during the winter. I’m a big fan of cold weather running, so I was up for the challenge!
But who knew that I’d also have to deal with one worst winters in recent memory with single digit temperatures, fallen trees, and multiple Nor’easter’s, an extremely busy work season, wedding planning anxiety, and the sudden loss of my mother? I’m so grateful that despite all of the challenges, this race ended up being a victory.
As I mentioned in my race goals post, I was a little last-minute with planning the race weekend logistics. I booked a hotel on Thursday on Priceline for Saturday to Monday. This time, I was definitely taking a vacation day the Monday after the marathon! Bret was running the half so we wanted to treat the weekend as a mini-vacation. We’re about 1.5 hours away from the Long Branch area from Philly so we left early in the afternoon on Saturday. Unfortunately, we had some car troubles that lead to some delays, but we finally made it to the Race Expo around 3 pm or so.
The Expo was located at the Monmouth Park Racetrack, a really cool place! But unfortunately, the Expo itself was a complete bust. Bib pickup was quick and easy and the volunteers were nice, but there were only 2 vendors and the Diadora merchandise for sale. Honestly, the selection of clothing and swag left much to be desired. I did buy a couple of shirts but was hoping for more. There was no food or drink as was advertised…maybe I missed it? Needless to say, this was a quick trip.
Because of the shifted schedule, we didn’t have lunch, so we ended up going out for an early dinner after leaving the expo. We went to Asbury Park to a pretty cool downtown neighborhood and we got a couple of pizzas, one white and one red. The white pizza was called Rocket, so I had to get that one in honor of my favorite tuxedo kitty! Bret’s pizza was the Sausage Party…it was a little spicy, which made me a little nervous, but it was so good!
In the days leading up to the race, I worked really hard to hydrate and carb load properly. While it was tempting to have a beer with my pizza, I behaved! I had also been battling heartburn all week, which also made me nervous. By the time we got to our hotel, we were both really tired, especially Bret, who had a late night at work the day before. I spent my time watching Guardians of the Galaxy, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, and trying not to freak out about this race! I don’t think I ended up asleep until almost 11 pm!
The race started at 7:30 am so I had my alarm set at 5 am. Originally, we planned to pick up some food the night before so we would have our proper breakfast/pre-race fuel on hand, but since we crashed, we had to take care of that first thing in the morning. Luckily, we had a Wawa right across the street from the hotel so we went there and grabbed some grub. I had a bagel with a little cream cheese and half of a banana. I think it was perfect!
On top of the indigestion I’d been facing, my foot pain was becoming a real concern. The week of the marathon was when my PF pain reached its peak to the point of hurting even when I wasn’t running. So that morning I decided I would take an Ibuprofen and give one more attempt to wrap my feet with KT Tape. I really don’t like taking medication for pain, but I was desperate!
After watching a hilarious episode of King of the Hill, Bret and I headed to the car at 6 am for the 25-ish minute drive back to the racetrack, where the half marathon, marathon, and marathon relay would begin. As I walked out the door I realized that it was raining. Heavily. Seriously?? We expected it to rain on Saturday, not on Sunday! Fortunately, the rain wasn’t supposed to last all day. As always, marathons are full of surprises!
Traffic was nice and smooth until we hit the bottleneck, which wasn’t too bad. It was around 6:50 by the time we made it there. Because of the rain, we stayed in the car for a little bit and I used that time to apply the KT tape on my feet. I watched the instructional video multiple times and did my best to slap the stuff on – they always make it look so easy! Fortunately, I felt immediate relief when I put my shoes back on!
We both needed to use the restroom so we finally left the car to face the elements. Fortunately, the temperature wasn’t too cold, so the rain almost felt refreshing. As Bret went to find a potty, I looked for the City Fit Girls – several of them were racing today! I texted Becca and I was able to find her and most of the girls. It was great seeing everyone and wishing them luck!
We started to go our separate ways and I still needed a potty, so I finally got in a line. I couldn’t tell how many people were running the race but there seemed to be a few thousand. Bret was anxious to get lined up so I kissed him goodbye while still waiting to use the potty. Of course I ended up in one where someone left a gift on the seat…ugh. So I was in and out, hopped into Corral 6, and we were all excited and amped to get going! Before the horn was blown, they actually had a bugle player from the Race Track send us off – it was so cool!
So what the heck was my strategy for the race? Coach Laura believed that I could do 4:30, so my #1 goal was to make sure I didn’t start out too fast. For most of the race, I kept my eyes on my watch like a hawk. I didn’t want to zone out and have a crash and burn situation, so I actually didn’t listen to my music for the first 9 miles of the race! Fortunately, since we start with the half marathoners, I always had people around to distract me. As we headed out of the Race Track area, we ran through some residential areas, nothing too exciting. Every few blocks or so you would see locals with their families out and cheering on the runners. The rain stopped pretty early, so that was a relief!
I tried to think of managing the race in chunks and I wanted to be around the 10:20ish range for the first 6 miles. Because the course runs through neighborhoods, there were a lot of hairpin turns and I did everything I could to hit all the tangents. There were lots of runners and sometimes I felt a bit boxed in. So considering that, I was happy to see some pretty consistent splits! I was very conscientious about hydrating every mile and taking my chews every 3 miles. At one point when I was putting my water bottle back in my pack, I dropped it and had to scurry to pick it up! Phew, that was a close one!
Splits: 10:26, 10:23, 10:24, 10:22, 10:21, 10:15.
For the next chunk of miles, I wanted to pick up the pace a little bit and hover around 10:10-10:15. I don’t know why; I just knew that I had more to give and wanted to gradually pick up the pace. Honestly, I felt really, really good and was glad when I could finally start up my music. We continued winding our way around different neighborhoods, many of the houses blasting music to keep the energy up. At some point, maybe around mile 10, I spotted the 4:35 pacer group. They were a large pack and I vowed that I would stay ahead of them. I ran with them briefly and then kept it moving. The pace group ended up being extremely helpful…but I’ll get into that later!
After mile 11, the half marathoners split away and headed towards the finish. Now how crazy is it to realize that you still have over 15 miles to go?! The race thinned out very nicely as the marathoners continued to the right. Onwards!
Splits: 10:10, 10:08, 10:04, 10:07, 10:05, 10:03.
I tried to stay as close to a 10-minute pace as possible. I did find a few moments where I had to keep my pace in check as I would see 9:45 on my watch from time to time. It was crazy how good I was feeling! The only “mishap” I had was that my KT Tape was peeling off of my ankles…fortunately, my arches and heels were still getting the support they needed and while they weren’t painless, I could live with it. Of course, my knees were also talking to me, but it was never hurting in a way that I couldn’t handle.
We were running down Ocean Avenue and we passed these huge, beautiful homes. As I was making my way out I could see the 3-hour marathoners coming back and finishing their last few miles. Lucky them! And blue skies finally arrived! I had finished all my water by mile 13, so from that point on, I started grabbing cups of water or Gatorade at the stations every so often. The Gatorade was awful – way too salty. At one stop I grabbed a piece of a banana and that was really good. Fortunately, it didn’t cause any GI issues!
Eventually, I started to wonder when the heck I was going to get to see the ocean! I really wanted to see those views of the Atlantic, and when I finally did, they definitely delivered…along with lots of wind! The sun was bright, the wind was strong, but I was still feeling really good! We ended up running through the boardwalk area with views of more beautiful homes and the beach. I would have loved to jump in that water, haha! I was so happy when I got to see Lia running with the 5 hour pace group – I didn’t see anyone else I knew during the race!
Splits: 10:05, 10:02, 10:05, 10:13, 10:01, 10:07, 10:06.
When I got to the turnaround at 19, I started to feel like I was “over” this race, lol. So much more time left! As I made my way around, I saw that 4:35 group again and I started to worry that I was going to run out of gas. I actually took a quick walk break to drink water and it was really hard on my knees to stop running so abruptly. After going through that, I knew I didn’t want to walk again. I refused!
So, I think my body caught up to my brain and I made my way back to reality. My hips started to feel sore and my quads were feeling fatigued. I actually started to breathe heavily for the first time. The wind was relentless and the last few miles were SO boring. Once we left the boardwalk area, there really was nothing to see except lots of runners walking. The last few miles are always the longest. I kept hydrating and taking my chews. I wanted so desperately to stay in the 10:30 range but I kept seeing 10:45 and slower as I went on. My runner math was bad so I thought there was still a chance that I could hit 4:30, maybe even 4:28 (silly me). I was still ahead of the 4:35 pacers…until I wasn’t.
Somewhere after mile 24, the group ended up right beside me, technically behind me. I wasn’t interested in chatting so I didn’t talk to them, but the male and female pace leaders were in good spirits. They were encouraging one of the runners to push the pace once we hit mile 25. My watch was completely off from the mile markers at this point so every time I heard “half mile to go” or “almost there” I was SO annoyed lol. Sure enough, the guy took off (like really took off), and I did my best to run a little bit faster because I really wanted to beat 4:35. It felt like such a slog as I ran on the boardwalk and I was desperate to see that finish line – the ocean views didn’t excite me anymore. After a few twists and turns on the course, I finally made it. I heard someone cheer my name and I saw Bret and a few of the CFG’s! I wish I properly smiled for the finish photo but who cares – I was DONE!
Splits: 10:28, 10:23, 10:46, 10:44, 10:57, 11:01, 10:38, 5:24 (last 0.5 miles).
My official race results were 4:33:45 and I was able to get them on Athlinks right away. My Garmin had 26.5 miles in 4:33:48. I had a 24 minute PR!! I thought that only happened to other people?! What an amazing feeling, what an experience. I thought I was going to break down when I crossed that finish based on the gravity of the accomplishment, but it really didn’t fully sink in. I still don’t think it has!
Bret came up to me and congratulated me and I could tell he was so proud. He ran another ridiculously speedy 1:40 half marathon. I’m so happy that he was able to be there for my PR. It ended up being a perfect day for a marathon! I NEVER thought that I would be able to run a low-10 pace for a marathon. My half marathon split was 2:15, and cracking 2:15 was my goal just last year! I now have the confidence that I could break a 2 hour half marathon one day!
I changed as quickly as I could after the race at the Women’s changing tent – much better than trying not to drop my clean clothes in a Porta Potty! Then Bret and I went to the beer garden. We didn’t have cash, otherwise I would have gotten the mimosa! The beer was a little too hoppy for my taste, but free is always good! There wasn’t much of a big beach afterparty like I imagined there would be, but again, maybe I missed something!
Before heading out, I got to catch up with Katie and Becca, who both did awesome in their half marathon and marathon respectively! Katie got a half marathon PR, woohoo! It was great to see so many people had a good race day. Then, I heard someone call my name and met Nitin, a reader of the blog! He finished his very first marathon and used my roundup post of first-time marathon tips for reference! He was so nice and did a great job in his race – apparently, he saw me on the course as well!
We went back to Asbury Park for lunch and honestly, I wasn’t very hungry but I got a pretty solid pulled pork sandwich. Such a HUGE weight was lifted…mission accomplished! Time to just RELAX!!
The New Jersey Marathon ended up being an awesome experience! I’m a little bit biased because I achieved a PR on this course, but seriously, this is a really nice race! I probably would not run the full marathon again, but if you never have, I would definitely consider checking it out! I also hear that it’s a great course to BQ! The half marathon should be on your radar as well!
Thanks to BibRave for giving me the opportunity to represent the team, and congratulations to my fellow ambassadors who also raced – I’m sorry I missed you guys, I kept looking for orange everywhere!
Coach Laura has truly transformed me during this marathon training cycle. It was a ton of hard work the past 4+ months and I did my best to deliver. I never thought I could hit those tempo paces and most of the time I couldn’t believe I was improving so quickly, but her training plan made all of this possible. It wasn’t magic, but it definitely feels that way. Thank you SO much, Laura!
Bret of course receives so many thanks from me. I had to sacrifice a LOT of time to train for the marathon. Even though the winter is less hectic than training through the summer, we had so many challenges. It was quite a balancing act and I appreciate his patience and support. Now believe me when I say that I’m not doing another one ANY time soon!
And last but not least, thank you to everyone who has followed me on this journey and wished me well on this crazy ride. Your support week after week means the world to me. I didn’t want to let you guys down. When I was running the race, I saw a woman wearing a shirt that said “When your legs give out, run with your heart”. I held on to that quote the entire way. I wanted to run with my heart. I wanted to show what I could do and not give up. I feel extremely lucky and blessed to have been able to have such a great race. I know that so many things could have gone wrong. But anyway, I hope that I was at least able to entertain you guys for a while! Thank you for encouraging me from beginning to end!!
And that’s a wrap! Now, I get to rest, recover and live a “normal” life again! I’m not training for any races any time soon, and I’m ecstatic. Eventually, I hope to keep up this momentum and work on speed and shorter distance races later this year, but for now, I’m on a much-needed running break!
Did you ever have a large PR for a race? What are you looking forward to in May?