Marlene Farrell’s 2010 New York City Marathon Experience

Written on Jan 23rd, 2011 by , Category Marlene Farrell Blog, Training

Enjoy this wonderful post from Marlene Farrell, who has qualified for the 2012 Womens Olympic Marathon Trials and lives locally in Leavenworth, about her experience at the 2010 New York Marathon.

In 2006 the World Marathon Majors were launched.  Just as the Major League brings together the best in baseball talent, so too do “The Majors”, collectively, New York, Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin.  A new series of these well-established marathons offers $1 million prize purses to be split between the top male and female marathoners.  The series provides the opportunity to advance the sport, raise awareness of its athletes and increase the level of interest in elite racing among running enthusiasts.  These marathons are the testing ground for the world’s fastest elite runners.  And New York is considered by many to be the crown jewel.  Sure, Boston has its qualifying standards and longer history, but New York is hard to top with its five borough route ending with the heart-stopping, crowd-roaring thrill of Central Park.  New York is a must-do for any serious marathon lover.  The 2010 NYC Marathon’s record breaking 45,103 finishers is a testament to its deserved popularity.

In 2010 it was also host to the American Women’s Marathon Championship.  So, on November 7th, not only were the world’s stars shining bright (like Deratu Tulu, the 2009 NYC marathon winner, and Edna Kipligat, 2010’s eventual winner in a time of 2:28:20) but also there was a strong American showing with Shalane Flanagan, the American 10k record holder and eventual 2nd place overall, as well as Katie McGregor and Kathy Newberry.

And me too!  Yes, you read that correctly – me, a mom of two, getting in extra miles by waking up at 4 instead of 5, to return before my family awakes.  There were other mortals like me, but the rest were professional runners who live and breathe running, whose daily regimens include double workouts, visits to massage therapists, weight rooms, consultations with coaches and noontime naps (I’d give anything just for the last).

My way was paid and I got to toe the line with about fifty elite women.  The opportunity presented itself thanks to an Olympic Trials qualifying time (2:45:16) last spring and the good word of my coach and friend, Trisha Steidl.  So, there I was, transcending my humble early morning laps around Leavenworth, to a dream race, sparkling in the sun and stirred by a crisp breeze.

One would hope, when such serendipity occurs, that I could ride that current to experience a phenomenal race, even to have a personal breakthrough.  But that’s not what happened.  Even after months of hard training (thank you, family, for putting up with me and thank you, training partners) to deserve the privilege, and after absorbing the energy from living legends and world record holders, I had a far from perfect race.  But…

It doesn’t end there.  I can tell you I actually went out at a conservative pace, which surprised and pleased me, in hopes of avoiding a grueling payback the last ten miles.  I can tell you my plan didn’t work, and I slowed, my strides shortened from annoyingly tight hamstrings.  And my feet hurt from racing shoes that weren’t the perfect fit.  My time was five minutes slower than I’d hoped.

But I can also tell you that at one aid station, manned entirely by kids, I was the celebrity, and they were each vying to have me take their first cup (almost all the elite women ahead of me had water bottle tables, and didn’t use the aid stations).  My name was etched in large letters across my bib, and the New Yorkers know how to belt out the encouragement and praise, looking me in the eye, their faces lighting up, as probably mine did as well, fueling my heart and mind, if not my muscles.  My very good friend, Eileen, was there along Central Park South, seeing me gripped in the pain and effort of the final mile, and her proud exuberance squeezed out any lingering disappointment.  The New York City Marathon was many amazing moments, stitched together by footsteps that stretched 26.2 miles.

After such an experience I can’t help but meditate on what the marathon means to me.  It’s more, I’ve decided, than a distance to be travelled or a medal around my neck.  It is a training partner and coach, loyal but also challenging me over these long years.  At first it was mostly companionable, logging miles with me, teaching me about my capabilities, my strengths, my limits.  It boosted my confidence and nurtured my aspirations to be faster and tougher.  Recently, we’ve worked closely together, meeting in the dark, pushing through those long tempo runs and countless track repeats with the hopes of having a joyful reunion on race day.  And although that joy is a bit more elusive these days, it’s not to say that I don’t feel a profound satisfaction from chasing down those moments of sweet success.

Some people have heard me say I don’t know if I’ll run many more marathons.  As a mom in a busy family, what that means right now is that our amazing trails are calling me to explore, and master’s cross country is recalling my youth and beckoning me to race with abandon.  I’m trying to figure out how best I can pass my love of running onto my children and other kids.  The marathon will always be there, in the back of my mind.  Memories from NYC, and from the Marine Corps Marathon, my first, and Eugene, my fastest, come easily.   So I’ll be back sometime, because I honor what the marathon has done for me and I know that I still have more to learn.

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