Beth Metz trained hard for nine months after winning her spot among 53,000 other runners for the Nov. 3 New York City Marathon.
But some things you just can’t anticipate, such as dodging potholes through downtown Manhattan or don’t drop your jacket before reaching Brooklyn.
Metz sat down with the Times News on Monday to talk about the agony and the ecstasy of completing the marathon.
Have you always been a runner?
“I have not been a runner. I took up running, or trying to run, when I was going to turn 40 because I had dedicated so much time to my kids that I kept thinking, 'What am I going to do for me?' We had been taking the kids to 5K races, and I thought, there's no reason for me to just be standing here. I can get out there and try. That's kind of where I started,” she said.
How did you make the leap from 5K to marathon?
“I have run a couple of half marathons at Disney (in Orlando, Florida) and then I kept having that little nudge to try to do the marathon. I felt like the longer I ran, the more endurance I had. I got better the further distance that I went. And I thought, I'm going to try the marathon,” Metz said.
Metz completed her first marathon in January at Disney World, which she completed in six hours and 30 minutes. That gave her the confidence to attempt to the New York City Marathon.
But it's not as simple as just showing up in the Big Apple with your sneakers. She had to enter a lottery of more than 105,000 runners who didn't qualify by time and was lucky enough to be one of only 13,000 selected on Feb. 27.
What did you do for the next nine months to get ready?
“I joined a virtual training group that the New York Road Runners had. They're one of the sponsors of the marathon. They looked back at my previous races and the distance I was running every week and kind of put a 16-week plan together for me.”
How much did you run to prepare?
“Anywhere from 28 to 32 miles per week, but it was broken up into four days, and then we could do cross-training or whatever on the fifth day, but I usually took those days off because I was exhausted.”
When you got to New York did you feel prepared?
“I felt very prepared. I had researched that race a lot. I had researched the lay of the land, the bridges we would be crossing, and I had practiced all that stuff. I felt like I was as prepared as I could be, but you're not prepared until you're looking at it.”
More than 53,000 runners participated this year. They started in four waves based on ability, with the elite runners starting first, and then subsequent waves based on skill level. Metz isn't ashamed to admit she started in the fourth wave. She can't say exactly what position she finished, but she can proudly proclaim it was within the top 50,000.
Tell me about this experience. How was it?
“For each wave the cannon would go off, and Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York' would play. My group, when we first started, we went across the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, it was a 4% grade uphill for a full mile, and then a 4% grade downhill for a full mile. I was scared of the uphill, but I think the downhill was worse.”
Did you feel up to par?
“At the start I did. By my first three miles I was feeling good. I was ahead of the pace I usually run. Very excited. I had on extra clothing for the warmth because the temperature was projected to be 53 and sunny. By about mile three I went ahead and dropped that jacket because I was warmed up feeling good and on my pace.”
It's common for NYC Marathon runners to drop a jacket or sweater, and the articles of clothing are gathered up in big piles and donated to goodwill. The race started in the sun in Staten Island, but by the time she hit Brooklyn she was missing that jacket, as well as a head wrap she also dropped. She went from sunshine to the shade between tall buildings with a 15 mph headwind.
How did the cold affect your performance?
“I was in a sleeveless running shirt, and I got cold very quick. I felt like I spent most of my energy just trying to stay warm. That was 15 miles. Anywhere I could find sunshine — where the sun was I would try to get in the sun, but that was rare,” Metz said.
Fortunately she had her cell phone and was able to contact her husband John at mile 12, who purchased a new jacket for her for her on Fifth Avenue. They met at mile 16 where she got her jacket.
Were you glad to put on that jacket?
“If it hadn't been for that, I don't know if I would have finished. I was just so cold. Just trying to stay warm,” Metz said.
Any other surprises along the way?
“Another thing I hadn’t expected was the condition of the roads. There was a lot of potholes. A lot of lumps, bumps, dips, and I did see a girl step in a hole in a drainage grate and skin her knee up pretty bad. I also had one ankle that got very sore, and a blister one the ball of my other foot. These were issues I hadn’t experienced before,” she said.
Did you ever start to have doubts?
“There was never any doubt I would finish. If I had to crawl I would have completed it, but it was not going to be what my training pace had been. My time was 6 hours and 48 minutes. That was about 18 minutes off my Disney time, but my training, I had been projected to finish in 5 hours and 45 minutes. I was an hour off. I'm disappointed at my time, but I finished.”
How do you feel now that it’s over?
“I'm proud of myself that I made this goal and finished it. One reason I wanted to do it was I wanted both of my kids to see that you can set a goal, and no matter how daunting it looks or how many people don't believe that you can do it, if you put forth hard work and perseverance you can achieve whatever you want to do.”