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November 9, 2022

Kyle Merber’s New York City Marathon Race Recap

2:38:28 – This is not the time I wanted, but it’s still a time.

Everything hurts right now. My stomach is still knotted up. My back is destroyed. Stairs are mountains. My hip flexors are locked. My daughter is currently gnawing on my finisher’s medal.

There may be a long list of regrets I’m tabulating in my brain, yet the pain and sheepishness I’m feeling are almost canceled out by the bit of pride I take in toughing it out.

When the race started, I thought I was being smart because I didn’t go out as fast as some people. As I ran through the streets of Brooklyn with a small pack of guys, things felt comfortable but I still tried to keep my pace in check while visualizing just how much of the race was left. Clearly, my adjustments weren’t drastic enough!

Pacing aside, I think my biggest error was over-fueling: I took three gels and a bottle in the first 11 miles. I went from cruising with confidence to cramping at mile 12. After coming through the half in 1:11:39 – a time that would have maybe been more reasonable if it was 30 degrees cooler out – I made the conscious decision to slow down. If I had any prayer of finishing strong, then I needed these cramps to go away. So I dialed it back significantly until I crossed over the Queensboro. It worked. Temporarily.

Getting into Manhattan and energized by the crowd, I was able to put together a couple of decent miles before the cramps returned with vengeance. By mile 18, any goal time had gone out the window and the focus shifted to survival.

The support in Brooklyn was incredible. Even other athletes commented on the fact that so many people were cheering my name. Apparently, I did a good job getting the word out that I’d be running, but boy did I start regretting that while running down 5th Avenue and until Central Park.

As I crawled 7:30 miles in perhaps the darkest place I have ever been mid-race, the last thing I wanted was to be recognized. This was not the version of myself that I wanted on display and the only thing I wanted more than to be at the finish line was to be invisible. But when I was hobbling down Central Park South, I heard a familiar voice – my wife, Patricia’s. At this point, time was irrelevant so I ran over for a quick hello and a kiss for my daughter. That got me to the finish line.

The only thing worse than seeing Grant Fisher cheer me on in Harlem was Jake Wightman being the one to put the medal around my neck! And like any good friend, Chris Chavez was standing there not concerned for my health or asking how I was, but having a great big laugh at my expense. Admittedly, I was already laughing at myself too.

I didn’t have the most fun in the world out there. Though I think my tour of New York gives further validation to every hyperbolic description of how special the running community is in the greatest city in the world. How could I not find a way to the finish line with so many people encouraging me along?

It’s confusing receiving congratulations for an accomplishment you are not fully proud of. Finishing a marathon, especially that quickly, is something a very small percentage of the world can do. But the standard I set for myself at the beginning was higher and because of that, I think it’s okay to be disappointed.

My body hurts today, but somehow my ego is still intact. Admittedly, for my next marathon, whenever that is, I probably won’t hype it up as much. It probably would have been much easier for me to dial things back in the beginning if I didn’t make such a big deal out of this debut. But that doesn’t mean I regret it!

Apparently, a lot of people really enjoyed these weekly updates. I’d strongly encourage some professionals to consider doing something similar. It was a great short-term partnership with Bandit and is a sponsorship model that can and should be replicated.

I am walking away with an increased appreciation for the distance and those who succeed in it. One day, I hope that will be me. If there is one thing I am grateful for through this experience, it’s that I fell in love with the process again. Running is a gift, and although our relationship may be complicated at times, it consistently gives more than it asks for in return.

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