The following was authored by Marie-Ange Brumelot.
The sport of running is one of a kind in that it requires nothing but the desire to move forward. The marathon discipline itself is a perfect representation of that. One can go spectate any Big City marathon and observe individuals running without shoes, fancy gear, or even legs. I can truly say that I am in love with the simplicity of the sport. It makes me feel more accountable for what I have do to, just put one foot in front of the other. It also gets the best out of people: kindness, support, and determination to name a few. Founders and members of my beloved team Queens Distance Runners are a great example of that, which is a big factor in my success today.
We all get lost sometimes, we all have setbacks, we all go through though experiences, but these are what makes us stronger. The 2017 edition of the New York City Marathon was my hardest run to date. I struggled to finish, I had lost my passion for running, and all athletes would know, without a deep desire to succeed, there is not much left. However, being a home race, the support on and off the course was absolutely amazing and inspiring, which drove me to bounce back stronger than ever.
I love training through the winter: no heat to worry about keeping pace and effort aligned, just hop on the treadmill on heavy snow days. I trained really well heading towards the One City Marathon held in March 2018. I did not increase my mileage from the previous cycle, I stayed about upper 80s miles a week with one run a day, but kept things much more consistent, and was extremely fortunate to have Edwin and Luciano to push with when it was time to do so. I came in to every workout with a goal effort to sustain and continuously surprised myself with the times and paces I was able to hit. The only race on my calendar in between the two marathons was a 10-miler in Prospect Park to close my peak week, the goal was to average marathon pace after a moderate solo 10 miles in the park. Things went really well, I was ready.
I was hoping to run a 6:10 pace for the marathon, which would get me right under 2hr42, although I thought it was quite ambitious. My personal best still laid at 2hr48, so I was, to say the least, hoping for a big improvement. I showed up to the starting line ready to put in my greatest effort and was excited to see what numbers I would see. I have learned to gauge myself on race-day, to be patient, and to simply cross every mile marker with the belief I have just ran the best and smartest mile I could.
Things started smoothly, I held back early on to stay around my 6:10 pace, which was a relief as I was unsure it would feel right. I knew that if the pace felt easy early on, with how well training went, it would be all a matter of mental strength in the later stages. So I cruised, clocking some faster miles here and there but staying controlled, something beautiful was unfolding. I made it to 16 miles before starting to feel uncomfortable. I told myself two things; one “it’s just a 10-mile tempo to go, you’ve done plenty of these”, and two “let’s get to mile 20”. Indeed, it was quite early to begin battling but I was ready to work hard. Taking it one mile at a time, I got myself to mile 20 without slowing down a bit. And there, the world changed. I did not hit a wall, but in contrary got sort of second wind. I finally got a glimpse at the first female I had been blindly chasing for two hours. My competitive spirit gave me a shot of adrenaline. Although she was still quite a distance ahead, seeing her back took my mind off the discomfort I was feeling. I instead focused on closing the gap between us two while my mind was going back and forth on whether on not I could catch her.
The last 5 kilometers of a marathon are pure hell. Every step is like a gunshot in my quads, my mind is exhausted, my vision gets blurry… but that’s where the difference is made, that is when you really get to test yourself. While I was looking at the white traffic lines on the road, debating stopping to end this barely handleable pain, I recalled all the hard runs me and my training buddies went through, I replayed in my head all the cheers from teammates I had heard during the NYC Marathon, and I kept grinding. Mile 24: 6:00, Mile 25: just one mile to go, I counted the seconds separating me to first pace, the watch gave me a 6:05 mile, it was now or never. I tried to pick it up, I had over 10 seconds to make up. “Train like you want to race, and you will race like you trained.” I had repetitively showed my ability to close hard in training, now was the time to capitalize on it. Mile 26: 5:53, the gap kept closing but I needed more road. A quick laugh at myself for thinking that as looking back 5km I wanted to stop so badly. On jiggly legs I “sprinted” down the last stretch as first place broke the tape right in front of me. I would not have been able to close any faster.
I crossed the finish line in 2:40:50, an Olympics Trials performance by over four minutes. I bettered my expectations in terms of goal time and effort I could give on race day. With a big smile on my face I look at my result, an almost perfect race had just happened, this one will be hard to beat.
Each race is an experience to learn from giving us a chance to come back even stronger. Never doubt yourself and fight for every step because there are beautiful things waiting when you push through. The marathon is a long race when we are being tested continuously, from beginning to end. Always believe you can achieve great things, and you will. The beauty of this sport lays in each athlete’s mind. Thank you all for the endless support, team work makes the dream work.