Race Report: Staten Island Half Marathon

While the really great runners are struggling to break 3 hours in a marathon, I still haven’t done a sub-4. Yesterday, however, I found the 3:00 mark to be extremely important – it was the cutoff time for the NYRR Staten Island Half-Marathon, and I was hard-pressed to hit it.

After doing the Hartford Marathon on Saturday, I proceeded to eat as much as possible. Cranberry walnut cookies, truffled macaroni and cheese, gooey apple crisp – these were the post-race treats available after I finished. Kudos to the Hartford Marathon for providing such an amazing post-race spread – it was the one thing about the race that was well-organized. I was shocked to find that I really wasn’t sore at all. While most of the people around me were doing the death limp that typically follows a marathon, I was walking pain-free, and even dancing to “Sweet Home Alabama” at the bandshell. I figured this meant I was getting used to running marathons, and that I would do fine in the half the next day. Woo!

That night, mom and I went out for dinner at one of my favorite NYC restaurants, BBQ. It’s certainly not upscale, but it’s pretty delicious! I got barbecue chicken for protein, and then cornbread, a baked potato, and a pina colada for carbs. Yes, with alcohol – my knee loves it. After going to a party and drinking a good quantity of vodka (carbs!), then gorging myself on tortilla chips and guacamole (more carbs! And healthy fat!), I went home with Boyfriend and promptly fell asleep around midnight. Not too bad!

Unfortunately, I had to get up at 6 AM to head home, get ready, and then get down to the race. At least, I thought I did. While walking home after I had already gotten all woken up, I realized that I had actually meant to sleep until 6:45 – it was just my drunken state that made me think I had to get up at 6 AM. Fortunately, I was bright and fresh as a daisy, and didn’t really regret the lost sleep. Unfortunately, the extra time made me think I had plenty of time to dawdle… and I dawdled until I was running late! I had wanted to be out the door by 7:15, but didn’t actually leave until 7:40, which only left me about 45 minutes to make it to the ferry.

My mom and I made it to the subway by 7:50, but had to wait for the train for a bit. A 2 train came (express) – apparently it was making local stops, but still continuing on the 2 track and not going down to South Ferry, where we needed to go, so we had to change at Chambers Street. We got off the train and waited… and waited… and waited. I was getting nervous b/c NYRR had said to be at the ferry early in case it filled up. There were tons of runners around, and they assured me that it wouldn’t fill up, but I had no idea, having never taken it before. Finally, the train came and we made it down to South Ferry and joined the mass of runners in the station, and eventually got on the ferry. No shortage of seats!

During the ferry ride to the race, I found myself totally losing motivation. My knee was hurting a lot (I assumed it would be okay once I started running), and I knew I wouldn’t PR. So really – what was my goal? I realized that I didn’t feel like running – my only motivation was to finish so that I would get the credit for completing the five borough half marathon series and finish my qualification for the 2009 NYC Marathon. I figured my goal of completion was a piece of cake, and my apathy made me dread what I thought would be the next two hours.

When the ferry stopped and we started walking off, I realized my knee was a lot worse. I had a lot of trouble with the ramps and the stairs, and going down the final set of stairs outside the building, I had to lean on my mom for support and swing my leg down without bending it. This was not good. She tried to convince me to quit, but I convinced her that if I started and it was still bad, I’d stop (ha – you all know that was a blatant lie. They weren’t getting me off that course until I crossed the finish line or died trying). After picking up my packet, stopping at the portapotty, and dropping off my bag, I headed into my start corral just in time for the start.

The gun went off, and the crowd of runners started the shuffling walk/run leading to the start line. I passed my mom at a point when the crowd was jogging, and excitedly yelled “my knee is fine! This will be great!” I really did believe it at that point, but they turned out to be famous last words. Less than a minute later, after crossing the start, my knee started hurting. I decided to walk, thinking that maybe I’d run later if I felt like it.

I felt really guilty because I had started with the 8:00 pace runners, and was now walking. I moved as far to the side of the road as I could, but there were still runners dodging me, and I felt terrible for being in the way. I tried to walk at a good clip to keep my heart rate up, but my heart rate monitor had been on too tight the day before and my ribs were sore when I put it on that morning, so I had skipped it. I still had my Garmin on to check time and distance, but when I realized I would be walking, I wished I had my heart rate monitor because I had no idea how many calories would burn. As we headed up a short hill after about 1/2 mile, the sun really came out, blinding me (I didn’t have sunglasses either) and making me realize what a long race this was going to be if it got hot. While 13.1 miles is a pretty short run, it’s a pretty long walk!

During the second mile, most of the runners had passed me, and I was among a lot of walkers and walk/runners. Pulling up next to an older guy who was walking, I asked if he wanted a walk buddy, and he accepted. We introduced ourselves, and I told him that I had some knee pain which was why I was walking – and he told me he was a doctor of sports medicine! We walked together for about a mile, with him asking about my running and injury history. I was super impressed that when I told him I’d done three marathons in three weeks, he didn’t even blink, and instead replied “yeah I used to do a lot of marathons like that.” My kind of doctor for sure! We talked about what it could be (his preliminary diagnosis, without a workup: runner’s knee) and potential treatments (strengthening the quads and working on alignment). He eventually decided to run ahead, but told me to ask anyone for “Doctor Dan” and to stop in for an appointment. I later found him through Google and tried to set up an appointment, but his very rude secretary told me that he doesn’t take United HealthCare and there was nothing she could do – frustrating. At least he cheered me up for the race, though!

The first three miles or so were through a run-down inner city area, and then we moved to an even more run-down industrial area with railroad tracks and warehouses. At least we had the river to our left, but it wasn’t that easy to see beyond the warehouses. I spoke with a few other walkers, and this was where I started to panic. I found out that I needed to finish in under 3 hours in order to have the race “count” toward my nine qualifying races for the 2009 NYC Marathon and also for completion of the five borough series. Never had I thought that would be a problem, but at a 14:30 pace, I wouldn’t finish until 3:10! The other walkers didn’t seem too concerned – they weren’t worried about having their time “count.” They also told me that NYRR will sometimes allow finishers up to 3:20 to count, but “sometimes” wasn’t good enough for me; I needed to make the official cutoff of 3:00 to be sure.

The eventual winners started passing me at mile 4 (it was almost an out-and-back course, with a loop thrown in that provided some separation), and we ran against each other for about 1/2 mile before the out section of the course turned off that road. I tried looking for Lam in there, but probably missed him by just a few minutes – he was FAST, and in great shape! In contrast, I reached the next aid station almost in tears. My knee wasn’t hurting at all to walk, but I was really concerned that I wasn’t going to make the time limit. The volunteers didn’t really know what to tell me when I cried and tried to double check that the 3:00 rule wasn’t a myth. By mile 4, I had really picked up the pace and made it my goal to get to the next mile marker in the fastest walk ever, and I did about a 12 minute pace. Not bad! But the effort was exhausting – I found racewalking a lot harder than just running.

Just after mile 5, we turned onto the same road as the “back” segment of the out-and-back, and headed down a nice hill. I tried running down the hill, which felt fine, but as soon as I hit flat ground, my knee ached again, so I switched back to a power walk. There wasn’t much to see in this part of the course, so I concentrated on having really good form and covering a lot of ground. Just before the turnaround, I passed a group of walk-runners (I’d say they were probably walking 3 minutes and running 1), and overheard them talking about Baltimore the day before. I asked them about it, and they had indeed done the Baltimore Marathon the day before! Looks like I wasn’t the only crazy one out there :) Though I guess I shouldn’t renounce my craziness just yet… they had walked Baltimore, were walk-running Staten Island, and were floored when I said I had done 4:23 in Hartford, and was still outpacing them. Crazy marathoner, that’s me!

The sun was out in full force as I hit the turnaround, and I grabbed Gatorade at every water station to be sure not to dehydrate. Unfortunately, by mile 8, I had to pee. Feeling salt on my forehead, I knew I wasn’t overhydrated and in danger of hyponatremia, so I continued to take drinks (though not two at each station, as I had been doing before), and hoped the urge would pass. After I hit mile 9, though, I was really struggling. As I watched the course being taken down around me, I continued to panic that I wouldn’t make it in time, but now I had a new concern: I didn’t see any portapotties! It seemed like they had all been taken away. I remembered seeing one during mile 2, so I hoped it would still be there when I got back to that point as part of mile 10.

However, this brought up a new quandary: did I have the time to stop? Looking at my watch, I knew it was going to be very close. If I missed the 3:00 mark, it was only going to be by a few seconds, so stopping to use the bathroom could literally be the difference between making it or not. I debated back and forth with myself as I approached the area where I had seen the portapotty, and right when I saw it, I suddenly had.to.go.right.now. I knew I had no choice, so I waddled over to the portapotty, barely let the door shut behind me as I frantically pulled my running skirt down, and didn’t even bother locking the door – I figured for the short amoutn of time I’d be in there, anyone else would have seen me go in and wouldn’t try. I pushed the door open while pulling my skirt up and was back on the course in no time – a record-setting 12 second bathroom break according to Garmin! Now there’s a PR.

I kept pushing the pace, trying to get to the finish as fast as possible without running. At this point, runners who had already finished were circling the course again – it was frustrating to get passed by speedy sprinters who were long since done! I grit my teeth and kept pushing forward, determined to show that I could beat the three hour limit (meant to prevent walkers) by walking.

Around mile 8, when I hit the two hour mark, I knew my mom would be looking for me to finish and that she would be pretty worried. At the time, I briefly considered giving my Road ID to a volunteer and asking them to call her cell phone (printed on the Road ID) to let her know that I was fine, but walking and anticipating three hours. However, I didn’t take the time to stop, and just hoped she wasn’t panicking. But then between the 11 and 12 mile markers, there she was! With her cheering loudly as she saw me coming, I broke out into a huge grin. She offered to walk along with me, and I gladly accepted, so we chatted for a few minutes while I informed her that I was fine – just trying my hardest to come in with a sub-3 time. She was amazed at the pace I was keeping, and found that she couldn’t even keep up with me (and she’s a fitness walker)! I finally left her in the dust as I continued striding to the finish.

It was in the last mile that I realized that unless I dropped the pace below 15:00, I was almost definitely going to make the cutoff. I started feeling great – I was even passing people who were running (well, jogging in that crippled way that you so often see at mile 25 of a full marathon)! I concentrated on using my arms to give me as much momentum as possible, and tried to just put it all out there. Finally, I saw the finish line clock in front of me – 2:57!!! It was sixty minutes from my PR of 1:57 in Brooklyn, but I had done the impossible – not only did I do almost 40 miles in a weekend, but I beat the no-walking time limit by walking!

The amazing part was, my knee didn’t hurt at all after finishing – in fact, it felt better than ever. I climbed the steps back to the ferry with no problems, and spent the rest of the day taking advantage of having my mom’s car to go pick up some new furniture I had found on Craigslist – a white bookcase for my room and a gorgeous Pottery Barn liquor cabinet for the living room. (Which reminds me – I still need to take pictures of my room to show you all how the painting came out). My mom had told my doorman about my racing, and he was shocked that I wasn’t lying in a heap on the floor but was instead moving furniture. That’s me – Ms. Energy!

Race stats:
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 2:55:08
Pace: 13:22
Overall place: 3590/3626
Age group place: 133/134 (Not dead last!)

As for the next race, which I know you will all ask about in the comments, I’m not sure. I had wanted to do the Atlantic City Marathon this weekend and turn it into a romantic/fun trip with Boyfriend, but though my knee didn’t hurt after finishing either race, it hurt the next day, and it’s still hurting today. I’m not sure that doing another marathon is really the best idea, though I really want to go to Atlantic City. I’m going to do an hour or two on the elliptical tonight while watching America’s Next Top Model and the season finale of Project Runway (Presidential debate? What presidential debate?), so I’ll use that to see how the knee is doing.

Also, Chia and I are talking about going up together to Niagara Falls to do that marathon on the 26th along with Marci, which would be cool. It wouldn’t be a state for me (it starts in New York, but thanks to this race I’m doing the New York City Marathon in 2009, so I’ll use that for New York); however, it’d be another province, and since I already have Alberta, I might as well go for all the provinces while I’m at it.

But 5.5 marathons in 5 weeks? With a knee injury? Now that is crazy. Advice appreciated!


  1. Jesus !!! I don’t mean to say that in the name of vain. You must be out of your mind! You are the next Mrs. Dean Karnazes ! I just don’t know how in the world you can do the Hartford Marathon and do Staten Island Half Marathon the next day. Wow, I am so impressed with you. I don’t want to sound like a mother but any sign of “slowing down”??? ;-) However, you still ROCK !!!

  2. wow – you are crazy, but in a good way! Extremely impressive. I have a question for you. I ran the baltimore marathon this past saturday and just signed up for the Harrisburg Marathon on Nov 9th. This will be my first multi-marathon year. Usually stick to one a year! Anyways, I am trying to figure out how to maintain with training runs and tapering in time for Nov 9th. What do you think?

  3. Laura –great job at Hartford and staten island!! Sounded like the food at Hartford was worth the entry fee!!!! What amazing weather -perfect for back to back races. Am very jealous! I had to travel:( to see my college-age son, but had fun…are you in NYCM??? hope so!!

  4. I can’t believe you did 5.5 marathons in 5 weeks. That is quite an accomplishment. I am so glad you made it under 3 hours! I was so nervous you weren’t going to make it!
    Congrats on qualifying for NYC 2009!

    Maybe you do need to give your knee a rest though.

  5. J, to clarify, I’ve only done 3.5 in 3 weeks so far; 5.5 is if I add Atlantic City and Niagara Falls.

  6. Awesome. Don’t know how your feet weren’t aching! And you must be some speed walker. I agree it’s more tiring than running! I would definitely take a week (or two!) off….you don’t want to end up sidelined for months if the knee gets worse. And who knows…with some time off you may see that sub- 4 soon!

  7. I vote that you give your knee a rest, especially since you don’t need New York. I’d hate for you to really hurt yourself.

  8. Wow – you are quite the determined speedy walker! :)

    Great job on your accomplishments this past weekend. I also would vote for giving your knees a rest. Maybe still go to AC with the BF and just cheer on the marathoners?

  9. Dang girl, I am impressed with your mad walking skills! I’d definitely say to try to give the knee some rest now. It might not ever get better for real if you don’t give it a little time after being so hard on it. You’ll be back at it in no time. And thanks for your comment the other day about tummy issues. When it happened I SO thought of your posts, but I hadn’t had cookies or dairy so I think it was more heat related.

  10. Laura – you need to take a break. Don’t ruin your knee! You want to run right now, or for the rest of your life, girl! Take a romantic weekend – and just let it be that! Just my two cents! I’m worried.

  11. Damn! There’s no way I could have walked in under 3 hours. You officially rule the world…take care of that knee!!!

  12. PROJECT RUNWAY!! hahaha. yes, i am very excited about the finale.

    wow, i can’t believe your energy and committment, CONSTANT! good for you. i have to say i REALLY enjoy reading your race reports. good thing you run so many :) thanks for being such a great storyteller, you really do a wonderful job, i feel like i’m right there with you:) thanks!!

  13. Great race report! Wow – walking a 1/2! That is carzy – but in a truly amazing way!

  14. Crazy. Insane. Wow-wee.

  15. great report!! i love your race reports :)

    GAH i cannot imagine… you ARE crazy! but i love it :) walking always makes my legs and feet ACHE so bad!

    just take care of that knee! hope the elliptical makes it feel better.

  16. Laura,
    You’re crazy, girl!! I felt your pain as I read your blog. Glad to see you get to run the NYC Marathon in ’09. I’m applying, and if they turn me down, I’m automatic for 2010. Rest that knee before you can’t even walk. Better to take a break than to cause more damage and have to shut it down for a long time. Hey, there’s always Christopher Martin’s 5K in December!! Congrats again!!

  17. My fav is the Pee P.R.

    I a big fan of “rest is awesome.”

  18. Truly amazing! Definitely see a doc about your knee, but ice and a little physical therapy will go a long way.

    I’m sure your case will be different, but I sat most of 2003 waiting for my knee pain to go away on its own. Turned out only to be a bad case of tendonitis. Ice and therapy turned it around in no time. Now I know enough to deal with it properly before it becomes a big problem.

    What I love the most is how you made the most of your walking experience, and turned what could have been a depressing day into a positive experience.

  19. *ha* you know my vote already so I’ll just publicly admit that your speed-wazzer is seriously something legends are made out of! It takes me more than 12 seconds to get out of my running skirt ;-).

  20. I think you are beyond advice. That is to say, beyond help! I hope that you take some time to celebrate each of these achievements properly. Good luck with whatever your next race happens to be. Or maybe I should wish you good luck in getting some rest … some day. Cheers!

  21. Well I wouldn’t have made it as far as you with that much running so long in that little time. Listen to the knee girl! great job finishing ! If I ran into you at a race and you told me your running history I’d be saying are you kidding me?? /amazing!

  22. I’m with everyone else–take some time off! Get your knee better and then get back out there. Best of luck!!

  23. I can’t believe you still had energy to move furniture after all that.

    Do you ever rest woman?

    But good job on making it under 3 hours while walking!

  24. You make me tired just reading your blog!

    That is really cool though, way to go!

    Are you on a mission to run a marathon in every state? I would love to run one in every state and one on every continent. By January, I’ll have CA and AZ crossed off the list.

    I was proposing to POM that we should do a blogger meetup marathon. (i.e. get a bunch of bloggers together to run a marathon!) How fun would that be???!!!

  25. Laura, oh my goodness, my heart was pounding as i was reading this race report anxious to find out if you finished in under 3 hours. I knew you could and probably did and i couldn’t wait to find out. I am proud of you BUT i agree with a lot of the commenters here that you should give yourself a much deserved rest!!! I worry about your knee! Fix it then you can run all you want!!!

  26. I’ve actually been holding my tongue since I don’t want to sound like a mom, but I think it’s time you took a rest my dear! It doesn’t have to be for long — my BQs were 8 weeks apart (with another marathon thrown in in between). But I KNOW the key was to take the time to recover. Sure I have 20 years on you (and the creaky body to show for it), but I think your knee is trying to tell you something! I promise, no one will think you’re any less of a bad-ass :)

  27. Just found your blog and umm…first of all. Congrats! 5 in 5, wooowww.
    Very impressive :) can’t wait to read more, its inspiring! i keep doing halfs and just hoping that within the year I step it up and do the Full.

    oh and um, Seriously, project runway finale on the same night as the debate?! geeeeeze.

  28. Wow, you are amazing. I didn’t know you were having so much trouble out there Sunday. Amazing! I’m glad the knee held up and it’s not hurting you anymore.

  29. wow! What a great race report! I was seriously hanging on your every word!

    I just have the regular, old advice…ice, ice, ice.

  30. I get the feeling your body is trying to tell you something, my advice would be to listen.

    You don’t train as such and as a result you are putting you body under a lot of stress and now it’s starting to breakdown. You are a fairly new runner and don’t have the multiple years and 1000’s or miles on your legs.

    You’ve had a good run (pun), well actually you haven’t (no pun, there’s no quality just pain and quantity to this spree.

    I don’t mean to sound harsh and belittle your efforts but you are young and there a lot of marathons in year you can do.

    You’re not stupid and I am assuming you want still be running at 30, 35, 50 etc do yourself a favor and get the knee fixed.
    before you do some perm damage!

  31. SLB, what you’re saying makes total sense… but the doctor that I went to (who is supposed to be an expert in female runners and knees) couldn’t find anything wrong, and her only advice was to either run less or run more consistently. I’m just thinking if she can’t find anything wrong, maybe it’s just something like bad form or runner’s knee?

  32. You rock! Do New Jersey only (because you need it). Why not do like a 30-min walking warm-up (since your knee seems to do better after walking) then run/ walk it? Then rest and train for the next one (at least 2 weeks out?!) :)

  33. WOWOWOW!!!! You really hng in there, talk about determination! I wish we would have had a chance to meet up!! I can’t believe you did a whole then a half the next day, you are super woman!!!!
    Ooohhh, you mentioned the restaurant BBQ….I ate there a couple years ago and LOVED IT!!! Can you tell me where it is again so next time I go back I can hit it up????

  34. Good work! Sounds painful.

  35. Well Runners Knee is treatable, if it is RK or Patellafemerole (sp?) Syndrome or chrondomalcia (sp?) it can be treated, I had PFS last year, 8 weeks physio put me straight. Stretches, strengthening and pylometrics will help you there. My mileage was crazy last year and even with the 8 weeks off I racked up over 1600 miles, but it’s what you do before and after you run that also counts.

    If it’s you gait or form you should go to somewhere that does a gait analysis and get it checked out, ideally not a shoe shop though.

    Consistency is also key but I appreciate the life of a consultant somewhat cramps that, I would suggest doing some repair and regeneration work in between runs.

    After 8 weeks off I never want to go back there again so remember prevention is better than a cure.

    Ok I’ll put my soapbox away now!

  36. I had a knee issue most of the summer during marathon training.I did lots of yoga and it really helped. (I found videos of yoga especially for runners on youtube.) The more I stretched the less it hurt.

  37. L~

    I’m impressed. I was going to do the same thing as you did with the crazyness of a goofy. Staten Island and Hartford is truly an amazing feat and WHAT? 5.5 marathons in 5 weeks? Seriously?

    Geez, take it easy…save your legs and enjoy it all…it’s more of the experience…don’t burn out.

    Man…which 5.5 marathons have you done? What number are you on? hahaa….your going to pass me! Leave me in the DUST!

    Thanks for cheering again in Hartford…loved it.

  38. I’m not quite caught up with your blog posts, having been away, but just wanted to say WOW ~ you walk almost as fast as I run, I think! When I was injured, the doctor said “I’m not going to tell you to stop running, because that would be CRAZY!” ~ I love doctors like that! One thing I did when I was injured was 1:1 run/walk intervals. Jeff Galloway was the speaker at that marathon dinner, and he was the one who suggested it. I thought it would increase my time a LOT, but that marathon was only 10 minutes slower than usual, and I was running strong til the end. Your injury might be different, so have it checked, and be careful ~ but I certainly understand wanting to keep running! I hope you can!

  39. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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