From 4:13 To 3:51: My Manchester City Marathon Recap

I spent 11 months in 2011 working to gain automatic entry to the New York City Marathon. I ran the requisite nine races — seriously burning out in the process — and volunteered at that year’s NYCM Expo.

Finally, after dropping too much money on entry fees and a New York Road Runners membership, I was, as the weekly emails reminded me, “in.”

In April of this year, I signed up to run the New York City Marathon. My goal was to run the marathon in under four hours, and I was ready to train my butt off to make that happen.

But then I got sick.

And then I got sicker.

And then my doctor was like, “You’re a medical mystery, check yourself into the hospital.”

I didn’t train for 16 weeks. I attempted speedwork all of four times and I did half-ass hill repeats once. Though my training was far from ideal, I did manage to knock out some solid long runs, including my first-ever 22-mile long run.

My confidence was shot, but my enthusiasm wasn’t. As November 4 approached, I wasn’t sure I had a sub-4:00 in me, but that was OK: I still had my love for running. After a year-long battle with a crappy immune system, the race was no longer about a time goal. Of course clocking in at 3:59:59 would be nice, but I had other goals this time around:

  • Love it.
  • Appreciate it.
  • Run the mile that I’m in. Don’t dwell on the miles gone by and don’t anticipate (or freak out about) the miles ahead. One at a time. Stay in it.
  • Smile.
  • Regardless of the pace or finish time, put forth an effort to be proud of.
  • Look around. Take in the course. Don’t run in blackout mode like always.
  • Stay positive.
  • Don’t think about it too much.
  • Keep running.
  • Try to remember to thank the volunteers.

A ton of goals, none of which were time-specific — all of which pertained to one very specific part of my body: my brain.

I just wanted to have a happy race. And, as my racing history has shown, I do best when the goal is more along the “run happy” lines and less rigid when it comes to paces and splits.

So I had my goals, and I used the New York City Marathon course to carefully map out “dedication miles” along the way. Mile 1 was dedicated to 2012: A year I hated. My first step of the marathon would signify an end — a literal step forward — to a very negative, frustrating year.

Mile 16 was dedicated to my first solo apartment and mile 17 was dedicated to my dear friend Lauren who has always supported my running. Mile 18 was for my first NYC roommate, who got me hooked on running and taught me what “half marathon” means. Mile 19 was for Lauren and mile 20 was for Emily, since she ran my first-ever 20-miler with me.

The final miles were for my family. Ryan and Michaela got mile 22, my mom was my mile 23 inspiration and Brian got mile 24, since mile 24 during the marathon passed by the spot where we filmed the JackRabbit commercials and spent our first day together. Mile 25 went to my dad, because he’s been known to jump in to run the final racing miles with me, and mile 26 was for my main man Tyler.

That last .2 was for me.

But then — breaking news — the New York City Marathon was canceled.

Suddenly I was in New Hampshire with my friends and family, about to run a very different marathon.

For so long I had envisioned running my second marathon among the crowds of New York City, my new home. Instead, I ran with my family through the streets of Manchester: just miles from my childhood home.

In a huge turn of events, the Manchester City Marathon became the perfect place to throw down a hugely unexpected 22-minute marathon PR — and it became the site of my latest “best weekend ever.”

Now for all the sweaty details…

I spent the night before the marathon sleeping in my unchanged-since-I-was-16 bedroom. Brian made a big pasta dinner for the whole crew — my mom, dad, Lauren, Evan, Emily and me — and we stayed up a bit later than we should have the night before a slightly long race.

My alarm went off at 5:30 Sunday morning and I sprung out of bed. I vaguely recall jumping on Sleeping Brian and yelling, “It’s race day!!!” Yes, he did love that.

After the usual shower/sit-ups/MultiGrain bar/bathroom bathroom bathroom routine, we piled into our carpool at 7:30 to head into Manchester.

In the car, I talked with Emily, my hero of the day. The only “plan” we had was that she was going to run with me. I wouldn’t wear a watch and I’d do whatever she told me along the way. We never said we’d “go out at 9:15s and then drop down to 9:00s at mile 10” or anything specific. Shocking: Emily without a plan. (Or if she had a plan she just didn’t share it with me, and I was fine with that.)

A few things to note at this point:

  • We knew nothing about the course except that it was “hilly” and “challenging.” It was also described as “scenic through Manchester’s mill yards.” We had watched a course video on YouTube the day before and swore “those weren’t hills,” but we later found out we were oh so wrong. Idiots.
  • I did not have a pace plan or a specific goal time.
  • I did not check the weather for the race.

In other words: We went into this thing blindly.

And I highly recommend that strategy.


We got to the start with just enough time to do the Porta Potty thing and the bib-pinning thing. Soon, it was time to get into the pack of runners, so many of whom were wearing their New York City Marathon shirts. There were no corrals and I don’t remember a National Anthem.

Then we were running. I remember looking at Emily on my left and yelling, “We’re running a marathon right now!”

I never got nervous. I was never worried about my stomach. I was in total “go with the flow” mode. I never tried to sneak a peek at Emily’s multiple watches…

…and I never even asked her what our pace was. There were mile markers every mile and clocks every two miles, but I never looked at them or tried to do the math to figure out our pace.

I just ran.

The course was hilly. Like, super hilly. Like, we ran in a constant “up” direction.

And for the first 20 miles I loved that!

I remember nothing from the first five miles except that I was smiling the whole time. Emily and I talked a bit and we met two dudes during the first mile who were really great. They assured me that I could not, in fact, run a sub-4:00 marathon on “this course,” and assumed that I didn’t lose power like some people in NYC because I’m a “wealthy white girl.” Needless to say Emily had to run in between the men and me to act as a barrier, because I was ready to throw down.

Around mile six, we ran onto a dirt trail, which was my favorite part of the course. We hit the 10K mark and I told Emily, “just a long run left.” She cheered.

We stayed on the trail for about two miles, running around a big lake and trying not to trip on rocks and branches. It was my first trail-ish experience and I think I’m hooked.

As we exited the trail and ran through the relay transition area (the race included a relay option and a half-marathon option), there were hordes of spectators screaming, and a DJ announcer man who yelled my name over the loudspeaker. I cheered back for him. Great times.

We saw our crew of spectators for the first time at mile 8 — exactly where they said they would be.

We were running uphill, as usual, and we danced and I acted like a fool and I expended way too much energy doing some sort of Gangnam Style Macarena Slide routine.

And then we kept running uphill.

All the while, I was feeling great. I was running happy and Emily was constantly saying, “Bring it back.” I got too excited. I wanted to go faster.

But she kept me right on whatever pace she wanted, and the first 14 miles felt easy. I remember passing the 13.1 mark at 1:55 and Emily asked, “Are you happy with what you see?” Yes, Emily. Yes I sure was. I ate some Honey Stinger Chews and stopped at every-other water stop to drink water/accidentally throw it up my nose.

Emily continually said all the right things. She ran on my left the whole time, because having people on my right makes me anxious (I’m normal). She congratulated me at the top of every hill, assuring me that despite running uphill for a mile at a time into a headwind (thank you, mile 15), we were staying “right on or under pace.”

I didn’t turn on my music until mile 15, which was a long, tough hill. The wind had picked up and my legs weren’t hurting yet, but I was starting to feel it.

We got to an amazing downhill around mile 17, and I knew we’d see our fan club again at mile 18. I ate a chocolate Hammer Gel which was delicious and we cruised on a nice gentle downhill. I still felt good and I was thrilled. I was all, “Marathon running is wicked easy!”

Then came the best part of the race.

So I’m running along, downhilling and stuff, and I see my sister-in-law, Michaela up ahead on my left.


Then I see my brother, Ryan.

Then I see an empty stroller.

Then, up ahead on my right, I see that my best friend has come to cheer me on for my second marathon.

Tyler was cowbelling his little heart out (kind of) and I just about lost my shit I was so excited.

I swerved to the right, gave him a massive sweaty kiss, grinned like a fool and continued on my way. Best surprise ever? Yes.

I was stupid-happy for all of mile 19, thinking this marathon may have been on a brutal course, but that kept it interesting.

And then, right at the mile 20 marker, it got extra interesting. Another way of describing mile 20 would be “a bitch of a hill.” It was short but steep and did I mention it was at mile 20?

This hill took a bit of the wind out of my proverbial sails. Or rather, it ripped at my quads, hamstrings and “weak glutes” and made me angry.

It took me a full two miles to recover from that hill. But I knew to keep running. I reminded myself that walking would hurt just as much, and it would take longer. I may as well push through the pain and get it over with sooner, right?

At mile 22, we ran down a steep hill, which I didn’t like so much. I spotted the Mile 1 Douchebags up ahead, and decided to throw some choice words their way. My choice words began with the letter F, but I had my headphones in so I figured I was just whispering loudly. Then Emily was all, “Ali, that was really loud…” so I calmed down.

We got to the bottom of the hill and ran onto another trail for a bit.

I started counting down the miles and I started hurting.

At mile 23, Emily said, “Only three miles to go. That’s less than you ever run at a time.”

Good point, wise coach.

The sides of my legs had started to hurt and I feared I was slowing down (I wasn’t).

It was also at mile 23 that Emily asked me a question: “What was your Hamptons time?”

“4:13,” I told her, knowing she had a plan brewing.

“OK,” she said. “If you can hang on to this — if you can stay on pace for the next three miles — you’re going to set a 20-minute PR.”

I mean…OK. If that’s what we’re going for. Frankly, I was just going for a 3:59:59, but “20-minute PR” is cool, too.

I just stayed with her and kept trying my best. I never wanted to quit. As badly as my legs started to hurt, I knew I was so close to the finish line.

I spent a lot of time in the final miles thinking about Lauren up ahead, hoping she’d run a strong race (duh, of course she had). I couldn’t wait to see my family at the finish and I was so so so grateful for all Emily had done for me along the way.

You’d think the agony would end there, but it didn’t. Because as we left the trail and got back onto Manchester’s city streets, we saw the mile 25 marker. And suddenly there were runners going in every direction around us. I knew the finish line was to our right, but the cop man told us to turn left. I screamed at Emily, demanding that she find out if we were going the correct way. (Sorry, Halnon.)

We were.

So during the last mile of the marathon, we were running along a river, through those “scenic mills.”

This was rough.

The wind was gusting into our faces and it was freezing along the water. Everything hurt and I knew we still had one more hill to bring us back up to the finish line.

I started unattractively grunting. I made really ugly non-ladylike noises that no one should ever hear, but Emily didn’t seem to mind.

Also, I noticed, we were passing people. It was the last mile of a marathon, and I was hurting, but no one was going ahead of me. Instead, for once, I was cutting in front of them.

We wrapped up our time by the mills and another cop guy showed us where to go: “to the left, and up.”

Alright, then. May as well finish with a serious ass-kicking, right?

That last hill hurt so badly, but I knew the mile 26 marker was just around the corner. Emily was all, “You’ve got this, you can do it, we’re almost there,” and I was all, “ugh, blerch, mwarf, bokchoy.”

Then we were at the top of the hill. We turned right and I saw the finish line up ahead.

I told Emily I couldn’t sprint the final .2 miles. She was cool with it. “We’ll just coast in and enjoy it,” she said.

But then there was a familiar face on my right: my brother.

“Let’s race,” he said, and I think I called him a word that starts with a D and rhymes with kick.

He bolted toward the finish (outside the fence, like an appropriate, rule-abiding spectator) and we just kept cruising.

But then I remembered what Nicole, Coach Cane’s wife, told me during my first marathon: It’s so much cooler to sprint to the finish than to jog to the finish.

So somehow I found my kick. I was thrilled realizing I never hit “the wall,” and we started to push it. I don’t know what our pace was — I don’t know if was even faster than our miles along the way, but it felt fast. It felt awesome.

I don’t remember seeing my parents or Tyler or Michaela or even Brian. I just remember seeing — and hearing — Lauren in her lime green head, screaming her face off. You may think Lauren is tiny and cute, which she is, but man that girl can get one heck of a deep scream going!

Then I saw the clock.


I was shocked and thrilled and completely surprised.

Emily made this whole race happen for me. She kept us on pace — our splits are beautifully, astonishingly even, and our average pace was right around 8:50 — and she kept me running happy. She said all the right things throughout every mile and I don’t think I could (or would) have run a 3:51 without her. (And, for the record, while I have been limping for the past two days, she’s doing just fine. Ultra marathoner legs, NBD.)

I spent the rest of Race Day drinking sangria, snuggling with my nephew and eating Halloween-colored Oreos.

So that’s my recap. I ran a happy race. I was never stressed. My stomach was calm and happy and I realized that sometimes the very best things happen when everything you’ve planned for falls apart at the last minute.

I got to run my first and second marathons with my entire family waiting for me at the finish line.

It just doesn’t get much better than that.

And despite searching after the race, I never did find those guys who said I couldn’t go sub-4:00 in Manchester on Sunday — but I’m sure they knew. I was right behind them, after all.

Oh and Crohn’s disease: Thanks for coming out to play in 2012. It was great having you around and all, and I really appreciate the way you challenged me and tested me day after day. Sorry that, in the end, I still came out on top this year. Solid effort, though.



167 Responses

  1. I just stumbled upon your blog and this recap and it is just awesommmeeeeeee…..
    I ran the Baystate Marathon on SUnday and it just wasn’t ‘my day”. Manchester is about 45 minutes away from me, I’m still in tip top Marathon shape and I’m considering running the full (since I’m a glutton for punishment and all) to get a better time. (who besides a runner would say that?!) your recap helped me to make the decision! thank you for suvh a kick ass heartfelt hilarious recap…you ROCK!!!

  2. This is SUCH a beautiful and inspirational marathon story! I’m such a fan! I’ve got my first half marathon coming up in exactly two weeks and I’m finding out that stories like this keep me constantly reminded of why I am so in love with running. So thank you so much! 🙂

  3. Wow! You kicked major butt! I love having a pacer..I seriously miss it when mine’s not with me and am close to hiring one in the interim. You almost had me so excited that I just about signed up for my first full…maybe 😉

  4. I always enjoy reading your blog– I actually thought of you when the race was cancelled! So awesome that you still got to run a marathon… and in New Hampshire! I’m originally from Keene and running the Clarence DeMar is on my bucket list.

  5. This is going to sound so weird, but I’m a new reader and I’ve read this post probably 4 or 5 times. This is just so inspiring! Congratulations on an amazing PR! This is amazing!

  6. CONGRATS! Way to get a 20+ minute PR on a tough course! I know we’ve talked about it before, but I think that being able to roll with the punches and alter plans isn’t always easy when it comes to running, but this race is a prime example of how well the unexpected can work out.. So happy for you! 🙂

  7. Awesome. Recap. Seriously. This made me smile so much! You looked like you were enjoying yourself, having fun and holy crap you’re speedy! Nice job! I ran the relay, so miles 11-19.5 (leg 3) and I talked to quite a few NYCMarathoners on the way – so glad you were able to run, and thanks for choosing Manchester!

  8. Ali!!! I am grinning from ear to ear. This race report made me feel sooo happy. Your blog has been pretty difficult to read at times, man, you have been through a lot and it is not easy to see someone else suffer like that, but what a race, you deserved every minute. And thanks for sharing the best race pics ever!!

  9. AWWWW!!! Congrats!!! When you saw Tyler… OMG!!! I hope you neener-neener-neered the jerk boys. I love that your brother raced you to the end. That would make a GREAT coffee commercial….

  10. This is my favorite race recap EVER! I wanted to cry, cringe in pain (at the hills – wowza!), smile, laugh, and squeal – all at the same time! Congrats, Ali! I am so incredibly happy for you and your incredible sub-4 marathon! You are an inspiration to all.

    I think I also would have lost my shit seeing Tyler on the course! So cute. Even after a short pause for baby kisses, you still killed it! Whooo hooooo!!!

  11. WOW, sounds like an awesome race. i want emily to come and get me a PR (actually my first and only marathon was so slow that I reckon it wouldn’t be much of a challenge for her!!) Love the matching outfits. YOu totally deserved a great race day!

  12. Congrats and your amazing, it’s very hard to do things when you never know when your crohn’s may decide to act up, and it seems to always act up when you don’t want it too. I grew up in Manchester and I know how those roads look level then they kick your ass by being hilly when they don’t look it! I love the down town it’s such a nice area and they have done so many improvements in the recent years.

  13. OMG what a great post!!! Seriously! Who PRs by 20 minutes?!?! My goal was to break 4 hours at the Chicago Marathon this year.. one minute too slow. I need an Emily! Writing that on her blog now… Maybe you could be my Emily… any interest in Chicago next year??

  14. Never have I seen another marathon finish with as many smiles as yours. Thank you for telling your story – coming to your blog is always so much fun and it inspires me to try.harder. Congrats!!!

  15. I teared up at many parts of this recap! SO AWESOME!!! Also I would have said more than “f you” to those morons

  16. AWESOME!! No better way to spend a Sunday, right? Running far (& fast!) surrounded by all the people you love most. That’s what happiness is. I pink puffy heart how all these pictures capture your sheer joy. Love love love. Congrats again Ali!

  17. Truly incredible, slam dunk! So inspired and so happy you got what you wanted out of this race. Looks like a party! And I love the black and red.

  18. Congratulations! Best post yet… I actually teared up, laughed and smiled. I am glad you made the decision to run the marathon- times like these, there’s no better place than with your family and friends! What a great race under not so great circumstances. Keep on running and inspiring 🙂

  19. Congratulations !! 2012 brought you good things at the end 🙂 (including Tyler !!)
    Thank you for this amazing recap. I first read it at work (… I know, that’s bad… but I NEEDED to read it as soon as it was online, right ?). I had to read it another time at home to get to it from start to finish without being interrupted (I mean, come on guys, can’t you see I am busy reading Ali’s recap ?? Ppppfff). I am really happy for you. You deserved a great race and you get it. Perfect 🙂 What’s next ? 😉

  20. This is such a great post! Congrats on your awesome PR!! I just finished a marathon a few weeks ago in which I was hoping to get a BQ (3:55 for me), and ended up with 3:59. My half was the same as your time (1:55). I also had a huge PR, but now I’m even more hopeful that I can get that BQ on my next try with some more solid training! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  21. I don’t think there’s a runner who deserved this kind of race as much as you did. SO happy for you, and I loved this recap. The last paragraph made me actually grin. And now you get to go on VACATION! Seriously, way to show 2012 who’s the real boss.

  22. I never, ever want to run full marathons, and then I read posts like this and I’m all like “YES. I WANT TO DO THIS.” Motivation at its best!


  23. OH my gosh. I just don’t even know where to begin. You and I have, like, the exact same story.
    SO GLAD YOU WERE ALSO ABLE TO REGISTER FOR MANCHESTER!! I’m bummed I didn’t get to see you, but glad you had such a great experience!
    Congratulations on the crazy PR! Huge congrats.
    A few items to note:
    1) How cool was that trail at mile 6-ish? I was like, wow this is very different from what would have been Brooklyn at mile 6 in NYC!
    2) I was also smiling the entire time. I was just so happy to be racing.
    3) Glad you’re enjoying the Honey Stinger Chews! my favorite!
    4) My family also lives in NH and it was amazing to have them spectating the marathon as well. My little 2 year old nephew was also spectating! Nothing better than that!
    5) How much did that hill at mile 15 suck? How much did that steep downhill at mile 22 suck? how much did the HILL suck?! 🙂
    6) And seriously, how terrible was the cold wind at mile 25? I yelled “F*CK!” out loud, for sure.
    Anyways – huge congrats. I absolutely loved reading this recap.

  24. I am so impressed, Ali! Awesome, you are a huge inspiration and you are lucky to have the most amazing family and friends! Congratulations on the huge success!

  25. Congratulations! You’re very lucky to have such supportive and awesome friends and family. I ran my first marathon alone. My first half marathon, too. Most of my races actually. You’re very lucky.

  26. Ali! This is truly an inspiring post! I loved reading every second of it. Congrats on the amazing PR. Thank you for reminding me of why I love running. I look forward to reading more of your journeys. I am so happy I met you by chance when you were moving out of your apartment. Keep it up you are truly an inspiration.

  27. I told you yesterday I was going to channel you in Richmond this weekend, but now that I read this I reallllly reallly mean it! I am so happy for you! You ran an incredible race and you deserve that HUGE PR! Congrats!!!!

  28. Ahhh!! Awesome! Dude…20+ min PR is RIDICULOUS! This recap is so great and my heart swelled a little bit bigger on what a great friend Emily is! SO so happy for you and all of your ass kicking.

  29. Amazing Recap and don’t worry about that whole ‘have to run on the right’ thing. I 100%, every single run, need to always be ‘on the outside’. After years of running in central park, that means the right. I Can Not run unless I’m on the outside at all times. Surprisingly, no one has ever complained about my rule. Sadly, I guess that means you and I can never run together.

    So glad you had an amazing race!

  30. That’s amazing! I’m so happy that your health issues are under control now. And it just goes to show how much running really is mental. Last month I ran a 1:56 when a year ago I ran a 2:11, primarily because I found some random guy and decided to run with him. Congrats!

  31. Oh Ali I am so incredibly happy for you! You deserved this race more than any runner I know and I am so happy you were finally able to have such a good one! Through the crazy circumstances, and the year you’ve had, you’re perseverance and strength is so inspiring to me! Soooo happy for ya!

  32. I read every word of this report. Loved it! Emily called last night and she was still so excited over your huge PR! This post shows how much you both loved this race! Love the mile dedications.

  33. SO unbelievably happy for you! Beyond inspiring. I had chills reading this and a huge smile on my face. What a perfect race for you despite everything!!

  34. I have been reading your blog for several months now but have never commented….but this post about made me cry (yeah I am a wimp!) because I was so excited for you! Congrats on a huge PR!!!! You rock!

  35. You are inspiring and YAYYYYYY for you!!! I’m hoping to say the same thing about Crohn’s in a few weeks after I complete the Las Vegas Half Marathon with Team Challenge. The past few weeks have been awfully rough and I feel like my body is telling me not to do this. But every time I read your blog, I get an extra boost of motivation!! Thank you and I think you are awesome!!

  36. Congrats on your PR!! And I absolutely love the last paragraph. Crohn’s will not kick your butt, you will kick Crohn’s in the butt!!! 🙂

  37. Congratulations!! So happy for you!! This is a wonderfully written re-cap. It’s such a great lesson and reminder that by taking your brain out of the nitty gritty details and just running it you can make it all happen. Awesome work on Emily’s part too, she’s a rockstar.

  38. Whoa!!! I have been trying to catch up on your posts lately and am SO glad you found a replacement race for NYC! AND you KILLED that PR, absolutely obliterated, running happy the whole time. LOVE the pic of you when you see Tyler. so so so cute! so proud, awesome awesome job!!!

  39. Congratulations on an AMAZING race! I wanted to say that I find it incredibly inspiring that you did this with Crohn’s disease and after a rough year with a multi-day hospitalization. I have another GI disease and while right now I’m pretty incapacitated altogether, I hope that one day I’ll be able to do things — including running — like you. (Well, maybe not a marathon, but not lying in bed all day either!)

  40. I haven’t been following you for too long but this was your best post yet. Absolutely perfect – I laughed, I cried. For real. I am barely a 5K runner and old so I will never do a marathon but love hearing from those who do. Awesome job, awesome family and friends and great pictures. Congrats!

  41. Loved loved loved loved loved loved this recap.

    What an amazing day, Ali. You’ve accomplished so much after so many trials and uncertainty. I’m SO freaking happy for you!

  42. ALI!!! OMG – congratulations. I’m so happy for you. What a fun way to get your marathon PR in. I can only imagine how much fun you and Emily had. Really happy you were able to find a race to run. You have worked hard this year. Way to go!!!

  43. GREAT RECAP!!!! Congrats again, you are awesome! Side note – I was in a similar situation as you. Knew I had it in me to sub 4, but couldn’t make it happen. Finally, in the Long Branch(NJ) marathon in May I ran without a Garmin, and with only the goal of enjoying the race and running according to how I felt. It happened! Mind over matter, I guess!

  44. Damn it, I started the day crying! What a touching recap, I felt like I was running the race with you. The photos of you when you realize Tyler and your friend came to cheer, priceless. Congrats speed demon!

  45. Congrats!!! Thats an awesome PR!!!! I was also supposed to run NYCM, but found about the Manchester Marathon and signed up friday night! This was my first marathon! It was such a hilly course! But I was also able to run a sub 4-hr marathon. It was a short drive from my apt in Boston and ending being an amazing day. And it was great having family being able to see me along the course and at the finish.

  46. I have never read such a happy, positive race recap! The whole freaking way through it you were practically jazz handsing! Congrats of the PR! Feels good doesn’t it?!!

  47. I am so excited for you! Reading your recap made me tear up I was so happy for you. Then I saw the pic of you and Brian and that was the kicker. That is a picture of pure love! Congrats !!!

  48. This post made me cry. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I am so happy for you and I love that you ran a marathon on Sunday. I also really like you and Emily in the red, you definitely stand out. Also, I read this post on my phone earlier and the pictures didn’t show up, but the captions did. So it makes a lot more sense in context now. The surprise from your brother, sister in law and baby nephew was AMAZING. That is such an amazingly sweet, awesome thing to do. I can’t imagine how you felt when you saw them during the race. Such a great surprise! Lastly – why does Emily wear so many watches?

    1. Haha. Thank you, Dori. Emily doesn’t normally wear two watches! One was hers and one was mine. I wanted to be able to upload my splits afterward, but was paranoid my watch wouldn’t be working, so I had her double up for accuracy. OCD, much? But it worked out!

  49. I got a bit weepy reading this! Fantastic work Ali, how lovely to have a friend like Emily. But don’t do yourself down…you ran that race, it’s your PR. Congratulations, so excited for you.

  50. I was looking forward to reading this for a while, and I’m so glad your year is having a happy ending. Awesome race report! I enjoyed reading it, and I am sure you enjoyed writing it. Mazel tov!

    1. Yes, there were tons of displaced NYCMers! And tons of fans along the way screaming “GO NEW YORK!” (No idea how they knew I was from there, but a lot of people yelled it at me — or maybe they just assumed.)

  51. Amazing! Loved your recap. Congrats on the amazing PR. I teared up when you discovered Tyler was there. SO AWESOME your family was there to cheer you on.

  52. Ahhh Congratulations Ali!!! I loved reading this recap! This was my very first (and only) marathon and I’m so glad the three of you had a great time there!!!

    Now go and eat all the cheese 🙂

  53. I’m so happy for you, Ali! Ever since I found your blog last spring while training for the Hamptons Half, I’ve been getting more and more excited about the prospect of running a full marathon someday. Your posts convince me that it’s really a possibility for me to do too. Congratulations on a fantastic PR!!

  54. This is without a doubt the most fun and exciting race recap I have ever read. What an awesome race! Congratulations on your shiny new PR!!

  55. Wonderful post 🙂
    When I got to the part where your brother came out of the blue and said, “Let’s race..”, I started to cry.
    You. are. a. GREAT. writer. 🙂

  56. Ali, this is great. And because I’m creepy, I teared up at several points during this post (when you saw Tyler AWW! and those finish line hugs w Emily). SO. AWESOME. Sending you cyber high fives from Chicago!

  57. Congrats!!! What a wonderful, wonderful race you ran. I’m running a half on Dec 31 and am so excited that my family will be there to cheer for me, it just seems like it would make the whole experience 10 times better. And huge claps for Emily for being a badass race pacer!!

  58. Oh my effing GOD I am SO PROUD OF YOU!!! You totally LIVED every single mile, you ran with JOY, you ran with HEART, and most of all you ran for YOU. I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!

  59. Congratulations my love! What a fabulous fabulous time. You should be so incredibly proud! I am : )

    And Tyler is sooooo cute.

    I loved running my marathons with my brother and I’m sure running with Em was so awesome!!!

  60. Your blogs always make me cry. I am so proud of you! Wish I could be there to cheer you on. Miss you like crazy!!

  61. Congrats on your marathon Ali!!!! Not only is your sub-4 hour marathon amazing, but this post was hilarious 🙂 Definite inspiration for me to keep pushing with running!

  62. THRILLED to be crying in the office, reading your recap. After the year you’ve had, still managing to show the bright side and be inspirational, you so deserved to kick that marathon’s ass–and you did!
    On the flip side, totally jealous of your sub-4:00 and missing my brother. But see if you can talk Emily into pacing me at Rehoboth, K?
    Seriously, huge congrats, way to go, awesomesauce, and thrilled for you!

  63. I got such a runners high while reading this post! And I teared up at the part where you saw Tyler. Amazing! Congratulations!!!

  64. This is the BEST race report! No splits, no times, just how you felt and the fun you had! I absolutely love everything about it! And the pictures are amazing! Congrats on a HUGE PR and overcoming everything you did to prove to yourself (and everyone else!) that you CAN run a sub-4:00 (by ALOT) marathon! I am so happy for you, Ali! Congratulations!

  65. I think you either PR when you’ve trained your ass off…or when you expect it the least. There’s no “oh hey…maybe I’ll PR today.”


  66. Awesome!! I’m not going to lie that made get all sappy :)!! Great job.

    Oh, and just so you know, my running partners always run on my right because it freaks me out when they are on my left. Nice to know I’m not the only one with that quirk. 🙂

  67. WOOHOO!! Girl you’re AMAZING. Seriously I’m so impressed with you right now. You’re such a fighter in so many ways and you definitely inspire me to keep running. Congrats on a truly amazing PR for your 2nd marathon. I definitely got a little teary eyed reading it.

    This weekend I ran my 2nd half marathon (and set a 22 minute PR!!) and also dedicated those final miles to each of my family members.
    Congrats again!

  68. Congrats on the awesome PR! Especially on the Manchester course – I live in Manch so I know hoe hilly it is. In all your pictures you make running the marathon look effortless! What an awesome friend Emily is for running it with you 🙂 Congrats again!

  69. Wow, what an amazing race for you! Congratulations on your awesome PR, and mad props to Emily for being the world’s best pacer!!!

  70. I don’t think I can say “congratulations!!” enough. You ran such a great race and I’m so happy that I could be there for it. I was thinking about how you and Emily were doing the entire time I was running…just kept hoping you were having a great day – the type of day I KNEW you had in you. Sometimes the best races are the ones we don’t really plan for…and don’t leave you with any time to get psyched out or to over-analyze things. Moral of the story: we need to do spontaneous marathons more often!

    So proud of you, my friend!! And definitely one of the best weekends ever.

    PS. You remembered a lot more of the course than you thought! I’m impressed.

  71. CONGRATS! You ran such a great race and I am so glad it came out perfect with an super awesome PR! Loved the long post – so worth reading it all!

  72. So awesome in so many ways. Congratulations on a stellar race, Ali. You dominated and you earned it. Now keep celebrating in all your well-deserved glory!!

  73. I love this race recap!! Congrats on the huge PR! As a New Yorker, someone who grew up on Staten Island, and someone who did the 9+1 to run the NYC marathon this year, I completely understand your feelings regarding the NYC marathon in your previous post. Childhood friends tried to be supportive to me, but also could not believe I would run when our hometown was suffering. I’m so happy to see other runners make this unfortunate situation into a positive by donating items and time to victims, while still finishing what they started. I’m using Richmond as my back up marathon, and hoping I can finish what I started 4 months ago, and gain my pride as a runner back.

  74. This is the best recap I’ve ever read! Congrats! This is crazy great- you are FAST and AWESOME!

    P.S. Is Sweaty Emily available for hire?


  75. Congratulations!! Your recap made me tear up – so happy for you for pushing through despite your change in plans. I also love your perspective on having a happy race – what a great attitude. Love it!

  76. Awesome, Awesome, Awesome… what a great race recap!! I think I got a little teary eyed while reading… I am running my first this weekend, can you come pace me???

  77. so, so happy for you. Amazing race recap!!! I’ll think about it as I’m running my first 30K trail race this Saturday.

  78. Ali! This made me so, so happy to read. I know it’s been a tough year, and how gratifying it must be for you to have the last laugh. Congratulations! I’m an aspiring running and you are such an inspiration.

  79. Yay! I’m so happy for you Ali. 🙂
    That is amazing. Great recap. Also, your plan to dedicate mile 1 of the NYCM to 2012 is so appropriate since it is all uphill! Next year.
    Emily is great for pacing you. I like how she tried to keep you in check.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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