New York, New York: The grand finale

NYC marathon

Race: NEW YORK MARATHON
Distance: Marathon
Date: 4th November
Supporting Runners: Jemma Love, Stephanie Mace, Rachel McCourty
Fundraising to date: £15,051 (including gift aid)
Finishing Time: 00:04:30:00

It’s been 1 week since I landed back from New York after the biggest, most important race of them all – the NYC marathon.

I’ve been putting off writing the blog, so much so that any followers that don’t have me on social media, may be wondering if I even completed the race…. spoiler alert, I did!

As you can all probably imagine – the whole trip and race was a very intense and overwhelming experience for me – and to be honest, I have not known where on earth to start.

So, as we come up to what would have been Adam’s 30th birthday this Sunday (what feels like a deadline to do this piece of writing) I have cleared my weekly schedule in a bid to put in words how this whole trip went.

I think the easiest way is to break it down. Let’s put it in 3 parts…


Pre Race Nerves

We landed in NYC on the Thursday night, a little later than expected and faced with massive queues at passport control. We were tired, grumpy and just wanted to check in and head out for a drink on what we believed to be the only night ahead of the marathon that we could let our hair down a little bit without feeling horrendous…

Side note: There were a few of us on this trip, to set some context when I say ‘we’:

  • Laura (Adam’s good friend now my lovely friend) – there to tour NY & watch us race
  • Marathoners: Jemma, Steph and Rach
  • Matt, Blake and Marlowe – Rachel’s husband and kids
  • Mum and Andy – the cheerleaders
  • Darren – friend and additional cheerleader
  • Danny – best mate who lives in NY and acted as our tour guide

I think everyone was feeling the post JFK airport lull, so we all ended up being a bit dispersed – Mum, Andy, Darren and I met up with Danny who took us to a nice cocktail bar really high up in one of the many hotels around Times Square. We chatted and yawned a bit and the night was over pretty quick.

IMG_7231Catching up with Danny in Times Square

Already, I wasn’t feeling myself and my mind was constantly on Sunday, and the main reason why we were there.

I went to bed feeling a bit flat that night which was probably a mix of jet lag and emotions around the whole thing.

I woke up in NYC feeling a lot better – the cheerleaders and I met up with the McCourtys to pick up our race numbers from the massive (but very well organised) race expo, followed by a nice walk along the high line.

IMG_9393Race expo

High Line

Of course, when planning for a marathon, the typical advice is to NOT do lots of walking the days leading up to it. We read this a lot when searching multiple blogs and stuff about the NY marathon… But how can you not?! It was my first time in NYC and I wanted to see everything.

So after the high line walk, Mum, Andy, Darren and I crammed in a lot of other touristy bits. It was great but as my Fitbit clocked over to 10k steps – I felt a bit…OOPS.

IMG_7347

But not as OOPS as the Saturday morning… waking up with a slight hangover following a night of eating great food and drinking more than the recommended amount 2 nights before a marathon (which I imagine is zero units). 

IMG_7356.jpegSome of the NY gang earlier Friday eve

Please don’t judge – it’s New York. I haven’t seen my friend Danny in ages – he’d recommended a great restaurant and we then saw Jemma and Steph and got a bit carried away…

IMG_7357What not to eat pre marathon

I spent the morning on FaceTime to Jemma telling her I wasn’t angry, I was just disappointed. The worst.

It was somewhere around Madison Square Garden on the open top of a bus tour where the real meltdown kicked in. It was getting on to 11am and I hadn’t done any carb loading or hydrating. I was cold and I was going under. I had a marathon tomorrow… I am not prepared. I’m not even hungover as realistically we only had about 4 drinks – but I felt nervous, sick, upset and just out of sorts.

After some dramatic tears of panic, Mum says “Why don’t you go for a run”. YES MUM. That is just what I need. I felt overwhelmed with being in NY – I wanted to do stuff and hang out with the people that had come there too to support the 30for30 challenge – but I wanted to be on my own, and to think of Adam. A run was what I needed…

I got a cab back to the hotel and got my running stuff on (I did actually bring multiple running outfits just incase something happened to my planned marathon outfit?!) and off I went for a run to Central Park.

I went the wrong way for a mile so by the time I got to Central Park I decided to just walk around and sit down and take it all in. I was back in the sorts!

Central Park

When I got my phone out, I noticed a donation had come through for £133.80… Random amount. But when I checked the total, this had pushed the fundraising figure to exactly £10,000 on the dot. 

This was Jemma’s friend, Paul, and I hope he knows what great timing that was for me.

I did what anyone would do in this situation and posted a dramatic and emotional status on FaceBook (lol)

I then jogged back to my hotel, stopping to get a Chick-fil-A to takeout and eat in the bath. Such a great experience.

It wasn’t long until I was crying again though… After a relaxing trip visiting the Top of the Rock, it was time to get back to the hotel and get an early night. Mum and Andy visited my room and instructed me to sit down. What was this? Had something happened to Mr Chips?!

They showed me a video and I instantly recognised 8 lovely faces as my girl squad back home ❤️ I thought it was a FaceTime so started waving…but it wasn’t – they had prerecorded a message to say good luck and sent a little gift for me. A beautiful necklace engraved with ’30for30′ on one side, and ‘Adam’ on the other. Well my heart practically exploded and I ugly cried for a bit. There were a few more lovely cards and messages of support and that was it – the end of 30for30 was happening tomorrow.

IMG_7452.JPGTop of the Rock


Race Day

The alarm went at 5:30am ready to meet Rachel around 6am. We gained an hours sleep in the night as the clocks went back (excellent work on date picking, NY marathon team).

As predicted, I looked terrible with extremely puffy eyes. I have a picture, but I will not be sharing it on here. At the time though, it was the least of my worries.

I met Rachel and off we went to Starbucks which was our well thought out plan….until it was closed.

We found a little Cafe type thing that sold bagels with peanut butter/cream cheese and lukewarm coffee – we were content and just wanted to be on the bus to Staten Island.

We saw Andy wandering the streets looking a bit 6am faced – bless him, he wanted to come and say good luck ahead of the bus journey.

Rach and I made it to Staten Island around 8:30ish ready for the big long wait until our start time of 11am. EXCELLENT.

IMG_7483Staten Island starters

We were amazed at the security there, the army, the NYPD, the helicopters, snipers on the rooftops. It was all very surreal – crowds of runners everywhere, all in this one area, ready to cross that bridge when the cannons went off.

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The race was organised in a way that there were 4 waves to help with the crowds of runners. We started in wave 4 so milled about for quite a bit, basically alternating between water/tea/coffee stations and the queue for the porta potty (that was a thing of nightmares, not to be discussed).

We had some pre-race snaps and scoffed some energy treats which seemed to be the proper runners thing to do.

Note: our snazzers matching tops. Thanks to Interact, where we work (or in Steph’s case, worked) – we had tops with our names on which came in VERY handy. We had the charity logos and Adam’s name on the back along with ‘POWERED BY INTERACT’ – Hopefully we acted as running billboards and someone Googled us off the back of it 😂


Now for the main event… the run.

We all set off at the same time but slightly apart – Jemma, Steph and I had been used to doing a few training runs together so started in the same pen for pace. Rachel started separately – following a bad injury on the lead up to the race, she needed to get into her own head and tackle this without us hooligans.

Which was probably a good idea because we did everything advised not to – we started off FAST. Faster than us 3 had ever ran together before. But how could we stop – our tops with our names on meant that all the Americans in the crowd were yelling our names.

GO EMMA JEMMA STEPH

OMG EMMA AND JEMMA !

YOU GOT THIS STEPH

I wasn’t moving from these girl’s sides – this must be what fame feels like.

IMG_7662

We got to 8miles in what felt like 5k (sorry if that sounds really annoyingly show offish – but time did pass really quickly) We were definitely in a false sense of security.

We then saw Darren, Matt, Mum and Andy – it was amazing to see everyone and give Mum a big hug. This was going surprisingly OK…

There was much more of the same from then on, and right now it seems a blur. There was lots of entertainment, bands, rappers, choirs – even some nice Firemen that cheered us on.

For me, things started to go a bit bad at half way (it was always going to happen) – the realisation that there was another half marathon to do. Another OOPS.

It got a little better though for a couple more miles (must have been downhill). Until the monster that was Queensborough bridge. This was mile 15-16 and all I can describe it as is one massive uphill that never seemed to go downhill…with NO crowds. Where were the people screaming our names?

It was bad times for Steph, Emma, Jemma. Who no longer felt famous and fast. Jemma was getting the Jemma rage and I knew it was time to go 😂

We agreed it was best to get in our own zones and finish the battle without the pressure of keeping pace.

Steph got smaller and smaller in the distance and by the time the Queensborough bridge was over, I was Powered by Interact on my own…

I knew there was a member of the Interact team from the NY office, Phyllis, around mile 16 with a big sign. I hadn’t met Phyllis before but I kept my eyes peeled and saw it! I ran over and said hello and explained Jemma was somewhere near – I passed to see Mum, Andy, Darren and Matt again not too far away and I quickly took an energy gel and went on my way for the last 10miles…

IMG_7591.jpegOur very own sign

It was hard work – I am not sure if I could do a marathon from start to finish on my own, so at this point my thoughts turned to Rachel – facing the 26.2 miles in your own head is one thing but with an injury as well.. kudos to her. I just hoped that all of us crossed that finish line and got our medals that we came for!

I hit the wall bad at miles 19-20, knowing that there was 10k to go.

Before the race, my friend had messaged to say ‘Just don’t stop running’ – I didn’t respond to the message at the time, but I was thinking about it at this point. Just don’t stop – if you stop, you won’t start again… So that was it for the final 6miles. Thanks for the tip hun x

Energy gels and plodding through – the crowds in the Bronx were amazing, and coming into the final 3miles was even better.

With 3miles to go, it was apparent that I would almost certainly finish the thing. I had also had an extremely kind incentive from Paul at Hasgrove/Interact, to finish under 4hours 40mins to gain a seriously generous amount of fundraising. Unless something bad happened, I was going to do it and it felt amazing – heck I could even get under 4hours30 which would be incredible!

I calculated it in my head and tried to speed up. I sped up as I saw Darren again and then Matt on the way through Central Park, both jumping around like nutters.

My ‘sprint’ finish was caught by Laura through the finish line and I clocked in at 04:30:00 on the dot. 4hours30 for 30for30 as it is now known. ❤️

IMG_7568

I was absolutely buzzing and full of all the emotions. I know everyone has said it many times to me over this past year, but I know that Adam would have been proud and absolutely loved what I had done in NYC.

I got my phone out to check in with where everyone was and saw that the girls back home, and many others, had been tracking me on the app which was so lovely.

Jemma crossed soon after me and we both hugged and cried and hobbled through the finishers zone.

We met Steph, Mum and Andy in the family reunion area where Mum and I hugged and cried some more… Mum and Andy had been blocked entry to the finisher grand stands due to security which they were upset about, but that is another story!

IMG_7512THE Medal

We met Darren in the pub and watched Rachel cross the finish line on the app – this was great! 4 out of 4 marathoners completed what we set out to do – all those months of training, pain and chat about it, all done and dusted that day. We had all ran a marathon ❤️


After the race…

We did what we did best and had some drinks to celebrate – we debriefed about it, shared funny stories and then hobbled back to the hotel to get ready for some serious refuelling.

I was obviously thinking of the 30for30 challenge ending, but I was riding such a high. I was messaging friends, and responding to people who had wished us luck.

I then had a text from a friend that really hit me hard.

Another young man from our school and who lived close to us, had taken his life that same day. He was the year above me, and the year below Adam.

I didn’t know him well but I know many people that did. It was utterly heartbreaking and I felt the pain for his friends and family, who my thoughts are with. It was a sobering reminder of the reasons that we were running that day – for the charities that we were running for, and the message that we have been spreading – to talk about our mental health.

It was somewhat of a reality check…

In total, so far, we have raised £15,051 (including gift aid) for 3 different mental health charities in memory of Adam, that I know will help these organisations carry on with the great work that they are doing.

IMG_7550.jpegAfter the race with Laura in Times Square

I want to say a MASSIVE thank you to absolutely everyone that has worked towards this. Whether you have donated, read the blog, shared the blog, ran a race, watched a race – anything at all.

My initial target was £5k and we have well and truly exceeded that – thank you so much!

I have tried to thank every donation individually but if I have not been in touch, please know it is hugely appreciated from all of the runners, Mum, Andy and me.


Please don’t go…

I won’t be fundraising anymore, so you can all put your purses away… but that isn’t it completely from me…

Blogging and running has significantly helped me these past 12months. So lucky for you, I am going to carry on with them both!

Maybe blogging won’t feel like an essay with a deadline… this one truly is a massive essay, if you’re reading this far down then you must really enjoy them… 

It is safe to say that we haven’t ran since..BUT  Jemma, Steph and I have booked on to do our second marathon because we just cannot get enough of those crowds screaming our names. We are looking forward to hearing GO JEMMA EMMA STEPH in Paris next April. Oui!


I think that is enough from this blog. I will write again in a couple of days to do some 30for30 highlights and some statistics from my year of running which I’m sure you’re looking forward to reading already..

For any final donations for 30for30, please visit: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EmmaBramwell2

One thought on “New York, New York: The grand finale

  1. Jane Woodvine says:

    I have enjoyed reading your blog Emma – you are eloquent, funny and I have found your writing exciting as well as moving. Very well done indeed on all your challenges this year but especially on the NYC run as I know it must have been bittersweet. You are truly inspirational and I look forward to seeing what you get up to in the future.

    Like

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