My journey to the New York marathon

Leonie French – 2016

New York - My first marathon

I started running with Running Domain and the half Marathon group mid way through 2014. I had been running for a few years with a group that was very social but definitely not a distance group. I had already done a few half marathons and was looking to improve my times, but doing a marathon wasn’t anywhere on my radar.


I had the pleasure of running just with coach Chris on a Saturday training run and he asked if I had thought about considering a marathon with which I replied “I can’t run that far!” He said I could and proceeded to explain just how it would happen. My half time did improve but I still wasn’t thinking of a marathon, until running one day with other Running Domain girls the subject of a marathon came up as I was the only one who hadn’t done one yet. I mentioned my conversation with Chris and they all replied “That’s how it starts, he just sows the seed!”


By December 2015 I was convinced, but which one? I wanted a big one (so that I wouldn’t be last….well hopefully not) and was in need of a holiday so started looking at an international event. I checked with Chris as to whether I was aiming too high for my first ever and he said “Not at all, just pick one and do it”. I decided on New York as it was in early November 2016 which meant the bulk of the long training runs would be done over the cooler months, as I’m not a hot weather runner. I booked my entry through Travelling Fit and all of a sudden I was committed to running a marathon.

I kept my plans quiet for a few months and then shared the idea with my running buddy Victoria, and happy days, she was coming. The training went well - I’m one of those crazy people who actually love the training…the event and racing for a time, not so much. I would laminate the program and tick off each run as I did it. On one of those long runs Victoria remarked “After NY I’m never running further than 5km” , with which I totally agreed. And whenever I doubted my ability and sanity, Chris reassured me.

Before we knew it we were on a plane to NY and even that wasn’t as bad as a normal long haul flight as it was so full of runners (you could tell by their comfy shoes and stretching in the aisles). There was lots of casual conversation with strangers about the event and training. Even the pilot mentioned the marathon and wished everyone well.


We arrived on the Thursday night before the race and the next morning went for a casual jog in Central Park with Travelling Fit. Robert De Castella and his Indigenous Marathon Group joined us and shared their stories and there were lots of photo stops. Being in Central Park posing for a photo with the Australian flag, seeing runners with the name of their country on their t-shirts and listening to all the different nationalities and accents was amazing. Walking around New York on the Friday there seemed to be an excitement in the air and once again a lot of people in comfy shoes. Saturday night there was an opening ceremony with a parade of nations where I think, nearly 130 countries were represented and it ended with a fireworks display. That night we ate an amazing pasta meal at a little Italian restaurant where we were asked if we were running the next day and when we said yes, promptly had the wine list removed being told we couldn’t have any if that was the case! Then it was time to try and get some sleep as there was an early start the next day.


Finally, it was race day. We were joined in the foyer by Michelle also from Running Domain and at 6.15am we were on the bus and on the way to Staten Island. At Staten Island we were checked by security and headed to the Orange Zone Athlete’s Village to wait for our start time of 10.40am. Time passed amazingly quickly and before we knew it we were in the corral, last minute hugs, the national anthem was sung, a canyon fired and we were away!


That start was pretty impressive, and as you went over the first of what turned out to be way too many bridges the view was amazing.

As you came off the bridge the sidelines were packed with people holding signs, there were bands playing, people and policemen giving you high fives and it was like this the whole way except for on the bridges (those damn bridges again). For the first 10km a voice in my head was going, “This is amazing! I’m going to tell everyone who runs they need to do NY” . By about 30-32km that voice had been replaced with a slightly less positive one. But as we trudged over the timing devices on the road I knew I had to keep on going as people were tracking me back in Australia. I had a couple of little positive mantras that I recited over and over again and told myself as the kilometres went by that I was doing this and I was going to be a marathoner. Victoria and I made sure we were always near each other as the plan was to finish together hopefully in under 4.30 hours but conversation had long since ceased. The last four or so kilometres were a blur, I can’t tell you what signs there were or bands as the only thought in my head was “Let it end, let it end!” I started doing the maths in my head as to whether we would make our goal time. The last part through Central Park seemed to take forever but finally we crossed the finish line together and had made it in 4.25 and I definitely wasn’t last so mission accomplished. Our first words to each other were “Never again!” We received our very impressive medal, had a photo, collected our finishers’ bag and poncho and started the trudge back to the hotel.

The next day as I was going through JFK airport a woman asked me if I had done the race the day before, when I said “Yes”, she replied with “I thought so, you look like a marathoner” . Hey, it could have been the compression tights and thongs I was wearing but whatever I felt kinda proud because yes, I am a marathoner. And if I can run one, so can anyone who has that little thought in their head but doubts their ability.

Will I do another marathon?..…hmmm , I hear that Berlin and Chicago are flat and Paris and London sound nice!

Leonie runs and trains with Running Domain

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