Buffalo Marathon Race Recap

By Victoria Niedzielski

So, what does it actually feel like to run 26.2 miles on race day? You're about to find out! Victoria shares her running experience in last year's  Buffalo Marathon, hosted in Buffalo, NY. She proves that with the proper training and the will to succeed, you can be a Marathon finisher.  Sometimes all you need when you're about to give up is a Twizzlers from a spectator and an encouraging friend that's waiting for you at the  finish line!

I wanted to start blogging with a race recap of the 2017 Buffalo Marathon on May 28, 2017. I needed a few days to take in everything and  reflect. It was an intense race. This was my second marathon. I ran in the 2016 Buffalo Marathon, it was unseasonably warm—80 degrees at the start line with 80% humidity and it only got hotter. There was no breeze and no shade. It sucked. I don’t do well in humid heat and I wasn’t yet used to it, I knew from the start it would be a rough race. I took it very slow. I finished with a chip time of 5:38. Because I took it so easy, I was not very sore in the days after.

Even though it was my first marathon and to train for and finish a marathon is an amazing accomplishment, I still felt disappointed. That chip  time was not the race I wanted. I didn’t feel like I really ran a marathon. My pace was the slowest it’s ever been. I signed up for 2017 Buffalo  Marathon shortly after as a chance to redeem myself.

I was so nervous for this race. People would tell me “You do this all the time,” (false) and “You’ve done it once before, you can do it again” (also possibly false). I woke up around 3:30 am on race day. I was so nervous that I had trouble keeping down food. I even threw up some of my coffee. I hoped it wouldn’t leave me with a caffeine headache! The weather forecasted thunderstorms all week. Running in the rain is not ideal, but of course I’d do it. I was worried that the lightning would delay the start. Thankfully the forecast cleared up and the conditions were perfect at the start line. The temperature was in the low 50s, which is pretty typical for this race.

I got to the start around  6 am for a 6:30 am start time. I parked, made sure I had everything, and went to start my race-day tradition of  standing in line for a bathroom, going to the bathroom, then standing in line again. I believe you can never go to the bathroom too many times before a race.

I stretched a bit and went over to the start line. The Buffalo Marathon puts on a nice brief fireworks display before the race. I didn’t hear the  anthem play, which was weird because it was Memorial Day weekend, or an official start call, but slowly we moved forward and off we went. At mile one I thought, “Wow, only 25 miles to go.” Then I thought about how 25 is ¼ of 100 and 100 is very large and ¼ of 100 is still very large. 25 seemed bigger to me than 26. I quickly shut that thought out.

I tried to keep it slow. It took me a while to get to where I wanted to be. At one point I saw the 6-hour pacer near me, which confused me  because I was definitely running faster than that.

Around mile four I found the 2:20/4:40 pacers. I ran with them for the entire half marathon and some of the full. I think they finally lost me  around mile 16. I didn’t really have a goal-time for this race. I calculated my time from my 20-mile run’s pace and that was around 4:40, which is why I decided to run with that pacer. My first goal in any race is usually to finish. My sub-goal was finish faster  than last year, which I figured I would  because of the weather. My sub-sub goal was under 5 hours.

The Buffalo Marathon is a lovely flat course that takes you around the city, to the waterfront, and into a beautiful local park. One of the hardest  parts is where the half and full split off, right before the finish line. You are running to the finish and then you have to turn right then left. You are now running parallel to the half (and super-fast) full marathon finishers. You can look to the left and see them. You can hear the cheers and everyone celebrating that they do not have to run anymore. The runners also thin out a lot at this point. This was hard for me last year, but I tried to ignore it this race.

I did not hit the dreaded wall in 2016. I joke that I hit the wall from the beginning because of the heat. The entire race was hard, but it was  never wall hard. Well this year, I hit the wall. Hard. Around mile 19 I wanted to stop. I didn’t think I’d finish. I almost didn’t want to finish. I thought about how far I had to go and cried. Luckily, this stretch was where I saw a lot of my supporters! That cheered me up A LOT (but I still  thought I was going to die). The crowds were out and about on this stretch and they carried me through. A spectator was giving out freezie pops. That person is my hero. I took two. They made me so happy. It gave me a new  will to run. I love when spectators give out food. I also took an  orange slice  and a Twizzler from another generous spectator.

I felt like I was going to die even more on miles 23-26. I texted my friend and asked her to send some words of encouragement. The spectators  all told me “You can do this!” and I struggled to believe them. I swore I would never run a marathon again. I didn’t know why I signed up for it. I  was cursing myself. All I wanted to do was lay down on the ground. That’s the finish-line image I had in my head: me lying on the pavement. No beer, no pizza, no medal, just the ground.

At the end, I was running with two people: a man and a woman. The man kept stopping with his hands to his knees. The woman was  encouraging him. She started to encourage me too. With two miles left I thought, “How many times have you run two miles? You can do this.”  The 5-hour pacer caught up to me. Part of me wanted to let the group pass me. “It’s okay if you don’t get sub-5.” Then another part of me said “NO.” So I dug deep into myself for any ounce of energy I had left and pushed through.

With one mile left, my friend texted me and said that I would be at the finish line in less than 15 minutes. That clicked in my head—15 minutes  is nothing compared to how long I'd been running! She told me to play my favorite song three times and just go for it. This is when I broke out  my secret weapon: the 1812 Overture by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I love to play it at the very end of the run and try to time it so that I finish when the final canons go off. It took everything I had to run faster for that last mile.

I honestly don’t know where I got the energy from. That is the magic of the marathon. You learn just how powerful the human body is. So I ran and I finished in 4:57. A huge marathon PR (Personal Record), but also under 5 hours.

It was hard, the hardest ever, but it was absolutely worth everything I put into it. Sometimes I think I enjoy training for a marathon more than the actual marathon. I find so much beauty in the routine, especially the sacred long run. I endured six months of training, two pairs of shoes, so  many early bedtimes and early mornings, five physical therapy appointments, endless energy chews,  and tons of pasta. After every single mile run in Buffalo, New York; Rochester, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Athens, Georgia; Hamilton, Ontario; London, England, and all the support from my family and friends, I am a Marathon Finisher.

About the Author: Victoria is an avid runner and regularly blogs about her running experiences and numerous volunteer trips across the United States. Follow her blog: Run, My Deer