The New Jersey Marathon is one of the races I’ll look back on and think about how if you really want something badly enough, you will get there.
The marathon was just two days after my 26th birthday, and I was so excited that my birthday weekend was going to be all about running. Some people may think that sounds crazy…but it’s a runner’s dream!
My birthday was Friday, April 28th, so Kyle and I drove down to my parents’ house in CT after work to celebrate with them. On Saturday, the four of us drove down to Oceanport, New Jersey, where the marathon was to begin. It was so nice seeing the ocean and the weather was beautiful! We found a small restaurant for lunch and ate outside in the sun.
After lunch and taking pictures along the boardwalk, we headed to the expo to pick up my bib, shop around, and meet up with some other runners who I’ve gotten to know via Instagram. One of the many reasons why I love my running Instagram account (@elizabeth_healthy_life) is because it connects me with so many people! I love the running community; everyone is so friendly and supportive.I first met up with Amanda and Kels, who were running the half marathon. It was so fun meeting them! Their goal was to break 2:30 and they did!
Amanda and Kels
Then I met up with Taylor, who was also running the full marathon. This was her first marathon and her goal was to break 4 hours! I had so much fun talking with Taylor, and we decided to meet up at the marathon starting line and run together.
We’re ready for 26.2 miles!
After the expo, we headed back to the hotel to relax and get all set for the big day before heading out for dinner. Taylor recommended Woody’s restaurant for dinner, so my parents, Kyle, and I headed there around 6pm. I didn’t want to eat too late!
For dinner I had the chicken tacos with only chicken and avocado on the wrap. I asked for everything else to be taken off (aka some spicy sauce and cheese), and had mashed potatoes on the side. I didn’t want anything funky in my stomach the night before the marathon. Oh, and I drank lots and lots of water 😉
This was delicious!
After dinner, the four of us were at the hotel figuring out the athlete tracker app, so my parents and Kyle could track me while running. To find my name and bib in the app, we searched “Jansen”, and there was only one other runner in the race who had the last name Jansen. You’ll never guess what their first name was…. Roberta. Seriously. How crazy is that? Out of ALL the names, it was Roberta. That was a HUGE sign for me. It was at that moment that I knew I was going to have an awesome race. I knew Robert was with me.
Elizabeth Jansen and Roberta Jansen.
Set for the big day!
After finishing getting ready, I set my alarm for 4:45am and headed to bed. Our friend, Bri, who was running the half, was coming to meet us at our hotel early in the morning and drive to the race with us. I was so excited to see her and run a race with her!
And just like that, race day was here! I had my usual race morning breakfast – bagel with peanut butter and water with Nuun. Bri met up with us and we headed to the starting line.
Taylor and I found each other at corral 3 and lined up together. We both had the same goal – break 4 hours!
Yes, I’m the person who goes CRAZY at marathon starting lines!
The race began and we took off!
The weather was perfect for a marathon – temp in high 50s and cloudy. This race was also flat! Taylor, who lives right near the course, told me that the only uphills were hills on bridges that we crossed.
By mile 5, I knew I had started out too quickly. Not something you want to be thinking about with 21.2 miles left in the race! I always put tape over the face of my Garmin watch during races so I don’t constantly check my pace, but having run many races, I knew my legs were moving faster than the marathon pace I had trained for (8:45 min/mile) – whoops.
The first half of the marathon was very residential. We were weaving in and out of neighborhoods, and there were lots of turns. We’d take a right on one street, then a left on another, then another right. I felt like during the first half there weren’t many straight aways, or maybe that was just my mind playing tricks on me.
Taylor and me around mile 6
Something I still do every race is take a cup of Gatorade at every aid station. I have learned how to to grab a cup and drink it without breaking my pace. Every 4 miles I take a Gu gel as well.
I saw my parents and Kyle around mile 9. I tried smiling and them but don’t think that worked out…
My dad took this picture of me running by. Guess it was right after an aid station!
Eventually, the road became divided, and the half marathoners turned left to head to the finish line and the marathoners continued going straight, running away from the finish line. We eventually hit our halfway mark of 13.1 miles, and unbeknownst to me, I had set a half marathon PR! I think it was 1:48:xx and my PR at the time had been 1:49:27. So yeah, definitely started out too quickly. (Since this race, I’ve set a new half marathon PR of 1:47:38).
But I held strong to the pace. I thought about how I had trained and worked too hard for several months to just slow down, so I kept going. We started seeing more ocean/water views as we entered the second half of the race. Taylor and I were side by side until around mile 18 when we became separated. The race took us on the boardwalk, which was fun to run down.
We eventually did a U-turn on the boardwalk and started heading back up along the coast. If I remember correctly, it was a pretty straight shot from the turn up to the finish. Just a long straight shot 🙂
I continued taking a cup of Gatorade at every water station, but starting at mile 20 I also took a cup of water and dumped it on my head. I’ve never done this in a race before but it was so refreshing! I may have looked like I had just gone swimming in the ocean, but hey, I’m running a marathon, so whatever it takes to cool me down and keep me going, I’ll do.
Something else I loved was wearing my Oiselle racing crop top instead of a shirt. It was nice having my back exposed and any breezes that hit my back cooled me down for a moment. I’m definitely going to continue racing in crop tops.
The miles between 20-finish always seem so long. Instead of thinking about how I had 6.2 miles left, I really just focused on taking it one mile at a time. My legs were getting tired, but I REFUSED to walk one step. Deep down, I knew I could run this entire marathon without any walking, and that’s exactly what I did. Plus, I was thinking about a chocolate milkshake! After not having refined sugar for 60 days, that was my #1 post marathon treat and I was so excited for it! I eventually told myself that if I kept up the pace I’d allow myself to have two! It may sound like milkshake overload, but whatever keeps you going for that PR!
We hopped back on the boardwalk, and the ocean was so pretty! Miles 22-25 were my slowest of the race (9:17, 9:12, 9:15, 9:12), but I was able to run a 8:58 for mile 26. We finally reached mile 25, and I knew I had it in the bag – a sub 4 hour time, a big PR and a marathon with zero walking – ALL RUNNING! Boom.
Approaching my mom…
Passing my mom…
I was scanning for the finish line, but couldn’t see it anywhere! Mile 25 seemed to go on forever, but I eventually hit mile 26, and still didn’t see it! Ummm finish line, where you at?!
Where is it?!
FINALLY, it came into view!
All smiles now 🙂
I saw the clock, put my arms up (not quite sure how I had the strength to do that) with a big smile and sprinted for that PR – 3:48:27. 26.41 miles, 8:38 min/mile pace. I am so proud of myself. My “A goal” for this race was 3:50:00, and I beat that by 1 minute 33 seconds!
I DID IT!
Crossing the finish line! (I started the about 2 minutes after the gun went off, which is why the clock says 3:51 instead of 3:48)
I couldn’t really say much after the race, just kept smiling and wore my medal proudly, knowing just how hard I had worked for that. I congratulated a couple other runners, Larissa, who I literally ran with the entire race, and Laura, who I had met through IG and also lives in Boston.
Gatorade…the first thing I always grab post-race
Holding my medal backwards…too tired to even notice!
Then I found my parents, Kyle, and Bri. We took some pictures, and then I ran (well, hobbled) into Mere! Mere is another woman I follow on IG. She ran the marathon and got a BQ!
More pictures together…
Yay Bri! She did awesome in the half!
The five of us got on the shuttle bus back to the starting line, and went out for brunch! And yes, I got my chocolate milkshake 🙂
Didn’t get a picture of my chocolate milkshake – it was gone in 3 seconds 😉
It was such a fun weekend. I loved running a race with Bri, meeting so many people, setting new marathon PR, and being with my family. My next marathon is the Leadville Trail Marathon on June 17, but my next road marathon is the Beantown Marathon on September 10. I am going to train even harder this summer because I want Beantown Marathon to be my Boston Qualifier race (sub 3:35:00 marathon). It will continue to take lots of dedication, discipline, and hard work, but I’m always up for a challenge. BRING IT!