Rachel Hannah on the NYC Marathon course

University of Guelph dietitian Rachel Hannah competed in the New York City Marathon earlier this month, finishing as the 17th woman from a field of nearly 25,000 runners.

Completing the 42.2-kilometre race in a time of 2:39:15, Hannah was the second Canadian woman to cross the finish line, just six minutes behind former Canadian Olympian Lanni Marchant.

“I had never run this race but had always dreamed of doing it,” she said. “Any time you finish a world marathon major in the top 25, you feel good, so I’m pretty happy with my time and my finish.”

U of G dietitian Rachel Hannah

The enthusiasm from the crowd helped with motivation, she added.

“I don’t think there was any part of the course where there weren’t people cheering, which is unusual in a marathon because sometimes, there are long stretches where there’s nobody,” she said.

“It was really exciting. The crowds were so loud, there were times I couldn’t hear my breathing, which gives you a sense you’re not working as hard as you are.”

She added that everyone she met seemed so excited to have the race back after 2020’s cancellation over the COVID-19 pandemic. But the two-year break from marathons Hannah had taken made it hard for her to set a goal time.

“As well, the New York course is known to be quite hilly so I decided not to set a goal. I just went by effort,” she said.

Hannah is an accomplished cross-country runner, having won a bronze medal in the 2015 Pan Am Games marathon and five Canadian championships in road racing, track and cross-country.

Knowing from experience that getting too excited at the beginning of a race can lead to hitting “the wall” toward the end, Hannah focused on pacing herself.

“I was happy I saved my energy because I felt pretty strong right to the finish.”

Originally from Barrie, Ont., Hannah has been a registered dietitian since 2011 and joined U of G’s Health and Performance Centre in 2018, providing individualized nutrition planning and counselling for athletes.