It’s been a mild December, but it definitely feels like the Christmas season is here! (at Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park)
The Open Book Fountain - Budapest, Hungary
Every few seconds a sheet of water blasts forth from the book’s spine, arcing from one side to the other and creating the illusion that an invisible force is turning the pages of this marble tome.
Astoria, Queens, Steinway Street, north at 30th Avenue, November 14, 1944.
I live a block over from this intersection. It looks different now, yet incredibly similar.
This is the store I went to so many Wednesday night group runs and met amazing people at. In a few days, it will all be gone.
The building’s being demolished to make way for condos.
With the New York City Marathon finally in the books, I’ve begun considering my marathon options for 2014.
1. I’m already registered for the Allstate New York 13.1 Marathon in March, and I can complete the “NY/NJ Challenge” by finishing the New Jersey Marathon or Long Branch Half Marathon in April (they’re part of the same event). I kind of like the idea of doing two marathons a year, one in the first 6 months, and another in the fall.
2. Enter the lotteries for the Chicago Marathon and Marine Corps Marathon. If I fail to get into either, register for the Philadelphia Marathon. If I get into both… Not sure what I’d do.
3. Run the Marine Corps 17.75K in April (before New Jersey) to get guaranteed entry into the Marine Corps Marathon.
Thankfully I have some time to mull it all over.
I think I look better in my New York Red Bulls jersey than any other piece of clothing I own. I should’ve become a soccer player.
Ok, I’ve had a full day now to rest and reflect. It’s time to write something about the marathon.
Before I get into my marathon experience, a few not-me highlights that you might have missed.
- A world record 50,304 finishers ran the marathon on Sunday, breaking NYC’s previous record by more than 3,000.
- The one millionth NYC Marathon runner crossed the finish line in Central Park.
- Jimmy Jenson was the first person with Down syndrome to complete the NYC Marathon. AMAZING.
- Tatyana McFadden became the first wheelchair athlete ever to win the “Grand Slam” of marathons - Boston, London, Chicago, and New York.
- And sadly, Joy Johnson - the oldest female finisher on Sunday - passed away on Monday. But after reading her pre-marathon quote, “I always say I’m going to run until I drop. I’m going to die in my tennis shoes.” I think it’s how she would have wanted to go.
Ok, now to the marathon experience…
The whole week leading up to the marathon was filled with uncertainty. After re-aggravating my foot injury at the Marathon Kickoff race, I feared my marathon dreams would have to be put on hold for yet another year. But after being diagnosed with gout and taking on a strict regiment of water, cherry juice, and medication - while completely avoiding alcohol, meat, and all physical activity but walking, my foot was feeling pretty okay come Saturday. Not great. Definitely not 100%, but much, much better than it had been throughout the previous two weeks.
Saturday night I was still anxious about my ability to finish, but still managed to get a good night’s sleep. I got up at 5am, had a light breakfast, grabbed my bag, and made my way to the subway to the Staten Island Ferry.
It may sound a little silly, but I’d been looking forward to that ferry ride. Sitting there with so many other runners, from all over the world, was stunning. It boggled my mind a bit how people had come from around the globe to run this race, and there was me, who had gone to work on Friday, stayed in all day Saturday, and woke up in my own bed that morning. The boat docked, I got on a bus, and was finally at Fort Wadsworth, the staging area.
After what seemed like ages, but also no time at all, it was time to enter the corrals. Then a new panic set in. I turned on my Garmin watch, and… it was stuck on the boot screen. I let it sit there for about 10 minutes before I started messing with it. I rebooted, brought up some sort of debug menu… nothing. Still stuck on that screen. With the starting gun about to go off, I decided just to leave it on and see what happened. About 3/4 mile in, it finally started acquiring satellites. So, my watch says I ran 25.3 miles, instead of 26.2. On the positive side, it did force me to do mental math any time I wanted to figure out how close I was to the next mile - and the next aid station.
Despite the initial watch-panic, the start of the marathon was an amazing experience. Running across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge with thousands of other runners, into Brooklyn with cheering fans everywhere - along the streets, from overpasses, on fire escapes. I also crossed paths with a few of my Hellgate teammates early in Brooklyn. We fist bumped, shook hands, and high-fived while exchanging a few words of encouragement and going on our own ways. I don’t think I’d ever felt as excited and energetic during a race as I did those first few miles.
I didn’t expect to set a very good pace early on. Between The Gout and the crowds, I figured I would be forced to run a bit slow. But my first 10 miles (according to my watch, so from ~0.75 to ~11) were all between 8:01 - 8:30 min/mile.
I couldn’t avoid The Gout forever though. Somewhere around mile 11 - 12, it flared up, bringing some decent pain to my left foot. Not nearly enough to stop me, but enough to slow me down. From there, things became a blur. I became focused entirely on reaching the half marathon point, the Pulaski Bridge, and…
My home borough! I felt another rush of energy as I anticipated seeing friends and family. I knew they’d be near the Citigroup Building, but I didn’t realize how winding the route would be to get there.
At last, on 44th Drive, I saw my parents! I don’t know how, but I was in an opening - no runners on either side of me. I veered off to the sidewalk, gave them each a quick hug and kiss, and went along my way. They were easy to spot - while there were many, many signs along the course, there wasn’t another quite like my mom’s.
Shortly thereafter, I saw Steve and Angela, my fellow Transportation Alternatives volunteers! And then Hellgate! After rounding the corner onto Crescent Street, there was my roommate Jared and his girlfriend Jenny!
Remember when I said I had never felt so excited and energetic in Brooklyn? Well, Queens beat it out handily.
Er, until the Queensboro Bridge. After running across the bridge countless times during my two years of marathon training, I figured it would be a cakewalk. Oh, how wrong I was. So very wrong. It was here that my pace took a turn. After so many sub-8:30 miles, my pace for the rest of the marathon was between 9:30 - 9:45.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the rest of the race. I had read about how awesome the crowd was coming off the bridge and into Manhattan, but that didn’t compare to experiencing it. Before I could even see the street, I could hear the roar of the crowd.
As we descended, there were signs set up, and I can’t quite remember what they said, but it was something like:
If 10 miles left is “easier,” then welcome to easier.
Welcome to Manhattan.
Mile 16Sent shivers up my spine.
Onto First Avenue, I knew I had a long stretch ahead of me, but the wild crowds really helped me push on. Also, the knowledge that if I started walking, my foot would hurt too much to start running again. I just had to keep going. After all, there were only 10 miles left. Volunteers at the First Avenue aid station? I love you all.
Running straight from 59th Street to 126th Street, it was time for bridge #4 and a quick jaunt through the Bronx. Before I knew it, I was crossing the fifth and final bridge, and back into Manhattan. The final stretch!
Fifth Avenue was much like First - loud crowds and lots of energy. As we ran along Central Park, all I could think about was entering the park at the Engineer’s Gate and chocolate ice cream with brownie chunks. Oh, that imaginary ice cream was delicious.
Entering Central Park, I continued to push, past the familiar park sights I’ve run by so many times. Passing under a banner for Mile 24, Mile 25 couldn’t come soon enough. While my thighs had tightened up somewhere along the way, I could tell (after some mental math) that a sub-four hour marathon was within my grasp. Mile 25 was the longest mile.
At last, I exited the park onto 59th Street. ALMOST THERE!
At last, I reentered the park at Columbus Circle. SO. CLOSE.
Finally, finally, there it was… THE FINISH!
I had no idea what my official time was, but I had never been so happy to finish a race. After three years of preparation for this moment, I’d finally completed the New York City Marathon.
After limping out of Central Park, collecting my “recovery bag” and poncho along the way, I made my way to the Lincoln Center to meet my parents. Never had stepping up on a curb been so difficult.
Reunited with my parents, they informed me of my official time: 3:58:15 I’m a sub-4 hour marathoner!