So I split up from KK and went to to my corral and waited alone for what seemed like forever, with 15 minutes to spare before the race I decided it might be a good idea to go to the porto potty and take care of some last minute, um, stuff. I came out less than a minute later and everyone in my corral had vanished and ran to catch up with them but it was too late they have moved up to the start and I was shut up even before they opened the corrals for the 2nd wave, ugh. Note to self: being in a corral does not mean you will not get shut out of your wave start. Ahh well such is life, whats another 20 minutes or so standing around in the cold.
So as heard Frank Sinatra's voice over the P.A. crooning 'New York, New York' and listened to other runners complain to race officials about missing their start I just stood around quietly frustrated that I was spending extra time on my injured foot but I also vowed to not let this get me down. When it was my turn to start Frank came on the loud speaker once again and I put a smile on my face, after all it's the New York City Marathon and it doesn't get much bigger than this.
As I took the bridge I watched other runners zoom pass me as if they were trying to catch the bus on the way to work, while others posed for pictures on the bridge with their friends, and still others wore costumes to gain some attention from the crowd. It was the start of a spectacle that would last 26.2 miles.
When you get on to 4th avenue you'll hear the non stop cheering the last through the race. When people ask what it's like to run this thing I often like to say that "it's like driving a Toyota Corolla in the Indi. 500" you don't really belong there with these elite athletes and you certainly don't deserve all that fan fare, but there it is and it's pretty amazing at that.
By mile 6 I did a little check in with myself and was surprised I was holding up as well as I was doing, considering last year I was starting to feel achy. It's been said that you'll know how well you'll do in a marathon by mile 6 and so far I find that to be true.
I suppose the real trick for me so far was ignoring the time and how fast I wanted to go and just took in the race one mile at a time, and even more important I made sure I enjoyed it. How? every time I caught myself worrying about my pace or if my injuries were going to act up I focused on my surroundings and thought how lucky I was and added a touch of gratitude and carried on. This wasn't a race for me, I was doing this for the love of running and the marathon and NY in particular. Funny thing how the stress just melts away when you remember why you do these things in the first place.
After passing my old neighborhood (Park Slope) we passed another marathon staple the High School band the plays the theme from Rocky non stop through out the race. It may seem like a silly thing but it's really a great moment and feels really random when you first hear it.
By this point I always run into a fellow runner on the course and friend Lynn Bradley, Lynn and I met while taking speed classes at NYRR. In the speed classes I always managed to be a pace group ahead of her and I often was faster than her in the short distance races in the NY marathon I would see her on a regular basis and we'd run together for a couple of miles or close enough that we'd keep seeing each other. At some point I would burn out (mile 20 or so) and Lynn would keep going and has run a 3:33-3:35 marathon consistently and I would kick myself at the end for not training for this properly and falling short of that by 10 minutes or worse.
More importantly ,the thing I notice about Lynn during these marathons is that she never seems stressed she's always smiling and is actually enjoying the whole process of running. I remember seeing her 2 yrs ago at mile 18 or 20 pulling over to the side to hug some friends and I thought she was crazy wasting valuable PR time but she didn't because she came though the same as always. The point is she doesn't take this too seriously, sure she trains hard but instead of dreading it she keeps embraces it and instead of worrying about her time she enjoys the race and always seemed to be in the moment. I didn't see Lynn this year (probably because of the wave start mix up) but I did think of her often and every time I worried not finishing I remembered Lynn and I remembered to be in the moment and just enjoy myself.
By mile 11 I was close to home in Willamsburg where I knew to expect some familiar faces, or at least some people with NBR t-shirts on cheering on their team. I saw a few members at the hydration stations (NBR volunteers at mile 12 for the past 2 years to support the team and local runners) Sure enough by mile 12 I was able to get a few high fives and one of the runners even ran after me to offer me bananas, which I gladly took.
Here are a couple of friends waiting on me on to show up on Manhattan Ave. (in Greenpoint) but they didn't see me, probably because they were busy posing for these pictures.
Before I knew it I was at the halfway point remembering the previous year and where my I.T. band started to give out. Today though I was strangely o.k.
In Queens I saw friends holding up signs for KK (they didn't see her again fro the 3rd year in a row) I ran over to them and gave them a hug and ran off.
The dreaded Queensboro bridge, many runner have a hard time with this or start to feel achy at this point as I checked in with myself I knew that if I could run the bridge without taking a break I would finish the whole marathon. My goal as I said in the previous post was to have fun but really I would have been o.k. just making over the bridge and then dropping out if I had to.
So what happened? I made it over the bridge onto the roaring crowd of first avenue (my favorite part) I saw KK's parents gave her mom a hug and went off, and unlike last year I felt great it was almost too good to be true, with 10 miles to go I knew I was going to finish this thing.
At mile 20 in the Bronx I ran into Fernando from NBR and we ran for a little as he took off he encouraged me to pick it up and at that point I looked at my watch and realized if I did pick up the pace even just a little I would easily break four hrs. But I remembered I wasn't in this to do any certain time and if I break four hrs or not is no big deal anyway and more important if I start to pick it up and race I would risk my foot, so I just waved him on and was kind of proud of myself for keeping my ego in check.
Then there's this guy, who obviously doesn't care about his time, he's dressed as a snail and he ran beside me almost the entire race.
At mile 24 I was greeted by Cara, Dave, and Michael so I stopped for a few to say hello and take a picture.
I think KK (in Blue) was a little less enthusiastic about running at this point than I was.
Oddly enough I didn't feel any pain till after mile 25 when I started to limp because my foot had swelled up and the injury I was dreading was finally kicking in. I realize now it probably happened because I stopped to say hello and started to run again. at this point all I could do was loosen my shoe laces and just tough it out. Luckily that was the worst of it. I crossed the finish in 4:11 and change (chip time) as the clock read 4:38 and I was just happy to finish and not have to use any of that cab money I brought with me that I thought I'd be using.
So yes, much to my surprise I did actually finish this year. The lesson of the day? 'be in the moment and enjoy every bit of it'
This may not have been my fastest but it was the most fun, and isn't that really the point? I guess it only took 16 or so marathons to figure that out. :)