You know, the 40th anniversary of the race? The year an American won again? Yeah, it was cool.
It was more than cool BTW. But let's start from the very beginning. And uh, you might want to get a snack. 'Cause this is going to be a very long post. It might take you as long to read this as it did me to run it.
Arrived in NYC on Saturday and immediately headed to the Expo. Okay, that's a lie. Ate first. Because I do not do well if I am low on fuel. And I don't do well in crowds. Expos are crowded. Hungry Pink Girl overwhelmed by crowds...bad combo. Wanted to make sure I was well fed to hopefully avoid a meltdown. Expo was crowded, as expected, but I was able to get my packet and get the heck outta Dodge pretty quickly. No shopping for me! I did pick up some great swag in my bag though.
We then walked from 35th and 8th all the way to 75th and Broadway. Which is, a little far if you are supposed to be, you know, resting. Before your first marathon. But I love New York and the best way to see it is walking. So walk we did. And then park myself on the sofa for a few hours I did. Yes, well, I made time to fuel with a delicious dinner at Manhattan Diner.Mmm, whole grain Belgian waffle, homemade Greek yogurt, berries and walnuts. Perfect and scrumptious! Enjoyed watching all the adorable trick or treaters parade by the restaurant. I was in the biscuit by 8:30 and asleep by 9. See, I am capable of taking my resting very seriously.
Fortch, we were blessed with a time change that night, so even though I changed time zones, I didn't have to get up any earlier. In fact, I was able to sleep until 6 am which is about an hour and a half later that I usually wake up for my long run!
We hopped back on the subway with about a zillion other runners and more than a few still drunk Halloween revelers. Before we knew it we were at Battery Park. Michelle bade her man farewell and we got in line for the Staten Island ferry. The looong line. But we had time, so no worries. We tried to take a photo on the ferry and some jolly Aussies asked if we wanted them to take it. Sure! Love those friendly foreigners! Funny thing, they took the photo and then asked if I would take their pic. Sure! And then e-mail it to them. They didn't have a camera. Ha! Technology. Here are my new best Australian friends. (aside from you, Kristen, of course)
Arrived on Staten Island, and was shuffled to a bus. Okay, it's barely 7 am and I've already been on a subway, a boat and now a bus. It's like transportation overload! The bus took us the the Start Line Extravaganza. Do you know what over 40,000 runners plus loved ones, plus volunteers, plus race officials, plus media looks like? Chaos!
We saw a Frenchman dressed as the Eiffel Tower. And yes, he ran the entire race with that contraption. A fireman all decked out in full gear. And yes, he too ran the entire race like that. Lots of firemen on the course. I asked Michelle, "Why is it that all firemen seem to be young and cute?" It's one of those little mysteries of life, isn't it?
We were in the Orange Wave and the last to start. I think we got moving well after 10:20. Because of this, it wasn't nearly as congested as I had heard. Which was nice. But also, a little underwhelming. Spectators are not allowed on the bridges so it was eerily quiet the first mile. Yep, the race starts uphill on a bridge that is over a mile long. A long, cold, windy, quiet mile long. But spectacular! Factoid: The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in North and South Americas. Surpasses even the Golden Gate Bridge. East Coast!
I felt great on race day. My head and heart were in it, I felt strong. Ready to take on the marathon. I knew I had a sub 5 in me. I just knew it. The weather was perfect, the crowd was out in full force. I had this down.
I didn't take many pictures during the race because, you know, I was running and all. The crowd was fantastic! We started off on Staten Island, crossed the bridge into Brooklyn and what a welcome it was! The entire burrough must have come out! I've never seen that many people cheer on a race course...and we were at the back! There were bands, church choirs, jugglers, bagpipers, banjo players, people blaring music from apartment windows, lots of cowbells, drums...shouting, cheering, encouraging, signs, banners...little kids high fiving. (one cautious mom even had her kids wearing rubber gloves - sign o'the time!) I feel the word awesome is totally overused and misused, but this was truly awesome.
We ran behind these guys for a while. And let me tell you, the view from behind was not so great! I saw more behind than I bargained for!
Around mile 10 my knee started to complain. I stopped at a first aid tent and downed a few Tylenol, hoping to ward off the hurts.
Here I am at the halfway mark. And just so we are clear, the clock started when the first wave started, not us. It did not take us that long to cover 13.1 miles! At this point, we were still on track to finish around 5 hours.
We continued on across the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. Where, the reception was just as grand as Brooklyn. We saw several wheelchair athletes, and not the sport chairs, but people in regular hospital wheelchairs. Saw a guy with no legs. Just a single prosthetic and crutches. Wow. I was so inspired by these individuals. Every day is a challenge for them and yet here they are, competing in a marathon. Made me feel about this big.
Crossing the Queensboro Bridge was an experience. Once again, no spectators so it fell silent. Just us, the wind and our thoughts. I was still in 100%, loving every minute of it. My coach told us we'd likely fall apart mentally at mile 15, but here I was approaching mile 16 feeling as fresh as if it were mile 2. I was loving this distance! In my head I was already planning my next marathon. If only that little nagging pain in my taped knee would just hush.
Michelle's husband Greg met up with us just over the bridge. I think it did her good to see her man and get a quick boost of encouragement. Back in Manhattan, we headed up 1st Ave. No wall in sight, I was trying my best to ignore the screaming in my knee. I got to see my man at 103rd, just before mile 19. I was trying my best not to mention my pain, hopeful that if I just didn't say it out loud, it would go away. Have you tried this tactic? It doesn't work. We continued on our journey to the Bronx. I pretty much wanted to throw myself over the Willis Ave Bridge. But vanity wouldn't let me. There is absolutely NO WAY I'd die (or quit) in the Bronx. Please people. Speaking of the Bronx...it was a very different experience from every other burrough.Different in that while all other neighborhood streets had been lined with spectators, we were met with nearly empty streets, save for the7 to 8 police officers on each corner. It was eerily different.
I've resorted to a hobble/walk method at this point. I'm basically dragging my right leg behind me, wincing with every step. What made me even more sad, is that I still felt so strong except for this one little thing, the excruciating pain. My head was still in it, my heart was still in it, I was still pumped. I just couldn't ignore my knee. The crowd was amazing as we re-entered Manhattan's Harlem. You just don't know what it's like to hear your name until you've heard it shouted on the streets of NYC. Thank you to everyone that hollared at me to "Hook 'Em" or who told me they were proud of me, or assured me I could do it. You'll never now how motivating you were!
We began mile 23 headed down 5th Ave. Central Park on our right we were on the home stretch. I never hit the dreaded wall, either physically or emotionally. I was loving every minute of this race. Except, well, for the whole knee not being a team player thing.
Paula Radcliffe! She finished just a bit faster than me...
Then things changed. I fell apart just after mile 25. Not out of exhaustion, but frustration. I had stumbled 3 or 4 times, my knee just wasn't supporting my weight any longer. I was so angry that I couldn't control my body. I worked so hard, I was totally prepared. And I was IN IT. Yet my knee had other plans. I stumbled once more, almost falling completely over. I'm not proud, but I might have let our a very loud bad word. Not my prettiest moment. What had started out as a great day, had slowly deteriorated into my own personal hell. How could I feel at once so strong and yet so weak?
I finished. That's what I'm calling it. I finished. I did not run a marathon, I finished one. I knew my injury could very well prevent me from achieving the time I knew I was capable of, but the reality was very hurtful and very disappointing.
Crossing the finish line was so anticlimactic. Was it really over? I was tired, but not exhausted. If my knee wasn't such a bad sport, I've could have easily run a few more miles. Strangely, spectators were not allowed past the finish line. It was quiet. We all walked zombie like towards we knew not what. There had been hydration stations galore during the course, but no water in sight at the finish line. Food? Water? Medals? Was there anything else? I realize now my brain was deprived of blood and I wasn't doing my best thinking. I got my medal, my mylar blanket but was still fuming that Michelle had to beg a single bottle off water off a Red Cross volunteer for us both to share. I wandered aimlessly towards Central Park West. My marathon dream had been achieved, sorta. And I didn't know what to think, other than, "Now what?"
Still a little stunned that it was all over, here we are with our medals. Did you feel that way after your first marathon? Confused? All that training, all those months of thinking of nothing else, all those hours of running, all those carefully planned meals, thinking of nothing else but running and then, poof, it's over in the time it takes to cross that last mat. I'm still baffled. I didn't feel relieved, of glad it was over. I just felt let down by my body and confused as to what to do next. The whole course had been carefully planned out for me, all I had to do was follow the runner in front of me and then suddenly I'm dropped in the middle of Central Park with absolutely no direction. Lost in a sea of mylar, desperate for water. We stood awkwardly on the sidewalk for a few minutes. I honestly didn't know what to do next. Flummoxed.
I slowly made my way back towards the Upper West Side restaurants. Dinner is a fog. I remember not being hungry, but thinking that I should eat. And then proceeding to inhale every last morsel of food set in front of me. Guess not eating anything but Shot Bloks all day and running for over 5 hours straight will make a girl hungry after all.
So. Now I've completed a marathon. I didn't make even my "backup" time, but I finished. And I'm pleased with that. I got to run my first marathon in the greatest city, in one of the largest marathons with my bestest running buddy, Michelle. From start to (near) finish it was an amazing experience. And I'm ready to start thinking about my next one...