Saturday, November 12, 2011

Marathon Day NYC 2011

34th street and 11th Ave, we step into the expo to get our race numbers. The energy and excitement of 45,000 runners fills us with a new buzz. Do we belong? Have we earned the right?. Our unconventional training seems scarily inadequate. There is no changing anything at this point so we push on, making our final preparations. Pick out race clothes, write name on shirt and pin on number, carb load, pack post race supplies, set alarm, sleep, morning strech, eat nervous breakfast, catch cab to Statin Island ferry.

There are runners in all shapes and sizes, other nervous breakfasts, muffin, monster brownie, egg sandwhich, ball caps and bandanas, lycra, living billboards with t-shirts fighting cancer and autism, tutus glued to running shorts. Bus to the starting line. Free coffee and bagels, no thanks- too much at stake. Bodies covering every inch of side walk and grass, sleeping bags to keep muscles warm.

We reluctantly strip off all warm clothes and send them to the finish line. Discussion again, how shall we run? Time does not matter- we want to believe this but it is hard. Head to the starting line. Star spangled banner, elite runners burst from starting block. Ten minute miles we agree, this should be our goal, at least for the first ten miles. Try to be fresh at the half.

Calculating splits from races clocks is too hard. We run trying to listen to our bodies. 2 million spectators spread out over 26.2 miles, hardly a moment without cheering. Brooklyn first.  “TJ you can do it”, “Julie, you got it baby” the effect of our names called by strangers on the sidelines is utterly uplifting. Music of all kinds, tiny hands held out for high fives, offerings of Halloween candy, orange slices and banana halves. We catch up with the runners aiming for a 3 hour and 50 min race time and settle in.

Mile 11, “ouch”, “oh no” a new but familiar pain shoots through my left knee quickly escalating to severe status. As I stop to asses the situation I am jostled by runners with too much momentum to stop. I wonder if this is the end. Can we walk 15 miles to the finish? Stretch, keep going, the pain is less but how long will this last. Mile 13, into Queens, still a long way to go, not quite as fresh as we had hoped.

Mile 16, bridge to Manhattan. Total lower body pain and the left knee is getting worse. I need to stop, I need to walk, squat, stretch.  Ten miles to the finish, my eyes get blurry thinking about it. TJ still feels good and starts cheering me on. First avenue is packed with spectators. I can no longer appreciate them. One foot in front of the other. Dig down deep.  Run through the pain. I pick out running goals in the distance. I think I can make it to the second bus stop. Frequent breaks to stretch. Walking hurts too so might as well keep running. “You can do it, I am so proud of you.” TJ is amazing.

Into the Bronx, keep going. Look for Jon and Katrina. One foot in front of the other. Stretch when the road widens. Run to the next water station, maybe a whole mile this time. Last bridge, Manhattan. The final push. TJ becomes more quiet as he starts to feel more pain himself. Dig down deep, one foot in front of the other. Bright fall leaves, the roar of the crowd. I feel some unseen support give me a boost. Just keep going. Into the park, walk the uphill. Run, there they are! Our family is waiting and cheering us on. We can do it. Push. One more walk. Turn the bend, 400 meters, 200 yards, we can see it. Grab hands, cross the finish. 4:11:49. Grace.

Shivering, groan, muscles shake. No relief, no room to sit down. Pick up bag, sit down, warm clothes, sigh. Turn phone on, texts, phone messages, we are overwhelmed. Five smiling faces meet us as we hobble out of the park. So much love and support. The day is capped off by burgers, fries and malt. Our prayers are answered beyond what we could have imagined.  

No comments:

Post a Comment