This blog will be long, self-serving and all about running in New York City. If you have issues with any of those, just move along to the next post…. Oh, you’re still reading? Well, ok then, continue at your own risk.
On March 15th, I was able to say that the longest run I had ever taken in my life was seven miles. March 16th, surrounded by friends (both old and new), I participated in the 2014 NYC Half Marathon. I never realized the swell of emotion I would experience during and post-race. Those emotions were so overwhelming that I cried (like a bitch) a number of times.
Life is a series of moments. Some are spectacular in nature. Savor. Every. Single. One. (read that in your best Baz Luhrmann inner voice)
March 16th started at 5AM. I woke, put on my Tevas and headed down to the continental breakfast to carb up. I had a raisin bagel slathered in cream cheese and a pastry. I drank a bottle of water and headed back up to the room. In my silly, never-raced-a-half-before ignorance (lol), I had brought red compression pants, blue wind breaker pants, black long-sleeved shirt and a Dropkick Murphys tee to wear over it in honor of the green needed for any St Pat’s weekend. My dear friend Pam was quick to point out the error of my ways. She was flabbergasted by my thinking I would ever leave the hotel room in red compression pants (covered or not by blue wind breaker pants). I would like to point out that at the race proper, my fellow runners were quick to make reference to a young man wearing red pants with a blue shirt (the same color of my wind breaker pants). She lied, people DO wear those colors on race day (even one on St Pat’s weekend). I wore Pam’s black running pants, a pair of black shorts I picked up the day before (that day allowed me to realize that my horrid body image should never force me to wear shorts over running pants again), the black long sleeve shirt with Dropkicks over it. Topping off the outfit was my BoSox hat that I wear on most every run that I take. (Erin lubed me up with something that sounded like astroglide that made things that were close to your body not create friction and chaffe…wait, was that astroglide?) I also pulled on what runners call a “throwaway” sweatshirt. Something you pick up at KMart or Good Will, that you are not attached to and can toss once you start to run and warm up. On a 29 degree Sunday with heavy winds coming off of the river, I found that “throwaway” sweatshirt to be a saving grace and it never was thrown away.
Everything happened so quickly when we made our way back down to the lobby. Soon we piled into a cab and off we went. As we drove to Central Park, I looked out over the city that I have loved for so many years. I took a deep breath and smiled. What a moment to be caught up in, with people who are nothing short of amazing. I looked over at my friend Judy, her optimism was infectious and I knew she was the perfect person to dive head first into this adventure with.
Earlier, Erin (the Water Nazi) gently suggested that I drink this big bottle of water with nuun tablets in it that were supposed to taste like something that someone might like to drink. Someone lied to my friend, those tablets were pretty horrible. But, as commanded (er suggested), I drank the whole thing while trying to stay warm at the Plaza (where we were unceremoniously kicked out once the lobby filled with brightly clad and slightly loud runners – maybe if we were wearing tiaras and chinchilla running pants we could have stayed longer). The side effect of so much fluid flowing in one end of your body? It having to flow out the other end. So at port-a-potty stop one, a girl walked out and said, “Don’t sit down, someone shit all over the seat. You can hover, just don’t get it on the back of your legs. It ran down the front too.” Um, W.T.F. are you “experienced” runners eating pre-race? Did someone lace your chocolate chip pancakes with exlax? I once saw a picture of an ultra-runner who I thought had mud on his leg. That was not mud. AND he seemed perfectly fine with it. I thought of that picture as I exited said port-a-potty. Maybe it was a curious subconscious that wanted to see if every runner had the same gastro-explosion as the previous port-a-potty occupant or maybe it was the half gallon of water I had consumed in a short period of time. Whatever the reason, port-a-potty stop number two came about. As I opened the door, the light behind me filled the little shit cubicle. What I saw there will haunt me for the rest of my life. What I saw there should have been recorded for “SAW XIV, Runner’s Revenge”. Someone had shit UP the back wall of the port-a-potty. I mean, seriously, UP the back wall. I stared at it, mesmerized. They had to have bent over, grabbed their ankles and tilted their pelvis back and up. It was impressive. I likened it to a Rorschach. I definitely saw breasts. Or maybe my Ma taking tea with Einstein. But I digress…
They corralled us into a fenced-in path leading to the starting line. We gathered closely together hoping to share body heat. And then the line began to move. By this time I had to pee. Yet. AGAIN. Is Nuun German for diuretic? I was considering whether I could pee behind the rock across the path from us. It was a serious consideration. Judy was a gem and jumped out at the next break in the fence to a close port-a-potty to take one last break. She will forever be my hero for that. Then we were back, chugging along to the start line. I pushed the button on the Garmin Erin loaned me, we crossed that line and were OFF! Until that moment, I was never a “running with others” person. But that all changed. For the first couple of miles, Judy ran/walked with me. She had a timer that let us know when to run and when to take a walking rest. We passed the Guggenheim, museum row and the Central Park Obelisk. I was viewing this great city from a different angle and I loved it. At one point the road crisscrossed in front of us and you could see runners moving in three directions at once. It was spectacular.
Realizing that I was slowing her down and having other friends link up with us, I told Judy to run on and that I would be close behind, don’t worry about me. I found myself alone (well as alone as you can be running the NYC Half). Another first for me, I was running without headphones. The sound of the city around me was my music for the day and I loved every beat. I caught up with Judy once more at the next port-a-potty. I had been battling a shin splint in my left leg. I named it Enrique. I loathed Enrique and wished him ill. I was telling her about Enrique and trying to find the humor in my pain. Then off we went again, at different paces and were soon parted. I kept my mind positive. I thought to myself, I know you can do this. I found myself on a quiet strip in between packs of runners trying to concentrate on positivity. Then, from nowhere, I hear: “Hurry up! Run faster! You can do better than that! Holy crap you’re slow!” Just what I needed, bum hecklers sharing a 40 on a rock above the course. Assholes. Just then the most amazing aroma came wafting my way. I literally slowed to a walk. There it was, on the edge of the path…a dirty water dog vendor. My hand automatically went to my secret pocket and the soggy emergency money I stowed there. I thought about how it would be so much better than the runner’s goop they were going to give me in later miles. Sadly, the little voice in my head that sounds a lot like Erin called me an asshole and I picked my pace back up.
As I was about to exit Central Park a pregnant woman came up next to me (that let a little air out of my sails, being lapped by a pregnant woman…lol). She said “Hey West Virginia! How’s Enrique?” Had to giggle. Enrique and I had decided to see other people and I was doing much better in his absence. We ran together as we passed Jamie deRoy’s apartment (one of my former bookkeeping clients – I teared up a little). We passed Carnegie Hall as I was saying, “I hate to slow you down.” (there went a little more air). At the next port-a-potty we parted ways (I promise, that is my last port-a-potty reference in this tale). To the owner of bib 24125, thank you for your company, your child will be blessed to be raised by a sweet, kind, athletic woman like yourself.
I did my best to run as much as I could. In my mind I tried to remember (at LEAST make it to the seven mile marker). Let me tell you, that seven mile marker was one of the most amazing places in the world – Times Square. I ran most of it. Maybe not fast. And I am sure I kind of looked like Forrest Gump but I had joy in my heart and imaginary wings on my feet. The crowd would cheer and there was music and lights and activity and aside from wanting to die, it was pretty amazing. Just then, I heard familiar voices. Erin and Pam!! I teared up a little. I might have said “Fuck you” to Pam (sorry Pam, I do really, really, really love you). And on I kept going. I had found that extra bit of reserve to continue on.
Coming out of the Times Square and making the turn for the straightish stretch to the finish line, I was hit by a gust of wind and thought “this might be the end of me”. Winds that day topped 18MPH. They were rough but once on the open road, they were at my back and helped push me along. Those last handful of miles were the roughest. I was alone. I was slower (so there were no real packs of runners left). I kept pushing myself thinking – I want to finish. That is when my mantra kicked in… “Boots And Pants And Boots And Pants And Boots and….” Yeah, the little pig from the insurance commercials. I found that if I was forced to walk but could keep my pace to the steady beat of his little voice in my head….ok, I get it, I’m special. But it helped.
Along the last six miles there were various street entertainers poised to help with motivation. These entertainers included: NYC Cheerleaders (fabulous adult cheerleaders), a percussion group, one group who sang Heart’s Barracuda and a couple of DJs. The first DJ was before the 09/11 Memorial. He was playing Avicii’s Wake Me Up. As I drew closer the line playing was “I don’t know where my journey will end, but I know where it starts.” And I cried. Seriously, like a kid falling off the monkey bars, cried. I composed myself and then realized that the shadow I was running into was from the 09/11 Memorial. So, I cried again. I composed myself and then at the 10 mile mark, I cried for no effing reason. Just cause. Fortunately, the second DJ (and last entertainer) was playing Macklemore “Can’t Hold Us” which stayed in my head until the very end.
To the coordinators of the route – what the hell is up with putting the scariest tunnel a solo runner could ever run through at the end of a 13.1 mile run? I watch scary movies, I know what happens to the slow one that gets separated from the pack! AND, if the terror of the black hole was not enough, there was an incline at the end?!? As I emerged from the tunnel of death, I spot a sign that said “Last 800 Meters”. That’s a lot of help for the girl that had to Google “how many miles are in a 5k?”. And as I rounded that corner and headed to the finish line I once again burst into tears. These were unstoppable. These were full of accomplishment. As the volunteer put the medal over my head and let it come to rest just over my heart, I sobbed. She hugged me and said, “It’s ok, you made it.” The relief, the joy, the satisfaction. It was amazing. Until… they handed me a five pound goodie bag and told me I had to walk another quarter of a mile to get out of the corral. I promptly called Erin and while I was talking to her, struggling with the bag containing the super sized gatorade and a ten ton apple, I saw a break in the fence. I walked up to it and the officer guarding it (thinking, I am trying to get OUT, not IN, so this is a breeze).
Me: Just let me past you there so I don’t have to walk anymore. My friend is down that street.
Me: You’re an asshole.
Erin could be heard giggling on the phone. Fine. What’s a few hundred meters?
As I stood on the corner, I spotted her. My best friend in the whole world. She is pretty amazing. And, not just because she opened my water and pretzels and fed the pretzels to me (my hands were somewhat frozen at that point – thirty degree weather, killer winds and all). And not because she overcame a moment where she could have been skeeved at my handing her $15 sweat-sogged emergency dollars to buy me a tea and a pastry. Nor was it because she clipped my foil blanket around my neck. The reason was this: when I laid eyes on her she had a look of utter joy on her face. She was proud of me. That reminded me why she is “my person”. The Mer to my Yang. I was excited and she was excited for me. She let me babble, stumble and she guided me back to our hotel. We laughed and carried on. I love her, even if she did make me sit in a cold bath with ice up my hooha.
All that came after was a whirl and so much fun. We went to a pub that gave us champagne because we were runners. We moved to another bar that let us play flip cup. I may have danced on the bar (only because another friend was too bashful and her flip team lost the game).
What an adventure. Amazing food, great scenery. But, above all – the people involved were those that I wish I had around me all the time. My friends from Boston offer me a camaraderie that I have never had before. It makes me sad that we live so far apart and I look forward to the next time we are all together. I have since run a 5k and when I posted my post-race photo, the first set of people to “like” it were all Mass-friends. I love you guys. Thank you for taking me under your wing and making me feel like one of the team.
I am standing on the cusp of an amazing year. I have a number of 5Ks planned for this summer. It all leads up to the Marshall Half Marathon which I will run with Mander in November. I know I am not the fastest runner in the pack. But every step I take is one more than the guy on the couch.
“Everywhere is within walking distance. You just have to take the first step.”
Thanks for reading. Below are a few stats.
2014 NYC Half statistics as they relate to me:
Total race finishers: 20,790 (I was 20,630 overall)
Age bracket 45-49 had 1,889 finishers (1,030 men and 859 women)
It was 31 degrees (at the warmest) with 18 MPH winds and a 40% humidity
I was the 10,890th female to cross the finish line.
My net finish was 3:12:52
My personal stats:
3:12:52 Net Finish
2:54:21 AG Time