New York City Marathon - 1998
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Coming into Manhattan:
This is a long anticipated high point for me. The 270 degree turn left off the bridge onto First Ave. is accompanied by the growing roar of the crowd in Manhattan. This is it. We're past the 16 mile point and the street is solidly packed with cheering spectators even though the front runners are long gone.
In the 1980's I had been a spectator right at this point. I remember looking at the runners and trying to imagine myself having run the16 miles to this same place and how I would feel, knowing then, that I was able to run just about that distance, but probably not more.
Manhattan at 96th St. - Next, on to the Bronx
Up First Ave:
The runners have thinned out by now and it's easy to choose our path. We gain on and pass a women with a prosthetic, spring contraption leg. I kid Ray that she has an advantage because of the spring mechanism (my idea of humor). He gets some crowd response to the DELMAR letters on his T-Shirt. We see our support team for snacks and dry headbands at 96th street where the crowds have thinned, as expected. We had no trouble finding them.
Ray is running stronger than I. I encourage him to go ahead so I can run my own pace. Not what I would have wanted, but that's the way it is and I accept it. Part of my idea of being in control and thinking of the distance to go and how I'm not really confident of sustaining his pace.
I'm on my own now. I have to get through the relative quiet of the south Bronx and run beyond where I started walking in '97 around mile 21. I drift along, taking this much more seriously now. It was the left leg I had concentrated on when I went for physical therapy but it's the right leg that is tightening up and hurting.
I had stopped for a quick slather of Ben-Gay on my legs a few miles back, as a precaution I suppose. When I take some food from bystanders in Harlem, I get a mouthful of weird taste and can't figure out for a while that I have this gunk on my hands. I'm running with steady discomfort now and can't expect to see my family until the park. But, I pass 21 miles still running and reach the park.
|Age Before Beauty:
I'm really working at this now. The park has hills and gradual turns. I'm unable to calculate my pace or figure out distances. I just read each mile marker and hope I can get to the next one. The kilometer marks I can't deal with at all. I'm concentrating on running with the pain now, finding the right pace and not giving out. The crowd is there cheering all of us back-of-the-pack runners, but I can't live up to their enthusiasm.
I see, just ahead, a really old guy with some sort of entourage. There's a someone on roller blades doing a video. A women is running ahead and exhorting the crowd to cheer this guy on. He's got his right arm bent and hooked onto his shirt so it juts rigidly out to the right. He's running awkwardly and looks pretty bad, but the big deal is that the women is yelling, "Eighty-year old man coming through. Let's hear it for him! Help this 80-year old finish!" And on and on.
| So now I'm running dead
even with an 80 year old who looks like crap, and I can't pass him. My legs are
shot. I move ahead slightly on the downhills, but then on the upgrades, this guy and
his cheering squad catch up and I have to listen to the whole thing again.
"Eighty year old man coming through. Blah blah." The crowd-exhorting
women turns around and stops suddenly and I run right into her. Her fault.
Hell, I'm annoyed at everything now. I'm getting cranky and pissed off. I can sort of figure out that it's caused by exhaustion, but I'm still getting increasingly sour. It's a struggle to find a pace I can run at. I'm starting to have bad thoughts that I'm risking injury and that maybe I should walk. This is the voice of exhaustion. Pain with every stride. There's less than 2 miles to go.
|I Drop the Old Guy:
Slowly, I leave the old guy behind and make it to 25 miles. I make the turn west at the south end of the park onto 59th street. I can see the giant video screen showing runners on some part of the course and I know it's less than 1 mile to go. I think I can run to the finish. It's not going to be under 5 hours and hardly any faster than last year.
The half mile to the finish is rough but I'm getting pumped up. I can run but I'm fighting the thought that it's a mistake to keep running and that I'm hurting myself. But finish I do, smiling and with my head up for the official photo (not like the year before).
(What is going on with the women behind my left shoulder? And why is her jaw wrapped like that?).
I walk along in a dense crowd of finishers wrapped in that thin, crinkling blanket, holding, but not really able to drink the bottled water they give me. I find my dry gear in the UPS truck and continue on. I'm crabby and sullen and just want to get out of the crowd but I can't move any faster than anyone else. The crush of runners is pinched by a truck blocking most of the path. More annoyance. I don't even know where the family re-union area is. Just that it's not where it was last year. So I can't try any shortcuts over a fence. Crap.
But, slowly, now that I'm not running, I begin to change. Hey, I'm not hurting as much. And I really am ok. Hmmm, if I only had more rest this wouldn't have been so tough. And if I trained more I could do better. And what I should do next year is... What the hell am I thinking? In the mile walk to the Central Park West exit I've gone from sour glumness to planning for next year?
Out of the park, I have to turn left and walk down the alphabet to the 'E' signs to find my wife, mother, daughter and Nancy and Ray. Glad I'm not named Zizzi. Find them no problem and they say Ray finished about 5 minutes ahead of me. He didn't break 5 hours either, but finished strong. I think I should use the porta-potty but I must be dehydrated because I can't. Slowly, with everyone talking at once, I change clothes, get Nancy to take some pictures and as it's getting dark, we head for the subway by the Museum of Natural History.
I have a bite of a big salted pretzel as we head down the steps. The subway is crowded so I stand near Ray, and let the others sit, because I'm such a hero. Five minutes later, the pretzel makes my stomach do a little flip. I'm getting a bit overheated now. My mother is talking and I can't hear her. In fact I can't hear anything at all. Uh oh. Things are getting a little dim. Ray asks if I'm ok. I hold up one finger as if to say 'just a second', and pass out. They said I fell against the door of the subway car, slumped to the floor and twitched. As far as I'm concerned, I'm having a nice nap when I hear them yelling my name. 'Why can't I just sleep here?', I think. Wait. I'm not supposed to be sleeping on the floor like this. I jump up. The other passengers have left a big space around me on the floor of the subway car. My team drags me off the subway and tries to take me up the steps. Bad idea. I grab the wall and suggest that I just take a rest right there on the stairway.
I know I'm really fine. Just lightheaded from my stomach equilibrating to the salted pretzel. Some warm tea and sitting for a bit and all is well, despite everyone's concerns. So, back to my folks' apartment in a celebratory mood.
Hey, after a great bath and some dinner that I don't remember eating, I even drive for part of the way home.
I run the next day at work to brag to my running friends that I did it again! Didn't get hurt. Didn't break down, and in the end, had a great experience.
If I had been 80 years old, I would have won my age group because I checked, and the old guy WON the class for men over 80 and I finished 35 seconds ahead of him. Whooped him good, I'd say!
I also beat about 5,000 runners (but was behind about 25,000 others).
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