Queens (Miles 13 to 16)
Running over the Pulaski Bridge, into my borough, I was totally jazzed. So much so, that I picked up the pace on the uphill. It was at this point that EN did me the biggest favor of the day–he scolded me. “TK, now is NOT the time to Go.” Damn, the man’s right. I checked my pace (but just a little), and allowed myself to absorb the Queens miles. We turned off the bridge to the left, and I announced to all those around me, Queens rocks! You’re in my hood now!
I loved it, every step felt like home, and even though the spectators were largely strangers, I believed I recognized them all. Running up Jackson Avenue, with its restaurants and pubs, made me think happily of long, wine-soaked dinners with friends. And then we were Vernon Boulevard, and DD, my TNT friend with whom I once ran a 20-miler (grateful the whole time he was a chatterbox), bellowed out my name from where he was stationed as a volunteer. Coming up to the Mile 14 marker, which has been my cheering spot year in and year out, I moved to the right and looked for my family–this was the first location I’d given Mom, Dad and Husband on the spectating plan I’d given them. But they weren’t there, I was crushed! I was way more deflated than I thought I’d have been. EN assured me they would be further up. In the meantime, I enjoyed the full-frontal view of the 59th Street Bridge, which posed ahead of us like a coy invitation. The course in Queens has some sharp curves, and I decided to airplane my way through them, arms akimbo, flying.
And then there they were. I saw my mom first, scanning the crowd with her big blue eyes. I couldn’t shout to them, I got choked up at the sight, so instead I waved frantically. My dad starting shouting my name, drawing out the vowels, and his voice rung in my ears. And there was Husband, holding up the cutest sign ever. It said, “NYC’s #1 Running Blog PIGTAILS FLYING.” I could have stopped and kissed him, I was so touched and delighted by that sign. (The man came up with this all on his own, folks, I swear, no prompting from me!) As EN and I sped by, Dad’s voice still pushing me forward, I turned back to the course and covered my face with my gloved hands–I was crying. (This should come as no surprise if you’ve read other race reports of mine.) I quickly snapped out of it, though, because another big moment was upon me–we were approaching the Queensborough Bridge, my bridge.
I later learned that my sister-in-law and her fiance, as well as my neighbor and occassional running buddy DM, and assorted neighbors from S.U.D.S. were cheering from the sidelines and screamed my name, but I didn’t hear or see them, most unfortunately.
We were running up Crescent Street, and the 7 elevated line crossed directly in front of us. This is the train that takes me home, it’s my train, and wouldn’t you know, one pulled up (surely just for me?), and so I waved. Then I noticed people ahead of me turning left onto the bridge, and I had another emotion-filled moment. I thought about how many hundreds of times I’ve run over this bridge, in the dark of morning and night, in the heat of the summer and the bitter, windy cold of the winter. Through the rain, and snow. On my way home from work, or as my present to myself on Christmas, or to give thanks on Thanksgiving. I cried out: I own this bridge! And then, I felt gratitude to my bridge, for giving me what I needed: hills, an escape, and a way home.
Quiet ensued for nearly a mile, and oh how I relished it. Of course, as I waxed on about my bridge this and my bridge that, EN felt compelled, with his typical irreverence, to point out all the men peeing over the edges of my bridge. Ah, yes. Poetic moment–whatev!
Manhattan (Miles 16 to 20)
And then, EN and I crested the 59th Street Bridge’s hill, and we could hear it: the distant roar of the crazy spectators along First Avenue. We all sped up as we descended the steep, short backside of the hill, turned left (the hay bales stacked along the right side of the curve cracked me up–runaway truck ramp!! Gotta give a shoutout to GMR teammate and speedster JD) and were blasted up First Avenue. Where was it, where was the propulsion I was looking for, that everyone promised me would come? I had imagined I would be lifted up off the ground by the wind from the cheering crowd’s lungs, and carried for miles. But nothing of the sort happened.
Rather, I was distracted, and was concerned I was slowing down. Thankfully, First Avenue is about twice as wide as the course in Brooklyn, so it was only at the water stops I felt crowded. All of a sudden, EN comes jetting up beside me with his super-cute little brother Josh (19 years old–do they even make ’em that young anymore!?). He plugged right in to our pace, and totally saved me when he handed me an orange wedge somewhere around Mile 18. (I’d skipped a couple of Gatorade stops because I couldn’t deal with the clusterfucks at the fluid stations. To DRC Matt: I thought of your Boston Marathon orange wedge, which you told us about in epiode #99.)
It was around this point where The Plan had me scheduled to Go. I looked at little G’s Virtual Partner feature, which I’d set to an 8:57 per mile pace. Yikes, I was more than 2 minutes behind. I mumbled to EN, Shit, we’re behind, and that was that. From that moment on, I was officially in “Go” mode. Breaking 4 hours (my B Goal) was a foregone conclusion in my mind, non-negotiable. I was running for my A Goal–a sub-3:55–and nothing nor no one was going to be able to deter me.
The course at this point was familiar to me, so I could focus on pace and effort level. One thing that broke through was the ebulliently groovin’ gospel choir that was pumping out of a massive Baptist church somewhere in the upper reaches of First Avenue. Many parishioners, all decked out in their Sunday best, were on the steps, cheering us on, clapping and singing. It was so cool! I want to come back and party with these folks.
At 124th Street, my family was awaiting me, one block before we all pushed over the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. There was a lot going on, so I didn’t immediately see them. Then, there’s Dad, his arms flung up high, a 6’3″ silver-haired man in a Crayloa blue fleece, booming out my name over and over. Hi Dad! And Mom and Husband are straightening up–they had been hunched over his backpack, rooting around for donuts! I was cracking up–People, I’m running a freakin’ MARATHON here, and you gotta stop for DONUTS? Hilarious!
But quickly I left them behind with their green market snack, as I turned back to safely tramp over the Willis Avenue Bridge, EN once again faithfully reminding me to chill out on the incline, and just maintain my effort level. And look! The grates are covered in orange carpet, just as my faithful readers had promised in their comments.
The Bronx (Miles 20 to 21)
I have family and friends who live in Westchester, Dutchess County, and Connecticut; and I’d told all of them the Bronx was the place to come and cheer, but no one ended up being able to make it work. No worries, as I enjoyed blitzing through, alone with my thoughts, EN still on my right. The Robin Hood Foundation cheering grandstand was blasting “Eye of the Tiger,” which was very amusing. There’s nothing like a good cliché to make me speed up-if only to get out of range.
Before I knew it, we were up and over the adorable Madison Avenue Bridge, turning left onto Fifth Avenue into Harlem.