Posts Tagged ‘New York City marathon’

If you are racing, tweet or email me your wave and anticiapted finishing time/pace per mile and I’ll add you to my “watch” list.

I’ll be at my usual corner at Vernon Boulevard and 45th Road in Long Island City, Queens. I stand on the near corner, on the runner’s right. This is right before Mile 14, and usually right after a water station and port-a-potties (there might be a chance they’ll change that this year, who knows.) I’ll probably be bundled up in a black puffy coat.

CLICK HERE to see my cheering corner on a map. (I couldn’t figure out how to embed the image from Google Maps. I suck.)

Additionally, I will be holding this sign and possibly ringing a cowbell.

NOW: run strong and beautiful. Be your freest, best self out there tomorrow. You are all little beacons of light, shining towards the finish.



Read Full Post »

Although my running of the NYC Marathon in 2008 is  my best marathon experience to date, I still would choose spectating the race over running it. I staked out my cheering corner years ago, at 45th Road and Vernon Blvd, right before the 14-mile mark, and right after the water station and port-a-potties. (Of course this is in Queens.) I now recognize the other folks who cheer there year after year, including the couple with the golden retrievers who bring cartons of tissues to offer to snotty runners (once the fast people come through, they hardly ever get a rejection). This year I was joined by my dear friend and running buddy EN and my TeamFox teammate @nyrunningmom.

I got there at 10 AM, and EN and I passed the time before the female elites arrived cheering on the wheelchair athletes.  When we shout “Go athlete!” the wheeled competitors usually give us back a composed wave, as if they were visiting dignitaries. I always get choked up when the first few racers come by, overcome with the scope of the event and also with all the effort, planning and dreaming that most of these runners put in to prepare. These folks train for 4 months or longer–heck, I know people who don’t even date the same person for that long.

Before we knew it, the street-clearing police were whoop-whoop-ing their way past.  Mary Wittenberg followed, in the lead vehicle (she waved when I shouted “Hi Mary!”), with the motorcycle cops and the press truck in tow. Here they were, the female elites! I will never get over how quickly they pass, as if they were an apparition. Sometimes I even wonder if they hear us when we cheer for them as there is absolutely no acknowledgment. I was shouting my lungs out for Shalane, I was still yelling “Go Shalane!” when they were four blocks away. She looked relaxed and strong, and I was excited that she didn’t really have to share the spotlight with any other top-notch American marathoners. Even though it was the USA Marathon Championships, there wasn’t much noise made about Katie McGregor (who came in second among all Americans), etc. But I can tell you this: no one was looking for Edna Kiplagat– we were cheering for Christelle, Mara, Shalane, Kim and Derartu. This is what I love about the marathon–there’s no calling the winners at this distance. Who predicted Edna for the win? No one! No one was even talking about her until Mile 22!

It was so much fun to root on the American women running in the championship race, since they all had their names on their fancy bibs. This is when I realized that EN is as much of a cheer junkie as I am–to conclude an exciting round of shouting and clapping he would give his goofy laugh of enjoyment, a staccato Huh-huh, huh-huh that after an hour started to bring a smile to my face knowing my friend was getting as much out of this as I was. It felt right, cheering with the guy who had run stride for stride with me through 23 miles of this same marathon.

Soon enough then elite men were approaching. I was jittery with the excitement of seeing Haile run by me live and in person. I was also cheering for Meb, Dathan and Jorge. And I am always pleased to see Goumri on the course; he is one of my favorite underdogs along with Merga. I wish I could write you a few flowery sentences describing what it was like to watch Haile in action (when I ran the NYC Half-Marathon this spring, I followed far behind him on the course, and never clapped eyes on him), but it was all over in the blink of an eye (#twss). Little did I know that the big pack of runners would break up nearly the second they began the ascent up my bridge. My bridge, which will forever will be known as the Bridge that Broke Haile. (At least, that is how I will now refer to her.)

For the first time ever, I’d made a sign for the runners. I wanted to be as inclusive as possible, but I also wanted all my running buddies from Twitter to spot me easily. After the elites, the first runner I saw come by was my GMR teammate AN, who spotted me before I recognized him. Then @Lord_Baker sped by with a smile, then Coach Ramon, and then the river of runners started to flow. I saw dozens of familiar runners, including TNT friends, GMR teammates, and Twitter buddies both local and from out-of-town. An excellent moment was when Matt @luau stopped to give me a big sweaty hug and take an actual picture!  I was so excited when I saw my girl @MauraDeedy trot past–she looked strong and happy her first time through the distance. And another marathon debutante, @SharonPaige, ran by me in a bright green shirt, big white headphones, and a look of calm intent upon her face. I thought for sure I’d missed JG of RunWestchester.com fame, but after a while I saw him walking towards me with a half-smile on his face and his hair pleasantly disheveled. His quads had laid down the law a few miles earlier so he was run-walking until he got over my bridge into Manhattan, at which point he would DNF and head home. His plan had always been to stop running around Mile 16, but since he was run-walking it meant that I got to actually converse with him instead of clap and cheer as he ran by. An odd sort of treat–I’d have rather seen JG run by in a blaze of glory, but I was also happy to chat with him.

And so it went, EN and I clapping, cheering and clanging for nearly four hours, until we were dizzy with the ceaseless undulation of runners approaching and departing. The only thing that would snap us out of our zone was when the wind would pick up cold and strong, whipping my sign and numbing my hands. I felt for the runners, who were headed straight into it. Even though the sun was rising, it felt like the temperature was dropping. I had planned to stick it out until 2PM, but at 1:30 most of the racers coming through were walking, with only a few determined souls running. While rationally I understand that every person is on the course with their own set of goals and expectations for the race, it is difficult for me to cheer for folks walking when they are only just halfway through. My heart breaks to see them, because all I can think of is the difficulty that awaits them at Mile 22, Mile 24, or 26 if they are already walking at 14. I know this is simplistic, and I knew that several of my friends were in that walking horde. I hoped they were dressed warmly. I hoped they had brough their cameras and were treating the race as a pleasure cruise to pass the time. I would never want to be out on the course for 7 hours, which is precisely why I admire those who stick it out for that long. I admit it: my thoughts turned towards my warm apartment, and towards the four hours of TV watching I had in front of me (I had DVRed the broadcast of the pro race on NBC). And so, with a final cheer and wave, EN and I hunched into the wind and trudged down 45th Road to the 7 train to find out who had won the professional part of the race, since clearly all the folks we had cheered on this morning were their own kind of winner.

My spectating didn’t end, though, since I spent my hours watching the taped race catching up with all my friends’ race results on Twitter, and tweeting them congratulations. There were more PRs and successful debuts than their were disheartening finishes. By the end of the day, I was amazed at some of the times my friends had thrown down; I was thrilled by the racer’s ebullience and pride; I was affirmed by the achievements and effort. But most of all, I was proud to be counted among them. We were all marathoners, whether it takes us 3  hours or 7 to complete the race. We are all marathoners, whether we run the distance once, or dozens of times.

Read Full Post »

NYC Marathon 2009 flag croppedIt began in the dark. At 5:30 AM, Lil Brother slipped out to Queens Boulevard to hail a cab which would take him to the bus which would take him to the runners’ village in Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island. I gave him a hug and a kiss and sent him off with one final reminder to keep hydrating. Then I went back to bed for another three hours.

At 9:15 I was out the door myself–it was time to make my way to Vernon Boulevard to catch the elites just before the Mile 14 mark. I was carrying by BlackBerry, a cowbell, my camera, the course map, house keys, my credit card, MetroCard, and about $15 in cash. All these things fit in the pockets of the snazzy lime green running jacket EN got me for my birthday last year. I was happy; I was heading off to cheer for my people. Mom and Dad were set to meet me at a predetermined corner in Queens around noon, a little before we expected to see IK come trundling by, but until then it was just me and the early runners. Communion.

NYC Marathon 2009 women elites mile 14I stood here for two and a half hours, but it felt like 10 minutes.  I was so excited to see Paula, Magda, Ludmila Petrova and Salina Kosgei I thought I’d jump out of my skin. I knew that as soon as they were here they’d be gone; I had my cheers prepared ahead of time. The lead vehicles came by, first Mayor Mike, then Mary with (I learned later) Sammy Wanjiru, Shalane Flanagan (who later said on national TV she’d be running NYC in 2010) and Amy Yoder Begley. And then here was the lead pack of women and all my cheers flew out of my head as I stood there in awe, shouting something like “oh my god” or somesuch starstruck nonsense. Paula is just. so. tall. Then here was Magdalena Lewy Boulet pulling up about 10 seconds behind in very cool orangey arm warmers. I pulled myself together enough to shout, “We love you Magda!” (The people around me had begun to back away by this point, clearly thinking, “Speak for yourself, lady.”) Then I cheered for the locally-ranked runners, those zooming by in Central Park Track Club, WXC, New York Athletic Club, etc singlets.

NYC Marathon 2009 men elites mile 14Before I knew it, the media truck for the elite men was coming around the corner from Pulaski Bridge and I was freaking out again. Abdi Abderahman was leading when I saw them, but they were all so closely strung I couldn’t read their singlets. Whoosh they were gone–wait there’s Ryan, eesh he’s lagging!–and then here came Brian Sell, oh Brian I love you for dreaming (2008 Olympics) and then for turning to practical matters (dental school). They were gone before I could think where was Torres, where was Meb, where was Cheruiyot, where was Gharib? Thank goodness for Twitter; all my faithful tweople (@runblogrun being the most reliable) were tweeting the proceedings so I could keep up with the action from the curb.

I beckon thee, oh mass of citizenry, run to me! Run through Brooklyn, run through Queens! Be the rushing river of humanity through the streets of this great city. Be greater than Manhattan, be swifter than a crosstown bus, be stronger than the Chrysler Building, be tougher than the Bronx, be your own legend. I promise I will stand here and tell you want you need to hear to get the job done. I will shout and cheer because what you are doing is amazing, it’s crazy and mythical. For a few hours the entire population of New York City hovers a millimeter above the earth as we are caught up in your tailwind. When you cross that finish line with a grunt and a cry, with a raised arm or a hung head, we will marvel, and bow.

The locally-ranked guys came by in loose bunches, I cheered for the clubs as I recognized their singlets.  They mesmerize me, these powerful yet light men, barreling forwards. Some looked so young; most looked “my age,” which very generously indicates anyone within a ten-year window on either side of 36. I love how it plays out; next come the speediest “regular” women, the ones who are used to running shoulder-to-shoulder with the dudes. Before I knew it, Vernon Blvd was a mass of people running for the hills; specifically, the hills of the Queensboro Bridge and First Avenue. Mom and Dad showed up, and we began scanning the crowd for my brother. Dad’s a great guy to have on the curb as he is so tall he’s easy to spot, and around 12:19 IK came trotting up. He didn’t see us at first, I saw him first and started screaming his name and waving my arms like mad. He saw us and came over, we all hugged him, I knocked him in the chin with my shoulder because I couldn’t stop jumping up and down. Then he ran off and that’s when I saw he was wearing compression shorts–essentially, tights that stop at the knees. Oooh I couldn’t resist, he’s my brother of course I’m going to embarrass him, so I shouted after him as loud as I could, “NICE ASS!”

[50 tense minutes ensue as we get the subway to 117th Street and First Avenue hoping not to miss him.] I sent Mom and Dad ahead to the corner as I stripped off my jeans–I was going to jump in and pace Lil Bro from Mile 19 to 22, and had on running shorts beneath my jeans & jacket. Here he came, a bit later than I’d anticipated (he was slowing down from the 10-minute miles I’d counted earlier), but glad to see us. And we were off. I drilled him with questions (his stomach was queasy and his legs were tired–oh no!) and chattered on to distract him. As we ran, I roused the spectators to cheer for him, and tried to keep the patter up but eventually he just wanted me to hush. As we came around Marcus Garvey Park, I told him that once I left him at Mile 22, it was going to start to feel like he was running up a hill. That’s because it is a hill, I said, but don’t worry because you will pass a lot of people on it. He snorted. Mom and Dad were waiting for us just past the water station, and I nearly hip-checked Lil Bro into the sidewalk as I craned around looking for him. Oh yeah I got some shit for that! So then he was off and we cheered him away. I was still excited for him, but I was a little worried. He looked tired, and I just didn’t want him to hurt; I wanted him to whoop it up through the streets of New York City.

taking subway home, Lil Bro and TKThe three of us had a long time to wait for him now–indeed, longer than we thought. I was texting with friends at home on their computers and found out that Brother definitely crossed the finish line in 4:44:16, so we knew it would take him a while more before he trudged through baggage check, etc. But as soon as we caught up with Husband in the runner’s reunion area on Central Park West, we got a call from IK that he got very dehydrated and went to the medical tent right at the finish line. Oh the poor kid! What a trooper. We all waited him out in a diner on Broadway, and then finally finally got him home to Sunnyside (taking advantage of his “runners ride free” subway discount, of course!) around 6 PM. Our newly-minted marathon stretched and showered after he cutely admitted he wanted Chinese for dinner. It was a long day for him, layered with anticipation, struggle, pain, inspiration and  ultimate success. I am so proud of him for taking on the 26.2-mile challenge, for completing the training, for persevering through the last 10k when he was debilitated from the aftereffects of his cold.

Four days later, after the Yankees won the World Series, I was finally able to sit and watch the elite race.  (Missing the coverage on TV last year is what convinced me to get us a DVR cable box). Even though I already knew the outcome, I was on pins and needles watching the moves and progress of the runners through the miles. I loved seeing them rush through my city’s streets, streets I know so well as a resident and as a marathoner. I shouted when Kosgei took a terrible tumble, I mourned when Magda, then Salina, then Paula all dropped off the lead pack. I exulted for Tulu, I felt Petrova’s bitter disappointment, and I could feel Dauney’s joy at third radiating off her. And Meb! Meb! I cried as he ran through Central Park, shivering with the excitement of an American champion, with the elation of his comeback–what an amazing career he’s already had and now this. Look at Robert Cheruiyot, crushed; and Gharib, also laid low despite his podium finish. It was wonderful the way Ryan Hall crossed the finish line, clutching his back (oh no!) but happy for his teammate’s glory; six male Americans in the top ten! What an amazing day for American distance running–with tens of thousands of epic performances, starting with Meb and scrolling all the way down, flitting upon IK and continuing past, a ribbon of effort and culmination and triumph over the competition and over ourselves.

Read Full Post »

Lil Bro, aka IK, ran the New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 1st, 2009.  Without further ado, I pass the mike to him, as he tells you about his first experience tackling the distance. This is IK’s report of his New York City marathon………

The 2009 ING New York Marathon Official Program includes an article titled, “Final Thoughts: Last-minute marathon tips to get you to the finish line.”  There is a section that reads: “Do not run if you are ill.  If you’re feeling ill during race week and particularly on race morning, do not imperil your health. Running a marathon taxes your immune system…”  

Yeah, well, fuck thatI’m just about better, I thought.  Saturday’s 2-miler around Sunnyside was OK, one of those post-sick runs that tastes like snot.  I was ignoring the cold that still made my head slow and the sore throat that prevented me from swallowing easily, but my body, the running parts of me, felt strong. 

The race started out as I’d expected it would.  The waiting around in the cold sucked.  The music, cannon blast, and tears all showed up as I’d thought they would.  I’m a social runner; I enjoy talking to friends to pass time.  I met Steve and Alex from LA in the corrals and we talked and ran together for 10 miles.  Somewhere along Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue, I heard someone screaming my name over and over again and looked to see Christmas bells and long brown hair thrashing about, framing a big, beautiful smile. My cousin DC came out to cheer, hoping to see me, not even sure when I’d show, just shouting my name, confident I’d hear her before I saw her (I did). A quick kiss, pat on the back and I was off, again in tears.  

At about mile 10.5 I took stock and realized that I was too tired for mile 10.5, and that I was going to be hurting by the end of this thing.  I wondered, not for the last time, how I was going to finish this.  The doubts were beginning to creep in.  Going through a gentle left hand turn, there was a woman with a microphone who called out, “Go Illya.  You can do it!”  Smiling, I thought, She believes in me.  I should believe in me too. Running up the Pulaski Bridge and through the halfway point, I was hurting but feeling happier.  As I came down the bridge and entered Long Island City, I heard it again – my name being screamed by familiar voices.  This time it was mom and dad shouting and clapping and Big Sister (you know her as TK) pogo-sticking up and down with glee.  I left them bolstered for another stretch. 

Going up and down the interminable 59th Street Bridge was when the nausea started—a slight knot in the top of my stomach.  It sat there right below my throat, letting me know that I was taking in too many calories – so I thought.  I slowed down my fueling as I ran up First Avenue. This was easy to do, as First Avenue is one of the most joyous and distracting places I have ever been in my life. Fifty blocks of cheering people five and six deep. The layers of encouragement and support were spectacular, almost unbelievable.  There were so many reasons for me to get all teary.  Every time I got choked up I checked my heart rate to see if it was spiking.  I thought that it was overwhelming, that I couldn’t take it all in, but my senses were beginning to shut down. 

I kept drinking water at every water station.  I wasn’t winded, but my legs were tired.  At 95th Street I checked the list of places my family was going to be.  I needed something to look forward to.  This time, at 117th street, TK was going to jump in and run with me.  Oh the delight of that, to have someone there to talk to.  I saw them again: my parents and sister, jumping up and down, waving, urging me on.  By the time Big Sister joined me, I needed to be distracted from it all, and who better to do that than a marathon-crazed woman who knows and loves every inch of these next 3.5 miles.  She did things like tell me about the New Yorker’s typical response when tripped up by another at Mile 19: “Come back here and I’ll slap you in the face!” She prepping me for the upcoming carpeted bridge, described  the best sign she saw (“The 2800 calories you’re burning equals 17 beers”),  started chanting, “Let’s go Phillies” as soon as we crossed the bridge into the Bronx and yelled at the crowd to “Cheer for Illya!”  Being my older sister, she reminded me that running with her was an exercise in humiliation.  I honestly told her that I was too tired to be humiliated, too tired to even find myself on the 20-foot video screen they had in the Bronx.  By the time we made it back into the city, I was all but shot.  I ran to Marcus Garvey Park, noticing but not really hearing the gospel singers, and had to start walking.  I put my arm around TK and she started to gush again about how proud she was of me and all that.  I couldn’t look at her because a new round of tears came up, so I cleared my throat and started running again.  As we approached my parents for the last time, TK gave me a course reminder: the false flat and the long climb towards the park.  She said that there were going to be a lot of people walking and that I was going to eat them up.  Those last few words, combined with my dad’s slap on my back were all I needed to make it all the way up to the park.  Tons of people were calling my name, telling me I looked great.  I felt great, too. I was almost done.  

Though, as I ran into the park, things started to deteriorate quickly.  I had to walk twice during mile 24 and just as I arrived at mile 25 my body told me to stop running altogether. As I came to a halt, a spectator to my left called out, “Go Illya, you look…OK…”  OK. Not good, strong, great, or fast. OK. Yeah, I fucking know. Thank you.  I started walking and looked down at the curb.  I honestly thought, That looks really comfortable.  I could lay down right there and go to sleep and that would be wonderful.  I wanted to stop. I really wanted to stop. 

My first race was a triathlon.  Four laps into a ten-lap swim I was panicked, hyperventilating, and seeing DNF in my mind.  Had I trained for six weeks so it could end in five minutes?  I pushed off from the wall, reverting to a feeble elementary backstroke, and saw my 18 month-old daughter, Miss T, standing on the deck, smiling and blowing me a huge kiss.  I started crying, pulled it together and finished the swim and subsequent race.  That’s where I go now when it gets really hard.  I’ve found inspiration through lots of stories: Harriet Anderson, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Team Hoyt, my swim coach’s resilience through disaster at Kona this year, that woman with the microphone, my training friends, my kids, my wife.  I wanted to honor all of that, to not give up.  I kept playing those scenes back through my mind and I said to myself, I’ll be god-damned if I’m not gonna finish this. 

So I kept walking.  I had to look straight ahead to keep from losing balance.  My fingertips were starting to get tingly.  Turning right at The Plaza Hotel, I knew there was only one more right turn to go, but I couldn’t see it.  There were a few medical personnel lining the road, and I was afraid they would pull me off the course because I looked so bad.  They asked if I was OK, and when I told them I was fighting a cold, they let me go on.  At one point on Central Park South I kicked a barrier and almost fell over.  Then the right turn, the 26-mile marker and the finish line.  I did run through the finish line with my arms overhead.  I was not going to walk across the line.  Before the medal and mylar, I walked up to he first person I saw in a medical vest and said, I need help.

Medical tent, pretzels, doctor, blood pressure 100/70. Dehydrated–two liters low! Six glasses of Gatorade. Five minutes later I was back to normal.  

Except for the fact that I would never be back to “normal.”  Because you see, I’m a marathoner now.

run your heart out

Read Full Post »

Manhattan, Again (Miles 21 to 26.2) 

I remembered this part down Fifth Avenue clearly from my training run–lots of scenery, and freaking interminable. This was the tract where I was grateful for all the familiar faces–crafty PS with her smile; TNT coach LW pointing right at me (she helped me with race day strategy–thanks Coach!); and TNT coach CL, out there with her baby bump (and completely surprised to see me), she told me “one mile at a time,” which proved invaluable advice for the last three. As we rounded Marcus Garvey Park, I shouted back to EN, who was right on my heels, with Josh, You stayin’ with me? “I’m gonna try!” came back at me. 

That’s all I needed to hear. Jets: On! 114th Street was the final location I was expecting my folks, and they came strolling up at the exact moment I was running by. Once again, my father shouting my name was the only thing I heard, surely everyone on the course now knew who I was. I was so elated at this point, completely juiced with endorphins, that I took two steps BACK and jumped right into my dad’s arms. He lifted me off the ground and held me tight for a brief moment, then just as quickly I said OK, and I zoomed off to return to my great race. Love ya, Dad

After that, I never looked back (and I lost EN* somewhere behind me). I ran as hard as I thought I could sustain for however many miles were left–3, 2, 1. That gradual, mile-long hill up Fifth Avenue is a subtle, potentially demoralizing challenge–runners were dropping off to my left and right, I could feel the inertia building around me, and it took all I had to tuck my chin, pump my arms, and turn on the tunnel vision. Once I finally hit the top (nota bene: I passed a slew of other competitors on that hill), my determination sharpened even more, if such a thing was possible. I felt a gritty toughness, an isolation, a sense that the race had only just begun for me. I took my final Clif Shot, this time with caffeine. Giving in even a little to the way my legs were starting to tire wasn’t an option. 

The crowds at the entrances to, and throughout, Central Park were a single solid, wall of noise. I registered them in a blur, knowing I was running the most historic miles of the race, the miles where champions had surged to triumph or fell back in the shadow of another’s glory. I passed The Plaza Hotel, Columbus Circle, and my first-season TNT mentor KW screaming out my name so loud she actually shook me out of my zone. It was cold; these last few miles I wore my gloves, and it was the first time since Staten Island I wished I had something more on besides my thin singlet. I was breathing so hard, pumping my arms, remembering DRC Matt’s evergreen advice for a strong finish: stay relaxed and maintain form to conserve energy. Along Central Park South I saw a sign that said “Pain Is Temporary.” A perfectly-timed reminder: none of it mattered, the cold, my tiring legs, my maxed-out lungs and pounding heart. It would all be over in less than 18 minutes, and then I’d know, you’d know, if I could bring all my months of training, dieting, and planning to come to balance on the head of a pin. 

At the “One Mile to Go” sign, I glanced at little G and actually gritted my teeth. I wished someone would cheer me on, but instead I turned on my mantra, and let it repeat: Strong. Beautiful. From all of the Media Challenge events I’d run this summer, and last week’s Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, I was very familiar with the terrain leading up to the Tavern on the Green. I saw the “400 Meters to Go” sign and thought, just one more lap around the track. Strong. Beautiful.  Arms helping as much as they could, breathing as hard as I ever have during a race, and now here’s the Hill of Spite we must climb before we can cross the finish line. I can see the finish line… back straight, collar bone up, shoulders down. I’m running, Strong I’m moving right towards exactly where I want to be, Beautiful little G tells me I’ve got it, my sub-3:55 but there’s no way I’m not still charging towards that finish line Strong with every single shred of energy, spirit, Beautiful and heave of emotion I have left. And then, in a final flash of speed and heat I was across, I could stop, I could walk, I could look around. Breathe.

Finisher Area

A race official in an orange jacket took me by the arm, asked me if I was fine, and walked with me a few yards until I answered him (I was a little lightheaded). Finally, I turned to him, looked him right in the eye and said, Yes, I’m fine. Meaning, I am fucking amazing. He gently released me, sending me into the river of finishers, to get my medal, my food, my mylar, and my baggage. It was then that I gave in to my traditional post-marathon weepies, impressed and in awe of myself, grateful, overcome. Soon I pulled myself together, and marched right up to a smiling woman to have her drape my finisher’s medal around my neck. My medal, I love my medal. The circular gold medallion is embossed with the image of the great Grete Waitz, breaking the tape. It means a lot to me to have a woman on the medal for this race, my first New York City Marathon, with my new PR time affixed to it forever. Also, Grete is a favorite because when she raced, her hair was always tied back in two pigtails, and you can see them clearly on the medal. I like having this in common with her. 

You already know it. And I’ve got it memorized. But I’d be happy to tell you all again. I ran the 39th ING New York City Marathon in 3 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds, meeting my A Goal with 19 seconds to spare and running a negative split, with my last 13.1 miles 2 minutes and 35 seconds faster than my first. I improved my time for the distance by 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

Reuniting with my family on Central Park West was just as I’d hoped. Big, long hug and kisses from Husband, a whispered “I’m very proud of you, sweetie.” My mom, beaming. My dad, rowdy but also still touched by my leap into his arms at Mile 22+. And surprise, here were SS and DS, older relatives of mine who on the spur of the moment hopped on the train from Long Island and stood at Columbus Circle to cheer. (When told how the whole timing chip & mat system tracks the runners, an astounded SS said, “And they can’t find Bin Laden?”) 

We filed into the subway (marathoners ride free!), and I relished this, too. Ever since I moved into my first NYC home (Avenue C and 14th Street) in September of 1996, each Marathon Sunday I’d consider the mylar-clad runners on the subway with admiration and jealousy. I wish I could do that. It’s one of those quixotically New York things–the racers, patiently standing on the subway to get home just like every other citizen in the city. So, part of the enjoyment of my marathon day was taking the subway home (the 7 line, at which I’d waved just hours before), nodding at my comrades in solidarity and respect. My mom said to me later, “Everyone was looking and smiling at you.” I think she loved escorting a mylar-clad one as much as I loved being one. 

Once we were back in Sunnyside, Dad treated us all to a pub lunch at P.J. Horgan’s Tavern around the corner from my apartment on Queens Boulevard. I had a cheeseburger, fries, and a Yuengling draft (I’d begun fantasizing about this meal at Mile 16). Husband sat next to me in the booth, and I kept gratefully slumping against him, tired and happy. I didn’t tumble into bed until nearly 11 PM–I just didn’t want the day to end. It was magical and perfect, like Christmas and my wedding day, all wrapped into one.

*This race report wouldn’t be complete without a Thank You and a Congratulations to EN, for hedging my excitement so I could blast the final miles, and for setting your own PR during this race. Well done, on both counts, friend.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Despite two weeks of taper freak out, stress out and insecurity, I awoke on race day in a buoyant mood: happy, relaxed, and excited. Also, for the first time ever the night before a marathon, I got solid, uninterrupted sleep. 

Everything, down to defrosting my breakfast berries, had been laid out in procedure order the night before, so all I had to do was follow the yellow brick road. The Plan. I take great comfort in The Plan, and I followed it to the letter. Luckily, even things I had to leave to chance, like the weather, or the cab driver who took me to the NY Public Library to catch my official race bus to Staten Island, were fantastic. As I rode over the Queensborough Bridge, my excitement bubbled over as I thought I’ll be racing across this bridge later today! 

Compliments to NYRR’s, as all the tricky bits of logistics–getting runners onto the busses, shortening the lines at the port-a-johns, the new wave start–went off so smoothly. I was impressed and grateful, and it definitely helped me stay calm in the final hours before my race. Love ya and thank you, Mary & Corps! 

All the volunteers were cheerful and helpful, even the ones there at 5 AM, ushering us onto busses, directing us through the dark to our color-coded staging areas within Fort Wadsworth Park. I found a spot beneath a lamppost, laid out my trash bag, pulled on my third layer of warm-ups, and settled in with my 4 bottles of water, thermos of coffee, iPod and book (an early galley of Tim Dorsey’s Nuclear Jellyfish–hilarious stuff) to wait. I had four hours until I needed to start checking my bag and finding my corral (wave 2, corral D). 

Staten Island (Miles 1 to 2) 

It felt a little bit like a refugee camp, all of us huddled together, in the elements, wearing throw-away clothes and trash bags, hunched over steaming mini-cups of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. I was shivering involuntarily by 7 AM, despite the many layers of clothes I had on. Finally, finally EN called and insisted I sit with him and some TNTers in the blue area (I was in orange) so we could cluster together for warmth. This ended up being a good plan: even though it entailed more pre-race walking than I’d have liked, it kept me relaxed. 

EN decided he wanted to start with me, even though he was scheduled for the first wave, because our time goals for the race were very similar. Once again, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with a friend moments before a big race, and I felt grateful at the thought that my passion, this sport, has brought such quality people into my life. As I bent over to stretch my hamstrings, I saw a forest of running shoes around me, and grinned at the beautiful sight. I reflected on the years I’ve dreamed and planned for this race (since December 2006), all the training I’ve put in since July, all the spectating I’ve done (I’m not above banking on good karma), and the fact that I really had to pee! More props to the NYRR’s–there was a port-a-john IN the corral!! Brilliant. 

Then everything happened in a rush. The corrals merged, we walked to the starting line, some guy sang “God Bless America,” the cannon boomed, we shrieked, and Ole Blue Eyes started crooning “New York, New York.” I’d never before thought of this as a fight song, but man oh man was it ever in that moment. Grr, watch out New York because–as my best friend CB told me I would–I was gonna own the road today. 

It’s surreal, running over the Verranzano Bridge. Are those minty-hued arches really spread for me to pass beneath? Although, it could be argued that I wasn’t exactly running over the bridge. My first 5K was so slow (29:20) that even my mom told me, after the race, that she was concerned when she saw my split come through over Athlete Alert. (Bless her!) EN reminded me that we had 25 miles to make up our horrifying pace for Mile 1. The thing was, I was so chilled, my muscles were so cold from shivering and being still for five hours, that I simply couldn’t run any faster. I had to warm up and loosen up and get my engine humming. Before we even got off the bridge, EN and I had both gleefully stripped off at least one piece of clothing (he pretended to be the Incredible Hulk; I pretended to be Dita Von Teese). Bye bye ugly green pants; have a nice life striped hoodie; it’s been swell old race tee

Brooklyn (Miles 2 to 13) 

My calves and shins were painful these first few miles me, but thankfully it was as I suspected: once they were properly warmed up & loosened up, they gave me no problems. (I still did pop two Tylenol, though, at Mile 3). First impressions of Brooklyn: a woman saying “Go!” from her driveway in her bathrobe and slippers, a hungover-looking dude banging a pot with a wooden spoon from his fire escape. And then, barely 3 miles in, there was JB from the Green Mountain Relay hashers team, coolly greeting me by name. These first miles, all I wanted to do was get my pace back on track, closer to 9:09’s. I had now chucked all my layers, except my gloves, in which I love running because my hands do get cold even when everything else is warm; plus, the gloves can be used to sop up splashed Gatorade, to make sure I have no chocolate Gu on my chin, and to deal with a runny nose (yes, even my nose was running this marathon). 

Then there was KP, my friend from publishing, chasing me down to cheer me on along Fourth Avenue in his green scarf and silvery sideburns, as I ate my first gel of the day (Clif Shot Apple Pie). Gatorade. Then there’s my crazy-enthusiastic cousin DC shouting at me “Go! Run!”–she cheered for me in the Brooklyn Half, too. I missed my dearests, CB and JW, but as I suspected they were on the right side of the avenue, while I was on the left. I knew we switched neighborhoods when a middle-aged, potbellied Hassidic man almost got knocked on his tuchus trying to cross through the runners. Still trying to moderate my pace, keep it at 9:09’s but it was hard–stretches of the course really narrowed as spectators pushed towards us. I hit to 10K mark in 57:32 (improving my pace by 11 seconds per mile, but still not close to 9:09’s). Hardly anyone knew how to run through the water stations, and I began to regard them as treacherous, since other runners’ attention lagged, the road became sticky, and crushed cups were like fallen foliage in Vermont–proliferous, and blanketing. 

The crowds were so loud in Williamsburg, wow, can those hipsters cheer (they all were holding beers). This is when I started to feel contrary. Everyone talks about how the crowd support is so key, how it sweeps them along, how it’s such a notable aspect of the race experience. But for me, the noise, the crush, and the way it distracted and slowed down my competitors made me somewhat anxious. I didn’t want to knock into anyone, or stumble, or have to pull up or turn sharply. And I sure as hell didn’t want to have to run slower because Pierre and Lotchen wanted to sightsee as they ran through the colorful neighborhoods of my city. 

So, as we moved through the dregs of Brooklyn (sorry, Greenpoint), and came through Mile 13 in our approach to the Pulaski Bridge, my emotions started to ease up. I was running towards familiar turf, my breathing was comfortable, my form was strong, and I was on pace to complete the first half in under 2 hours (1:59:08), which was the first major marker of my race plan. I knew if I didn’t hit 13.1 in under 2 hours, it would be that much harder for me to reach my ultimate, A Goal – finishing in under 3:55.

Read Full Post »

I didn’t quite ever tell you all (somethings are private, after all), but my real, deep-in-my heart goal for this marathon was to break 3:55. I could have talked myself into being happy with anything under 4:00, but I burned for sub-3:55.

And friends, lovers, and mortal enemies, I DID IT! 3:54:41.

Click here for TK’s NYC Marathon Splits.

Race report, with images, to come as soon as I figure out what this purple bump is on my ankle.

Read Full Post »

Election? What election? I’ve got a marathon to run (left work early to get my number and chip at the Javits Center)….Thank you friends and family who emailed me about the story in yesterday’s New York Times. It’s interesting, because before I even read the article I was saying how I was afraid the crowded course would bug me….. Mikeroscopic forwarded me a link to this profile piece, with video, about Joe Bastianich (partner, with Mario Batali, of one of my favorite restaurants). Bastianich lost 45 pounds training for the NYC Marathon, and this article details how he got fit and trim without dieting or giving up entirely his favorite piatti italiani… To all my fellow fans of elite runners, the Men’s Olympic Marathon team (golden Ryan Hall, surprising Dathan Ritzenheim, and huggable Brian Sell) will all be in the NYRR booth at the Expo Friday afternoon (specifics HERE)…I also saw, when I picked up my bib today, that Magdalena Lewy-Boulet will be in the Saucony booth tomorrow afternoon (at either 3 PM or 4 PM)… And in somewhat linkable news from my industry, the semi-original approach to flapping up blogger support for books from Thomas Nelson includes this review copy request page….. Rounding up some of my favorite elites for you, Anthony Famiglietti and Shalane Flanagan both won their respective 5K Championships recently, and Kara Goucher (currently prepping for her own big Sunday) won the 10-mile Championship. Who doesn’t love a winner? Or at least a finisher?….

Liz Robbins’ A Race Like No Other was reviewed in the most recent episode (#111) of the Dump Runners Club podcast (grazie, Matteo)…. Liz will also be signing books and answering questions at the Expo this weekend (Crawford Doyle rocks for being the bookseller-at-hand)… And, if you wish to peruse the many reviews that have been popping up for this book, rather than buying a copy and reading the whole thing for yourself (which, um, YOU SHOULD DO), click through the bullets.

Read Full Post »

Or, the Post Series Formerly Known as Elipses. Massive public mortification, people. For all of us. You’re educated (right?). I’m educated. How is it possible that I’ve written ten “Elipses” posts over the last ten months and no one’s pointed out to me that I’ve been misspelling the damn word the entire time? It’s spelled: ee double-ell eye pee ess eye ess.

Lots of odds and ends to pull together here, I’ve been hoarding links for two weeks now… Title Nine has clearly drunk the Kool Aid as served up by the web marketing gurus, and has built a social network of sorts on its e-commerce site. I, of course, link its “Best of the Blogs” feature. Oh, and Husband already has my list for Christmas presents… For an excellent analysis of the debacle that was the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, a philosophical chat on what constitutes an elite in any given race, and some unapologetic opinion-expressing, visit Races Like a Girl… Adam Nagourney stated the obvious in the New York Times last week, “From years of traveling around the country covering political campaigns, I have discovered that jogging can be one of the great ways to explore a city. It is a way to go sightseeing and to discover hidden paths or neighborhoods.” It took him years to discover this? In the era of MapMyRun.com and RunthePlanet.com, this article, which highlights Indianapolis (Indianapolis? WTF!), made me squirm with embarassment for Adam. But perhaps my real quibble is his liberal and clueless use of the word “jogging“… My friend and running buddy LS is racing the NYC Marathon to raise money for her passion project, the International HUG (Help Uganda Grow) Foundation. iHUG sets out to educate Ugandan children, and improve their health and standard of living through community development. To help LS improve the lives of some really cute, sweet African kids, you should CLICK HERE to donate (note “LS” in the notes/memo field). Or, visit the foundation’s site and learn how you can volunteer stateside…If you’d like to win a free copy of the most worthy film Run for Your Life, about Fred Lebow and the development of the New York City Marathon, go to this bulletin board to post your memories/thoughts/goals about the race. All entries must be posted by November 1… For those of you who enjoyed my post about the Blues Traveler concert, click here to see some photos from the show, taken by one of Husband’s friends… Everyone’s/Everything’s gotta have a blog, even the New York City Marathon. Have I jumped the shark?… Now is the moment for Liz Robbins’ book A Race Like No Other, as marathon madness heats up here in my epicenter of a city. On November 1st, she’ll be inteviewed on the NPR show “Only a Game,” and she will be appearing at various bookstores around the Tri-State and Denver areas this week and later in November. Apparently, the author’s been blogging (hm, great idea!), too. Definitely check out the review posted at 5th Sun, and you can also watch a video, embedded here for you…

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »