A rare treat today for Triaspirational readers. On Sunday morning, I was on a plane to Grand Cayman, but two of my most cherished training partners were running the New York Marathon. The first thing I did when I got here was get online to check their splits - C. had just finished (in 3:46 - slower than he intended, but a great time, eh?!?), and I watched the numbers with bated breath as L. ran her last few painful-looking miles. Now she has written a race report for me to post on-blog!
L. isn't Triathlete L., who I've been running with recently on Wednesday afternoons. L. is rather my first great training partner and running companion - we started running seriously around the same time, a bit more than two years ago, and it has been a great shared adventure ever since. L. used to live about half a block away from where I do, so we could run together very regularly (we run at very similar speeds) - alas, she moved to Chinatown, at the very opposite end of Manhattan, so it does not happen so often these days.
Here is what she has to say about the New York Marathon, her first, which she finished in just under 4:30...
I didn't know that they played "New York, New York" at the start of the New York Marathon. I knew there was a cannon, and I suppose I shouldn't've been surprised--the New York Road Runners always play some sort of inspirational song at the start of a race, usually some appalling 90's dance number. I have a sentimental attachment to "New York, New York." When I was at Oxford it became, for a while, the song that was played at the end of every Drama Society party, and there would be a huge, boozy, circular kick-line of drunken British aspiring thespians, only some of whom had ever been to New York, and only some of whom would actually go on to pursue careers in entertainment. I'm pretty sure the girl who started the trend is a lawyer now. At any rate, the song is about big and potentially misguided ambition, which makes it perfect for undergraduates, and for the marathon, but actually really wrong for the Yankees, who play it at the end of every game, and who, in doing so, have been steadily ruining it for me since I moved here.
So after the start, after the cannon-launcher made a speech about how the previous cannon-launcher had died over the past year, and after he launched the cannon and we were supposed to start running they started playing "New York, New York" and I started crying. So many people! All doing the same kind of stupid thing! In New York, New York! So I spent the first 1/4 mile kind of overwhelmed and teary and trudging up the Verrazano Bridge. I thought I could run maybe a 4:15 kind of time, and set out to do so. I had a pace bracelet and everything. And my first mile was right on target! But that was going up the bridge. Going down the bridge I was 45 seconds too fast, and each of the next four or five miles were also too fast. I tried to slow down, but it was all just too exciting. I was wearing a t-shirt that said "OBAMAthoner" and had a (possibly backwards? it looked much better in the mirror than it did looking at it) drawing of the Candidate. When we came off the bridge I happened to be running next to a girl who had an "I Heart Obama" t-shirt on and a soldier in fatigues yelled at us "I LOVE OBAMA, TOO!"
The t-shirt was very popular throughout Brooklyn. But by the time I got to Fort Greene (mile 8-9 or so,) where people were perhaps the most vocal in their support of Obama, it was pretty clear that the Yes We Can atmosphere (and my own basic lack of self-control) had lead me to run way too fast for the first part of the race. While I was not yet in the World of Pain that Training Partner C had predicted, I could see it over the horizon. I had a hunch that I'd find it in Queens. And, indeed, Queens was fairly rotten. They gave out small banana sections there, which was encouraging, and they blasted "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" from the speakers as we started up the Queensboro Bridge, but it's a miserable neighborhood, and we were starting to be miserable marathoners. The bridge itself was predictably steep, and eerily quiet. You could hear the traffic overhead (we were on the lower level), and the footsteps of everyone around you. A lot of people walked. I didn't. That may have been a mistake.
Back in Manhattan I grabbed a tongue depressor of Vaseline from the med tent (my left armpit had begun to chafe, as had, it turned out, my lower back, but there aren't as many nerves down there and I didn't find out about that till much later.) They're generous with the Vaseline--more than a tablespoon per stick, and it gets everywhere. At this point we were on First Avenue, which is meant to be exciting, because it's long and straight and there are lots of people there. I thought it was just awful, for exactly those reasons. I need surprises, like hills and turns and variation in crowd noise to keep myself going. I started hurting in earnest, and I got tunnel vision, and I missed seeing my family at 98th street (though apparently my mother saw me and she says I looked awful.) By the time I got to the Bronx I was in terrible shape. There was no way I was going to finish in under 4:15. Hell, I might not finish in under 5 hours. I had to do stretches of agonized walking. I lacked the coordination to drink Gatorade and run at the same time, but starting running again after walking to drink the Gatorade was brutal.
But, the Obama t-shirt really helped! People kept saying "Obamathoner, Yes You Can!" at me really aggressively till I started running again. I did see my family at 98th & 5th, and managed to yell out to them "This is horrible! Never do this!" My brother jumped out and ran next to me for a block, and my uncle jumped out into the street with the sign my father had made. In Central Park things got bad again, though, with more limping and cringing, and more encouragement from Obama supporters, and I struggled through it in that fashion until suddenly at the half-mile-to-go mark I felt like I could run the rest of it pretty quickly. I think I ran that part *very* quickly, sprinting even. I passed hundreds of people and came in just under 4:30.
Then I was in agonizing, generalized pain going through the first few stages of the recovery area--medals, foil thing, and, most distressingly, person-who-comes-to-tape-your-foil-thing-closed, which I didn't expect and didn't understand. All I knew is that this woman was walking straight at me with a piece of tape pointed at my chest. I wanted to fight her off, but I would've had to drop the foil thing to do so, so she taped me shut and said "So you can use your hands now!" and I understood finally and felt like a fool. Then bags of food, then about a mile of very very slow walking in line to get bags and then get out of the park. Amazingly, by the time that was over I wasn't really in pain anymore and I could kind of walk. Turns out you really do need to keep walking for 20 minutes, no matter how awful it feels.
So thank you, NYRR, for putting us into that human cattle-chute, and thank you, Frank Sinatra, and thank you, Supporters of Barack Obama! (And thank you Jenny, for the spiffy running shorts.) Congratulations to Training Partner C for finishing a good deal faster than Sarah Palin, and I hope everyone voted today.
Thanks to L. for her account of the race, and congratulations to both L. and C. on finishing their first marathons on Sunday! (The first of many, I am thinking...)