On November 2nd I ran in the New York City Marathon. This was my first time running in this marathon and my third solo marathon. I had first applied for the NYC marathon the day after I completed my first marathon at Disney World. I had such a great experience that I knew I wanted to do another. I did not get into that race because of my lack of experience. At least that is what the rejection e-mail said. I did not think too much about it again since I had started getting into triathlon. Once I did my first Tri I was hooked. Plus getting to work on additional muscle groups was a huge bonus.
When I was in Lake Placid I attended the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) team luncheon. I was racing in Ironman Lake Placid to honor my friend Jeanie who is battling Multiple Myeloma. Towards the end of the luncheon Jane, who runs the Marathon teams for the MMRF Endurance Events, asked if anyone was interested in a bib for the NYC Marathon. I jumped at the chance. How could I not? I had nothing major on my schedule in November and plenty of time to train. Boom. I was in!
I forgot how much harder marathon training is than Ironman training. All you do is run. A lot. I averaged about 40 miles a week. That is much more than my Ironman training plans call for. I was a little concerned as I began to slow down despite putting out the same effort. I thought I was burning out. My dream of a 3:45 marathon seemed out of reach until two weeks before the race when I started to get faster again. I was just getting used to running on tired legs I think, and learning how to push through the tired. I was ready.
I traveled to NYC with Jeanie and her friend Gina. Gina had flown in from California to race with and support Jeanie. (Note: Jeanie is not only battling Multiple Myeloma, she is running marathons.) The three of us had a great trip down to NYC and after checking into the hotel walked to the Javits Center to get registered. Registration was like nothing I had experienced in a race. With 50,000+ runners there were rows of registration booths. Fortunately the lines were small and the three of us got our packets, race shirts, and assorted goodies quickly. We then walked through the Expo to see what was there and headed out on the street to catch a ride to Central Park where Jeanie and Gina were representing the MMRF in the Parade of Nations. I tagged along.
At the Parade of Nations representatives from each country in the race were organized by country and they were given a sign with the name of their country. The charities were represented at the front of the parade line. I stood with the US delegation, carried a US Flag, and held the sign with United States of America for a while. The parade started, we walked through the finish bleachers where people cheered, music played, and a USA chant was started. The parade finished with fireworks. Another fun experience in NYC! After this the three of us went out to eat and then Jeanie and Gina went to the hotel. I headed to the bus station to pick up the fourth member of our group, Ashley, who had to work late. One thing that really amazed me throughout the weekend was how friendly New Yorkers were. When we were headed to the Expo people offered directions. When I was looking for the bus terminal people were helpful in getting me there. It was perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend.
Jeanie and Gina are old friends. As often happens old friends stay up late talking. Since they were up late they slept in so Ash and I headed out for breakfast and then to the expo so Ash could get registered and I could visit the KT Tape booth to have my ankles taped. While I was getting taped Jeanie and Gina arrived. Gina wanted to meet her hero Katherine Switzer who was at the expo signing her book. We stood in line and we all got to meet Katherine and get pictures with her and hug from her. If you do not know who she is please read this. She is an amazing woman who is a pioneer not only for running; she is a pioneer for women’s rights.
|Gina, Katherine, Jeanie, Ashley, Larry|
Next up was the MMRF luncheon where Jeanie gave an amazing speech about living with Multiple Myeloma and runner after runner got up and shared their stories about why this cause was so important to them. It is moments like this that make me grateful for my health, and reinforce how important the work that the MMRF is doing. I am proud to wear the MMRF kit and let people know how they are changing the business of fighting cancer. On those days that I do not feel like working out I think about those who cannot, and I get myself out that door. I am lucky. During the luncheon Jeanie’s husband Mike surprised her by showing up with all four of their children. The emotions were running high, and we still had 26.2 miles to run.
|Jean the Keynote Speaker|
After the luncheon we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the race. It was time to eat a little pasta and chicken, pack the bags, and get some sleep. The alarm was set for 4:00 am and soon I was sound asleep. The alarm went off and I awoke instantly. Race Day! I got dressed, grabbed all of my bags, headed to the lobby and checked out of the hotel. They would watch the bags during the race. The only thing I was keeping with me was my clear bag with all of my race day supplies and the clothing I was wearing. The four of us walked out of the hotel and were greeted by the dark and chilly morning. The forecast called for temperatures to be in the mid-40’s with steady 25+ mph winds. The forecast was accurate. It was chilly and downright cold with the wind. We hurried up Broadway to Central Park where the buses that would take us to the start on Staten Island were waiting. We picked a bus labeled with MMRF, grabbed some seats, and prepared for the day to come.
I ate my breakfast on the bus and looked out the window as the bus made its way to the starting area. After what seemed to be a very long ride (which I knew I would have to run back) we arrived. As we got off the bus our bags were searched and we were wanded with metal detectors. All four of us were cleared and we walked over to the Charity Village. This was a fenced off area where the charities had tents set up that racers could sit in to keep warm. Unfortunately due to the high winds the tents did not have sides. Still, it was better than nothing. My start time was at 10:05 so I did not have too long to sit and shiver until it was time for me to get my race gear on, and drop off my bag that would be waiting for me at the end of the race. I wished my friends good luck, gave them all hugs, and headed off to my corral. I was in the second wave in corral F.
|Trying to stay warm|
The wait in the corral was longer than expected. The positive side of this was a large number of people to huddle with to stay warm. The negative side was having to huddle with a large number of strangers. Finally the line started to move and I kicked off my sweat pants. All discarded clothing was being donated to those in need and on a day with those temperatures and winds there was a lot of clothing piled up. I kept my sweatshirt on until I crossed the starting line and as soon as I warmed up I tossed it to the side. At the beginning of the race you run across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. This bridge is two miles long, and is almost 700 feet above the water. Running across it I felt so small. The wind was intense with gusts over 50 mph. Jackets, newspapers, bags, and trash were blowing all over. Fortunately I missed all of the debris and as I reached the apex of the bridge my watch beeped and I looked down to see that I had completed my first mile in 9:08. I wanted to have an overall pace of 8:35 per mile and knew that I would start off slowly. As we came off the bridge the wind pushed from behind and my second mile was at 8:15. We were now in Brooklyn.
The race really started to show its character here. There were bands and crowds lining the streets. For almost the entire way to the finish from here there were crowds everywhere. It was great. I gave high fives to kids all along the way and had a smile the entire time. By this time I had settled into a groove and as the miles piled up I was exactly on the pace I wanted. I was feeling really good. I was sticking to my nutrition plan (Power Gel every 30 minutes, Salt stick every hour, drink Gatorade at every aide station) and my energy was strong for the most part. While I kept the pace up, every 25 minutes I would feel my energy flagging. I would have my energy gel five minutes later and soon I was fully charged again. The only times I slowed down were sections where the course narrowed a bit and I could not pass people, and the one time I stopped at the port-o-potty.
The course wound through the city and I felt like I was getting a tour of the city that I would not get any other way. From the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn to Queens and Harlem each section of the city was unique and similar. There were changes in architecture and different signs on the buildings yet the people were the same. All smiling, cheering, and many holding entertaining signs. I continued on at my steady pace and soon I was on 5th avenue. I did not realize until I was there that there was a long steady climb on this section of the race. It seemed to take its toll on many runners. I passed many walkers in this section, and for the rest of the race. I managed to stay at my goal pace and when I passed the 24-mile marker gave it all I had. While not much faster, I managed to average 8:22 per mile in this section and even got to 8:01 through the final .2 miles.
The course turns in and out of Central Park for the final two miles and as I made the final turn towards the finish I pushed hard. I had walked this section in the parade and knew exactly what lay ahead. I crossed the finish line and pumped my fist. I had finished. Since there was no way for me to run the tangents on the course my gps distance and the official race distances were different. While the official distance of the race is 26.2 miles, by the end I ran 26.53 miles. My official finish time was 3:48:49 good for a pace of 8:44 per mile. My watch time showed 3:46:35 good for a pace of 8:33 per mile. If not for that one rest stop I would have nailed my race goal. I cannot be any happier with my results.
The only disappointment on the day was the post race. I, along with a mass of finishers, trudged forward. About ¼ of a mile after the finish there were people handing out medals. Another ¼ mile walk and we received foil blankets. Another ¼ miles and we received a plastic bag with an apple, pretzels, water, and a protein drink. At that point the runners were separated into two groups. Group A did not have a bag forwarded to the finish line. They received a poncho. Group B did not receive the poncho that would have been welcomed on a cold windy day. I was in group B. We marched along to the trucks that had our bags. It had to be at least another ½ mile to that point. I was getting cold. I finally received my bag and continued walking until I found an exit out of the park. Once out of the park I grabbed a bench and put on my warm clothes. Better. I then continued walking to the Starbucks at Columbus Circle, which was our designated meeting spot. I knew I would have to wait a bit since Jeanie, Gina and Ash had started two waves after me.
At Starbucks I grabbed a large coffee, pulled out my Nook and read. The place was packed, as was expected. Soon I found myself in conversation with a runner from Finland who had come in for the race. It was fun trading stories with another runner, especially one from another country. This was her first marathon and her excitement at finishing was palpable. Three times my phone vibrated as I got alerts the Ash then Jeanie and Gina had crossed the finish line. In time the four of us were reunited and there were hugs all around. Mike and the kids were so proud of Jeanie. It was quite a day for all of us and the only thing left was to walk, yet again, to the hotel, get the cars, head to Katz’s Deli for dinner, and to drive home. My long and rewarding day came to an end at 2:00 am with a shower and bed. All in all a great day, and a fantastic experience.
I would race anytime in the future with Jeanie, Gina, and Ashley. They made the experience even better than it could be if I had been solo. I also plan on more MMRF events in the future. They do so much great work. I am honored to be a part of their team. Please consider making a donation to help them make it possible for people like Jeanie to thrive as they battle this disease. You can donate here and help make this a chronic condition instead of a life threatening one.