Thursday, December 5, 2013

nyc marathon: the time i hated my life, then loved my life, then hated it again, questioned humanity and running while cursing a lot

So, I've been trying to write this blog post for weeks. Every time I'd open up the browser I'd get distracted, or bored, or would need a snack  - you know how it goes. Anyway, last I wrote, I was recounting running over the Verrazano bridge. I distinctly remember being grateful that I was on the upper level so that no one would pee into my mouth.*

*Tangent -- Men apparently like to urinate off of bridges during the marathon (in general? maybe?). My friend told me a story about his friend who had run the NYC marathon a few years ago. Apparently (supposedly?) he was running on the lower level, the wind changed directions and URINE WENT INTO HIS MOUTH. My dad kept telling me that it wasn't true, that it wasn't possible, but hot damn, it was a terrifying thought. 

Ok, back to the marathon. Did I seriously have to pee just after starting a 26.2 race? Go figure, man. Anyway, other than that I felt pretty good at the start of the race. Just after coming over the bridge into Brooklyn I was greeted by a very loud and happy Emma and Sam. I handed over my sweatshirt and my dad's socks (that I was using as gloves), gave them hugs and continued on.

I remember feeling pretty positive and good for all of the Brooklyn miles. It felt like a party - with bands, singers and stereo systems set up on almost every block. I can't tell you what my pace was since the GPS on my watch was completely out of whack. When I crossed the finish line it told that I'd run over 28 miles, mmkay. Regardless of my speed (or lack thereof), after managing to find a short port-a-potty line around mile 6 or so, I felt fantastic. I tried to take it all in - the signs, the high fives, the cheers - just the energy in general. It was incredible and unlike anything else I'd ever experienced. Though, I have to be honest, after about 9 miles in Brooklyn, I was ready to make my way into Queens (home borough!)..

I knew that Alicia and some of the NYC LUNA Chix contingent would be just over the bridge into Queens and I was very excited to see them! I hadn't seen any friends since Emma and Sam at mile 2, and I was still all smiles. They asked how I was feeling and I yelled "I FEEL GREAT! I LOVE THIS!". Very different from what I was muttering by the end of the second half of the race, that's for damn sure. 

I knew that the Queens portion of the route wasn't very long, and I wish that it had been more scenic rather than industrial. Having run the Queensborough bridge, I knew that it would be tough after having run about 15 miles. I found it to be a little depressing - it was a climb that felt like forever and it was almost totally silent. It was at the point of the race where you could tell that people were starting to get tired, myself included. After making the turn off the bridge into Manhattan, I knew that I had a lot of friendly faces to look forward to, and it definitely kept me going. 

Unfortunately it was around this time that my right (aka my good, non-surgeried) knee started THROBBING. It felt a little bit like someone was trying to pull my knee cap off, and it sucked. I was so excited to see j2 and Dave just before the 16 mile marker, and that my family would be just a few blocks ahead. It gave me such an energy boost to hear them yelling my name. After a quick hug and a kiss, I was off to try to find my family. 

After running a few more blocks I realized that I hadn't seen my parents. After a quick text to them, I realized that they'd been on the right side of the road and I hadn't made it over in time. I was so upset that it almost brought me to tears. So much of why I had become a runner was because of my dad, and the fact that he didn't see me during the race was a huge blow to me. That disappointment was only made worse by the terrible pain in my knee. 

I took a few walking breaks and realized that it wasn't really helping with the pain. I hated the bridge going into the Bronx, and I hated running through the Bronx simply because I was miserable. I put my headphones in, in the hope that the music would distract me from my increasingly bad mood. Coming over the bridge back into Manhattan I felt a tap on my shoulder - it was Alicia again! She asked me how I felt and it took everything I had not to cry. She was so positive, saying things like "You look great! You're running a marathon! You're almost to Central Park!". I tried to carry those words with me for the last five miles of the race. My last spectator along the course was Lori - she was around mile 24, just as I entered Central Park and man, I felt ragged. She walked with me for a little, encouraged me, and sent me on my way for the last two miles. Honestly? I felt pretty terrible. 

Alicia was right that the energy in Central Park would take me through to the end. It probably sounds silly, but it wasn't until I saw the 26 mile marker that it all really sunk in that I was going to finish the New York City freaking Marathon. Twenty miles of headwind, and five boroughs later, I finally crossed the finish line. It was pretty apropos that Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" came on my iPod as I crossed the finish line. My watch time was 4:59, which puts it at slightly (~30 seconds) faster than Disney, and about 4 minutes slower than Richmond. I think that I underestimated the difficulty of the course - those bridges are no joke, especially on tired legs. I was a little disappointed in my time, but at the end of the day, the time wasn't the most important thing to me. It was about the experience, about running through my home town, spending time with my friends, and (literally) following in my dad's footsteps. I'm not a fast marathoner, but I am a marathoner, and more than that, I am a NEW YORK CITY marathoner.

we had a moment. 
And that's that. 

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