Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Many marathon musings!

The New York City Marathon cost me around $2,000, which includes the entry fee, airfare, hotel, cabs, food, a commemorative shirt and three pair of shoes for training during the summer. Plus maybe one Broadway show. Which might have been La Bête. Which I actually didn’t like. But I was a little excited about finally running the New York City Marathon so I had a hard time focusing on things like theater the whole weekend. Add to that the $2,500 we just spent on the bathroom renovation. And the roughly $12,000 I spend a year on my addiction to working out with a personal trainer.

So my disposable income and I decided that the elfin photos I stole off the NYC Marathon website are just as good as the huge, high-resolution images I’d get if I forked over $99 plus the inevitable handling fees even though I’d be doing the downloading so handling fees my ass.


I do have an actual photo to start my marathon photoblog. It features me and a dear family friend who flew in from Iowa to stay with her son and daughter-in-law in Brooklyn and cheer me on in the marathon. And also to take me out to dinner on Friday.

We ate at the up-to-the-minute trendy restaurant The Breslin in the hipster-cool lobby of the hipster-cool Ace Hotel. And our waitress, who was a little too perky to be plausibly human, took this lovely picture of us as we were busy digesting our warm olive-oily beer bread and lamburgers:

To welcome me to New York, The New Yorker also ran a commemorative cover that clearly shows me leading the pack of runners on my way to victory in the 2010 New York City Marathon:
(Again, since you read that I was the winner of the NYC Marathon here on my blog, there’s no need for you to waste time reading any of the official results. You’re welcome.)

So on to the marathon.

The NYC Marathon had a staggered start, and I don’t know how I got so lucky but I got the primo starting time. While other marathons send everyone over the start line at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, I didn’t even have to be at the Staten Island Ferry to be shuttled to my starting gate until 8:00. So I got to have a leisurely shower and a big, hearty, unrushed breakfast on my way to the ferry. And with the whole country falling back that morning, I got even more sleep!

My marathon wave took off from Staten Island at 10:40 am, once the sun was up and the sky was clear and the beautiful brisk day was as warm as its 50º would ever get. We ran the first mile up the soaring Verrazano Bridge and the second mile down it. Which was exhilarating and beautiful, but two miles of hills right off the bat? Ouch.

Anyway, this is what we looked like from the sky:

And here we are in closeup:

And here we are spreading out as we leave Staten Island and enter Brooklyn. If I’m in this picture, I’m somewhere on your left in a white disposable coat and sunglasses that reflect reds and yellows in pictures:

Can you stand one more picture of runners on a bridge? Here’s what we looked like flooding our way into Brooklyn:
Notice the throng of runners on the ramp coming from under the bridge. Those poor souls had to run their first two miles on the lower deck of the bridge, which may have been less hilly but it was also certainly less glorious.

I don’t know shit about the boroughs of New York, but this picture looks like what I remember Brooklyn looking like as we ran our first 12 miles through it. So we’ll say it’s Brooklyn:
Brooklyn, aside from being open and roomy enough for lots of runners and packed with screaming fans (aside from the mile-long-stretch of funeral-like quiet where it ran through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood), is also the only place I had to focus on finding people I knew in the crowd. My dinner companions from Friday were there to scream and cheer me on around mile 5, and it was a fabulous emotional boost to launch me into an even more fabulous emotional day.

The rest of the marathon is a blur of excitement, hills, screaming fans, hills, bridges, hills, brisk sunny weather, hills and the occasional hill. And aside from hills, the key word in that last sentence is blur. So I have no idea if these photos are in order. Except the first one, because I’m still wearing my disposable gloves, which I ditched around mile 6. Though I don’t remember walking in the first six miles, so this photo must be a hack Photoshop job designed to undermine my macho street cred:

The other hack Photoshop jobs on the marathon photo site include making me look fat with matronly legs:

And making me look fat with a rabid-dog face:

Thankfully, one photo actually makes me look kind of macho:

And after blurring my way through five boroughs (and right alongside the Citi corporate office building in Long Island City where I used to make endless business trips long before it occurred to me that I’d even ever want to run the NYC Marathon), huge always-curiously-uphill swaths of northern Manhattan, endless throngs of screaming fans, and three painful but beautiful final miles in Central Park (where Jared of Subway weight-loss fame actually passed me, surrounded by his retinue of hunky trainers), I finally crossed my last marathon finish line with my head held high and my freshly reactivated stress fractures in my feet screaming unflattering expletives at me:
See that woman in the black zip-up and white shirt in the bottom left corner? I met her on the Staten Island Ferry and chatted with her for a bit as we sailed our way (past the Statue of Liberty! which I gawked at like a tourist!) to the runners’ starting village. We parted ways when we docked but then randomly reconnected in one of the village warming tents. And as we walked to the starting line we decided at the last minute to do one final pre-emptive pee as we passed a bank of port-a-potties. Which made us quite literally the last two people to cross the starting line in the last heat of the marathon. And we ended up running pretty much the entire marathon together (and never needing to stop to pee). I, a veteran of six marathons, helped calm her apprehensions about running her first marathon, and she, a New York City native, told me all kinds of great stories about the boroughs and neighborhoods we ran through. She was an awesome running partner and a delightful addition to an already super-mega-fabulous-glorious day.


The NYC Marathon was my best friend from the moment I received my “I’M IN!” welcome kit in the mail last summer all the way through the NYC packet pickup, the shuttle to the start line, every thoughtfully organized point along the marathon route, the finish line, and the delivery of our goodie bags and finisher medals:

But then suddenly the hospitality was over. I was forced to shuffle along with thousands of freezing, exhausted finishers on a death march past at least a mile of trucks lined up with our checked bags and then dumped out into a barricaded street with no place to sit down, no shuttles to transportation, no cabs and enough of a traffic clusterfuck that I ended up walking what I estimate to be at least three miles to my hotel. It was a disappointing way to end a fabulous experience, but it is really my only quibble about the entire day.

Except for the next day at the airport, where I saw a good hundred people in their marathon shirts—which is cool—and a good 10 people sporting their marathon medals—which is not. Maybe it’s the stoic Norwegian in me talking here, but wearing your medal the day after a marathon is as garish and desperate-looking as wearing your homecoming queen tiara to your 10-year reunion.

My medal was tucked quietly in my carry-on where nobody needed to see it. And as soon as I got home I hung it on my sturdy Gargoyle o’ Medals Plus a Few Disco Ball Necklaces … which holds court discreetly on the inside of my closet:

I may be done with marathons, but I’m already signed up for the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago next summer. And I kinda want to do the Disneyland Half Marathon in Anaheim next fall. But traveling for another race involves money, and I’m currently on a spending hiatus … just in time to navigate my personal budget through the upcoming holidays.

In any case, I finally got to run the New York City Marathon and it was every bit as awesome as I’d hoped it would be. And looking back at it through grainy, elfin pictures actually matches the blurry memories I have of running past cheering fans through neighborhoods I'll probably never traverse again. My marathon phase was a fabulous part of my life, but it's done and I'm more than happy now to enjoy it through my memories and my blog archives and my grainy elfin pictures. And my Gargoyle o' Medals.

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