Monday, November 29, 2010
New York City Marathon - Part 2
In my mind's soundtrack, Rocky's "Gonna fly now" was playing. I was running through Brooklyn's familiar streets buoyed by the masses of people who'd come out to cheer. The marathon route stretched ahead of me in the city's greatest tailgate party and I was ready to enjoy it. My feet were pounding the pavement and I was feeling lucky and honored to be there.
It wasn't so on the Verrazano. Two minutes past the starting line and I was already freaking out. I went from goosebumps and tears of joy to desperately wondering where the exit was as soon as the climb to the bridge started. My legs were aching and panic was bubbling right below the surface.
I had to remind myself that I'd trained for this and that I was ready. It's just that starting on an uphill with no warm-up is rough on the legs. I turned on my shuffle. Even though I'd been running without music, I'd taken it thinking I'd wear one bud if the going got rough. I thought music might help me until we got to Brooklyn, but I couldn't hear the music. I fumbled with it then decided it wasn't worth it - that I'd rather be in the moment. I had no idea if it was broken, out of power, or had decided to go on vacation. I didn't need it: there was a human stampede on the longest suspension bridge in the Americas and I was part of it.
It was better to focus on not going too fast and enjoying the view.
As we came off the quiet and relative solitude of the bridge, the Brooklyn crowds welcomed us with a roar. Bay Ridge was on its Sunday's best and though I'd been happily high-fiving little kids, it was even more exciting to high-five a familiar face: Craig, a former neighbor was waiting for me at 83rd Street. It was around there that Toomer passed me like a shadow and that's also when I noticed I was surrounded by people with 4:20 pinned on their backs.
The most optimistic estimates put my finishing time at 4:45, more realistic ones at 5:15, so I dialed it back a few notches and let the 4:20s go ahead. Running felt easy and though I did not feel I was running too fast I knew I was supposed to go a lot slower if I wanted to be able to make it to the finish line.
As that group passed me, a fellow PPTC teammate caught up with me. We ran side by side, in sync for the next few miles, occasionally commenting on the sights - 'Did you see that? Crazy!' - until she peeled away at mile 6 to grab water and I ran ahead to meet friends waiting for me at 22nd Street. There I stopped for a quick photo op, dropped the hat and the shuffle, and continued down 4th Avenue.
It's a well known fact that Brooklyn is the best Borough and it did not disappoint on marathon Sunday. Signs, music playing, little kids thrilled to be getting high-fives and people cheering enthusiastically - excited for the runners and in turn making the runners even more excited to be running. 4th Ave was a gone in a blink and then I hit Lafayette where the party was bigger and louder and where I had three different sets of friends waiting for me.
I almost missed the first two. They were swallowed by the crowd and I didn't see them until I'd almost passed them. I would've stopped, but my feet couldn't stop moving. I was in a stream of marathoners and I had too much forward momentum. I managed to see the third group a block away and was able to slow down and give them sweaty hugs and kisses. I was running and dancing my way through Brooklyn, whooping, clapping, and fist pumping on my merry way to Queens.
What was all the fuss about? This was easy! This was fun! I could do this forever, I thought.
Little did I know there'd be bridge heartbreak, port-a-potty drama, and curbside despair in my near future.
To be continued...
Previously, Part One.