I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Running New York
The preparations for a race that starts at 10:10 a.m. actually start at 3:45 a.m. to be able to catch the bus. I had been told that taking the Rockland bus was one of reliable ways to get there; it would have helped if the driver had known directions before taking off…and leaving the steering wheel unattended in the middle of traffic while he used the bathroom didn’t do much for my confidence either but…we made it not without my friends hearing me say a few times "we should have hired my guy!!!"

After hours waiting in the cold, the marathon kicks off with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blasting in our ears. A song I had always disliked, I found myself singing along and swinging my arms up in the air with the other runners. The demeanor was of excitement and camaraderie. It didn’t seem that anyone around me was there for any other reason than to have a blast but then again, the ones around me where the normal folks, the 4+ hour runners, the ones who knew they were not going to be running side by side with Lance.

Off we went, up a hill for a mile, down a hill for a mile, my friend and I sharing the bridge with the other 34,998 runners. The next 24 miles would be filled with a sea of spectators yelling our name (or in my case my friend’s name who ran next to the crowds). The spectators offered gum, candy, water, Vaseline, paper towels…that, I am still trying to figure out what for. Makes you wonder how non-runners can be so much into running but what they are watching is not a marathon, it’s a happening!

The roads are covered with a green carpet of Gatorade cups at the water stations; the shoes make a squishy sound as they touch the sticky surface of the concrete but you go on high five-ing, smiling at the crowd, dodging walkers, shoving elbows with the runners next to you and avoiding banana skins that threaten to take you off balance. Imagine falling and having a stampede of uncaring runners stepping all over you! Can’t waste a minute helping someone up, that minute might be the difference between reaching your goal or not, but this is not that kind of race, this is the race to stop and hug your relatives along the course, take pictures with your friends and trip over one another. A woman stopped and offered me her cup when I couldn’t reach the Gatorade table. I took it and thanked her and kept going.

And we kept moving forward trying not to lose each other in the crowd. My History teacher spotted me and said hello. He ran with me for a few minutes until he fell behind…yes, he did. A 2+ minute faster 5K’er can’t beat me in a marathon, YAY! Oh, back to telling you this is not a competitive marathon…

I can’t pick one borough out of all 5 that I liked better, the crowds were just incredible everywhere. I wonder who participates in those polls that depict New Yorkers as unfriendly, certainly not these folks cheering us!

Then we enter 1st Avenue, wave to the patients at Sloan and receive the much needed encouragement from the crowds now that my legs are beginning to tell me that no matter how much fun New York is, the distance remains 26.2 miles.

And then the last stretch into Central Park, trying to see myself in that huge screen at the entrance to the park and waving again to the same friends and relatives who saw me at mile 17 and said “you look great”, at this point they are reserving their comments.

We finally see the clock, the cheers even louder – praying to God that I don’t cramp up, I gotta look good for the picture. And finally we cross the finish line side by side. Hey, if my best friend and I can run 26.2 miles and not kill each other, I know we are going to be friends for ever at least until she convinces me to run another marathon.

You see, running a marathon is like childbirth, you can’t remember how horrible it was until you do it again, so while walking wrapped in my aluminum foil to get my bag, the labor pains of mile 23 are just too real to think of another one. Right now, I just want that glass of wine we talked about….hey, do you want to sign up again for next year?