Monday, November 2, 2009

I did it.

On November 1, from 10 AM to 2:09 PM I ran the New York Marathon.

Here's my story.

We flew to NY on Friday after work. I met Cathy and the kids at the airport.

We arrived at Lagurdia and went to Lynn and Harald's. We arrived around 9 and fed the kids and crashed.

That night I read on the Twitter that @lanceamrstrong was running the next morning...

So, against all advice I had ever heard, I decided to run the morning before the storm. Super cool of Harald to join up with me.

The next morning we rolled out of bed, strapped on the sneaks and headed to NikeTown. We saw Paula Radcliffe speak but we arrived late and I didn't really hear much of what she had to say. I only knew her as one of the voices on Nike+. Paula, Lance and Tiger, Pretty rich company.

We went outside and then Lance's bus arrived. He came out and started running. No speech, no gather round announcement. He just pulled up 10 or 15 minutes after 9 and then let's go.

We all started on this nice and easy run but pretty quickly it deteriorated into a sprint to get up to the front to talk or see Lance. I fell for it. I wish I knew how fast the party was but RunKeeper was not cooperating.

This is the approximate route. I remember seeing both the 24 and 25 mile banners. I also got to gaze upon the Apple Cube. Note Route 25 in the bottom right, that is the Queensborough Bridge, the site of much excitement the next day.

I flashed up to the front and grabbed a couple of pics. I Gasped out a greeting to Lance who regarded me and asked, "Are you going to run with that backpack?" I smiled and said, "yes." He kind of rolled his eyes without being obvious. The only other thing I remember him saying was calling out the runner's aphorism that "...when you reach the 20 mile mark the race is only half over." [For an explanation of why I planned to run with a backpack see this post]

A sentiment I had yet to experience.

Then I got dropped. I couldn't keep up with this crowd. By the end of the 4 mile route I couldn't see even one other person that started with Lance (except for Harald).

After the run I deleted RunKeeper from the iPhone and reloaded it. That solved my issue and after that RunKeeper would load right up with no hesitation or crashing. Then it was off to the Expo at Javitz. It was pretty cool. The line was epic. I had never in my life seen so many runners. This same jaw-dropping experience occured over and over again every time I interacted with the race. This thing is huge. I couldn't get over that there were this many people that were able to run this thing.

I got my number
I got my t-shirt
I met Anthony Edwards
I bought PowerBar Gel
and I kept thinking about what Lance had
said about the backpack...

The Expo was cool but it was time to get back to Brooklyn Halloween. And what a Halloween it was. Witches, cats, Storm Troopers, I mean Clone Troopers, and a Candy Corn Fairies (The first of two types of Ferry's/Fairies).

Trick-or-treating in Brooklyn is a new experience. Fun. Unique.

Colonel Sanders and his
chicken family

Post-It note

Sean of the Dead
All while we are Trick-or-Treating I am regretting my run. I am tired and a little run down. My confidence is knocked down. My feet hurt. And I can't stop thinking about what Lance thought about the back-pack. I'm convinced he is telling me, "...don't be a fool. Don't carry that weight if you don't have to..." At the same time, I am thinking about how chafed my neck is from the 4 mile jaunt this morning.

We get home and get take out (its New York after all) pasta and Pizza dinner.

About half-way through dinner I begin to freak-out about the marathon. I decide I can't wear the backpack. This means I have to carry my iPhone plus extended battery in my pocket. Not ideal. I set aside my clothes and supplies. I finalize my play list. Lynn gets me a car service. I set my alarm after setting the clock back for day-light savings.

I have no trouble going to sleep.

The next morning its off to the Staten Island Ferry by car service. (The first of many forms of transportation.) Then on to the Ferry.

Then we board a bus for the starting park.

I have never seen more Port-a-Johns in one place.

Everyone seems to love the bananas

I get off the bus and I have to pee.
I walk to the center of the camp and I have to pee.
I drop off my bag at the UPS truck and I have to pee.
My ADH is completely suppressed.

Caffeine, nerves or just a little too much water loading? Who knows?

No marathon induced hyponatremia for me.

I drop off my stuff at the UPS truck and go to my start position. The whole time I'm walking in the shadow of the Verizano bridge. It's huge.

My final twitter before the race. Strip off my sweater and sweatpants.

America the Beautiful.

The gun fires... and we are off.

The bridge is crowded. People are bumping you; it's hard to find a hole to run in. I am on the lower deck so there isn't much of a view, but the roof is really high, so no clausterphobia.

It feels like an easy pace. It's really exciting. The TV news helocopter flies close to the bridge to get some cool shots. Everyone cheers.

The bridge is long and we finally emerge at the two mile mark.
Into Brooklyn. People stop for a pee break.

I loved the run in Brooklyn. I was moving pretty quick. Gaining confidence. I kept a close eye on the 4 hour Pacers. I admit to myself for the first time that getting under four hours would be cool and plan on sticking with this pacer crew.

The first water break is around 3 miles. At four miles I hear the first person give me a personal cheer, "Looking good, Joel first time!" It feels great.

This way to Central Park!

I see Cathy and Lynn at 7 miles and never see them again.

We turn off 4th avenue.

Then in to the Black Neighborhoods, the Hipsters ghetto and then to the Jewish Black Hatters neighborhood.

And then across Pulaski Bridge and the thirteen-point-one half-way point. Into Queens, borough number 3 of 5!

We go through Queens and on to Queens Blvd and all I could think about was Entourage.

We leave Queens by crossing the Queensborough bridge. It's a long climb. Way longer than any parking garage I have climbed around here.

We arrive on the Island with 16 miles in the bag and a wall of sound from everyone cheering you into Manhattan. Number 4 of 5.

Ten miles to go. At this point I'm slowing down but still on pace for a 4 hour marathon. After meeting Cathy and Lynn in Brooklyn I haven't seen the pace team at all. I can see pretty far ahead of me and no balloons so I figure they must be behind me.
We turn on to 1st Avenue and essentially we just need to run up to the end of Manhattan, cross into the Bronx, curve into Harlem and race for the finish in Central park. Up. Over. And back.

First avenue is lined with people, 5 deep. There is a PowerBar Gel station and a wet sponge station. I eat my third of four Gels at mile 18. Four miles up First avenue and into the Bronx. Passed a fire at an apartment building. They actually drove a firetruck on to the course.

It's a quick trip through the Bronx with the highlight being a Chinese drum line banging on some huge drums. Very cool.

Cross the Madison Avenue bridge and we are in Harlem, bback in Manhattan. We have been to all the boroughs.

I am really starting to sag as we pass 22 miles. I tried to eat my last Gel and nearly vomit. I spit it out and hope I don't hit the wall.

Just before 23 miles we start running along side Central Park. Yea.

Then we enter the Park and I am really lagging. I have 2.2 miles to go and I don't think I can make it.

I see signs that say:
Pain is temporary. Dignity is forever.
It keeps me going. I start bargaining with myself. The logic goes:
If I walk now I will feel like I need to run another one so I finish. So the only way to avoid this pain in the future is to keep going.
I pass the 25 mile mark and still don't think I can make it.

A sign tells me half a mile to go. Sounds impossible.

400 meters. I can do it.
300 meters. I think I can.
200 meters, I can see the end.
The finish line. Did it.
Done. Done. Done.

Faster than Oprah (4:22:00), Faster than the average finishing time in the U.S. (4:16:00), just a minute behind Anthony Edwards.


  1. Way to go! Nice blog entry. Reading is experiential, so now I feel I can skip on running a marathon of my own. Thanks for the out.

  2. Well done! Congratulations. And thanks for sharing/documenting the experience.