I started writing this the day after the race, but never got it up- that’s what she said…
NYC Marathon- November 6, 2011.
When I started dating my girlfriend, who is also a runner, it was around the time that the lottery opened up to join the 26.2 mile NYC Marathon through all the boroughs of New York. I told her that I had this unshakable feeling that we were going to get picked, but she was not as certain seeing as how she had been denied for the last two or three years. Despite my hunch, we were not picked, but three weeks before the race her friend and husband offered her and I their entries (they “won” the lotto) at face value.
“Are you sure,” she asked them.
“Yeah- positive,” they responded. “We haven’t trained enough for it.”
“Umm, the race is in three weeks and neither have we- but we’ll definitely take them,” she said.
So even though we didn’t get in through the lottery, my unshakable feeling about running this year’s NYC Marathon was, in the end, correct.
When I tell people this story I often get this response…
“Wait, you have to win a lottery to run it? There are that many people that want to do this? You have to pay to do this ($180)? WTF?”
The answer is a resounding yes to all queries. There are a few routes to be one of the 45,000+ runners in the NYC Marathon…
- Get a qualifying time in a qualifying race, aka. be Kenyan.
- Win the race lottery
- Run for charity (raise like three or four thousand $$$)
- Be denied three consecutive times in the lottery and be guaranteed a spot in the 4th year
- Run 9 NY Roadrunner Races that year.
So her and I were under-trained- to say the least, though we had run the Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half-marathon a month prior, and we just ran the three weeks leading up the race like any other training period, 50-60 miles a week, minus the taper.
But enough about that….
The race itself was without a doubt the most exciting event I’ve been apart of. A family friend let us use their three bedroom apartment on Central Park West all to ourselves marathon weekend- it was great staying in Manhattan and feeling the palpable energy that the race inspires throughout the city; not to mention a huge help having a place to retire just steps from the Central Park finishing line. Everywhere we went we were meeting people running the race, which in turn led to us meeting non-runners who wanted to ask “You’re running 26.2 miles? What are you nuts?!”
As we laid in bed that night, I watched this video on my iPhone with Alec Baldwin talking about the NYC Marathon…
NYC Marathon Alex Baldwin prorez from Marc Beroza on Vimeo.
It seriously gave me chills; I was so fired up to lace up and get out there. From Manhattan, we boarded the Staten Island Ferry, which, believe it or not is actually ranked as one of Lonely Planet’s best water trips that you can take anywhere in the world; it is a free ride that offers riders an amazing view of the NYC skyline and the statue of liberty- and in November it is also very…very cold 🙂
Stepping off the ferry and into Staten Island, you board a bus and head to the starting point. The Verazzano Bridge- seeing it on television is impressive but being a part of it is even more amazing. The most jarring part about running on the bridge is thinking that the signs posted are for you, “must stay in lane,” “merge ahead,” when really they were put their for cars. It’s not likely that the architects of the bridge ever thought people would be embarking on a 26.2 mile journey by foot, willingly, on this metal masterpiece. The cannon goes off and Sinatra’s New York, New York blasts from the speakers- off you go!
After Staten Island you’re led into Brooklyn, more specifically Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and people are cheering you on like they were watching the Olympics. Everyone wants to give you a high five, cookies they made, water bottles, all kinds of stuff- this permeates throughout every part of the city- you are never greeted by an empty street at any turn.
Despite having put well over 1,000 miles on my 6 pairs of Brooks running shoes this year, I don’t consider myself a runner because, well, I hate running. But I love the races, and this one was without a doubt the most inspiring that I have been a part of. Everywhere you looked you had people wearing shirts that said “first marathon,” or “running because I’m not letting cystic fibrosis stop me,” “running to cure AIDS,” “Running to leave the old me behind me.” It may sound cliche or whatever but this is what running a marathon does- you don’t finish the person that started- I always finish a race with a different level of focus, but this time I finished with a different level of appreciation for many things.
At mile 18, I hit what runners call the proverbial wall. Where you either just think you can’t finish, or you’re pissed off about something, or whatever- for some it comes at mile 21, 23, whatever- mine came at 18. I just didn’t care if I finished. I wanted out, but you man up and carry on- what did it for me this time was a woman that had a shirt on that said “running for my son. 1/7/84-11/9/2010- my birthday is 1/2/84, so if that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. It doesn’t make your feet hurt any less, but at least you can appreciate that you’re alive to feel them hurting, right? Right.
My girlfriend was running wearing a Team in Training shirt- a group that her and I work with to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society doing athletic events. A runner in his 70s came up to her and said, “I just want to thank you because I have melanoma and you might be saving my life,” and then he blew right by us. 😉 Crazy stuff.
The best part of the race- besides burning 2,600 calories and the dinner at the UWS’s Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto that followed it- was all the unofficial entertainment that went on around you- every block there was something different- an Asian drum band in Long Island City, Reggaeton groups in Brooklyn, rappers all over the Bronx- it’s an event that only brings out the best in people.