Central Park South seemed to visually stretch on forever and the crowd of spectators were just as dense the whole way. I always knew there might be a chance that Jim wouldn’t be able to find a spot in time to see me before I turned one last time into the park for the finish line. Still, I watched carefully an eventually saw his blue sparkly hat. He saw me at the same time and raised the hat and shook it. He was still about 100 feet ahead, I couldn’t yet see his face. I couldn’t see if Arron was with him or if maybe he was holding out Bronx to join me to the finish line.
The Hardest Part
We have always likened my running and pace to a pony trit-trotting along and Arron had left this cute little stuffed critter for me to enjoy on my days leading up to the marathon. Loving the way the name could work both ways, I called the little fellow “Bronx.”
As I left Jim and Amy behind on First Ave in Manhattan I knew the next few miles might get tough. I wasn’t alone those next mile though, I had Bronx with me. A few days prior to the race I got it into my head that maybe I should carrying him through The Bronx as I ran the 4 miles between seeing Jim and Amy in Manhattan.
I was torn, I knew it would add levity to the tough miles but I hated carrying things in my hand when I ran. Just as I had been doing every fourth mile from the start, I would have to fuel and hydrate at mile 20. That would be tricky with a stuffed animal in my hand. The rule is to never do anything in the marathon that you haven’t practiced on your long training runs. To heck with that, I hadn’t run longer than 20 miles on my training runs, this was uncharted territory and I needed a boost. Bronx in hand, I headed out of Manhattan and across the Willis Ave. bridge.
The Bronx got really windy again. I am not sure if it was the lower profile of the buildings but the gusts buffeted us from every direction. I was able to tuck Bronx into the elastic SPIbelt band as I pulled out my treat of large Spanish olives stuffed with red Sour Patch Kids. It had been so chilly all morning that the candy centers had gotten hard and stuck in my teeth like Juju Bees.
With Bronx in my waistband, I was able to navigate the mile 20 hydration station, take my fuel and even grab a little section of banana that they were offering. No problem until the next half a block that was littered with dropped fruit and banana peels! I had gotten used to the sticky roads after the aid stations because of the spilled Gatorade but the bananas had me slow to almost walking to safely get through that area. Even after I had cleared the dropped fruit, I had to scuff my feet to get the slimy residue off of my shoes before I could pick up the pace again. Stations 20 – 23 would each be offering bananas but this one was the worst to try to run through.
I knew my pace was slow and my feet hurt pretty badly but running through The Bronx was some of the best times I had. I took my little buddy out of my waistband and waved him at the crowds, bounced him to the music of the bands or made it look like he was running too. One time I was just carrying him along, I heard a young girl exclaim to her parents, “Look! She is carrying a little horse!” I thrust Bronx into the air and waved him around so her parents could see that their daughter wasn’t crazy; I was carrying a little horse.
I realize folks probably thought Bronx had been with me from the start and that was sort of a funny joke in my mind. One runner asked me what the story was with it and I was honest in saying I was carrying him just until before I got to mile 23.
Don’t Stop Me Now
The Bronx was joyous! Those few short miles I spent in that borough are my most memorable. I tackled the big Two-Oh, kept moving with a happiness in my heart and a smile on my face for all of the course photographers. I really hammed it up when I had my pony in hand. As we turned and turned again, we ran past a wonderful band of at least a dozen Japanese drummers. Fantastic rhythms were being tapped out with such skill and I waved Bronx at them in appreciation. I must have looked manic, they stared at me like I was crazy.
The Bronx passed so quickly even though I had slowed my pace to a 13:00 MM enjoy it completely. In no time at all I was making Bronx run up the concrete side of the 138th St. Bridge into Manhattan and immediately after crossing the bridge we made a hard left onto 5th Ave. I was ready to start counting blocks to 110th St where Jim and Amy were waiting but my thoughts were interrupted by sirens.
Granted, I had been hearing sirens off and on throughout my whole run and had even seen some runners who were in need of ambulatory assistance. This included the oldest runner in the marathon whom I saw being taken off the course around mile 12. On 5th Ave., however, was different because emergency vehicles were backing directly onto and blocking almost the entirety of the street. A tall man running beside me slowed his pace just as I did as we looked at what was occurring. “No. No way,” we both said.
I knew we were both thinking of how runners on the Boston Marathon course had been stopped just about this far from the finish line in 2013 because of the bombings. I won’t say the Boston bombings are always on our minds, if they were we might not run at all. It does surprise me how quickly we are reminded when something like this happens. I could tell that runners all around me were trying to quickly assess what was happening, what we were going to have to do and how it would effect our marathon and our safety. Fifth Ave. was cold and blustery and slowing to a walk was not what we were ready for with over 4 miles to warm clothes and finish line fuel.
Looking at the map in the comfort of my own home, I can now see it was a hospital that we were passing. I am not sure why the vehicles briefly blocked the course but they were gone almost instantly. It was unnerving but not long enough to derail any of us from our run. We put the moment and the hospital behind us and ran into Harlem.
Best Day of my Life
The band at Marcus Garvy Park was loud and so were the crowds. I was getting tired but knew I would make it the final miles. The spirit of all of the spectators in Harlem was electric even in the cold afternoon. They singled us out, shouted our names as they looked us in the eye and sent us on our way with their energy.
The long straight-aways like 4th Ave. in Brooklyn, 1st & 5th Aves. in Manhattan were nice because of not needing to turn but difficult when they seemed to go on forever. Counting down the blocks to 110th St. my feet were hurting and I was a little cold and tired, it was getting hard but I had no doubts about completing this race.
Seeing Jim and Amy waiting for me on the corner signified I was starting my final prep to get it done. I could tell I was only going to need one of my fuel flasks so handed off one of my SPIbelts as I tucked the other under my shirt. The black band looked stupid over my shirt and there were dozens of photographers during the last few miles. Vain, yes, even those last fatigued miles of the race.
I gave hugs and kisses and reluctantly headed off to face a mile long uphill to where I would enter Central Park. I knew the final miles were going to be epic and I was going to take in every moment of it.
Continued in Manhattan…
Random notes – added as I remember them.
The sections of my race recap have been published in 5 installments, one for each of the 5 boroughs: (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx & Manhattan. The sections within the boroughs are given titles from songs that were playing on my playlist when I ran through those boroughs. Most of the marathon I couldn’t even hear my music because of the bands and crowds.