It was extraordinary that Jim and I had been able to see each other on Central Park South and the crowd let him through to give me one last hug. Arron was not by his side but I hadn’t quite made it to the finish line before his matinée had let out. Arron was on the phone with Jim trying to make his way through Columbus Circle security and through the crowds. Jim handed me the phone to hear Arron and I quickly told him I loved him and I had to go. I knew I would meet up with them after the race along Columbus Ave so I had better finish the marathon and get there as quickly as I could. As I ran along the last block before turning toward the finish, I kept looking to see if I might catch sight of Arron. The crowds were so dense and I was losing hope as the turn approached. I yelled into the spectators, “If you are out there, Arron Scott, I love you! Wherever you are Arron Scott, I love you!” I turned right, back into the park and toward the finish line without hearing a response. Beating him to the finish line wasn’t nearly as fun as I had imagined it. I wished I could be sharing the moment with him and I was left a little flat just before what was to be one of the biggest moments of my life.
Just What I Needed
Back on 5th Ave, with three miles before the finish, I had just left Bronx (the stuffed horse) with Jim in exchange for a baggie full of colorful notes. They were notes from many dear people in my life to support me through the toughest final miles in the marathon.
Pulling them out, one by one like giant fortunes, I savoured each one and thought of the people who took time to send me well wishes. They were funny, dear, heartfelt and creative. My one friend’s grandchildren wanted to support me and they wrote me notes too; the youngest was pre-writing so colored me a picture and her brother had faith on my “winning” the race. Past coworkers, my coach, physical therapist, teammates,friends for years, family all pitched in. I was so touched.
I knew I would need a boost on the mile which 5th Ave climbed a bit before I entered Central Park near 89th St. Each time I wold read a note, I would hold the paper, picture the individual who wrote it and crumple it before dropping it on the course. I felt like they were blessing that stretch of the marathon on 5th Ave. The great thoughts were just what I needed to take my mind off of how difficult that mile was.
Just before turning into Central Park, I pulled out a note from my Dad. Dad had been through so much this past year. As a post stroke survivor, I knew typing this short message to me was well thought out and heartfelt, “A big AttaBoy! love, Dad” I held the note, thought of my Dad and years of training with him as my coach at the track came back to me. He had believed in my running before our country had equal opportunities for girls and women in sports. Back when running was considered unladylike, female athletes were limited to 800 meter distances in competitions and before Title IX was implemented, Dad was encouraging my love of running. I choked up and almost had to stop, overwhelmed with emotion I had to put the rest of notes in my SPIbelt if I wanted to continue.
I’m Still Standing
Central Park was so familiar to me but had the addition of security, aid stations and crowds like I had never experienced before. Even running the Women’s Mini never had spectators lining the entire course in the park like this. It was also odd not to wave to the statue of Fred Lebow (For a few days, it is moved annually to the finish line to get around the 1994 moratorium on placing new “permanent” monuments in Central Park).
With a little more than 2 miles to go, I took in my last fuel and hydration at the mile 24 tables then set off to tackle the last of the race. The hills in the park were challenging on my super sore feet and tired legs but I was familiar enough with them that I knew they wouldn’t go on forever.
Realizing that I still needed a check mark on my shirt (see it here) to show I had completed running through The Bronx, I pulled up short on one turn and asked a woman to assist me. She was like an angel watching just where I fumbled and gotten my red Sharpie out, she checked off my shirt and put it back in the zippered pocket for me!
It was soon after that I found myself talking aloud. Whether it was to myself or the familiar Central Park route I am not certain, “Yeah, running DOWN Cat Hill is a nice change. There it is, Hi cat!” I waved to the bronze crouching mountain lion statue called, Still Hunt.
Photographers were crouching all over and I decided to ditch my arm warmers then neck gaiter over the last mile and a half. They took dozens of photos of me and I am able to tell where in Central Park I am by noting my various states of undress as I get closer to the finish line.
It was on the block just before seeing Jim where I knew my endurance was waning and I was getting intolerant. The band that was playing along Central Park South, just after exiting the park, was playing some Western song and I started to get angry, annoyed and nauseous. This happened at mile 21 in the Wineglass Marathon when I wanted to kill a group of people for blasting some Randy Travis-esque song. This time I reminded myself that the music meant something to someone, to dig deep and keep moving.
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
I have been describing my running on Central Park South with my teaser lead-ins for this and all of my other sections that recap this epic race:
Turning back into Central Park around Columbus Circle is where the teasers leave off and my final push begins. I kept waiting to cross the 26 mile mark and thought I might have missed it. I think it was about the time a lot of runners were groaning aloud at the sight of yet another uphill twisting into the park. I was distracted by a lot.
The crowds had thinned dramatically but the course photographers were abundant. This allowed for an eerie build up with raucous cheering and loud speakers in the distance. I tried to look happy for the cameras and look directly at them. There was this odd camo hut, less than four feet high almost sitting on the course to my left. There was someone inside, totally obscured in the dark shadows. I had no idea if it was a photographer on a stool or some security person watching carefully to see that every runner was wearing an official bib. It really weirded me out for a second.
Soon the crowds started to pick back up and I wanted to point out my name to them to get some cheering going on. I needed a boost and was looking out to my left eagerly as I saw a man walking in the direction of the finish line. His build and gait were totally familiar to me, etched into my heart for almost 3 decades of loving him, “ARRON SCOTT! YOU DA MAN!”
We both ran to the fenced barrier to hug and kiss. His eyes were bright and smile wide with pride for me. He sent me on my way with, “Go! Go! Go!” and I answered, “Tally-Ho!” Just before his phone battery gave out, he was able to then get a video of me heading toward the finish line with a very light heart!
Arron had made it through 2 security check points very quickly because he had no bags and was wearing relatively form-fitting clothing. I had surprised Arron just a bit when I called out to him, it turns out that he thought he had missed me and had just slowed to a walk.
If I had not hugged and kissed Jim one last time, not stopped to pee 3 times, not walked to take in hydration at mile 24, not slowed to high-five those kids in Brooklyn, not scuffed the bananas off my feet in The Bronx, not walked to the curb to make sure I was getting my wind breaker off the course when I left it, not asked the woman in Queens to check off my shirt, not slowed after reading my Dad’s note to me, etc. I would have, maybe, crossed the finish line in less than 5 hours. I also wouldn’t have crossed paths with Arron at the last possible moment before the grandstands ($45 ticket holders only) that you can see in the video above.
As an endurance runner, I ran this race with joy in my heart and finished with such happiness. There is a part of me that gets grouchy about my finish time but then I remember the whole day and how much I really enjoyed taking in the people, bands, reunions and extra things like carrying a stuffed animal for a few miles, just for laughs. I had a ten-fold better experience than my first marathon, running the NYC Marathon will forever be a highlight in my life.
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.
The trudge to get a no-baggage-option-poncho and exit after the finish line was brutal. The winds hadn’t let up and the long shadows in the canyons of the city and park made it very cold on our sweaty bodies. One out of maybe 100 runners was needing special attention from Red Cross and being taken away to med tents. The golf carts they were taken away in held up our exit even more.
The bag of post race food and hydration was so heavy they weren’t handing it to us, it was set on a table for us to pick up. Runners were leaving them on the ground after (maybe) grabbing something out of them. My hands were so cold I couldn’t open my pretzel bag without grumbling aloud and grunting a lot. I forced myself to eat them as I waddled along. It took my mind off of how miserably cold I was.
I had to show my wrist band multiple times to prove that I had selected to not check a bag and to exit early. I hefted my post race food bag around to show my arm and that I was indeed worthy of getting a no-baggage-option-poncho and getting out of the mile long cattle shute faster than those who had checked their down coats at waiting UPS trucks.
When I finally made it to where they were giving out no-baggage-option-ponchos, it was at the point that the volunteers were getting so cold they were all focused on getting the no-baggage-option-ponchos ON THEMSELVES. I stood there shivering and watching them deck themselves out in warm no-baggage-option-ponchos, I was unnoticed for so long. Taller people where helped and I stood there saying, “I am really cold and would really, really like a no-baggage-option-poncho.” I couldn’t wave my hand or arm because it was weighted down with my post race food. It sucked to follow directions, not just grab a damn no-baggage-option-poncho but was polite and tried to wait my turn.