Nittany Valley Half Marathon 2014

NVH_panJimmyNVH_2014Jim set another PR yesterday at our local half marathon. He shaved off about 5 minutes from when he ran it 2 years ago and 4 minutes from his PR he set about a month ago! I interview him at the beginning of the December 2014 recording of Run Pennsyltucky podcast then jump right into talking to runners who were tackling their first half marathon. Their enthusiasm was inspiring!

My running has taken a back seat as I have been catching up on so many things I had put off while marathon training. I look forward to catching the running bug again soon but am still not quite back to it. I decided not to run the local half when I was resenting the training, not a good thing.

In the Long Run

Before the training for my last marathon became all consuming, I had the time to put into creating other projects. My drawing of comics took a back seat as did my many other hobbies. Sometimes interests overlap and in this case I drew what is called a “one sheet” about running for my Dad when he was recovering in a rehab hospital. Scroll down to view each panel in order.Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.18.31 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.18.43 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.18.55 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.19.09 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.19.23 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.19.37 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.19.52 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.20.04 PM

2014 NYC Marathon (Manhattan)

…continued from The Bronx.

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.Manhattan-1314-0030s

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
Manhattan-1421-0031sCentral 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:
Staten Island
The Bronx
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.Manhattan1193-0025s

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 waited 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.

2014 NYC Marathon (The Bronx)

…continued from Queens.

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
Bronx-1270-0042sWe 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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.48.07 AMThe 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.Bronx-1345-0002s

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.

Bronx_crop-1345-0003sThe 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.

2014 NYC Marathon (Queens)

…continued from Brooklyn.

Toward the end of a marathon, things can all start running together, no pun intended. By the end of the NYC Marathon I found myself running toward and looking through a sea of faces to my left. The crowd was at least 6 deep along Central Park South. Searching, searching for the flash of Jim’s sparkly blue hat anywhere in the multitudes, my eyes kept blurring because I was starting so hard into the wind. Even behind my sunglasses my eyeballs were drying out and losing focus just when I needed them to be most accurate. Jim and Arron were planning to be along that stretch, somewhere. I had to keep moving but keep watching as the deafening cheers from the crowd chanted my name as well as other’s. Thus was the beginning of the last mile of the NYC Marathon.

Castles in the Sky

Empire State Building in the background, NYC Marathon love, right back atcha!

Empire State Building in the background, NYC Marathon love, right back atcha!

We hadn’t even crossed the northern end of the Pulaski Bridge before spectators were cheering us and greeting us into Queens. I could have spent all day in this borough. Every step along the twisting and turning of the course was packed with the most cheerful and supportive people.

The views of recognizable buildings in Manhattan finally allowed me to orient myself and I could not believe just how far I had come. I saw I was as far uptown as the Empire State Building and that meant 34th St. I was amazed that I had been dropped off on Staten Island and, under the power of my own 2 feet, had made it that far north.

The notes I had made for the end of Brooklyn and entirety of Queens were, “Water towers. Stay to the left.” That meant the landmarks of note were the iconic water towers in Long Island City and to not start trying to run the tangents, just keep running on the left side. The one place I abandoned this completely was on the corner where the American Indian Community House along with the Silver Cloud Singers had their cheer section. I cut from my side over to their tent on the right and cheered that they were there. I thanked them and ran on with their rhythms in my heart.

I sought out one woman who was looking right at me and cheering. I asked her if we were indeed in Queens and if she could check off Brooklyn on the back of my shirt (see it here). She was surprised by my request, a little shy about doing it wrongly and asked if she should also check off Queens. I told her, “No, I have to finish Queens first. Thank you!” Off I went to take another 90° course turn to get up and onto the Queensborough Bridge.

Can’t Keep Me Silent
What’s in a name? Ed Koch Bridge, 59th St. Bridge, Queensborough Bridge are all one and the same. Runners are very rarely feelin’ groovy after hitting mile 15 and enduring the specatorless mile climb and descent. I would say about 50% of the middle of the pack runners decide to walk at least part of this bridge. Everybody has to take it as they see fit and I kept up my determined trit-trot pace. I remembered that the bridge crests deceivingly late, much beyond Roosevelt Island and almost into Manhattan.

The whole length of the bridge, the winds had me grabbing to steady the brim of my cap quite a few times. My neck gaiter, a Buff, was pulled up and over the back part of my hat to hold it on just in case. As we descended and took a hard left turn to cross under the bridge there were hundreds and hundreds of spectators — who were freezing in the wind and tired of cheering. The “wall of sound” as it has been called had their breath taken away as they stood on the blustery shadows of the tall buildings. It was a flat moment for a lot of us.

A few runners tried to pump up the crowd by waving their arms and punching their fists into air. It got a few luke-warm responses but they seemed tired. Tired is what a lot of us were feeling and I darted into an vacant port-o-pot. When I realized I didn’t really have to “go” but was looking for an excuse to take a break, I though, “Enough, here we go.” Out I went and turned up 1st Ave. to start counting the blocks until I would meet Jim and Amy at 110th St.

My right foot had started to hurt in the middle of Brooklyn, it felt like nasty ol’ plantar fasciitis rearing its ugly head again in the colder weather. There was not too much I could do for it but maybe stretch my calves out when I stopped to get fuel from Jim. My left foot felt like it was getting a blister too. Another one of those things that you can’t do much about with 10 miles to go.

Thankfully the crowds started to get more lively as I ran farther uptown. Their volume and enthusiasm increased if they had been waiting in the sun. When I came across a peppy bunch of college-aged young women, I recruited them to check off Queens on the back of my shirt.

More bands, many on big flashy expensive stages blasted out their original tunes or old standbys like Eye of the Tiger. I am really not a big fan of cliches like that but during an epic marathon, it was acceptable and even welcome. I felt like I was ready to run 10 more miles.

I ticked off the blocks and found that at the major intersections (42nd, 66th, 72nd, 79th) the wind would have me clipping my heals. It was adding to my fatigue but I was getting into some known territory and that was nice. I looked for my favorite vegan haunts: Candle 79, Candle Cafe, Gobo (no longer there), Elm Health, Bareburger (I had just eaten there Friday). Then Amy’s apartment where Jim had hung out most of the morning and the rest of the blocks I had just walked a few days prior.

Look at Us
I grabbed a Power Bar gel at the mile 18 aid station (hey, it was free), cheered when I saw it was orange (the only flavor I remotely like) and stuffed it in the SPIbelt I was going to hand off to Jim. I gave a mental salute to where I had stood last year to cheer Rosalie. I can’t say I felt too much better than I did in 2013 but I had just come 18 miles so had a much better excuse for starting to hurt a bit.

Manhattan.27I started trying to do the math; 20 short blocks to a mile so 5 short blocks was only a quarter-mile – yeah! I could tell it was going to be hard for them to see me because they were looking into the sun and it was going on 2PM on the very day we had turned the clocks back. The sun wasn’t low but it was going to be in their eyes a bit. Having prearranged exactly where they were to be, knowing exactly what Jim was wearing (a crazy blue get up), they were following me on at least 2 tracking apps so knew when to be there, Jim is familiar with what my pace should be if the apps seemed way off and my wearing the outfit they were expecting to see me in made the hand off go seamlessly.

I waved my empty SPIbelt at them as soon as I saw Jim’s blue sparkly hat. It was and important hand off because I would have run out of fuel and, having only trained to 20, I had no idea if I would be needing a bit more in those final 6.2 miles. Jim handed me a replacement SPIbelt with a new flask of fuel and a baggy full of treats I planned to eat on Willis Ave Bridge going into The Bronx. Amy cheered and then videoed a section of me running as well as some stills of me and Jim. This was a big help because I had promised some photos along with a post race statement to an NYU journalism student who had pitched her story to our local paper (they ran it and you can read it here).

I did take a moment to briefly chat, give hugs and stretch out my calves. I assured them that I was doing pretty well, that it wasn’t easy but I was doing all right and I was really having a lot of fun. I was having fun and as I left I knew the fun had just begun. Miles 19 and beyond were ahead of me and I had Bronx in hand.
Continued in the Bronx…
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.

2014 NYC Marathon (Brooklyn)

…continued from Staten Island.

The final mile to the finish line wasn’t as tough for me as had been some of the others. As I rounded the corner out of Central Park I found myself wondering if I had been running so long that Arron’s matinée in Lincoln Center had let out. He had a triple bill yet again and I knew bolting across the plaza to Columbus Circle and beyond would be a push. He and Jim had planned to try to connect along Central Park South so I found myself scanning the crowd to my left for both of them as I made that sharp right turn.

Get the Party Started
Exiting the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was wonderful as it lead us into a little sunshine. The terrible winds let up a bit and there were actually some spectators on the off ramp as the Green start runners made their way toward a little residential neighborhood in Bay Ridge (Saturday Night Fever was set there). What didn’t let up was the clothing all over the ground. Crossing the bridge had given everyone a good warm up and a lot of runners were stepping to the side to ditch outer layers. I won’t say I was fully warm but sweat was starting to trickle down my back. I systematically unzipped my windbreaker then shifted it to being tied around my waist. I didn’t want to throw it away in case it became cloudy again. I could easily get chilled if I wasn’t careful.

The 5k (3.1 mile) point that was physically signed and soon after that merged with the Blue and Orange start runners on 4th Ave. This is where Brooklyn turned into an all out party. There were bands every other block and crowds of supportive residents/spectators cheering non-stop for us. The official course map states that Orange runners would be on the left and the rest of us would be on the right. As a left side runner, as soon as I got to the farthest point on my left I saw there were plenty of ways to cross over even more without disrupting the flow of the race. I made my way over to the crowds on the left, slapped 5 with some kids took in their great energies.

NYC_shirtUnder one of the huge interstate overpasses, a woman running just behind me commented on the back of my shirt (see photo to the right). In a sweet British accent she said, “Oh I love your shirt. Are you going to check off the boxes?” I replied that I was indeed and seeing as we were no longer on Staten Island, would she like to check off the first box. She was shocked and tickled that I was carrying a red Sharpie with me. As I dug it out I told her that I would do my best to keep pace with her. It turns out that she was fine with stopping to give my shirt a big red check mark and I found she had traveled from London to run the race. It was a really great interaction and one of the few that I had with other runners.

Soul Sister
I had added my name printed on the outside of my sleeves but I was well past spectators before they read it to yell out their support. I would hear them call my name on occasion but more frequently they called me “New York.” I was just fine with being New York on this day. I was a part of so many neat slices of the city. I got the chance to peek down side streets, one that had some brothers showing off just how loud their sound systems were in their car. I felt a part of that NY beat as the vibrations shook the air and seemingly the asphalt I was running on.

I followed my fueling plan at miles four and eight as I was treated to bands of rappers and singers. I worked my red gloved hands as I fist pumped the air in appreciation of them being there. One fellow, mid-performance, tipped his head to the side and leaned in on himself in a shy gesture of thanks when I made a big red heart with my gloves for him. We were connected; spectators, runners and performers are the very heart of what this marathon is about and the beat in Brooklyn is a strong one.

The church choirs and 4 deep crowds along Lafayette Ave. were supporting us at such a fevered pitch that I forgot all about being concerned about the hill on that mile. I never felt Clinton Hill while the early brunch crowds screamed as if they were at a World Cup final match. I actually got a little disoriented and had to remind myself of what mile I was at and when I fueled next, this section had a park that looked a lot like mile 12 and I was worried I had forgotten.

It was soon after that things calmed down in Williamsburg. This very unique community of Brooklyn is inhabited by tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews, Sunday being a working business day for them. There was no cheering from them as they tried to navigate the streets we runners had overtaken. Now and then I would hear some music or a lone person cheering ahead. As I would pass them, it might be a single black or hispanic man standing with a small boom box in front of a firehouse, supposedly a community space where he felt he could brighten up this quiet stretch of the race. It was these single, dear souls I remember in Brooklyn, standing out in an oppresivly quiet neighborhood while determined to lift our spirits by clapping their freezing hands against the cold stares sporting side-curls.

It’s a Fine Day
We soon crossed under the Williamsburg Bridge and the number of spectators started to pick up again. The day was turning into a really beautiful Sunday, lots of blue sky with bold white wisps racing across it. The jolly section of Billyburg with its cafés and shops blended into Greenpoint where bands again joined in.Brooklyn1164-0025s

Not for the first time that morning, a runner near me shouted in delight and ran off the course all together. They had seen someone they knew and a happy reunion was taking place. NYC Marathon had over 50,000 runners and totaled more than 2 million spectators over the 5 boroughs so if you have never run nor attended a race this large you have no idea how difficult it is to connect randomly. The reunion in Greenpoint was a random one, a runner had seen someone she knew in a band and she ran right on stage to connect with them. Those rendezvous made me excited to finally see my family along the course.

Brooklyn-1220-0019sI was set on enjoying myself and minimizing my discomfort for the whole race. I didn’t want my time on the course to go too long but when I saw a short line for the port-o-pots I decided to take a moment rather than try to hide myself on a bridge later. I also decided to ditch my jacket off the side of the course along with the many other layers that littered the streets. The mostly sunny day was still quite cold and very windy at the intersections but my arm warmers and neck gaiter were going to be enough.

The halfway point of the NYC Marathon is on a Pulaksi Bridge. On my tour of the course the Thursday preceding the race, I made a written note that the climb was a “little grinder.” I may have even said that out loud as I lowered my head to bear down a bit to get up the incline and back into the wind. I was feeling pretty good and whispered a soft “thank you, Brooklyn” for all of the wonderful energy it gave me during most of the first half of the race. Over two hours of smiles, cheers and tunes, I will never forget the people of Brooklyn.

Continued in Queens…
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.

It is in Brooklyn where the first aid stations start offering hydration. “Gatorade and water at every mile starting at mile 3” is what we were told time and time again on all of the forums when Q&A were held. I saw the past courses had nice orange Gatorade tables set up (about 4 of them) that were followed by the same number of green Poland Spring Water tables directly following them. I was counting on both beverages at miles 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 24. When I passed the first tables at mile 3, I cut down through the middle of the road to avoid the cluster because I didn’t yet need hydration. I was instantly confused by a few things. Unlike past year’s signage and set up, there was only Gatorade and it was being served on green Poland Spring Water tables. I heard them telling runners, “Water is up ahead a few blocks.” I never saw any water until mile 4 and during the rest of the race there was no rhyme nor reason to how the color of the tables were but they eventually always had Gatorade first then Water second at every remaining hydration station.

As the title of Betty Smith’s novel goes, A Tree Goes in Brooklyn. The little know parenthetical title to it is (Robert Peed on It). Somewhere around mile 5 I saw a fellow snuggled up tight against a tree that was right on the curb. Granted it was a big tree and Robert was close so you couldn’t see his business but it was very obvious the poor man had to pee. Did I leave him in peace? Hell no! He had his name printed boldly across of the back if his shirt for people to cheer him on so I did, “Go Robert!”