Friday, November 12, 2010

To The Finish, Part Two

I hit the 14-mile mark and, as I usually do at this point in marathons, realized that I still had a lot of running ahead of me. I also realized that I was still cold, it was still windy and my knees and hips randomly hurt. My pace slowed significantly but I knew I could still meet my goal time. My brain felt stronger than my body and I kept reminding myself that I would get where I was going as long as I kept moving. I have no idea what my pace was and I hadn’t looked at my watch in miles but I was sure I was slowing. People started passing me in droves but this was also the point where people started walking.

And then there it was. The Queensboro Bridge. I wanted to cry before I actually stepped foot on it. A mile and a half across the East River. Mr. or Mrs. Bridge Designer, why did you build this thing with a mile of uphill followed by 800 meters of narrow, steep, left-leaning downhill? The climb went on forever. People were staggering all over the place, stopping, falling over, sitting down. I’ve never seen anything like it in any race I have ever done. Added excitement came from drunk people swinging from the beams of the bridge. Odd times. I kept running, being passed by as many people as I was passing.

Finally, finally, we bottlenecked down a tight left exit ramp and plopped out onto First Avenue.


Crowds were at least four deep along the entire 3.5 miles on First Ave. Handing out bananas, beer and brownies, dressed in nothing, dressed like Spongebob, dressed like GreenMan. A zillion kids wanting high-fives, a zillion adults jumping and yelling. Even though I felt like crap I yelled and laughed out loud a lot along this stretch. A giant, miles-long party.

The First Avenue insanity carried me through until mile 19.5, home of another damn bridge. I can’t remember what it was called or what it looked like, only that it was steep and I sort of hated it from the core of my being. A dude racing in a handcycle bike with zero legs and one arm was rocking it, though. The uphill. The uphill with one arm. You go, BAMF. The only other awesome thing along this not-so-fun part was a dude filling up little cups with Franzia and yelling at us in Spanish to drink his wine. At least I think that's what he was saying.

The damn bridge dumped us into the Bronx. How do I know we were in the Bronx? A large dude with a megaphone screaming “Welcome to the Bronx, bitches!” over and over again made it clear. That had to be more tiring than actually running the race. He was dancing all around, yelling and yelling, with YMCA playing in the background. A happy church choir tossed some motivation my way and on and on I went. Practically, I knew the finish was only getting closer. Physically, I knew I was going to be thrilled to stop running the second I crossed the finish.

At about mile 21 there was this, stolen from the interwebs:

The video doesn’t quite do the drummers justice – in person it was much more fun and much more motivating.

The next few miles are notable by how terrible felt. My feet hurt. Maybe this seems like an obvious thing to say about miles 22 through 24 of a marathon but it felt like the bottom of my feet were being hit with hammers. Awesome!

Just before we turned into Central Park the crowds were so thick that runners were basically relegated to a two-by-two shuffle. Words cannot express how thankful I was to these humans (especially to the woman with the sign that read "Keep Going! Keep Going! (that's what she said)) as it gave me no option but to slow my shuffling self down even more.

Once we hit the park I started to believe that at some point in my life I would, in fact, cross the finish line. We winded around and around, up and down, left, right, one more mile, zig, zag. Uh, where the hell were they hiding the finish line? Burkina Faso?

Finally, finally, I turned right and hit the 26-mile marker. I heard people screaming (it was Kate, Bill and Steve, although I was too tired to pick up my head and look around so I didn’t see them), some terrible song was playing, and then, tadaa, the finish. One of the more thrilling finishes of my life. I have never seen more teetering/falling over/crying/snot/happiness/emotion at a finish line, ever. I was sort of happy with myself. My body hadn't held up well but my brain sucked it up and got me there. I wasn't really close to a PR but I beat my Boston time by 9 minutes on a course that I thought was much harder.**

Bill and Co. were apparently yelling and yelling ...
...but I was so tired that ...

... a t-rex could have been marching around ...

... and I wouldn't have noticed.

I like this picture because I am sort of actually
running to the finish.

Got my medal, got my hot potato blanket, and then got moving. I had to walk past 57 of 63 UPS trucks parked single-file through Central Park before getting my stuff. I’d mentally prepared for this hike almost as much as the race, though, so I tried not to be too sad. Plus, I got to see this: A woman got her bag and then promptly leaned over a fence and barfed on bags not yet claimed. Terrible.

Found my stuff, threw on my snuggly clothes (although I had a case of marathon brain and am pretty sure I stood in Central Park half-naked for a bit as a result) and then realized I had about 3 miles to walk to meet up with the crew for lunch. I wanted to weep but it was clear that getting a cab would be impossible. I pretended I was just out for a stroll. And then … Bill! Kate! Steve! Plus a David Byrne book someone was giving away! Wings! A cheeseburger! Success!

The end.

Me, my hat and my free David B. book

The first thing Bill asked? "What's with that book?"

Kate navigated us to the Land of Giant Cheeseburgers. And I geeked
out and wore my medal until we got back to her house.

Marathon days are meat days!

** After being reunited with my cell phone, the first thing I said to Bill was this --> (edited for the sake of my mom) “This (femaleparentintercoursing) race makes Boston look like a (intercoursing) 5k.” Because it did. Well, maybe not a 5k, but New York was so much more difficult. At least for me.


Kate said...

Love love love your recap. I laughed and laughed. Yay you!!! :)

chris mcpeake said...

congrats on the marathon. great report