It is indescribable, something I have never seem in a sports event to this level (and I’ve done many of the most popular events in NZ). I would run it again just for that feeling – and I’m sure it would work me over just as much the second time.
Through Brooklyn, every ¼ mile (out of respect to the Americans all references will be in miles) was another band – folk, rock, pop, electric, and down Lafayette Avenue the Choir – I could have just stopped there a while and listened. However all of it added up to feeling like you owed it to them; to give it your best.
I knew some of the kids I was high-fiving probably would never get to have a pair of decent running shoes, and yet here they were being foisted high by mum or dad or their big brother or sister with grins and encouragement (and meanwhile probably thinking they had just high-fived some super athlete – Olive asked me the night before if I was going to win! – oh to be struck down from your pedestal).
And so it went, not long after turning off 4th avenue I got my first big “Hey Kiwi, go Kiwi…” (see photo to understand that) – it was a very emotional moment and the one I remember best of all (what’s that they say about your first!).
From there the entertainment started to morph – in terms of either passing or being passed by a carrot, an apple, Spiderman, Captain America, Superman, a bride and groom, and a few others whose outfits in general use would have qualified them as a nut-job.
I saw a few Kiwis through the race, but mostly everyone was either running their own race or running with a group – socializing was largely limited to brief interactions with the crowd and the occasional person ‘diving’ out of the pack to hug and embrace mum/dad/son/daughter/husband/wife/brother/ sister/ friend/ or fellow countryman. That was very emotional and I must admit though I had insisted Chrissy take the girls to Lion King rather than put them through the torture of waiting for a brief glimpse of me running by, I was more than a little envious and at times a ‘hug’ would have been better than great.
The ½ marathon mark came up with relatively little effort, I was 4 -5 minutes behind my target, but I knew the slow crossing of the Staten Island bridge (just too many people to weave around) and the brief ‘relief’ stop on the other side (tactical decision due to poor pre-race strategy) had been the main contributors. However the mind games kicked in immediately – I had not trained at any distance greater than this due to a heavy travel schedule and my nursing a niggly calf muscle for the last 3 months. So mentally I switched from cruising to being very conservative – and more than anything that added time to my time.
If I could have run the race the next day with the knowledge I could run it I am confident I could have taken off between 10 and 15 minutes (note the distinction between knowing I could finish and not knowing how much I could run), and that is a little of what holds me back in celebrating – I didn’t hurt enough, in many respects this was probably my most conservative effort in a sports event ever.
As a half-way interlude for you some random musing– who did I think of while I ran?
Well Chrissy of course, and her determination to run and her enjoyment and satisfaction from running (it was in the end what got me back into a pair of shoes). Olive – she loves movement, and is certainly showing early signs of being a great little athlete. Edie because she just loves doing stuff – whether that ends up as running, downhill mountain biking, or – who cares!
I thought of Lance Armstrong and how he described it as the hardest thing he ever did (I think he is now doing under 3 hours and a half marathon time similar to mine when I last ran one in my 30’s), I thought of the old guy that used to run all over Manawatu where I grew up, he was probably one of my first role models – I wanted to be fit like he was at his age (I hope in reality he was over 40!).
I thought of all the people who couldn’t, of friends I have lost and in particular Francie who died 18 months ago from cancer, I thought of my brother Rodger. I thought of my older brother Peter who has run plenty more Marathons than me and was in hospital having a quintuple bypass the week Olive was born, I thought of my brother in law Simon who competed at the world heart transplant games in Gotberg this year. I thought of my boss and his family who have endured and survived a tortuous year.
I thought of the impossibility of poverty and the generousness of almost every New Yorker we encountered rich or poor. I thought of my parents and my in-laws and my many friends. I thought of Ray Wood the long tall Texan – Kiwi who has always run and tagged me along with a good friend of his to run the Heaphy track in a single day (49 miles), Ray has been often on my mind whilst I trained, I think he used to find my approach to running quite humorous (that I could pick it up without much effort or thought as and when I wanted). I thought of Dan Rockwell who I should have contacted and who only weeks later came close to losing his life in a car accident.
In short I constantly thought of how lucky I have been, and how lucky I was to be able to ‘compete’.
If you’re not on the list – it’s only because I can’t remember it all and I didn’t have enough energy to run another 26 miles to get a few more in!
Part 3 – in a few more days…..