So onto the second half.
Yes I do remember it, and even physically the run is divided sort of neatly into two halves. Not long after half way you cross a small bridge and then onto the long Queensborough bridge which presents a not inconsiderable grind up and a mind altering decent down through a spiral bend onto first avenue.
Mind altering because it had to be the coldest corner on the course and it was wall to wall crammed with more craziness; bands, yelling and screaming supporters, kids, grandparents, mums, fathers…Smurfs for all I knew!. That and what followed was probably the most memorable scene of the course for me, for as you came out of the turn you lined yourself up with 1st avenue ahead, jammed full of thousands of runners down 6 lanes and more spectators giving it ‘all’ for as far as you could see (and from the bridge end that was quite a way)
Even though I knew that there was a return leg, for the first time I felt like I was on the ‘back’ of the run. And wow what a beautiful day, glorious, absolutely glorious. The race merited the weather and the weather the race, and all the supporters deserved every good break they could get.
I suppose not unexpectedly, more people recognized the “kiwi” while running through Manhattan, so that was odd to have more support all of a sudden, but by now I was watching a lot of others, trying to pick countries, see what sort of people were around me, who was fading who was doing it easy.
I lost big chunks of 1st avenue in this way; I was hardly conscious of running, I felt pretty relaxed, and was actually looking forward to getting into the Bronx and through Harlem, to feel what they had to bring to this massive 26.2mile street party!
I mostly remember two things about the Bronx – the music and more unfettered compassion and encouragement – oh, and pulling a muscle thanks to the great rendition of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. I thought it was going to be a long way from there. I remember straight after that a big dude of a DJ blearing out “Welcome to the Bronx runners, this is the heartland…now come on bring it on home!” Hobbling as I was it made me determined to try and get back to running, which about ¾ mile later I was – but during that time the 3hr 50min pace marker passed me and just after I got going again the 4hr pace runner – so I knew 4hrs was toast!
I settled again for what my pre-race estimate was of 4:15, and started doing the math to get me over the line then (8 miles to go). In hindsight I should have just ‘hurt more’ and got on with it.
Strangely I felt a bit disrespectful just charging (Poetic license!) through Bronx and then Harlem, felt like I should thank them and thought of my friends from Australia Wes and Annette who were doing the race for a Harlem kids charity and what a satisfying feeling that must be as Wes ran through before me and Annette followed later.
Somewhere in Harlem another DJ boomed out “this is the wall, welcome to the wall”. It displays my lack of taking this seriously that I didn’t even know what that corresponded to, I think it’s 20 miles, but I remembered thinking ‘so what!’ though I concede I was a bit tired and still walking to ease the pressure in the back of my right leg.
As we finally came alongside central park it all seemed within reach, I checked my time and distance and knew I had a bit up my sleeve, walked some more, and then as we turned into Central park at E72nd street I hooked on to the back of a ‘likely bunch of Nederland runners’ and followed them through the park. I walked again near to a spot I knew from walking it with Chrissy and the girls, just to re-gather myself, got to the top of the rise and then set off past the mountain lion and on my way to the southern end of the park.
(Next – the final installment)