Part 1 of 2:
There is a train of thought among runners, that a marathon is not the 26.2 miles you run on race day, but it is the thousands of miles, the sacrifices of time & energy, the social life schedule modifications, the careful diet leading up to the race that really embody what it is marathon runners go through.
Each runner takes their own path to the start line. Some are elite, and sub-elite runners, knocking out what seems like inhuman times over the course of the twenty-six mile three hundred and eighty-five yard route. Others have overcome amazing odds to challenge their minds, bodies, and spirits for hour after hour. Then there are the rest of us, semi-casual runners who are, for the most part, focused on our goals, with moderate innate ability, but hearts that push us toward our goals.
Before the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon lottery was held, which my wife and I were entered, we found out she was going to be having our first kid a couple weeks before the race. I asked her if we should withdraw from the lottery, as it would be easy to justify walking away from $22. We discussed what could happen with the race, if one, or both of us were accepted. Deferment, run it anyway were the options we talked about.
As it turns out, I was accepted, for a second-consecutive year. She was still without her first, elusive NYC Marathon bib. Decision time. Do I try to get into peak shape, while we take this new path for our family? Or, do I defer, and now have an additional $250 to spend on my 2017 bib…
We opted to have me go ahead and train, as the support team was in place for my wife, and newborn, as we decided early on that they would not make the trip with me. Around the time we decided that, an opportunity at work came about, and I took a transfer 1,150 miles from was had been my home for more than a decade.
Turns out, that was a great move for my running, despite losing all of my amazing running friends, and partners. I was staying close enough to the Saltese Uplands & Dishman Hills trail systems that my hill training was amazing. Add to that, I was working on a run streak – for over 30 days, not a single run was under a 5k. By the time I had to call the streak on day 73, no run was under two miles. Some of these days had some very nice elevation change, which made the prospect of New York City’s bridges seem like small bumps in the road.
I even made friends with a gentleman from down the street who wanted to get back into running. He was only up for 4-5 miles, which always turned out to be very fast miles, despite my desire for easy/recovery days some runs. What do you expect when running with a Kenyan though? Those guys are just fast!
Things were looking good on the mileage and pace fronts. August turned out to be my highest mileage month ever, along with my fastest month ever. As I may have mentioned previously, that was the peak of my training in so many ways.
Labor Day weekend turned into a literal affair, six weeks early, we welcomed my daughter into the world. Due to her early arrival, she had an extended NICU stay. With our original plans of being moved into a new home by the time she arrived, we set all of our medical stuff up on one side of my work. We were staying 40 minutes the other way.
At first, I would leave work, go to where we were staying, knock out a run, shower, eat dinner, then go back past work, get to the hospital, and spend a couple hours with our baby. That did not even last a week. The long nights, growing fuel bills from all the extra miles, and my desire to not put her second made not running on day 73 a bittersweet day.
For the next six weeks, I would leave work, and go spend a few hours with her, then we would venture off to find dinner, and do it all over again the next day. Weekend runs were always something to look forward to, then all the things we didn’t get done during the week had to get done, along with spending time with our baby.
September, I did manage to rack up 41 miles though, somehow.
During all of this, we were trying to get our Las Vegas home sold.
October, I barely tripped double digits, with a whopping 12 miles for the month. Fear not legs, you will get double that mileage (and then some) within the first week of November.
Here we were, November had arrived. Of course, that is when work was at it’s peak craziness, the house renovations were going on like mad, and our baby was switching between just chilling, and hold me all the time. It was too late to back out now!
Waking up Friday morning, in the wee hours of the morning, we made the trek over to the airport, so I could continue the journey to New York City. Security at the Spokane Airport was, as always, a breeze to get through. Especially before 5 am.
From there, it was a brief flight down to Denver, Colorado for a couple hour layover. Unfortunately, it was not a long enough layover to visit with friends in the area. Maybe next time. Sitting at the gate, waiting for our air chariot to New York City, I entertained myself looking at other flyers, wondering who was running, and who was just going for a trip.
I knew for a fact one woman was going to run, as I could overhear her phone conversation. Otherwise, it was anybody’s guess. That was, until we got onto the plane, and we were all seated, and ‘A Race Like No Other’ was seen being read, or conversations started up and the TCS New York City Marathon was a bunch of our destination.
Exiting the plane with no need to worry about checked baggage, I made my way out of LaGuardia Airport, and tried to figure out the best way to get to the Upper West Side. Unlike JFK, there is no direct train route from LaGuardia, so I had to hop a bus through rush hour + construction traffic toward the nearest station in Astoria.
Getting out of the bus, I spotted a gentleman wearing last year’s marathon jacket, and struck up a brief conversation as we made our way from the bus stop, up a flight of stairs, to the train platform. Going our separate ways, I was getting anxious for a chance to set down my bags, and see about getting a shakeout run in.
More quickly than expected, I traversed the city, with only a couple train changes, and a few blocks to walk from the final station, to my Airbnb procured lodging. I had a slight moment of confusion, as the building numbers were a little hidden, at least, I was not sure where to look, so I was unsure where to go for a brief moment. The apartment number of my lodging was apparently not on the buzzer, and I rang someone else’s apartment, who let me in without even a question as to who I was there for.
Hauling myself, and my bags, up each successive flight of stairs, I had a brief flash of “what did I get myself into” – knowing how heavy my legs may feel after the race. Finally making it to the appropriate floor, I knocked on the door of the right apartment, and was quickly greeted by a friendly couple in the midst of their dinner. Whoops, I may have arrived earlier than expected, by a bit.
Graciously, the lady half of the couple showed me to my room, which was unique, and oh so very comfortable. It even featured rooftop access, and a view of some of the buildings in the area. It was a nice, relaxing spot to relax for a bit.
Too late to make it to Jacob Javits Center for packet pickup that night, I focused on my main goal. Food.
My craving for delicious fries took me up toward Shake Shack. However, there was a sign on the door of an empty restaurant, along with a line of people wrapped around the corner that deterred me from that wait. I was near the pizza place Jet and I discovered in 2015, figured it was worth heading back there.
Walking a little further to get to Caesar’s Palace pizza, I had a slice of fancy cheese pizza (dollops of ricotta were amazing on it), along with a baked ziti pizza. New York definitely knows their pizza, even though they were thin crust, they were so deliciously filling, I crave it constantly.
With a full belly, I wandered back toward the apartment, briefly stopping in various shops and stores, to see if there was anything I needed, or just couldn’t live without. A few beverages were obtained, before I knew it, I was climbing stairs back to the 5th floor. The “Airbnb hosts” aka, primary residents of the apartment listed for visitors’ convenience were very nice, and I had a nice conversation with them before I retired to my room.
Laying down on the plush, memory foam bed, with matching pillows I don’t think it took but a few moments to fall asleep.
Awaking the next morning refreshed, and ready to wander New York City some, I got dressed, and bee-lined it to the train station. Catching a downtown bound train, I emerged from the station in the midst of a throng of people heading to packet pickup, and the marathon race expo.
Going with the flow of the crowd, down familiar streets, we all headed toward the same destination. Outside the Jacob Javits Center, residual effects of 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing were evident. Militarized police stood guard outside the glass encased building in full body armor, with their full-pew pew AR-15s slung over their shoulders.
It was funny watching people unaccustomed to seeing firearms being open carried, even by law enforcement. The guy in the green jacket was posing, so his wife could snap the photo of him near the police.
Once inside, the layout was the same as last year. Pulling out my phone, I checked my registration email, to verify which line I needed to stand in for my bib. Something about this race, maybe it is all large races, maybe it is just the NYC Marathon, but volunteers were EVERYWHERE to assist anybody who needed help.
Lining up in the proper section, I was second up for assistance at the bib table. The friendly volunteers verified my identity, handed me my bib, and directed me toward the shirt tables. Getting in the right line for post-race ponchos, the shirt volunteer team quickly had my race bag, and shirt.
Exiting through the Asics gift shop, I spent way too much money on 2016 NYC Marathon gear, along with some gifts for my wife. Once I managed to buy my way out of the Asics booth, I wandered around the expo for a while, checking out various vendor offerings, talking with runners, vendors, and making a few more purchases. I may finally have enough running shorts to get me through a week. Now that it is chilly out, perfect timing.
With a purchase of a pair of shorts at the Brooks booth, I was able to secure myself a “free” hat from Paragon Sports. All I had to do was walk to their location, and trade a certificate for a hat. Upon finding their store, I walked in to a zoo! There were runners all over the place, some for massage, some trying their shot at winning cash & prizes, a DJ playing energizing music, and everybody was waiting for the free pasta lunch to start. During my wanderings through the store, saw a sign that Ryan Hall was going to be there for the lunch. Had I not been on the verge of blacking out from hunger, I may have stayed to meet him. Seems like a very interesting guy.
After picking up my free hat, and buying a hydration system for the race, I was making my way toward the subway, or food, when I walked into a farmers’ market. Something smelled absolutely delicious, so I followed my nose.
It did not take time for me to find what had enraptured my olfactory senses. Mighty Pies. I chose the turkey and cheese pie, with its flaky, and well seasoned pastry surrounding tasty, melted cheese filled with chunks of succulent turkey.
Finding an open park bench, I sat down to enjoy the savory treat I picked up, my mind and body agreed it was amazing. As I sat there in the park, watching leaves fall, families play catch in the grass, there was a funny interaction between a tourist and a squirrel.
A girl, guessing Scandanavian, in her mid/late-teens was walking up the path with her mother and sister. She spotted a squirrel, leaned over, and had her hand held up, much as one does when giving an animal a treat. Of course, the squirrel started to slowly scamper toward her. As soon as she processed the squirrel was getting closer, she squealed, and ran behind her mother. Pointing, and excitedly exclaiming “squirrel, squirrel! It tried to get me!”
Once lunch and a show had concluded, I made my way to the subway station, descended the stairs, and made my way uptown, toward my lodging. Not wanting to completely kill my legs before the race, I figured it would be a good time to rest a little bit, so I laid down on that comfortable memory foam bed, and woke up after the sun had set.
Time for a final outing, I needed dinner, pick up supplies for breakfast, and head back to the room. While wandering about, I wanted to check out the finish line, and the marathon pavilion. Forgetting about the pre-race pasta dinner, I was unable to make it into the pavilion. Since I did not pre-purchase entry to the dinner, I had to go elsewhere.
Luckily, I found a great little place that was packed. Fortunately, they had seating at the bar, with an open stool for me to claim. The menu all look amazing, did I go with a big meal, and get the chicken parm? Or, go smaller? I opted for an amazing baked ziti, with meat gravy. It was so amazing, I am kicking myself for forgetting the restaurant’s name.
With a hunger that was trying to be held at bay, following that meal, I made my way to pick up a bag of French Onion flavored Sun Chips. That item checked off the list, I wandered into a bodega, and was glad to see they had single eggs available for sale. I picked a couple up, and was a little shocked to see they were .75¢ each. Still cheaper than buying half dozen, so I took my eggs back to the apartment. Boiling them, and making sure they were peeled before bed, I was nearly ready.
My flat runner was laid out for the traditional instagram post. Including my 2016 TCS NYC Marathon limited edition Brooks Adrenaline version 15s. I thought I was going to retire my 26.2 miles today… DOMS tomorrow shirt. However, having not trained for two months, I thought it was going to be an appropriate shirt to wear for this race.
Time to sleep, and wake up on race day!