Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some things I learned

There are a number of things I know now that I didn’t know at 4:00 am on November 7, 2010.

1. Fort Wadsworth is COLD in November.
I thought I was really smart with my sleeping bag…and I was. Just not smart enough. With temperatures hovering just above freezing in the pre-dawn hours (in which I spent hours, yes hours) I never really got warm. However this did give many of us waiting in the cold something to talk about besides how nervous we all were for the race. Next year: A small tent, wool stuff and extra socks are a must.

2. Reading digital clocks is difficult (when running a marathon).
I should have used a personal watch to keep pace…I went out super fast over the bridge and went even faster on 4th Ave. Again, a lesson for next year.

3. Lower Level of the Verrazano is pretty neat too.
Initially I was bummed to be on the lower level of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. However, the view was spectacular. A crystal clear day, it was as if I could see England if I just looked hard enough. The skyline of Manhattan in the distance emerged from the sparkling water as the FDNY boats shot water into the air and I thought I am really lucky to have the opportunity to run this crazy race.

4. I really hate Brooklyn.
For those of you who know me well, Brooklyn and I have a love hate relationship. I sometimes think living in Brooklyn would be wonderful: more room, hip neighbors, permission to be smug (like I need that). But after running nearly half of the NYC Marathon through the damn borough we are in a hate part of our relationship. (I love you, really, Brooklyn, but you never end.)

5. People with the paper towels and tissues are in the know.
There were people almost everywhere on the race route with rolls of paper towels for the runners. These were fantastic and extremely helpful with nasal issues and other stuff that needed to be wiped from our faces. Needless to say, running isn’t pretty and when it is really cold, your nose runs (as much as you do) and it was very nice to have some soft paper products to clean up my face. A few runners told tissue-givers “You are a god-send” for handing them a tissue. I felt the same way. Thanks!

6. Family support is huge.
My brilliant and some-what fanatical sister and her boyfriend took up a spot in the middle of Brooklyn and got me moving at a better pace again after I felt my first pains of running on extremely cold legs (did I mention that I never really got warm?). Knowing they were there and waiting for me to pass was key. I also knew I needed to hit those 5K markers as well because my extremely supportive parents in California were watching their cell phones for text messages from my sneaker, wildly cheering each time they got a text saying I had made it to the next marker. It was both reassuring and helpful to do this not only for myself, but for my family who were supporting me, because I just couldn’t let them down. (Whatever gets you through it)

7. The bastard hipsters in Williamsburg who were ironically smoking on the street should be shot in the face with an un-ironic gun.
Take a shower hipster. I ran more than 10 miles before I saw you and I still smell better. Also shave that thing off your face.

8. Am I still in Brooklyn?
Yes.

9. 13.1 miles is a long run, but even longer when you have to do it again.
The Pulaski Bridge gets you from the never-ending Brooklyn to the mercifully short run through Queens. While this drawbridge over the Newton Creek is one of the shortest bridges used in the marathon, it is steep. The half way point is at the apex and it feels good to know a) you are halfway there and b) you are totally living on a prayer. Going up is hard but coming down is almost uncomfortably fast. But you are halfway home…sort of.

10. Running in Queens is blessedly short in comparison to running in Brooklyn.
Need I remind you how much I hate Brooklyn?

11. Running the 59th Street Bridge regularly was one of the best things I did while training.
So this bridge is super deceptive. You run and run and run and you are still running over the streets of Queens and not the East River. And then you run some more (mind you, you are still running up hill) and finally you see land…BUT NO! it is Roosevelt Island. Keep running soon you will hit mile 16 and the beauty that is First Ave.

12. Sharp turns after 16 miles suck.
Getting off the bridge into Manhattan really hurt and it was the first time I was in real pain. I had to stop a bit to stretch my quad and hope it didn’t fall off…which I still attribute to the cold and my too fast start.

13. First Ave is fabulous.
This is a column of support just when you really need it. I was hurting pretty badly from mile 16 through 18 (ok through the end). But the excitement and support that is hurled upon you from hundreds of thousands of people is soul shaking. I now know I helped thousands push through in past NYC Marathons when I was watching and screaming from the sidelines. Even in serious pain I was excited to be running in my own neighborhood and through the greatest canyon in long-distance running.

14. Random people saying “you can do this” are very nice except when they tell you how many miles more you have to go until the end.
As I mentioned above I needed to stretch my quad in fear of it falling off. I stopped and got my leg moving again and this guy in a Jets hat at 62nd and First gave me a look and said “get going man, keep it up,” grasped my hand and sent me off. It was very helpful. But the guy at 110th who said “only 8 more miles to go” is a punk. But thanks anyway, punk, for being out there.

15. Did I mention I was in Brooklyn forever?
Like forever.

16. Name chanting is major.
One of the major reasons I ran this race was because after living on First Ave for five years and being an avid Marathon watcher and supporter, the energy is addictive. As always, my lovely wife and I (in absentia) hosted our 5th annual Marathon Party. But this year our guests were there to cheer for me. It was incredible, emotional and much needed at that point in the race. As I approached our apartment building I heard my name being chanted from nearly a block away. The people on the second floor balcony along with our party of 25 were there to support me in my ridiculous endeavor and boy was it appreciated. Thanks to all of you, most especially my lovely wife.

17. Support from charities is a key factor in this race.
The goal this year was to raise $26 million for various charities. Along with thousands of my fellow charity runners and supporters, we busted past that goal; according to New York Road Runners we raised $30.4 million. Thank you to all those supporters! Also the larger teams had these crazy parties and they were fun to run by in the different locations. My wonderful organization had a great support station at 114th and First. Thank you to all the folks at Union Settlement, it was an honor to run on your behalf and raise money for the excellent services you provide the community.

18. Being passed by Streaker is ok…
These guys are super bad ass and they are really nice and encouraging.

19. The Bronx is seriously great.
They know how to party in the Bronx. There wasn’t a single block without a crazed band or DJ or little kid with a horn. Thanks for the support. (This was the first time in the race that I heard Jay-Z‘s New York anthem Empire State of Mind…I expected more from the DJs…this is a good song for a NYC event.)

20. Crossing the last bridge is seriously sweet.
THANK GOD! (It wasn’t over…but at least I wasn’t in Brooklyn.)

21. 5th Ave is congested.
Honestly people get out of the streets and stay out of the running lanes. We have been trucking for more than 20 miles at this point. It is bad enough we have six miles to go, please don’t make us dodge you. But thanks for the support!

22. Water Stations become hazardous after a few thousand runners go by.
This was especially true after my legs started to really hurt. As we got closer to the end of the race it was as if we had to high step it to get through the cups and out of the puddles. A huge thank you to the hydration station captains and their army of volunteers.

23. The 5th Ave hill is evil.
Up there with Brooklyn…

24. Choosing to push it at the end was the right choice.
I wish I pushed harder at the end but in all honesty I couldn’t go any harder than I did for the last 3.5 miles and I am proud I crossed the finish line running.

25. Central Park is beautiful this time of year.
Not that I had a chance to enjoy it but still it is pretty.

26. Finishing was FANTASTIC.
Tears of joy and pain and then a medal. Pleased to have crossed the finish line and for it to be over…except for the cattle drive to get our baggage and then out of the Park. For as far as the eye could see there were exhausted-foil-wrapped-runners longing for a chair and personal space. But it was great and the bag of food and liquid was lifesaving, quite literally for many of us I am sure.

26.2. I can’t wait till next year.

Thanks to every one of you! This was a long journey and with over 400 miles of training and races behind me I look forward to my life as a runner and supporter of your endeavors. Let me know when you contemplate doing something crazy so I am there to make sure you do it, the way you all were there for me for the 2010 NYC Marathon.

4 comments:

gobux said...

GREAT post! Couldn't agree more with all of it- the tissues, the cold, the smoker in Brooklyn (wtf?!?! that one really bothered me), the 59th street bridge (which I had NOT trained on...took fooorreeevverrr), the 5th ave hill. Glad you had a great run, its been great following you during the last few weeks as we geared up for this, best of luck NEXT YEAR!

Adam said...

If you don't want to wait until next year, there's a marathon in Tiberias in January - and you won't be so cold either :o)

Adam Barr said...

Great blog post! I'm now slightly convinced that I ran the marathon as well.

Molly Berger said...

Donny,
Congrats on a great race! I'm so happy for you. I loved hearing about your training from Janie and loved reading about your race. I look forward to seeing you and Abby at Thanksgiving. Let's cook a great dinner Friday night and try to "run off" some of the calories on Sat.
I want more race details!!
Molly