Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Big Day Out

The Big Day has come and gone, but wow, what a day it was!  It is a week later and I am still on a high.  I still can't really get my head around the fact that I ran a marathon, I finished a marathon, and I can now call myself a "Marathoner!"  It seems surreal now, almost like a dream. It is mostly a blur--but a wondrous blur of happy faces and cheering crowds, great signs and amazing bands and performers, a rather frustrating wait on a line for the bathroom (that made my finishing time at least seven minutes slower), and my own personal cheerleaders/photographers that came out to cheer me on even if I didn't see all of them (Jason, Jeff, Joanne, Kathleen, Meredith, Rosemarie, Wendy, and of course Liz and Jack).  If it wasn't for the sore legs that I had for several days after, and the pictures of me in action, I would definitely doubt the fact that I had actually run the NYC Marathon!

Here is a not-so-brief synapsis of my Big Day Out: 

My journey began at 4am with coffee, getting dressed in my marathon outfit and extra outer layers for the wait on Staten Island.  I pinned on my number on my front and on my back I pinned a bumper sticker for Pets for Vets.  I figured that would help spread the word about the cause I was raising money for! 

Not on my bumper, but close enough!

Then it was all aboard the Essex Running Club bus at 5:30am.  We got to Staten Island without much of a problem although our bus did make a few wrong turns.  Other than that I really would say that is the way to go if you need to get to the start of NYC Marathon from NJ!

Excited runners on the bus!

We sat on Staten Island for about 3 hours waiting for our wave to be called (I was in the last wave, starting at 10:55am).  All the runners wore heavier toss-away outer clothes(which were collected by various charities when we left), wrapped themselves in garbage bags or old foil blankets for extra warmth, and huddled and chatted to pass the time. It was windy and cold, but I was snug in my garbage bag chic!  There were bagels, coffee, and water for the runners, as well as a huge number of porta-potties.  I used them about 12 times before we were actually called to the starting line.  It didn't help, as later I did have to stop. 

New York Fashion Week here I come!

Finally Wave 4 ("the fun wave" the race announcer proclaimed us, as we aren't out to win the race--yeah, dude thanks for reminding me I'm slow) was called to the start, and soon the starting gun went off.  We all whooped and shuffled towards the starting line to the sounds of "New York, New York" being blasted over the PA.  We headed over the line and started our run onto the bridge.  It was a bit anticlimactic for me as I was on the lower level of the bridge.  I couldn't look up and see the huge bridge towering over me, but also no one peed on me from the top deck, so I was okay with it.  I kept my pace down as I was warned by my coaches and many others not to let the adrenaline take over in the first few miles, and just tried to take it all in.   

"Where's Nancy?"

As we crossed the Verrazano Bridge, someone running near me said, "Well, that's one borough down!" and there was a hearty laugh from others in the vicinity.

Brooklyn was a fun part of the race.  I wore my iPod on but didn't turn on the music as I wanted to be able to hear the cheering and the music and take in as much of the experience as I could.  There were loads of people and bands, lots of cute little neighborhoods and things to look at. I tried to give the thumbs up or a wave to as many the performers as I could to show my appreciation that they were out there playing in the cold to make it a fun experience for us and all the spectators.   

Around mile 9, still in Brooklyn, I unfortunately had to take a bathroom break...the minutes ticked away as I stood on line for a porta-potty.  There were five stalls, and only three lines, and of course I was on the line that was only using one of the stalls.  I started to act like the bathroom monitor and get people on line in front of me to go to the other stalls.  I got more and more frustrated seeing the runners go by, and then the walkers go by...I figured much longer and I would be the last one to finish!

Finally, I got my turn and then leaped back into the race.  I tried to make up a bit of time but I had to weave around people who were walking or running slower than I.  Fortunately, that was my first and last porta-potty break of the race.  

Queens was a quick borough, but I do remember seeing a high school band playing the Rocky theme and a LGBT marching band in white uniforms with rainbows and a color guard.  I lived in Queens for several years but never went to spectate the marathon from there, and now I wish I had. 

Then it was onto the 59th Street Bridge into Manhattan.  Many runners were stopping to take photographs.  I looked at the scenery but just kept running slowly, one foot after another. I complimented a Scottish runner on his dragon hat (in retrospect I think it might have been a Nessie hat).  He told me he had seen a runner dressed as Jesus and carrying a cross, but he put it down to rest in front of a temple.  I laughed and kept my slow but steady pace up and over the bridge.  Passed a lot of walkers, but I wasn't going much faster than them anyway. 

Coming down into Manhattan was also a bit anticlimactic.  It was quiet on the bridge, and I had been told there was a roar of the crowd when you came off the bridge.  I wouldn't call it a roar, more of a loud murmur, but it was late in the day and maybe some people had already lost interest and wandered off.  

But First Avenue did get more crowded, and exciting, especially outside of the bars, which had music blasting into the streets and possibly drunk bar patrons making noise for the runners. 

I started watching for my friends at this point, because I had told them the Upper East Side was a good place to watch, and then they could catch me again in Central Park, towards mile 23 or 24 without too much of a walk.  Also, I thought some of them might enjoy a tasty beer while waiting for me.

I knew Wendy was going to be on the East Side of 79th Street, and I found her with her friend and their respective dogs pretty quickly.  Wendy's dog did not seem that impressed that I was running.  In fact he wasn't even watching the marathon.  I didn't have any treats for him, so that may have been the problem!  

Note he is facing away from the marathon route!

Then I crossed over to  the west side of First Ave, because I knew that is where most of the others would likely be standing, but I wasn't sure where exactly.

One decision I made prior to the race was that I didn't want to wear my name on my shirt.  Lots of people recommended I do it just for the support of hearing your name called out continuously. I would have loved that, but if people I knew were watching and didn't have a sign or something to attract my attention, how would I hear them calling my name.  And I am glad, because all of a sudden out of nowhere I heard, "Nancy!" 

And there was Liz and her son Jack, and I was super-excited to see them, as you can see by my reaction in the picture below!  

"Liz and Jack!  Woo hoo!"

Liz took some amazing pictures, better than the professionals who took the pics.  I think I will hire her to photograph to all my races and other important functions from now on! 

My biggest fan!

I posed for a picture with Jack, my favorite little guy, and then I was off again.  I was starting to feel like a celebrity with all these people who came out to watch for me! 

Next, I saw the contingent from New Jersey--Rosemarie, Meredith, Joanne, and Jason.  I could see them from a distance because they did have a sign for me!  They were tracking me and a couple of other friends online and were able to hold up the right sign at the right time for whoever was running by next!  It was amazing to see them, and I stopped for hugs and to chat for a minute. 

Definitely can't miss this sign!

They seemed eager for me to be off again (the first thing I think I told them was about my lengthy wait for the bathroom, so maybe they didn't want to hear me complaining about how much slower my time was because I stopped to talk to them) so I got back on the road quickly.   After seeing them, the miles I had run and still had to run suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks.  The muscles in my thighs were sore and my IT Bands started tightening up.  I didn't feel like I ever "hit a wall" but at mile 20, sh*t definitely got real and I was ready to be done.  I finally turned on my headphones and used my NYC play list to help me through the next 6 miles.

Up to the Bronx for just a short time.  More bands and DJs, and some great spectators there, although a little more sparse than Manhattan.  I saw a tiny girl standing with her father apart from other spectators.  She couldn't have been more than two, and had her hand out to high five the runners.  So of course I had to go high five her.  It was an adorable moment for me!

I saw a runner with a shirt that asked, "Why couldn't Pheidippides have died at Mile 20?" and gave her the thumbs up. Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens and died after delivering a message.  He  became the inspiration for the modern marathon--that someone who died after running 26.2 miles became an inspiration just goes to show you how crazy runners are.  I did look him up, and he had evidently run 150 miles before he even ran 26.2 so I guess it isn't as bad as it could have been. 

I mostly kept the music on unless I passed a band or DJ.  But I really needed the spectators energy to spur me on at this point.  My legs were screaming at me now. 

"Touch Here For Power!"  proclaimed someone's sign.  I touched it.  The people cheered for me.  

"Only 5 miles Until Beer!" said another sign.  I yelled, "I love your sign!" and gave the thumbs up.  They cheered.

Another person held up a sign that said, "I'm Cheering For You, Random Stranger!"  I waved and called, "Thank you!  I needed that!"  They cheered.  

I made eye contact with as many of the spectators as I could.  Their energy and support was really helping. 

We continued back down into Manhattan.  The crowds started to swell again.  I ran south on Fifth Avenue and had a clear view of the Empire State Building.  The sun was shining and it was a beautiful view. 

All of a sudden, "Imagine" came up on my iPod.  At that moment, in my hazy, tired mind, over the noise of the screams from my legs, I decided that the NYC Marathon was exactly what John Lennon was singing about.  No countries, no religion, no heaven or hell, people living for today.  It was an exquisite moment.  I felt like I was on top of the world. It propelled me forward. I got tears in my eyes.  I don't think I will ever forget that moment. 

Then, far too soon, the song and the moment ended.  Because there was this looooong, slow hill as I ran south on Fifth Avenue.  It seemed to go on and on, and up and up.  I stopped to get part of a banana, hoping the potassium would help stave off the growing discomfort (really, the stabbing pains) that I was feeling in my legs.  Up, up, up, along Central Park.  I couldn't wait for the hill to level off. 

All of a sudden, a man came running cross the street in front of me.  It was my friend Jeff who yelled, "I love you!" and gave me a huge hug before darting over to the opposite side of the street out of the way.  Such a great and funny surprise!  That got me up the rest of the hill. 

Then it was back into the park.  You never realize how hilly Central Park is, until you are on your last two miles of the NYC Marathon.  I hate you rolling hills, I hate you!!!

Saw my cheering section of Jason, Joanne, Meredith and Rosemarie again as they had crossed over to the park to see me again.  I wasn't as ebullient this time--now I was really tired of running and just wanted it to be over!  I think you can see that on my face in the picture below.  I didn't stop to chat this time, but my arms were still strong enough to give a thumbs up.

"Yes, I'm still running!"

More rolling hills, I was so tired but more than anything else, I wanted to rip Frederick Olmstead limb from limb for designing the park with all those hills.  Seriously, what was he thinking?  Didn't they have a way of smoothing down hills in those days?

A woman tapped me on my shoulder and said something to me that I couldn't hear.  She was wearing a Northshore Animal League shirt, and said something about my Pets for Vets bumper sticker that I was wearing on the back of my shirt.  All I could do was give her the thumbs up.  I assume she was saying something positive, but I had my music blasting at this point and I didn't care about anything except getting to that finish line that seemed to never come. I read many of the other runners' shirts, so I am hoping that many read mine and that I spread the word about my charity. 

We turned onto the straightaway on the 57th Street and suddenly I could smell the horribly pungent odor of the park zoo.  I don't know if it was Olmstead's idea for putting in a zoo there, but I wanted to punch whoever did. People were cheering all along 57th, but I don't know how they could stand there for very long with the smell. Talk about adding insult to injury. 

Then the Mile 25 marker loomed.  I knew I was almost there.  

My friend Kathleen was there but I didn't hear her calling my name.  My music was up so loud I doubt I could have heard a trumpeting elephant bearing down on me.  However, she said that I was smiling (maybe grimacing?) and looking strong even at the end. I was glad I still looked like I was having fun, because I really wasn't. 

Then I could see the Mile 26 marker!  Then I could see the Finish Line!  I don't think I've ever been so happy!  I had a small burst of energy, picked up my pace a bit and smiled and raised my arms as I crossed over the line.  I was done, in 5 hours, 13 minutes, and 33 seconds (with of course, a 7 minute bathroom break--not that I'm bitter about that or anything)! I didn't have to walk or stop at all (except for the bathroom break and when I stopped to refill my water bottle) and I was so amazed at being able to keep going all that time. 

I got my medal and hugged the volunteer who gave it to me.  Fortunately, she didn't seem to mind a sweaty and smelly hug.  I got my foil finisher blanket.  My official finisher picture.  Then I went to meet my friends and put on my warm apres-marathon clothes and comfy shoes.  But first there was another photo op:

Best bling and blanket ever!

And then the apres-marathon beer!

Best beer ever with Judy, my sister runner!

I can't even begin to express how wonderful the day was. The sore legs are gone, but the pride and happiness I feel remain.  I know I could never have finished without the support of the spectators.  They truly brought me home.  I don't think I could have asked for anything better than the experience I had for my first marathon, and I know I will never forget it.   

Proof that I am indeed a Marathoner!

Official Finish Photo! 5:13:33

So many thanks to everyone who supported me and my cause throughout the training process and the Marathon itself.  I am so lucky to have so many wonderful and generous people in my life.  It was not an easy journey, sometimes, but it was all definitely worth it in the end.  

And New York City, you are indeed the best city in all the world.  I'm glad you were my first.  

There is only one thing left to ask, which is:  "When is the next one?"

Stay tuned!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Stronger Than I Thought

"...there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." - Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne

I am now less than four weeks out from the NYC Marathon (Sunday November 3).   I've been learning a lot about myself in the training process, and two of the things I most recently learned is that, for me, running is never easy, and that inspiration sometimes comes from unexpected places.  This includes from within.

I never, ever thought I would ever run a marathon.  I considered it a crazy goal, not at all something that I would ever want to do and certainly something well beyond my ability.  But over the past two years that I have been running in earnest, I gradually realized that not only do I have the desire to run a marathon, I have the determination and drive to do it (and maybe a bit of craziness mixed in there as well)!  This is a pretty amazing thing, because I don't consider myself an athlete  (anyone who knew me in middle school knows that I always came in last at track meets, and those who played volleyball with me know I don't have naturally good hand-eye coordination and am scared of the ball).  It is simply because I want to do it and I am working hard to achieve it. 

Next weekend is my last scheduled long run before the marathon, and yet another milestone--running 20 miles.  I will be running the LBI 18-miler and tacking on 2 extra miles to get to the magic number of 20.  The LBI 18-miler is a great race, which I had lots of fun spectating last year.  Hopefully it will be even more fun to run it!  I am running with some of the ladies from Power of the Pack, a running group that formed out of some of the training programs at Fleet Feet in Montclair, my local running store. 
After the LBI race, I start the "taper".  This, for you non-runners out there, is the time that you lower your mileage to give your legs a rest and shore up your energy before the big day.  A lot of runners seem to have a problem with not running the long miles, but I don't think I will be unhappy.  I am looking forward to have a run of "only" ten or eight miles and resting really hard!  Woo hoo!  And carbo-loading, although I think I started that as soon as I found I got into the marathon!
I am feeling generally good at this point.  I have been so fortunate not to have had an injury other than some normal aches and pains.  I am so grateful to all of you for your support and encouragement during this time, whether it is "liking" my posts about running on facebook, reading my blog, making a donation to my fundraising campaign for Pets for Vets (you've helped me exceed my goal but I am still taking donations for this worthy cause), or just listening to me drone on about running.   Many of you also know I lost my job recently, and the outpouring of concern, suggestions, and help have been especially touching.  I am lucky to have gotten another job in the same field and I will be starting soon.  My ultimate goal is to do be able to switch careers entirely, but for now it will help pay the bills (and ensure that I can get some new running sneakers when I need them).  I feel really lucky to have been able to get to this point in running and life with a lot of help from my friends and family!

I would like to give a couple of special thank-yous to those who have been so supportive around training and running:  Judy Heller (who suggested I join the first training class), the ladies of Power of the Pack who are also training for the big event, and John Fabbro, the owner of Fleet Feet who has been coaching the Power of the Pack, who is also an amazing runner and all-around wonderful person.  If you live in the Montclair area and are interested in running, I STRONGLY suggest that you go to Fleet Feet for your sneakers and training classes.  It is a great store, full of amazing people who are runners and coach runners, and are so supportive and caring.  I can't say enough about this place. 
So with that, let me give you the important information:
To make a donation to my fundraising campaign for Pets for Vets, an organization that works to train shelter dogs to be companion animals to service people as they reintegrate into civilian life:
Here is the website for Pets for Vets, so you can read more about how they help servicemen and women returning home:

If you are interested in doing fundraising for a charitable group or cause, I personally know the founder of this wonderful organization, which can help you do it:
Here is my blog, I haven't updated as often as I would like, but I do enjoy writing it (and this letter will probably go up there at some point):
And here is the link to Fleet Feet, the best running store in the world:

Thanks again, and I would like to offer the above quote from Winnie-the-Pooh to everyone out there.  Sometimes inspiration does come from unexpected sources!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Running Angels

On Sunday September 22, I ran a half-marathon in Jersey City as part of my training--The Newport Liberty Half Marathon.  It was my third half, and my time was great in comparison to my previous half-marathons. It was a beautiful, dry day, with clear blue skies and wonderful views of the Statue of Liberty and the new Freedom Tower.  We ran part of the race through Jersey City, where police officers held back traffic and the light rail for runners to cross, and then through Liberty State Park. I didn't take any lengthy breaks, just a few stops to stretch and refill my water bottle.  

But despite the perfect weather and the gorgeous views, it was a tough run for me.  For some reason, I thought that since I'd been doing longer distances, that a half would be a breeze.  I wasn't nervous at all, didn't have a problem sleeping and I didn't worry about it at all.  How naive of me to think it was going to be easy!  

Photos courtesy of Jessica Barton! 

Look at me, all casual (second from left)!  Easy!  Right?  Ha! 

I think I started out a little faster than I should have, and got really tired in the middle of the race.   We were running on brick walkways for much of the race, and I started I feeling some achiness in my hip and down my leg.  We also had to kind of do a couple of switchbacks in the route where you would to double back and be running past people going in the opposite direction which was somewhat disconcerting.  A few times you could see the route spooling out in front of you and runners streaming ahead of you for a mile or more.
 Lady Liberty and the runners! I am out there somewhere!

So after a while these things started to play havoc with my mind.  Negative thoughts kept popping up. "Oh, when will this be over? Why am I having such a hard time with this?  I hope I'm not hurting my hip!  Look at all those runners going faster than I!  How am I going to run the NYC Marathon if I can't even run a half marathon? I still have to run all that way?"

Freedom Tower--such a cool view!  Note the brick walkways.

It was a very long half-marathon.  I was struggling, wishing for it to be over.  

And then I saw three people running just ahead of me.  Three people I now am thinking of as my running angels. 

The first two people were a pair--a blind runner, and his running guide from Achilles International, an organization that enables people with disabilities to participate in athletic events.  The two of them were linked together by a stretchy band that each held in his hand.  The third was a woman who was in her early 70s at least.  Her face and legs were creased with age, but she was strong and had an effortless stride with hands held low at her sides.

I can't say that my brain and body suddenly felt awesome or that I didn't have a negative thought for the rest of the race.  But when I saw these three, I was inspired and rejuvenated  at a time that I really needed some help.  

The blind man ran the half despite his lack of sight, and put his trust in his guide to bring him safely to the end.

The Achilles Guide was running the race not just for himself, but for someone else, who couldn't run it without him. 

The woman was running a half marathon in her early 70s, at an age when many start to decline in health and fitness.

Seeing these three people really helped me get through my last few miles.  I didn't know who any of them are, and I will never see them again. But I think I will remember them for a long time.   I was lucky to have had them as my running angels that day.  

Who or what inspires you when you are having a tough run?  Do you get your inspiration from inside or outside?  Is there anyone that you remember who said something or did something for you that helped you get through training or a race?  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sh*t Just Got Real

Thirteen miles--when marathon training stops being polite and starts getting real.  

Downright rude is more like it.

My friend Judy and I took a little road trip to a park in Bergen County to get our long run in. The park is about 6 miles long and goes through 5 or 6 towns.  I figured it would be nice for a change of scenery and to have a run where I didn't have to contend with the road traffic and stoplights.  I could do my 13 miles without doing repeated loops like I normally have to do on longer runs.  I could simply travel the length of the park and back, and add an extra mile at the end.  I actually wanted to do 13.2 miles, just to say I ran farther than I ever had before (a half marathon is 13.1).  

Judy and I started running in opposite directions, as we both like to run at our own pace and would just meet back at the car afterwards.  The park is very pretty, winding paved paths through mostly green and leafy areas, running along a river.  There are ducks, geese, and I even saw a great blue heron. There are areas where it runs near a highway, goes under some local roads, and goes through residential areas, but you never have to cross any traffic.  The paths are only for runners, walkers, dog owners, and cyclists.  Usually I love running off the roads, looking at trees and birds and listening to nature.  Usually I don't even put on my music until the last mile or two of the run, when I need a little motivation to push through. 

However, this day was different.  Even the first mile was rough.  What kept coming up was the thought that I had to do THIRTEEN MILES!  

I've run 13.1.  Twice.  So what is the big deal?

I think the big deal is that it was a training run, not a race.  There is no one cheering for you.  No race-induced adrenaline.  No feeling like you've worked so hard for this moment and all your training is coming to fruition.  That you are about to achieve the goal you've been working for.  In fact, I am really at the beginning of training.  My longest training run is going to be 20 miles.  So I still have a long, long way to go. I am looking down a long road that will just get longer and tougher.  

I had to put on my music at mile 8, and slogged along as best I could.  I stopped three times to refill my water bottle and then kept going.  I felt as though I would never finish. I didn't enjoy myself and I certainly didn't feel any kind of runner's high.  Towards the end I just kept talking to myself as I struggled to put one foot ahead of another.  

"You can do it."  

"You've run this far before."

"Come on, it isn't much longer."

"That guy just passed you, and he is eighty years old.  You can certainly run another two miles."

"What would happen if I started yelling at people to high five me as I passed them?  Do you think they would do it or would they think I was insane?"

"Just another mile.  You've done this a hundred times before."

"Look at those people running past me.  How much farther have they run than you?  You can make it.  It is another three quarters of a mile."

"Buck up, just keep going.  You're almost there."

And then my watch beeped and it was over.  I immediately stopped running at thirteen miles and said, "THANK GOD" in a very loud voice.  Who cared about the .2?  Not me.  I did my thirteen, and rationalized that it while it wasn't the farthest distance I've ever done, it was the longest training run.  And I made it.

But boy, I still have a long way to go.   And that eighty-year-old can kick my butt!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Surviving George Clooney

Those of you who know me are well-aware that George Clooney is my ultimate man.  He has been ever since the days of that television hit show, ER.  He is handsome, talented, caring (Save Darfur and the Concert for Haiti organizer), tall, liberal, and has a good sense of humor (he is known to play practical jokes on movie sets).  He was married once, no children (which is a shame because those genes really need to be passed on).  Since then, George has dated a string of beautiful women but never remarried.   

As I was running one evening, I started thinking: what if I went on a date with George Clooney, in all his awesomeness?  Would it be the most wonderful evening ever? Would I be instantly addicted?  What if he spoiled me for all subsequent men?  Would I ever get over him?  Would I ever find anyone else as amazing as he?  Would I ever even think of going on another date?

Then it occurred to me--what if the NYC Marathon is the George Clooney of marathons?
Bear with me here....New York City, to me, is the best city in the world.  It really is the ultimate of all cities.  I do love other cities:  Paris, Prague, San Francisco, but I can't love any of them  as much as NYC.  The NYC Marathon was the one marathon I wanted to run because I didn't know if I would ever do another one.  This marathon has so many things going for it--the throngs of amazingly supportive cheering spectators 10 people deep; the route through all five boroughs; running in the state where I was born and raised; and full of people I know, close to home.  
But, maybe George Clooney is really not the man I think he is.  Maybe he is completely self-absorbed and selfish.  Maybe he is a jerk to end all jerks.  And maybe, the NYC Marathon will be awful.  Maybe I will hate every minute of it.  Maybe I will throw up, poop myself, and barely make it over the finish line. 

Will I ever get over the NYC Marathon?  Will it spoil me forever?

I take my inspiration from Talia Balsam, who was George's first (and only) wife.  Her life didn't end when she and George broke up.  She went on to marry Roger Sterling (aka John Slattery--not too shabby), to whom she is still married. Obviously, Talia Balsam got over George.  So why wouldn't I pick myself up again and look for someone else.  Someone different, but someone still wonderful?  Maybe even, dare I say it, more ultimate than George?

Someone like John Slattery. 

Wait a minute. 

Would that mean, I would HAVE to do another marathon just to get over the NYC Marathon? 

I'm not going to worry about that just yet.

But hey, George?  Call me.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Chariots of Tired

Here is my plan for the NYC Marathon in case I get tired.  The video is a little long, but worth watching if you didn't see it during the Olympics Opening Ceremonies in London!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Not-So-Cool Runnings

Okay, so maybe I have too much time on my hands.

As I was trying to figure out how to "customize" this blog (I think I need help from my brother, so expect a call, Chris), I was going through my pictures and looking at the different ways people react to a camera during a run.  There are usually tons of people snapping pictures of the runners, whether official event photographers, people out to cheer on their family/friends, or just random spectators. I've noticed, depending on the type of runner, the response to the photographers vary.  

For instance, consider the fast runners, aka the "elites".  These runners, they just want to win, or break a record, or win in their age group.  They usually ignore the photographers, or don't see them because they are running way too fast.  They also generally look amazing in their photos.  Elites look like gazelles, their muscles are rippling, they barely look like they are sweating.  The facial expression on these runners is usually one of determination and valor.  They have their eyes on the prize.

                                     Elites. (All photos credit C. Livingston except my selfie)

Then, there are the rest of the runners, the other eleventy thousand, who are not going to win, or set a record, or even come close to winning.  In this group, I would say there are two categories of runners.  The first is what I think of as Serious Runners.  They look serious, act serious, and running is a very serious activity for them.  These are the people who run before the race to warm up, or maybe run the whole race in the opposite direction to the starting line to warm up. They ignore the camera because they are way too Serious about Running to bother with silly things like how they look while Running Seriously.  I know I am poking fun at them a little, but I have the utmost respect for them and their ability to be as dedicated as they are.  They train hard, race harder, set goals and achieve them.  They push themselves and race against the clock. 

                                          Serious Runners. I am not in this group.

However, I obviously do not belong to that group.  I can't be serious enough to belong to the Serious Runners.  They would never have me. I belong to the second subset of this group, which I will call  Non-Serious-Runners (NSRs).  I, like most of the people in this group, do not want to run before the race--there will be enough running during the race, thank you very much.  I put on headphones and dance while I am waiting for the start.  I have to stop to drink because if I try to drink out of a cup while running I choke. I try to find a garbage pail to toss my empty cup into, rather than drop it on the ground like a Serious Runner.  I sometimes sing words/phrases to songs on my ipod aloud as I am running, which may scare/startle/annoy people.  I will scream when I see people I know, whether they recognize me or not.  I like to acknowledge the people who are there cheering the runners on.  For instance, in some of the local races I've done, I like to give little kids high fives, run through the sprinklers that people in the neighborhood have going in the summer races, and occasionally give the "woo hoo" to groups of spectators.  In my first half marathon in Philadelphia, I high-fived a bunch of drag queens, waved at anyone who was waving as I went by (probably at their friend who was running next to me) and "woo-hooed" at people who were cheering or ringing cow bells or holding up silly signs.   I find that it gives me a huge lift of energy and makes me forget about the fact that I still have 7 miles, 2 miles, or 0.5 miles to go.   And if I lose time on my run while I give little kids high-fives, who really cares?  Not me, I am a NSR!  I am happy, the little kids are happy, the cheerers/sprinkler-spritzers/silly-sign-holders all know they are doing something that is helping me, and are well-appreciated. 

Now, that brings me back to my original thoughts on photographs.  Since I am not a Serious Runner, I am one of those people who notice the photographers.  And, I am vain enough to want to look good in a photograph so I can buy it and give it to my parents so they can display it on their mantel.  Not being married or having kids, having graduated too many years ago to comfortably count, and not going to win the Nobel Prize (at least not this year), I would like them to have a picture or two of me doing something and looking cool while doing it. 

So, how does one look cool in these race photos?    Some people flash the peace/victory sign.  This is cool.  Some people give a wave, but not like they are trying to achieve lift off or have just spotted the radio station award van. They are chill.

                          Despite the fact that this guy is dressed as a caveman (?) he looks cool. 

I have been in enough "official"  race photographs to know I have to really work in order to look good.  I am not a pretty runner.  My face turns all shades of pink and red . My muscles do not ripple.  The look on my face is more like desperation than determination.   I have had more than one picture where I look like I am about to lie down on the ground and die.  If I am feeling good,  I might give the "two thumbs up" sign which is dorky, not cool, or a huge, toothy, Jim Carey-like grin which makes me look insane.  In three out of four of the most recent set of race photos, my eyes are closed.  However,  I am smiling, which means I had a fun enough race to actually have enough wherewithal that I wanted to look decent in a finish photo.  So I guess that is progress.     

What is your suggestion for taking a good race photograph?

                                         Not so cool!  Maybe a little insane. But happy!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Here's The Link to My Fundraising Page!

I am very excited to have set up my fundraising page for the NYC Marathon!  I have chosen Pets for Vets as the organization I am fundraising for!  It trains shelter pets, mainly dogs, to become companion animals to service men and women who have returned to civilian life with physical or emotional injuries. 

Here is the link to my page:

Here is the link to Pets for Vets:

I have set this up through an organization called Running on Love, which allows you to raise money for any charity you choose!


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Top Eleven List

Those of you who don't run are smart.  Because in the midst of the long humidity and heat wave we are having in the East, running isn't a whole lot of fun for me.  It is actually a lot less than a lot of fun.  It pretty much sucks.  To someone who claims to love running in this weather, I say, "YOU LIE!".  Or else, good for you, but secretly, you make me want to never speak to you again.  This weather really makes me want to never come out of my house again, and I don't even have central air, just two crappy window units that make an awful racket (if anyone help me out with this a/c noise issue, let me know).
However, a poor attitude about running won't get me very far, in fact, it won't get me out of bed.  And if I am indeed going to make it through the NYC Marathon Training, and the event itself, I need to, at a minimum, get out of bed.  So, I am trying to be more positive.  It isn't easy, especially because negative feelings are natural and it is important to be able to express them from time to time.  I am not sure that it is possible, or even really healthy, to be all-positive, all the time.  However, it does seem to help to have positive thoughts when you have to get up at the crack of dawn to run in weather that is so hot and steamy you feel like you are the Wicked Witch of the West.  Instead of thinking, "Oh my gosh, why the feck am I doing this?" or,  "This is just cray-cray!" or, "Am I running in Hell?",  I've been trying to replace those kind of thoughts with more positive, or at least more humorous thoughts.   It is actually amusing to try to think up things to post on facebook (or now on my little old blog) that might be funny or mildly amusing to others.  So in that vein, I present you with my Top Eleven List*:  THINGS I APPRECIATED ABOUT TODAY'S HOT AND HUMID LONG RUN.  

Please read it in the style of David Letterman:

11. - Chirping birdies (they are so cheerful even in the heat, those little buggers).
10.  - Shade.  From trees, buildings, passing garbage trucks, faster runners, etc.
9.  - Sprinklers (and I especially thank the guy who didn't yell at me for running across his lawn so I could go through it as he was setting it up).
8. - Cute doggies out for their morning walks, aww.  Cute doggies, anytime are appreciated.  Aww.
7. - That I did not have the need to use any porta-potties.  I know that day will come, but I am glad it wasn't today. 
6. - Several attractive male runners without shirts passing me ("How YOU doin'?").
5. - Water fountains, even the one that the cute doggy used right before I did, no lie.  A big poodle mix with his front paws up on the fountain.  But I used it anyway.  Probably no worse than any human germs. 
4. - The Sunscreen Song (Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen by Baz Luhrmann).  Look it up, it gives some good advice, and you can try to memorize it and recite it as you run, possibly to annoy other runners or make them think you are yelling random words at them, or that you are crazy!
3. - The slight breeze that kicked up on the way back to my house.  I did appreciate that.
2. - That the last eighth of a mile was downhill.  I REALLY appreciated that. 
And the number one Top Eleven "Thing I Appreciated About Today's Hot and Humid Long Run":
1. - That I did it and I finished and that I don't have to do another long run til next weekend! Woo hoo!
* Did not want to totally rip off  David Letterman, because I am sure he will eventually hear about my blog and want to interview me.  


Again.  Again.  And again. 

May 29, 2013.  I had tossed my running shoes, so to speak, into the lottery for the 2013 NYC Marathon and was waiting to hear if I had gotten in. I had only told a few people because I didn't want to have to  tell everyone if I didn't get in.  This from a girl who always insisted that marathoners were crazy, that she could never do it, why would anyone do that to their body, that running that far really isn't good for you.

However, I had run two half marathons in the past year and done a lot of other shorter races.  I had a wonderful training program through Fleet Feet in Montclair.  I had a lot of supportive runner friends.  And the races---I loved the energy of the races.  I loved seeing the spectators cheering for their friends and family members, and a whole lot of other people they didn't know.  I loved the funny signs and costumes I saw in some races.  In the first half I ran, I didn't feel like I was even running for the first 8 or 9 miles.  Of course when I hit Mile 11 I felt like I had been run over by a truck.  Those last two miles were unbelievably long and hard.  But when I was done, boy was I proud of myself.  While I didn't do so well in the second half, I knew it was more the fact that I had just returned from an overseas trip two days previously and made the mistake of eating too close to the start time of the race.  I felt physically ill most of the race, and ended up doing a run-walk.  I still made it, and my time wasn't horrible, but it was definitely not a happy run.  But still, I finished.  And somehow, I wanted to do it again, if only to prove to myself that I could have a better race.


I had started playing around with the idea of entering the marathon lottery a couple of months ago.  If I was going to to do a marathon it was going to have to be the NYC Marathon, because I didn't know if I would or could ever do more than one.  I have been to it as a spectator several times, once to see a boyfriend run, 15 years or more ago.  It was so inspiring.  All those people running through the greatest city in the world.  The spectators and the support they gave were amazing.  I'm sure there are many other cities where people feel the same way.  But, for me, it was NYC.  For me, this would have to be THE marathon.  Perhaps the ONLY marathon.  Perhaps not.  But I didn't want to risk perhaps my only marathon on any other city. 


Over and over I clicked on the refresh button on my email, willing one from NYRR to appear.  I had been told that sometimes you would see the charge on your credit card first, but I couldn't remember which credit card I had used, plus, I didn't have a computer at work so I only had my phone, and it wasn't easy to check three different cards. 

Email from the one friend I had told:  "Did you hear anything yet?"
It was about two pm.
"No," I replied.  "I am assuming if I haven't heard by now I haven't gotten in."
"Their website says that they are still picking numbers.  So keep an eye out, there is still hope!"


I ended up getting busy with some things after work and kind of forgot about it until I got home at about 8pm. 
I sat down to eat dinner and checked my email on the computer.

There it was, the email from NYRR.

Of course the subject line just said, "NYC Marathon."  Not "Congratulations!" or "Better Luck Next Time."
Deep breath.
Email opens.

"Dear Nancy Livingston:
"Congratulations!  You are IN!"


I have to run a marathon in November!  Oh my.  Oh my.  HOLY SH*T.  What have I gotten myself into?

However scared I was, however daunting the task of training for the Marathon, however clueless I am about what I would have to go through, I couldn't lie to myself:


I later found out that over 33,000 people applied to the lottery and only 4,500 were picked.  I think that is all the luck I have ever had in my life, all going into this one win.  I felt a little guilty that people who had been trying to get in for a few years hadn't been picked.  Some amazing runners didn't get in.  Someone I knew who had time-qualified last year didn't get in this year because they upped the time by 5 minutes. 

I felt a little guilty.  Not very guilty.  I deserved this chance just as much as anyone else. 
And whatever happens, I will be successful.  I may not be able to run the whole time.  I may have to walk.  I may have to crawl.  But barring any unforeseen injuries or uncontrollable bodily functions (I will spare you the name of the actual functions) that prevent me from being able to even crawl, I will make it.   I have family and friends and coaches who will support and encourage me.  I have this goal-oriented grit down deep inside of me that will get me there.  I will make it.

NYC, I will see you in November.  Looking forward to it.