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!


  1. What an achievement, Nancy. Congratulations! And thank you for the wonderful description of the experience. It's especially meaningful to those of us who will never get to run a marathon:). Congrats, again! Roseann