Sunday morning, I woke up around 3:30am. I think my brain made sure I woke up way before the 4:30am phone call, watch alarm, clock radio, and cell phone alarm announced their cheerful tones to tell me that it’s time for the race! Slightly disoriented, I wasn’t sure the actual time because of Day Light Savings. None of the alarm devices chirped, so I closed my eyes to be awakened by the phone, a short time later. It was a strange advertising message, and I was hoping for a message like “Good Luck on your race today.” A message like that would have been a nice start for the day!
Every Hotel that I have stayed at usually has the Weather Channel on the TV. As I lied in bed, I turned on the Television and flip through the channels, after 10 minutes of clicking (it must be a guy thing), I realized that checking for the weather and correct time wasn’t meant to be. Time to toss the covers to the side and get ready my First Marathon ever!
I mentally checked off everything I wanted to bring with me! Ipod, Check. Watch, Check. Hat, Check. Money, Check. Inhaler, Check. I told myself, “You can forget everything else, except for the Racing Bib and the Champion Timing Chip.”
I have everything for the race. Kissed the kids and Irene. I headed down elevator for my breakfast. For the past several months, 4-5 days a week I would have the same breakfast sandwich at the same Bagel Shop on my way to work. I would have 2 eggs on a roll with turkey and tomato with a lot of pepper. About 2-3 weeks ago, I switched the eggs to egg whites, since I wanted to lower my cholesterol also.
Anyway, this deli downstairs from the Hotel has been great and is open 24 hours. I stepped out of the deli with sandwich in hand, and I saw a cab waiting in front of the hotel. That is great! I did not have to hail a cab in the wee hours of the morning.
I got on the Team for Kids bus on 51st St around 5:45am, which was very quiet. It was more solemn that I cared it to be. So I started to make conversation with the runner behind me. It was his 1st marathon in 16 years, and he was happy to do it again. A short time later, my name was called. I was told to go to bus #4. I hope this bus was more festive, as I told the bus coordinator, “They told me to go to the fun bus!” I stepped on to the bus, to be greeted with silence and I sat next to someone who was sleeping, or I think she just didn’t want to make conversation, by keeping her eyes shut. Moving down the Westside Highway with a Police escort, my seat buddy finally awoke and I said hello. She just started running last year and did some shorter races. This was her first marathon also, and coming from high altitude Colorado, she had an advantage in her breathing.
Everyone began to walk to the Starting Village. Fort Wadsworth was filled with 39,000 runners with thousands of volunteers assisting everyone. Mostly everyone was standing, sitting on plastic bags and some brought cardboard boxes to lie down to take a nap. It was still very chilly because of the winds coming off the water, and the sun hasn’t risen enough to dry up the soggy wet grass on the ground. This place must look like a ghost town, after we leave.
Finally, the elite runners began the race at 9:40am and I waited in the corral for our turn. I was at the end if the line. As we moved forward, the sides of the road were covered with jackets and sweats (all to be donated). I removed my sweat pants and draped it over the barrier. Right before the starting gate, I removed my sweat jacket, not sure if it was going to be still cold, but I was too excited to think of the temperature. There probably was a shot fired from a starting gun, but I did not hear it.
As I controlled my pace up the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I thought of the first words I said to Emily, Zachary, and Elijah as they came into the world. I said to them softly, “I love you, and I will always be there for you.” and I kissed them gently on the cheek. Running this race was always about them, and being healthy for them is one way to always be there for them.
Running up 4th Av in Brooklyn was great with thousands of people just cheering, and if you put your name on your shirt, they would yell out your name. I’ll remember that the next time I run. It really helps when strangers would say your name and other words of encouragement. I think one of my favorite parts of the race was right after the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The road narrows on Lafayette Avenue and the crowd becomes intimate and bands crank up the tunes!
My 10k Split and Ãƒ’Ã’Â½ marathon split weren’t that off from previous races. Where I think I was in trouble was between the Pulaski Bridge and the 59th Street Bridge. My inner thighs started to cramp up. In fact on the 59th Street Bridge, I took a leak! I didn’t want to believe people would do it publicly, but when nature calls, tree or no tree your going to go.
Imagine, your legs slowing down because your shoes were sticking to the road due to all the Gatorade that split, dropped, dripped, and tossed on the road. Thousands of Gatorade and Poland Spring logo’d cups lined the ground, and literally small hills were created with cups. Who’s going to clean this up!
At mile 17, at 77th and 1st Av, I first saw Emily with her finger pointed at me behind the Poland Spring Water Table. I leaped between the tables to give Emily, Zachary and Elijah a hug and kiss. Shook hands with my best friend, Vinny and waved to Renee’ who held their dog Hennessy by her side. Irene was worried that I would not make it when I replied that I was not feeling to good, in response to her question of how was I doing. My legs were shot by that mark.
A couple of blocks later, at 79th and 1st Av, I slowed down (not that I was running fast at this point) to look my friend and neighbor, John Antonucci. As I slowed more, he jumped over the barrier he greeted me with a big smile and started run with me to mile 25 1/2.
He definitely made a big difference in the race, and I my legs were hurting which went away as we headed to the Bronx. He was very supportive and very patient. I was at least an hour behind schedule as he waited for me, and he missed the Jet’s game for me.
In the Bronx, we took it easy. Actually, I am sure it was super easy for John. For me it was a break. It was just great to talk and get my mind off my aches, cramps and just the pain in my entire legs. A little after we entered back into Manhattan on 5th Av, marked my furthest run ever (21 miles).
Looks like Irene just missed me, as I headed into Central Park. Around 86th Street, I glanced over to see my brother, Norbert, and sister, Alicia cheering me on. I stopped in my tracks jogged over to the left side of the road and gave hugs to both of them. I introduced John, and we rushed off to the finish line.
A quarter way in the park, I surprised him as he said to me, “Your picking up the pace!” I told him, “I saw a camera man and I wasn’t about to be walking as he took the picture.” A few hundred feet later, we slowed down to walk again, and then started jogging out of the park. He ducked under the banner and slipped between the barricades near the Plaza, and left me to finish the race by myself. I read the next day that they have Bandit Catchers, whose job is to keep the marathon special for official runners and remove those who do not belong in the race, way before the finish line. I would have felt terrible if they whisked John away on Central Park South.
I reached Columbus Circle and turned back into the park. I picked up the pace, as the finish line got closer with each step. By the time I arrived, the main bleachers were empty on the right side, and had I known the crowd had dissipated by this time, I would have loved to have Irene and the kids cheering on the left side of the road.
I raised my hands high in the air as I crossed and made sure I had a big smile as I passed the cameraman. “I did it!” The months of training has finally paid off. I felt proud of my accomplishment and congratulated others who crossed the finish line ahead of me and behind me. I called Irene to let her know that I am at the finish line, and she was relieved to hear from me. She was worried by what I said at 77th St., and in my mind, there was without a doubt that I would finish. It didn’t even occur to me that I wouldn’t finish the race, it was just the matter of time.
Several yards later, a volunteer draped my medal. Then walked down to the cameramen who snapped a picture with medal in hand. A little further down someone handed me a heat shield. Another volunteer helped me wrap it around me. Then another placed a sticker to keep the shield together, so my hands would be free to hold the post race food and drink bag. I gulped down the Red Gatorade, and started on the “Bagel.” That bagel tasted and felt like cardboard. I opted to drink the Poland Springs 16oz in the bag instead.
All these volunteers really make this race work as well it does. This Army is really dedicated to making this race so special for everyone who runs in it every year. A big Thanks goes out to them.
I kept on walking and applauding others, I would say most of them were zonked or just did not understand English. Other than that, you can tell that everyone was tired and relieved that the race was over. I think that those who finished at my time range, were there to just complete the race, and time splits did not matter. I thought it was interesting to watch some post race interviews of those who finished less than 3 hours and 30 minutes, and yes they were happy to finish the race, and at the same time also mentioned that they could done it faster.
I walked through the park to gather my belongings bag at the Team for Kid finisher’s area passing my runners. As I entered into Cherry Hill, a very friendly medic greeted me. He put his arm around my waist, and congratulated me and asked if I wanted to sit down. He really was doing his job, by making sure I was ok. I told him if that I sat down, I probably won’t be able to get up again.
I saw Christine Tejada, the Team for Kids Program Coordinator, and she gave me a big hug and congratulated me. She answered all of my questions before the race, and was just plain great. She made the experience better, welcoming and more inviting with her involvement. We took some pictures and said our goodbyes. “I’ll see you again.”
I left the park to meet up with the Family. I looked around at the different faces trying to pick out Irene’s or the kids faces. Forget it, there’s to many people, so I called Irene. It’s so funny, we were about 6 feet away from each other. I said that I was under the sign, and she said the same thing. I turned around, and she gave me a crushing hug and a big kiss!
Just as I was about to return to the hotel, I realized I was still attached to the GPS system. I told Irene and the kids that I would meet them back at the hotel. As I neared the Team for Kids camp, it got really dark. I handed the device back to Zakia Feracho (She was the person in charge of the Team for Kids and did a terrific job) and walked back towards the east side of the park. There were racers still walking and running by, and I was glad that I forgot to return the GPS the first time, because I was really inspired by these runners, who kept on going in the darkness. I cheered them on as I walked out of the park.
I canceled dinner reservations and opted for room service. Took a nice shower and fell asleep!
Monday was tough trying to balance my body with each Frankenstein like steps. Everything on my feet and legs hurt except for my calves.
I could have easily achieved other physically fit goals such as weight loss or pant size. For whatever reason running the 26.2 miles around New York City was and will always be something special achieve. Physically preparing for the race was one of the toughest and challenging tests that I voluntarily put my body through. I did loose 20 pounds during my training and I will continue that trend to 200 lbs.
Now that Marathoner is part of my resume. My kids have an excellent reason to be physically fit also. Irene is excited that I finished the race, and she wants to do the race also. It would be awesome if we can do the race together! I even said to the kids on the way home, “When can we do a family marathon run together!” My sister-in-law, Jennifer also wants to run the marathon.
I will let you know when I will post more pictures. Most likely these pictures will be on www.runwithnoah.com and www.cwimedical.com .
I did not expect this, but many of you told me how inspired you were to hear my messages, and how it prompted you to also take on some physical activity. After hearing that, it felt great to have a positive impact on others. Please let me know if any of you want a running partner. I encourage everyone to start running.
Also, the main reason, I can say I finished the NYC Marathon is because of my Team for Kids automatic entry. I want to thank everyone who donated and sent words of encouragement through out the training. Together, we raised over $4400.00!
Special Thanks goes out to:
- My wife, Irene, and to my kids, Emily, Zachary and Elijah who are my biggest fans.
- David H, who helped me get over the hump and actually focused me so that I could sign up for the marathon.
- Forest Gump for making running seem so simple.
- Chris M, because he inspired me each time I would see him running around the neighborhood. I would say, “I wish I could do that.”
- John A, for keeping me company for the last 9 miles with me.
- The team at Energy Fitness, Hung and Moira who currently train me, Dave who trained me for a few weeks, Alex who started training me until his accident, and Pete who’s marathon advice really helped.
- The team at Connetquot West, because without them, doing anything else would be impossible. They allow me to prepare for such a race.
- The person who put a Congratulations Balloon on my mail box.
This is just the beginning!