Finishing the NY Marathon with my body and sanity in tact was a lifetime achievement. I felt joy for the first 15 miles, moderately strong for another 9 miles and quite uncomfortable for the last 2.2. The cocktail of Gatorade and shot blocks with a cliff bar at mile 19 may have contributed to the less than excellent feelings in the birth canal of that run, but it was worth it.
The international presence in that marathon was very cool. 47,000 people from all over the world launched in three waves. It was like a cattle drive for causes; I learned all about amazing foundations and organizations by reading 100s of tee-shirts all along the way. It was inspiring. I was so proud to have raised over $5000 for Grassroot Soccer.
It was a beautiful day. My potentially pesky calf and knee felt great. The crowd of racers was not as daunting as expected. As I got into the last 6 miles feeling proud of myself, it was humbling to see people in outrageous costumes pounding out the miles. A guy wearing a full John Travolta polyester white disco suit busting chops blew me away – imagine the chaff. I came upon another man in a full mink overcoat down to his calves with a fedora, glittery sunglasses and carrying a cane – imagine the sweat. And a Wonder Woman costume for 26.2 miles! These people were game. Here I was lathered in Bodyglide, wearing carefully chosen non-chaffing comfortable running clothes and strapped into my five barbell rated Last Resort Bra. How pathetic that my biggest personal concern was losing a toenail. Those people were managing costumes along with the challenge of a very long run.
At mile 23, I was a jolly runner when I went by my friend and support crew Sarah Callaway. By the next mile marker, I went into an instant funk. I was irritable, tired and started to do involuntary Lamaze breathing, which I didn’t even do when I birthed any of my kids. It just started. My friend/guide John Griesemer had poetically described the last miles as “Crossing a border to a place, a location, a region. You will be there by yourself. It’s a weird place.” I was clearly in that place. I remembered that he also said, “The weird can be wonderful. It can be heartbreaking. Anything can happen. You have to be open to it all. That’s the law of land in that region. You must obey it.” He was right. My body was doing things I didn’t plan or couldn’t control. At one point, I tried to have my mind take over the breathing scenario, and I couldn’t register if I was actually breathing in at all. It took about 50 feet to convince myself that breath intake must be occurring or I would not still be running.
While in The Place, the two miles felt like they were taking hours to get through. Endless. I knew I was in Central Park, but my tunnel vision caused me to lose logic. I just wanted to get there. People were walking, crying and bent over vomiting. People were done and ready to quit. I wove through the crowd wanting to claw out of that scene and off that course and be done. I wanted to get cozy somewhere, anywhere without my running shoes on. At one point, I saw a sign up ahead that said 80 ft. I smiled out loud and jaunted with a little gusto. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was 800 feet. I yelled, “FUCK!” and went back to the Place. It seemed like hours. I would have preferred birth at that point. The heat shield and medal they promised at the finish seemed ridiculous. I wanted a baby out of this effort. The signs with number of feet were showing up what seemed like every few hours. Then I saw the finish. I did not pick up the pace, but I smiled out loud again and shimmied across.
The heat shield felt like a gift from the heavens, mostly because I was walking rather than running. The medal felt like a new baby. The promise of a port-a-potty was music to my churning bowels. The feedbag concept was repulsive, but the water bottle in it was a delight. The genuine handshake and congratulations from the volunteer brought tears of joy to my eyes, and I told him so. He staggered with a laugh of understanding and gave me the most comforting pat. He was a highlight of the day.
I walked many blocks north to get my bag and believed the volunteers who said toilets were not much farther. I put on my cozies and got back under my heat shield. I exited the park heading north then west towards those lusty port-a-potties. The police shuffled us farther west for a block or two before we could get south. No toilet was visible, and I had many more blocks to walk back southeast towards my hotel. I was sure I would get a cab at some point. No chance and not enough $ for a horse buggy. I ended up walking at least 50 blocks after I ran 26.2 miles. This was strangely hilarious to me.
Finding my gang at the hotel made me forget the long walk. It was such joy to hunker in with niece Rachel who had also run, nephew Jamie, friend SCal and Rachel’s fan club. The comfort of my people and gummi bears and stories was the gift of completing a lifetime achievement.