I have to admit, the Big Apple took a bite out of me. Really though, it had little to do with the city itself — it was great — but there’s no 26.2-mile stretch on the planet that appeals to me if I have to run the entire length of it. To those who know me well, that’s no surprise because for the past few months I’ve had a case of Marathoners Remorse. As I built my mileage up from 40 to 50 miles per week (too quickly of course) I started getting some small, nagging injuries. The worst one was what the physical therapist called “a weak quadriceps muscle in combination with a tight IT band,” which was resulting in my knee getting off track as I landed with my right foot. Exercises and stretching have gotten that pretty much under control but I wore a brace right up until this marathon mostly as a precaution. Then there have been problems with toes and shin and calves, and before I lose everybody to a major snoozefest I’ll just say that all of that made me decide in advance to be happy with fewer miles in the future and leave the marathons to those who enjoy them. Linda is under strict orders to take a ball peen hammer to the side of my head if I ever even mention that I’d like to run another marathon.
So that’s that. Haile Gebrselassie and I decided to retire from marathons on the very same day and in the very same race. He dropped out of the race at around the 16th mile. I hit the wall somewhere between the 16th and 20th miles and would have liked to bailed out, but due to some not-so-great planning on my part, our plane was scheduled to leave LaGuardia at 4:05, which meant I needed to finish the race, walk out the mile-long chute, find Nicole (my daughter) and Linda, and get to LaGuardia in time.
Of course there was plenty to see in the race, running through so many eclectic neighborhoods in New York, but just as interesting to me was the logistics of how runners made it to the starting line. I was scheduled to take the Staten Island Ferry over from Manhattan at 5:45 a.m. Nicole dropped me off about 5:40 and just a couple minutes later they shuffled the huge crowd of runners onto the ferry. I heard somebody say that it held 6,000 people and I was pretty amazed that the whole crowd got on. Once we arrived at Staten Island we were loaded on buses and taken 4 miles to the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The runners were divided among three areas that each held around 15,000 people. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that they weren’t able to come up with 45,000 folding chairs, but it was a little uncomfortable sitting on the ground for 4 hours while we waited for the race to start.
It was fun to see the race from the inside after watching last year on television. As we crossed the bridge leading into Brooklyn from Staten Island there was a lot of excitement. It’s a 2-mile long bridge so it was uphill for a mile and my face was freezing in the cold breeze that was blowing over the Hudson River. Some runners kept their warm clothes on until they left the bridge, leaving a trail of gloves, hats, and sweatshirts behind in the third mile.
Nicole lives in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, which the race crosses at about 7 miles into the race, and we met where the race intersected with their street. As you can see by the pics, I was all smiles at that point of the race. After our little 5-second photo-op, I was back on my way. I actually felt pretty good up until maybe 15 or 16 miles into the race, and then things started to unravel. Nothing major really, but I’m not one of those people who loves to run until it hurts, and that seems to be an undeniable fact about marathons… it hurts to run that far.
As I crossed the 20-mile mark in the race I saw that my time was almost exactly 3 hours. At that point I knew there was no way I could qualify for Boston since I would need to run the last 10k in 45 minutes. I can do that on a good day, but not after running 20 miles. Since my legs were already shot I knew I’d have trouble even making it in an hour, so I had to decide whether to try hard to run the last 10k in under an hour or just take it easy on myself and not push it. I decided on the latter, and over the last 6.2 miles I just kind of went into mosey mode, stopping at all the water stops and eating bananas and oranges when they were offered, and running when I reminded myself I had a plane to catch or that I was just prolonging the misery.
When it was finally over I was exhausted and just happy to see the finish line. Everybody was lining up for post-race photos but I just kept walking. I’d rather remember what I looked like at 7 miles. My official time was 4:09:23, which was 17,963rd place out of 45,350 runners who started the race. That’s right around the 40th percentile, so maybe that’s not so bad for an old guy. It was fun in some ways and a great experience that I’m glad to have had, but you can bet I won’t be running any more marathons in this lifetime.
Linda, Richard, and Nicole together for a quick photo at Mile 7 of the 2010 NYC Marathon.
Note: It’s really hard to compare this race with a local race. Things such as having 110 professional photographers make direct comparisons impossible but I’ll do a general rating anyway. Suffice it to say, it’s probably the biggest racing spectacle in the world.
10 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
8 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
10 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
5 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
9 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
10 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
1 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
0 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
8 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
TOTAL – 102
Age Group: 512 of 1638 (31:3%)
Overall: 17,963 of 45,350 (39.6%)