Before you start reading this blog entry find yourself a comfy chair, preferably someplace massaged by air conditioning. A tasty alcoholic beverage is always a plus. So – all set? Good…because you’ll be reading for a few minutes….
OK, for those of you just joining us – welcome. I’ll give you a brief synopsis of the story line thus far:
- I made a decision late last year to run one marathon during each calendar month of 2012 in order to generate interest and donations to The Dream Team Project (www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project). It’s a charity that I really believe in, for it combines my affinity for the Disney community, my love of running and my desire to help children that are battling life-threatening illnesses as well as their families.
- I began my year with January’s Walt Disney World Marathon, followed by 26.2 With Donna in February, The Ocean Drive Marathon in March, The Gettysburg Marathon in April, and the New Jersey Marathon in May. I was able to finish all five events in one piece (more or less), bringing myself closer to the halfway point of my goal.
- The experiences have been wonderful and rough at the same time. So far I’ve run one race in 27 degree temperatures, I’ve lost a tooth eight miles into another race while in the process of simply taking fuel, I’ve finished a race which provided sixteen miles of hills (which is odd, because the state of Pennsylvania looks so much flatter on a map), and I’ve finished two marathons in a week. (I just re-read what I wrote, and I just called a shrink. I need professional help.) (And yes – I’ve known this for a while – but that last paragraph served as a self-intervention).
- June’s marathon was scheduled for the weekend of the 9th and 10th in Lake Placid, New York. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the race due to personal issues. (Let me translate that one for you: I was sick as hell and was having a hard time breathing. Now I’m not the brightest bulb on Broadway – as a matter of fact I’m as sharp as a bowling ball – but even I knew that it wasn’t a good idea to attempt a marathon when I was in the middle of coughing up a lung).
- I didn’t want to break my promise…so I needed to come up with another marathon to run before the end of June. I searched the internet – no luck. There was only one thing for me to do: just run my own race. So I made the decision to run 26.2 on my own around Manhattan on Sunday, June 24th. (and let me put it this way: in the history of mankind, this was NOT the best decision ever made.)
OK – so now you’re all caught up. I’ve attached links to the blog entries that described each race, if you’re interested in reading more about my prior races.
I woke up here in Manhattan Sunday morning at around 5am and, quite honestly, I wished that I could simply roll over and catch another four hours of rest. I took a hot shower, got changed, and had a bowl of raisin bran (just recently determined that this cereal is the key for me on race day and I’m pissed about that. Why couldn’t it be Lucky Charms instead? Marshmallows…sugar…a little leprechaun on the box…it’s breakfast perfection as far as I’m concerned). This lovely meal was followed by some light stretching, where I simply waved at my toes from a distance. I threw my hydration pack over my shoulder, and off I went.
I slowly walked west from my apartment to Riverside Park. I really got lucky: the weather was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, low humidity and temperatures only going up to about 80 degrees at the height of the day. I felt strangely relaxed. I brought money with me, just in case I needed fluids while on the road, my iPhone was fully charged and ready to play music and snap some pictures, and I felt like I was as ready as I was ever going to be. I made my way down toward the runners’ / bikers’ path that runs along the Hudson River, and stood for a few moments to take in the view. This might be a nutso thing to attempt – but at least it was a gorgeous day to do it. I started my watch, and headed south along the path.
Since this was a solo marathon – a so-called “self-inflicted marathon” as some referred to it – I quickly realized that it was simple to keep my pace under control. Why? Because there wasn’t a crowd of runners surrounding me that automatically drew out my inner Steve Prefontaine. I find that, regardless of how many marathons I run, I always go out to fast because of the people around me. I want to be able to say to myself as I run “hey – look at me – I can stay with these guys, no problem”. Well the issue of going out too fast was not a factor this morning. I took off down the path nice…and…easy.
About a mile and a half into my run, I passed the U.S.S. Intrepid – a wonderful retired aircraft carrier which now serves as a museum. It is accompanied by a World War II submarine, The Concorde, and…as of July 2012…the Space Shuttle. I took a moment to snap a couple of pictures, and then I waddled on. My momentum was just beginning to develop. My pace felt great. I was truly in rare spirits. But of course, me being…well…me, my mind went back to that first marathon I ran in 2005. Mile 15. The 59th Street Bridge. Some seasoned marathoner saw me smiling and asked me how I felt. When I responded in a rather obnoxious, over-emphatic positive manner, his reply was simple: “So you’re feeling good? Reeeeally good? Well don’t worry – that won’t last.”
As I made my way downtown along the river, I just found my rhythm and took in the sights: I passed several greenways which were literally extended over the water, I ran past Chelsea Piers (in the area of the city that my daughter is named for), and enjoyed the view of southern part of the island – the financial district.
As I got closer to lower Manhattan, I got the urge to wind through the streets and play the part of a tourist. So I deviated from my planned course and crossed over the West Side Highway to get up-close and personal with The Freedom Tower. This is going to be one gorgeous building when it’s completed. I passed by Ground Zero – and area that still sends shivers up my spine. I was in midtown that fateful day, and the sights and sounds of that horror are still vivid in my mind, just like I am sure they are in the minds of every other New Yorker – and everyone else for that matter. I wanted to pass by the memorial reflection pools – but I was too early in the day, and you need a pass to get in.
Once I made my way around the Ground Zero area, I headed back toward the World Financial Center so that I could lift my spirits a bit by staring at luxury yachts in the harbor. In the World Financial Center Harbor, the types of yachts moored probably have their own zip codes. They’re huge. I mean – HUGE. One was so big that the stern actually acts as a garage for – you guessed it – a smaller boat. When I grow up, I got to get me one of those!
Just south of the World Financial Center I passed into Battery Park. I took some shots of the Statue of Liberty before heading past the Staten Island Ferry and beginning my trek up the east side. I snapped a couple of shots of the Brooklyn Bridge as I approached South Street Seaport; however, it was here that I decided once more to deviate from my planned marathon route and check out a few more touristy locations before moving on.
I headed up Wall Street to the New York Stock Exchange. Across the street from the Exchange is the location where George Washington took the oath as our first president. I stopped my watch just for a moment to take a picture…and I hit the wrong button! 8.16 miles into my run. Oy. Now I’d have to start my watch up again, and make sure to run another 18.2 miles. Just my luck. I reset my watch, and continued on. Snapped a shot of The Bull on Broadway before turning east and heading back on my original course.
I worked my way northeast from Wall Street, toward the Fulton Street Fish Market. I only got a few blocks north of this area when I realized – I should pass by City Hall. So – I did. (Deviating from my planned route once more!) I then past the Brooklyn Bridge…and decided to run up Broadway instead of the FDR Drive along the East River. So up Broadway I went.
As I worked my way uptown, I passed Union Square, the Flatiron Building on 23rd Street, and Macy’s on 34th Street. It was then that I made another decision: I cannot be in this area without passing Madison Square Garden. As I past MSG, the video playing on the jumbotron was showing great moments in MSG history. I look up – and there it is. 1994. Messier (one of my idols). A good sign.
While in this neck of the woods, I also spun by The Empire State Building before heading back onto Broadway and up to Times Square. I hung aright on 42nd Street, went past Bryant Park and Grand Central Station, all the way to First Avenue before finally turning north once more.
I ran past the United Nations and up toward the dreaded 59th Street Bridge. Once under the bridge, I began to run the final ten miles of the official ING New York City Marathon course. It was at this point in the race that I decided not to look at my watch until I entered Central Park. And…somewhere between 60th and 70th street I also realized that my legs were beginning to get sore. Plus – I had run out of water.
The water issue was easy enough to address: just run into a store, buy a 20 oz. bottle and move on. The legs, however – that was another story. And I knew what was causing the discomfort.
In order to run around Manhattan and not get pancaked by trucks, buses, or crazy cabbies, you need to run on the sidewalks. Well, New York City sidewalks are all made of concrete…and concrete has virtually no “give” to it. Any other substance is easier to run on than concrete. It was along the concrete of the West Side Highway that I first developed plantar facitis during the New York City Half Marathon in 2007. I should have thought of this factor before beginning Manhattan waddle. But…this is me we’re talking about. Just about the only thing I use my head for is a hat rack.
So, after about 14 miles of running on concrete, my legs sent a telegram to my brain. I believe it was worded as follows:
“To: Brain. STOP
From: Legs. STOP
This hurts. STOP
Concrete sucks for running. STOP
If you keep this up, you’ll be sorry. STOP
So – STOP. STOP”
I was more than half way to my goal, however. So – I mentally tossed the telegram into the garbage can located in my cerebrum (that’s where I also store other useless data such as my memories of my favorite F Troop episodes, batting averages of the 1977 New York Yankees, and other odd factoids gleamed from countless visits to the American Museum of Natural History), and soldiered on.
By the time I hit the Willis Avenue Bridge, I had already stopped into one small store for a bottle of water. It was on the corner of 116th and First Avenue. The gentleman behind the counter saw me, looked at the bottle of water, and asked the simple question:\
“so it looks like you’re running far today”.
“yeah – I’m trying to finish a marathon. Running for a charity.”
He paused before taking my money. A rather confused / stunned look crossed his face.
“Wait”, he said, “seriously? A real marathon? By yourself?”
“Yeah – I have about 9 miles to go.”
He asked me about the charity. I quickly described what The Dream Team Project does. His response lit me up.
“Your money is no good here. Take the water. You want anything else?”
Now it was my turn to be stunned. “No – you are way too kind. Thanks!” And I continued my waddle northward. As I made my way to the Bronx, I silently promised myself that I would pay that simple act of kindness forward.
I crossed over into the Bronx with about 7 ½ miles to go. I had deviated numerous times from my simple route. I was starting to tire a bit. And the ache in my legs began to transition to pain. I started to worry about the plantar facitis coming back. I chose to ignore it. I’ll worry about this nonsense when I’m done.
I crossed back into Manhattan, and followed Fifth Avenue to Marcus Garvey Park. Around the park I went (FYI: I LOVE HARLEM. There’s something about that neighborhood with all of those turn of the 20th century brownstones that makes me smile), and turned right back onto Fifth. Up the long incline that I knew so well from past marathons. Into Central Park at the Engineer’s Gate. It was at this moment that I checked my watch…and saw that it had died! I thought I charged the thing!!! Now I was mad.
I waddled down Cat Hill and across the 72nd street transverse. The statue on the west side of 72nd street in the park was going to be my finish line – but first I needed to complete one more center loop of the park. So – up to 104th street. Then across the transverse. Back down the east side drive and past the Engineer’s Gate once more. Past the Boathouse to the 72nd Street transverse once more. As I turned right to finish, the doubts were rattling in my head – what if all of the deviations from my plotted route caused me to come up just short of 26.2 when I measure it out on MapMyRun this evening? I cannot come up short, I told myself. So….I VERY SLOWLY added on one more inner loop.
I finally crossed my pre-planned finish line. Done. As I waddled home, I felt content with the effort. I needed to ice my legs and hope that my old nemesis (plantar facitis) didn’t decide return.
And speaking of returns – I had wondered all day long why The Tool decided to sit this race out. So I asked him as I sat in the ice bath. His response was simple:
“Dude, you were running alone. There was no audience to witness my handiwork. And think about it, doorknob: you decided to run one solo. Not the brightest move ever made. I just figured that you were doing my job for me.”
The little schmuck was right. Not the brightest move ever. Hydration was an issue. Running on concrete was an issue. The sun was even an issue (I, once more, forgot to use sun block. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am the Wile E Coyote – Super Genius of running…only without any real speed whatsoever).
I logged on to my computer to find out how far I ran. When I was done mapping my route with all of the twists and turns, the total came out to be just a fraction more than 29 miles. So I pushed past marathon distance simply because I didn’t know I was doing it at the time. I gave myself a tour of the city that I love. I was sore, but I kept my promise…and that – to me – is what really mattered.
If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website: The Dream Team Project I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for. It raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Being s former wish-granter for the NYC Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children. Please consider donating to this worthy cause, you can do it by visiting the secure donation page here Make-A Wish-Foundation Thanks!
…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page