After a great Sunday in Philadelphia, marathon number 11 was in the books. All I needed was one more run of 26.2 miles in order to attain my goal for the year. But there were no marathons scheduled which were easily accessible for me through December 31st. As you might be able to tell….that’s a problem.
My confidence was shot based on the failed solo marathon attempt a few weeks prior – but Iknew that the weather could take aturn toward the 30’s very soon. So I made the decision to gun for marathon number 12 on Sunday, December 2nd. This would have to be a solo effort, and I knew that I couldn’t just run laps around Central Park – I have the attention span of a cocker spaniel surrounded by squirrels. So this run would need to be an out and back course. I determined that the best thing for me to do was to begin covering the same course that I ran solo – with success – earlier in the year. Knowing that literally running around Manhattan like a tourist maintained my attention throughout the entire effort made my confidence rise. The added pressure of the cold weather coming in ernest also raised my sense of urgency – and that should help keep me motivated as well. It was either complete the distance on December 2nd – or fail to accomplish my goal for 2012.
The Saturday before the long run, I found myself in Eastern Mountain Sports, looking through the various Camelbacks that they have available. Last time I ran out of water at around mile 15-16. The last ten miles were rough. I needed to ensure that this type of issue would not occur again – so I purchased a camelback bladder which held 100 ounces of water. I figured that should get me further along the course! I filled it up, threw it in my small backpack…and the realized just how much additional weight I would be carrying along this run. No personal best times in the morning, that’s for sure. I didn’t sleep well the night before the run – the make or break for my year would occur in the morning, and I would be lugging along some added weight on my back that I didn’t really budget for. Nerves set in as if I were bracing myself for the ING New York City Marathon. Then it hit me: this run would take the place of the New York City Marathon for me this year, and I did obtain one of the medals that would have been bestowed on any finisher of the race a month prior. So I made the silent decision that, if I am able to finish the run tomorrow, I would crack the 26.2 mile marker right near Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Then I would do somehting special with the medal in January during the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.
Morning came, and the weather was questionable. Damp, foggy and in the low 40’s. Strong chance of rain. Not exactly the greatest juju – but not the worst either. The weather was as questionable as my chances of success.
I began my run along west side drive at 72nd street, heading south. I coasted past the Intrepid, and checked out the Space Shuttle. After playing the tourist for 2.3 seconds, I continued south toward Chelsea Piers all the way to Battary Park. I ran out along each and every pier along the west side, just to get myself out above the Hudson River for a few minutes at a time. Coming from a small island in the Bronx, I grew up on and around the water. My family owned a boat yard for generations. I love to swim, fish, and scuba dive. Water is the element that I feel most comfortable in and around – so just being near it relaxes me. I know- that sounds sort-of, well, dumb – but it’s true. I pressed on around Battery Park, and made the turn up the east side drive.
Once I hit South Street Seaport I decided to hang a left on to Fulton Street to see the really nice, trendy shops. I was stunned to see every single one of these stores destroyed by the hurricane and the subsequent looting that took place. Not exactly the sight I hoped to see almost 9 miles into my run – but it served as a reminder to be thankful for just how lucky I am. I go through my days and complain when I get stuck in traffic or I have to work late. In the grand scheme of things, I am so damn lucky compared to others – I just lose sight of it. Passing through Fulton Street was just the reminder I needed to keep my life in perspective.
I hung a left and made my way to Wall Street, where I checked out the spot where George Washington took his oath as first President of the United States. That big stone block and monument is something I really enjoy checking out each time I get to lower Manhattan. From there, I went down Broadway to The Bull, then turned back around and began heading North to City Hall, running up The Canyon of Heros.
I passed through City Hall Park, and headed toward the Brooklyn Bridge…where I made a last second decision to head into Brooklyn. Over the bridge I went, to Cadman Plaza. One small loop around that little park, and I headed back over the Brooklyn Bridge. Cool – I was in 2 boroughs thus far.
Once I got back into Manhattan, I continued up Broadway, where my time was hampered by traffic and tons of street lights – but who cared? I was more than half way to my 26.2 mile goal. At this point, I had less miles to run than I had already logged. The backpack was getting lighter as I sipped water whenever I felt like I needed it. The backpack itself wasn’t a terrible distraction – but it did slow me up a bit at the start. This factor may have actually been a good thing because I normally go out too fast. The next cool tourist spot I passed was The Flatiron Building on 23rd street, followed by Macy’s on 34th Street and then Times Square. I hung a right on 42nd and ran past Grand Central Station all the way to First Avenue. I made a left on First Avenue and ran past the United Nations, and continued north.
While on First Avenue, I realized that I had just past mile 20. Only ten kilometers to go. For the first time I began to postiviely visualize the completion of my year’s goal. At the same moment, however, I also realized that I had run out of water. I was cold, sore and tired – so I made the decision to just slug it out for one more hour and then I can head home, victorious. I picked up my pace slightly and noticing that I was on the corner of 57th street and First Avenue, made the decison to run over the 59th Street Bridge and back. Lets get a 3rd borough in this morning, I said aloud to…no one in particular.
As I looked up the incline of Mount Sonofabitch (the 59th Street Bridge’s real name – look it up, Google is your friend), I realized that running the hardest hill on the ING New York City Marathon course in both directions 20+ miles into a solo marathon is ridiculously dumb. But I also thought that something like this – running a dozen marathon in a year for a wonderful charity – should not be finished with a nice flat coast to the end. What this deserved – what this effort almost required – was one last hurdle to clear. And this bridge has been my enemy since 2005. So it was almost poetic that I dueled with this obstacle at the end of my journey. Up the incline I went, slow, cold and steady. When I got the the highest point and the roadway began its downward angle, I actually picked up my pace and it felt incredible. 22+ miles in to this run and I was groovy.
When I arrived at the base of the bridge on the Queens side, I turned and began the slow trek back. Remembering that the mind quits before the body does, my mantra for getting back over the bridge was simple: “Nope – not yet” (as in: Nope, not yet – not time to stop yet. Nope. Keep moving. Nope. Don’t quit. You’re fine. Move.). When I finally arrived back in Manhattan, I had less than 5 kilomters to go – so I headed toward the park. I put in a lower loop and had to backtrack along the west side roadway of Central Park a second time so that I could finish my 26.2 miles close to Tavern on the Green. When I stopped my watch, I placed my hands on my hips and bent at the waist. My chest was sore. So were my arms. I was cold and hungry. Definitely thirsty. My calves were cramping pretty badly. But I didn’t move. I just stood there. Right near the official finish line of my annual Superbowl. No fans to scream for me. No medals, heat sheets and photographers. Just me and the moment – and that felt right.
OK – I’ll admit: I teared up a bit. I’m sure runners that passed me by and saw me a bit emotional were probably thinking “what a pansy – that’s not even a hill and it made him cry!!”. I didn’t care. I found a park bench near the South Lawn and took a few minutes for myself. I thought of what I went through during the year. 314.4 miles of marathons in 12 months, three of which I ran solo. There were injuries, tons of assinine mistakes, poor planning, weak preparation, shoddy diet maintenance throughout the year, and an abundance of lackluster training efforts. However, in spite of everything I did poorly, I managed to finish the goal I put in place a year ago. Lord knows I’m not fast. I’m not even close to qualifying for Boston. I have a TON of work to do to become the distance runner that I want to be. But this year I found something in myself that I didn’t know I had much of: courage. The one and only thing I did consistently right this year was have the courage to push through pain and not quit (even when I reeeeeeeally wanted to). So I may be as slow as a turtle – but I have the foundation to improve. Greater things are possible.
So there you have it. 12 marathons in 12 months to raise money for the Dream Team Project. Mission accomplished. Hmmmm…..so what’s next?
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: http://www.wdwradio.com/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. Thanks!
…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409