Let’s get this out of the way: P. Diddy finished the New York City Marathon about six minutes prior to me. I finished 4:21:08, way, way, way off what I’d hoped for. But given how much pain I was in at mile 18, well, it’s a miracle I finished at all.
It was a scorcher, for November anyway. I came out of the gates really, really fast. I lost Chris and Jen before we even left the bridge. Then I continued to try and make time through Brooklyn. I couldn’t wait to get into Manhattan.
Meanwhile, I’m looking for folks I know in BK, but see no one. Which is disappointing. Somewhere around mile six, I notice the goosebumps, which mean dehydration, which means I’m screwed. And I start to try and remedy it, but it’s too late.
But I’m running sub-nine minute miles, so I’m feeling good. I’m keeping pace, and keeping focussed — I think. Reality is (in retrospect), I got way too intense way to soon.
Long story short, I was saggin’ over the Queensboro (miles 15-16), and was really unhappy running up First Avenue in Manhattan. Usually, First Ave. is a blast ‘cuz everyone’s rabid with enthusiasm, and there are bands and it’s great chaotic fun. But not this year. I was pushing for the PowerGel at mile 18, and I pushed too hard.
I had run clear past my mom by the time I heard her yelling my name. I bent over to stretch, and she’s asking me all these questions, and I can’t even speak. I raise my hand to say ‘Hold on,’ then stand to get Life Savers from her and — bless his heart — a Twizzler from a cute little boy next to her. But as I jog off, my head gets swimmy and my legs start to give.
And I have eight miles to go.
Miles 18-22 were excrutiating. I alternated between walking and running, my head hot and throbbing, my legs faltering beneath me, before finally ducking into a deli for a Coke — I knew I needed the sugar. Sure enough, it kicked in, and I came back, but not until mile 20 or so, at which point my race was blown. I knew it was blown as I staggered on, pausing to stretch, hydrate, stretch, then resume. But there was nothing I could do to push harder, or go faster. It was survival mode. I couldn’t think straight, or talk, or do anything but run forward. Honestly, I was starting to think about things like heart and kidney failure, passing out or just losing my lunch.
But by mile 22, I was continuing to gain strength. I was repeating my favorite Tobias Wolff quote, “We are made to persist” over and over and over for the last four miles. And I did. I persisted.
As I rounded the corner on Central Park South, I heard a woman scream to no one in particular, “You’re almost home!” And I smiled, maybe for the first time all day, reminded that it’s not there that matters, but getting there.