Monday, November 4, 2013

The Finale… NYC Marathon

The first time I cried was at the starting line.  No, maybe it was in the starting corrals….wait, I think I teared up on the Staten Island Ferry ride…oh yeah, I think I shed a tear picking up my bib.  Whenever it was, running my first marathon was a happy emotional journey.  I went on my first jog in August 2011.  At that point I was NOT a runner.  I'm a very active individual, but would never have used the word "runner" to describe myself.  That run ended up being life changing.  It was a beautiful day and since I'm a dreamer, I came up with this random idea:  I wondered if I went a different route each time I went running, if I could run every street in NYC.  In that moment it was a crazy idea, a bit ridiculous and definitely a day dream.  For some strange, unknown reason, I decided to actually give it a try, not knowing if it was possible, or if I would even follow through and especially if I could run that far.  As some of you know, I started a blog to track my progress.  I started with short, slow jogs, but as time went on, the distances got longer and the pace speed up.

I had only been running a dozen times over the the course of a month when I caught wind of a race called the Urbanathlon.  I had heard of other obstacle course races and they had always intrigued me. This one was NYC themed and since I had just started my blog about running in NYC, it seemed I was destined to do it.  The race was over 9 miles long and I had never run more than 5 miles.  Nervously, I pulled the trigger and signed up for the race.  I still had a month left before the race to start running longer distances.  The morning of the race came, and it was cold and rainy.   I didn't know what to eat, I didn't know what to wear, I didn't know how fast to run, but the start gun fired and off I went.  I started slow and cautious.  It was a rush to run with/against other people.  My competitive side didn't take long to surface.  I loved passing people and hated being passed.  Each section of the race, I improved.  I was easily able to finish the race and at the end wished I had started faster.  I knew this was not going to be my last race.  

Over the next year, I continued to run and blog. Slowly but surely I was covering a lot of NYC.  I started running more races as well, and began to realize that I was turning into a decent runner.  I was much faster than I ever assumed I would be.  I started to finish in the top 10% of the races I was running.  But the bigger shock was all of the sudden I looked at my map and realized that this pipe dream of running every street in Manhattan was going to actually come true.  When I was about 2/3 of the way done another crazy idea came into my head.  I decided there was no better way to finish a blog about running in NYC than to run the NYC Marathon! I entered the entrance lottery, knowing destiny would help me win.  Sadly I did not get drawn, but the idea of running was already ingrained in my head.  So thanks to my kind hearted friends and family, I join a charity team and raised money for my entrance into the race.  I really had to pick up the pace and run a lot more to finish the streets in time for the marathon, but I was able to do it, just in time.  Sadly, as my blog followers already know, the marathon ended up being canceled because of Hurricane Sandy.  I then had to wait and train again to run the following year.  

So back to the big day: after completing my blog, becoming a runner and 2 years of marathon training it was finally time to run a marathon.  The excitement starts a few days before the race when you go to the marathon expo to pick up your bib.  Like I mentioned earlier, this really was the first place I got emotional.  It's exciting mainly because of the shear number of people, runners, that are there.  It's your first glimpse at how massive this event is going to be.  The next time I welled up was on the Staten Island Ferry.  On this ride to the starting line, you turn around and see the NYC skyline.  It may not have had the same effect on everyone, but I was surely reminded of what I had gone through to get there.  The famous panorama of NYC, MY NYC, the city that I intimately know because I ran every street in Manhattan to get to this point.  

At the start village a nervous but excited energy was in the air.  We lined up in our corrals and shuffled through a maze of runners and discarded warm clothes.  It took a while to get in place, to get right up to the start line.  There were thousands of people around me with the same goal and desire.  We were all strangers, but there's a huge blanket of camaraderie.  I was in wave three and the National Anthem was already sung, but before my wave started someone sang America the Beautiful, and of course I cried.  After it was over the starting gun was fired and Frank Sinatra's song "New York, New York" came on as we started our race. 
"These Vagabond shoes, they are longing to stray, right through the very heart of it, New York, New York". 
Practically every runner is singing along as we make our way to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  I couldn't really sing, I was too busy crying.  

One of the most common pieces of advice I heard was "Don't start too fast!" The excitement that is in the air causes people to go faster than they should.  Luckily my body has a pretty good internal instinct.  Although I was cautious, there was nothing I could do but start passing people.  Running that bridge, in a crowd of 50,000 people, with fire boats spraying below, helicopters above and photographers on every side, is almost indescribable, but a moment that I'll never forget.  At the end of the bridge is where the spectators start.  The NYC marathon is one of the few routes that has spectators lining practically the whole route.  Another piece of advice I got was, "Write your name on your shirt."  I had a custom jersey made.  It said BRIAN in big red letters a crossed my chest.  It had the names of everyone who donated to my charity at the bottom below my bib and had my blog address across the back.  The entire race I had people yelling words of encouragement directly to me.  
"Keep it up Brian!!" "Go Brian! You got this!" "Looking good Brian" 
It was like I had millions of friends there supporting me.  It keep me going when I wanted to slow down. 

The first half of the race went really well.  13 miles is my favorite race length.  At that point I still had a smile on my face.  I was taking in the crowd and the sights.  I would give high fives to the kids along the edges. I would cheer on other runners. I would thank people who were yelling out my name. This race was going to be a piece of cake.  

Okay, maybe not a piece of cake.  The second half proved to be a little harder.  I hung in there for the next 6 or 7 miles, but around mile 20 is when everything started to hurt.    My pace slowed down a little.  I stopped giving high fives. The people yelling my name no longer got a thank you.  They possibly got a head nod, but more likely they got a glare.  Somehow this was their fault. If they weren't screaming at me, I could just sneak off the course and crawl into a little ball and take a nap. 

Although it was tough, overall I was still doing well.  I was just repeating in my head to "keep it up, keep going."  If I could just hang in there a little longer it would be all over.  When I finally reached the corner of Central Park, I was so relived that I was there, but agonizing that there was still over 3 miles left.  I kept trucking. Turning the last corner was overwhelming.  If this was a movie, this is where it would go into slow motion.  The crowd gets louder and you can see the finish line.  I was overcome with emotion.  All kinds of emotion.  I couldn't help but cry.  I'm not sure if I was crying in pain or if I was crying with joy and accomplishment.  It was probably both, which is a very unusual experience.  My body was seconds away from revolting against this torture but my mind was thinking of the past two and half years of preparation to get to this point.  I DID IT!! 

I crossed the finish line at 3:17:19.  It was a proud moment.  As I got my medal and was walking away, I thought about that first run on a sunny August afternoon, when I came up with a crazy idea, "I wonder if I could run all of NYC?" Through the tears a small smirk-like smile appeared....      
Photo: Associated Press

Monday, November 12, 2012

Run 109 My Fake Marathon

Getty Images/Mario Tama/Andrew Burton
As you probably already know, the marathon was cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy.  I have mixed feeling about the marathon being cancelled.  On one hand I understand that it needed to be cancelled because the NY area was a serious crisis.  On the other hand I had been preparing for this event for months and it was the perfect way to end the blog, so I was really disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to participate.  My body was gearing up for this event.  I had been training and training hard.  My body was ready to run a marathon.  I was perfectly prepared and ready to go.  When the marathon was cancelled many of the runners scrambled, found and registered for other marathons in the surrounding areas.  I had travel plans and wasn’t able to find one that worked for me.  My body was confused.  It was expecting to run.  So a week after the cancelled marathon, I decided to run my own marathon.  I made a route that, for the most part, circled the island of Manhattan.  I knew it wasn’t going to be the same experience as the real marathon would have been, but I needed to do something.  I was looking forward to the experience of running through the crowds, hearing them cheer, see the signs, feeling the excitement. The morning I ran my fake marathon, no one knew I was doing it.  There were no crowds, no signs, no excitement, no water stations, and no competitors. 
I took off running and felt pretty good.  The first 5 miles were a breeze, but then I hit my first wall at mile 6.  I slowed down some, but nothing to worry about I was able to pick the pace back up.  Until I hit my 16.  From there everything went down hill and I don't mean I was running down hill, that would have been great.  I mean I lost the race mentally.  Without a support system, crowds, competitors, etc I just couldn't keep going.  This is the point where I stopped and started walking.  I would have never walked during the real marathon.  I went from a 6-7 mile/min pace to a 10-11 mile/min pace for the next 3 miles.  I was able to muster up some energy and drive and pick up the pace for mile 19.  I had heard a rumor that mile 19 was a tough one and I couldn't imagine it be worse than the past few miles.  I knew if it was, I wasn't going to make it.  My new found energy didn't last long.. and I slowed down again for the next 2 miles..  even walking some..  I was getting to a point where I was ready to stop and give up.  I knew I was already way slower than my goal pace and I didn't see any point in continuing.  Some how, deep with in me there was something that wouldn't let me give up.  I recommitted and knew I had to finish this race.   I was able to pick up the pace for miles 22-24. The last two miles were rough..  but I wasn't stopping at this point.  I struggled  through. Slowly creeping along, but somehow finished my fake marathon.  I was extremely disappointed with my time, but it was something I had to do.  Some thing I had get out of my system.  I will run the NYC Marathon next year and hopefully it will be a much better experience than this.  :( 

Time: 1pm

Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 3:53:01
Music: shuffle

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Run 108 On Broadway

When I first started this adventure, I wasn’t really sure it was even possible or if I would really do it, but here we are just over a year later and I just completed my last run.  I saved the best for last.  It just so happens that Broadway runs from the very northern tip of Manhattan at 221st Street all the way to the southern tip, Battery Park.  It is just under 14 miles long.  A year ago there was no way I could have ran 14 miles, but here I am, now officially a runner.  This run was like a highlight reel of all my runs.  The scenery changed with each mile.  I started way up north, in a place with short buildings and street parking, so different from the Manhattan I know.  I passed streets like a count down.  
200th Street where I heard the story of Gallery 207
185th Street where I found a barn in NYC  
175th Street where I saw one of many churches.    
155th  Street where I got scared on my spooky run.  
125th Street where in the summer heat kids played in the fire hydrants like water fountains.    
47th Street where I live and Times Square where people are visiting the shiny center.  
34th Street where the Empire State Building is located.
20th Street where I finally found parking.
12th Street where I went behind the scene.
Lower Manhattan where the street have names and I get lost.  

I wanted to share and celebrate this experience with people I loved.  So I invited some friends to join me.  I gave them two options.  To meet me just south of Canal street and jog the last mile with me, or meet me in Battery Park and cheer for me as I crossed the “finish line”.  I had 4 friends join me for the last mile.  Right after we met up I took them on a small detour and showed them Franklin Place.  My secret beautifully graffitied alley that I discovered on run number 96.   I couldn't help but get a little emotional as I ran that last mile with my friends.  I was proud and impressed that I had accomplished my goal.  I was in shock that it was over, that I could say I’ve run every street in Manhattan.  When we approached Battery Park I could see more of my friends up ahead.  They brought balloons and a ribbon to use as a finish line.  They cheered as I completed my adventure. 
We popped a bottle of sparkling cider and had a celebratory picnic in Battery Park.  I sat there with friends, eating and laughing with the Statue of Liberty as our backdrop.  It now seems surreal, like I’m describing a scene from a movie.  But this is my NYC, this the island of 8 million people and 508.38 miles of streets, that I ran in 108 runs over 14 months.  I will never look at it the same. 
During this process I ran 697.39 miles on the streets in 95 hours and 56 minutes and 29 seconds. I ran another 162.3 miles in races and training runs. For a total of 859.69 miles.  
NYC Marathon.... here I come!! 

Time: 1pm
Distance: 13.9 miles
Time: 1:45:33
Music: shuffle

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Run 107

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

One thing I see on almost every run is someone out walking their dog.  Having a pet in NYC is no walk in the park.  Growing up my family had countless pets… dogs, cats, fish, parakeets, pollywogs, salamanders, chameleons, etc.  It sounds like I grew up in a zoo.  We also had a large yard and a doggie door.  When the dog needed to do his business, he went outside on his own and took care of himself.  Here in NYC things are a tad different.  Doggie doors wouldn't be a good idea here.  So instead dogs have to be taken out.  Most people work long hours and are not around to walk their dog multiple times a day.  So instead we have the notorious NYC dog walkers.  I'm sure you've all seen them in a movie or on tv, but have you ever thought about how much they cost?  A dog walker is anywhere from $15-$30 a walk.   That can add up quickly.  Having a pet in NYC is not cheap.  According to the Loot Blog, after food, walks, dog sitting, grooming, and the vet it could cost up to $16,800.  Which is higher than the USDA estimated average of raising a child of $12,600 to $14,700.  That's a serious commitment!

There is approximately 1.1 million pets in the city. 600,000 dogs and 500,000 cats.  

Not to mention, having a pet makes finding a NYC apartment even tougher than it already is.
Check out the NY Times Article, What Pet Owners Must Do To Get NY Apartments, if you'd like to know more.

Just for a laugh..  I even found some lady asking on yelp message boards, if she should get a cat to get rid of the mice in her NYC apartment.  Unfortunately, this was a serious question.  Luckily, people told her she was crazy.   

Distance: 6.3 miles
Time: 53:37
Music: The Wild Party

Friday, October 19, 2012

Run 106

I can't believe that the end of this adventure is in sight.  Soon I will be able to say that I have seen every square inch of Manhattan.  There's a few unique things that accompany that experience.  First of all, If I'm in an area I'm not familiar with, or haven't spent time in, I have this weird comfort of knowing I've been there before.  Second, I've learned many things about New York (maybe useless info, but..) that I would have never known, with out this adventure.  I don't think I can accurately describe how it feels, but I did find a list called "random facts about New York".  I thought maybe I'd share that with you, hoping you learn some thing that others don't know, so you get a small glimpse into the feeling I have about the little randoms facts I have gained running every street.     

1. Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, and Bryant Park used to be cemeteries. There are 20,000 bodies buried in Washington Square Park alone.

2. The Manhattan grid pattern produces an effect known as “Manhattanhenge” (like Stonehenge) as, on two days – around May 28th and around July 12th – sunset is directly aligned with the street grid pattern. This means the sun can be seen setting exactly over the centerline of every Manhattan street. A similar effect occurs during sunrise on two winter days, understandably less popular.
3. The scary nitrogen gas tanks you see on the corners of streets are used to keep underground telephone wires dry.
4. The city of New York will pay for a one-way plane ticket for any homeless person if they have a guaranteed place to stay.
5. On Nov. 28, 2012, not a single murder, shooting, stabbing, or other incident of violent crime in NYC was reported for an entire day. The first time in basically ever.
6. In New York City there are more than 26,000 people living in each square mile.
7. In 2013, the average weekday subway ridership was 5.5 million. Annual ridership was 1.7 billion. However, that doesn’t match the all-time annual ridership record which is 2.1 billion passengers set back in 1946.
8. New York City has more people than 39 of the 50 states in the U.S.
9. There is a birth in New York City every 4.4 minutes.
10. There is a death in New York City every 9.1 minutes.
11. The Federal Reserve Bank on New York’s Wall Street contains vaults that are located 80 feet beneath the bank and hold about 25 percent of the world’s gold bullion.
12.  On a clear day, the Empire State Building offers 80 miles of visibility, which encompasses parts of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
13. About 1 in every 38 people living in the United States resides in New York City.
14. The borough of Brooklyn on its own would be the fourth largest city in the United States. Queens would also rank fourth nationally.
15. New York City has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia.
16. New York has the largest Puerto Rican population of any city in the world.
17. More than 47 percent of New York City’s residents over the age of 5 speak another language other than English at home.
18. New York’s Central Park is larger than the principality of Monaco.
19. Women may go topless in public, providing it is not being used as a business.
20. Manhattan’s daytime population swells to 3.94 million, with commuters adding a net 1.34 million people.
21. New York City served as the capital of the United States in the 1780s before it was moved to Philadelphia and then Washington D.C.
22. There was one homicide on 9/11, and it remains unsolved.
23. Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are stored in a safe deposit box in the city.
24. New York City’s Chinatown is the largest Chinese enclave in the Western Hemisphere.
25. Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest running show in Broadway history, with over 9100 performances.
26.  New York City taxi cabs are yellow because according to car salesman John Hertz (1907), yellow is the easiest color to spot at a distance.
27. Central Park was the first public landscaped park in all of the United States.
28. The Jewish population in NYC is the largest in the world outside of Israel.
29. New York City’s 520-mile coastline is longer than those of Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco combined.
30. Cleopatra’s Needle, a 3,000-year-old Egyptian ruin, can actually be found in New York’s Central Park. In 1879 it was given to the city as a gift by the Khedive of Egypt. The 220-ton, 66-foot-high monument took a decade to be fully transported.
31. Sixty percent of cigarettes sold in NYC are illegally smuggled from other states.
32. There are tiny shrimp called copepods in NYC’s drinking water.
33. 100 million Chinese food cartons are used annually in New York City.
34. There is a secret train platform in the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
35. From 1904 to 1948 there was an 18th Street station on the 4/5/6 line. It’s abandoned now, but you can still see it on local 6 trains.
36. Annual location shoots on the streets of New York number 40,000 — including commercials, feature films, television shows and series, music videos and documentaries.
37. The Big Apple is a term coined by musicians meaning to play the big time.

Time: 2 am
Distance: 6.35 miles
Time: 48:14 minutes
Music: Jewel


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Run 105 Yes, I said Snickers.. not sneakers

After work tonight I was determined to get a run in.  I was motivated and not going to miss another day of running.  I laced up and headed out.  According to my schedule, I only had to do 6 miles.  At this point, that is a piece of cake for me.  The first 4 miles went by, I was in the home stretch, when I noticed all the sudden how slow I was running, well below my normal pace.  My feet felt heavy and my body tired.  But I was 2/3 of the way done.  I was just going to hurry up and get it over with.  I keep running but something wasn’t right.  I began to think about my day and the events leading up so my run.  It was later at night then I thought it was and realized I hadn’t eaten in about 7 or 8 hours.  I’m not diabetic, so not sure exactly what low blood sugar feel like, but I’m pretty sure that is what was happening.  I only had one mile left and I would be back home, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it.  BUT, just as I came to that realization I looked over and saw the glow of a candy vending machine, like it was heaven sent.  I got my self a snickers, sat down near by and devoured it.  After my snicker break, I bounced back and was able to finish my last mile and get home.   

Time: 11 pm
Distance: 6.36 miles
Time: 52:01 minutes
Music: shuffle

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Grete's Great Gallop +9 extra

Some times your life and your training schedule don’t always match up.  So you do what you can and find a happy medium.  My marathon training schedule said I was supposed to run 20 miles today, but I was also signed up to run a half marathon.  Easy fix right, just run the half marathon and keep going, run the extra 9 miles and everyone’s happy, right?    Well, It didn’t turn out to be as easy as it sounded.
The half marathon started as usual, other runners, water stations, crowds and excitement.  I ran it a little slower than I usually do, but that’s because I knew I had to keep going after it was done.  I crossed the finish line.  When you cross a finish line, there is always a flood of emotions.  You are relived that the race is done.  You are proud of your accomplishment.  Your body is tired.  You are ready to “walk it off” or cool down.  You are breathing hard, sweating and the grimace on your face has some how turned into a beaming smile. They call it the finish line because at that point you are finished, you are done, you don’t have to run anymore.…  Unless for some godforsaken reason you have to keep going.  If there was a curtain call after act 1 of a play, you probably wouldn’t expect an act 2.  The credits of a tv show don’t run on the third commercial break.  The crowd doesn’t rush the football field at the end of the 3rd quarter.  I think you are starting to understand, what it’s like to keep running another 9 miles AFTER you have already ran a half marathon. 
It was painful, dreadful, agonizing torture..  Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit..  I got through it, my pace was slow, my motivation was 3 or 4 steps behind me the whole time.  I was second guessing myself about running a full marathon, well second guess this whole running thing in general, But some how I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I’m not sure how, but I finished the extra 9 miles.  I had the medics from the race wrap both of my knees in ice and I took a cab home, there’s no way I was even walking another step, lol.  Hoping my next long run goes better than this.    

Time: 10:30 am
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 1:33:05
Music: shuffle

Time: noon
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 1:15:26

Music: shuffle