I don't often write a log on a running event, the last time was about 15
years ago when I ran MacKenzie mountain. I want to remember all of this run
though. The following comes from my log:
Taking the M train to Central Park West:
It's been 24 hours since the marathon began. I'm sitting alone in a
restaurant on 3rd Avenue and for the first time in a month, I'm feeling
great. I've got steak, eggs, coffee, and the New York Times marathon section
spread out before me. Donna is sleeping in so I got an hour or so to enjoy
on my own. I'm a little stiff, my leg muscles are sore, but it's a good
Yesterday during and especially near the end of the run I believed that I
had failed. After the run and after hearing words from my support group and
others (My wife Donna, BJ my niece who could really relate because, as a
first time runner this year, she had just completed the Chicago marathon,
her mother Jo-Anne, also a first time runner, finished Chicago, Danny my
brother, Donna his wife and a runner who had just completed a half marthon
in PEI, my son Jube and my daughter-in-law Michelle a runner, Macey-Jane my
youngest grandchild, Tate my daughter and her husband Tim a sometimes runner
& other grands Alma & Ellie, & Atticus (congratulations gappa), and my
friends Russ and Marion an ex runner), my perspective slowly changed and I
now feel pretty good about the event. Even though I did hit the wall and hit
it quite early (about the 16 mile mark), at the finish there were more
participants behind me (20000) than ahead (17066). I finished in the top 19%
of my age group and not one 75 year old beat me!! (A guy with one leg and a
guy with no legs did however!! Wow!).
As I sip my coffee I am savoring the event and I do not want to forget the
little bits so I'm jotting down a log of recent memories. The write up
below comes from that log.
Three weeks before yesterday I finished my last long run, 21 miles around
the basin, the last 10 of which I ran with Jerome (I talked to Jerome on the
phone after the marathon), with Roy supporting. It was very hard and I
struggled to get through the last 8 or so miles. It certainly did not help
my confidence and I felt intimidated by 26 miles lurking in my future.
After spending that evening at Russ and Marion's I woke up the next morning
with a hangover and a cold that lasted two and a half weeks. This further
eroded my confidence. Though I consciously tried to think positive
throughout the last 10 or so days before, deep down I really had no
confidence that I could finish.
The two days before in NY were hectic and stressful. I did not want to run
and was angry with myself for getting into this situation. I felt I had
gotten on a midway ride about 120 days ago and I could not get off. I was
happy though that the day I could get off the ride was approaching. I swore
that when this thing was over I would never run again. I ate poorly, slept
poorly, and could not relax.
The night before I was very anxious and could not sleep at all. Wayne and I
had agreed to meet at the 42nd St. Library to travel to Statten Island on
the bus together. He told me he was leaving on the 6am bus and I told him
NOT to leave without me. I got up at 4:30 and was alone, carrying my UPS
bag, on the uptown subway platform at 5:15. Across the tracks waiting for
the downtown subway was a man in shorts carrying a UPS bag. He was heading
to another bus pick up location as there were no more tickets available for
the Library busses. He seemed nervous.
I got off at 42nd street at 5:40 and headed for the Library. I gradually
began seeing more and more people with UPS bags all converging on the corner
of 42nd and 6th. Within minutes there were hundreds then thousands of
people milling around at this intersection. (Meanwhile unknown to me Wayne
had arrived at the intersection at about 5:30 and was looking for me). I
continued down 6th Ave a bit to a location in front of the Library where I
could stand on some steps and search the throng of people moving 6 wide down
the sidewalk along side of the busses.
On these steps were protesters urging runners to wear a "No Mandate" sign
against Bush and the war. Maybe one in 7 took the sign and later I saw very
few runners with it actually on. The protesters were quite vocal and
vicious toward Bush. A few runners (mostly women) eagerly grabbed the signs
and thanked the protesters. One runner shouted "Check the popular vote!"
Twice I was asked by volunteers to move on but I just moved a few feet and
continued looking for Wayne. Apparently Wayne passed by me unnoticed after
a long wait. I got on a bus about 6:25am.
The bus trip was about 50 minutes and I dosed a bit. I sat with a young
woman, a teaching student from Chatanooga, Tennessee. This was her first
marathon and her first visit to New York. She said she was nervous but she
didn't seem nervous. Like a "old" person trying to make conversation, I
told her one of the few things I knew about Tennessee, that it bordered on
more states than any other, about eight or nine. She said she did not
believe that and thought there was some western state that had more. The
ride went smoothly until we got to the bridge where traffic was stopped and
took us about 10 minutes to cross.
There were a lot of people already milling around the staging area and I
followed the orange balloons to the waiting area. There were line ups for
coffee, water and juice and gatoraid and muffins and bagels and power bars
and pictures and other food stuff being distributed under small tents. There
was a large open central grassed area almost completely covered with people
laying down or sitting. Also nearby was a large tent about 120 by 50 also
pretty full. There were hundreds of washrooms with long lineups. Just
adjacent to this area was the line up of UPS trucks there to transport our
bag to Central Park. I located "my" truck. I tried to keep busy knowing
there was a long time left before the run. I consumed some water, some
gatoraid, and a few bagels. I went to the portapotty and stood in line with
a young Irishman running his first marathon. He was friendly and explained
he was here on a drunken bet with his buddies. He expected to run a 3:45
marathon and had a side bet that he would beat Paula Radcliff, the British
runner with the fastest time this year male or female. Though he wanted her
to win(she did), he'd win the side bet if she blew up and left the race.
There were many toilet locations with about 50 at each and very long lineups
for each. I spent about 20 minutes in line.
Still a long time to go and I was fidgety. I re-explored the area and
located the area for the orange 19,000s to marshal. I knew Wayne's # was
around 19,000 blue so I headed to the blue area and the 19,000 location
(meanwhile I understand he was heading to orange 19,000 looking for me).
On the way I was turned away from one tent and told it was for elite women
only. I then came upon a lecture on pre race activity and hydration. The
suggestion was to hydrate to about one hour before the race and then stop.
This would give time to eliminate before the run (however before the run all
the toilets had lineups of 50 or more people). They also explained that it
takes 20 minutes for the hydration to be of use to the body so one can stop
drinking in the last few miles ( I believe it is important to continue so as
to help after the run).
I continued and found Wayne's area but no Wayne. ( At this point there are
about 38,000 people in a somewhat confined area and the chances of coming
across Wayne were not good. I still had over 2 hours to wait so I found a
place in a tent and laid down. It was quite cold though I was well covered
up. I understood that it would be quite warm during the run so I had shorts
and a long sleeve shirt (should have been a singlet but it was so cold
before the race I was worried about freezing) but I was well covered with
"throw away" clothes. I'd forgotten my hat but my goodie bag had a yellow
Sponge Bob hat so I used that. After about an hour of laying down I dropped
my bag at the UPS and I went to the orange 19,000 area and waited the long
hour for the run to begin. This hour seemed like two.
During all this time I was feeling meek, feeling sorry for myself, wanting
to get it over with, not having fun, not enjoying the moment, and
overwhelmingly lonely in this large crowd. Everyone around me was excited
and happy and laughing and most were with groups. The last hour was spent
in a crowd of people standing shoulder to shoulder next to a group of young
Italians laughing and joking with each other. Anxious to get started I
would stand on my tiptoes to look ahead to see if the crowd was moving.
Helicopters continually circled overhead and from time to time one would see
clothing being thrown up and to the side usually landing on runners. There
were still very long lineups to the toilets. After this energy sapping long
wait I noticed more and more clothing being thrown and finally, some very
slow movement toward the ramps to the bridge. It felt so good to be moving.
There were still lineups to the toilets and still people running to the UPS
Through all this I'm debating what time I should try for. Believe it or
not, the debate was 3:30 or 3:45! I decided on 3:45, 8 ½ minute miles just
as the group surged forward. I knew I'd have to pass a lot of people for
this as I was in the middle of thousands of 4:00 people. As we moved toward
the start point the trot slowly sped up and I crossed the start at about 4 ½
minutes ( Wayne crossed the start about 4 minutes later). The shaded
marshaling area was cool but when we hit the bridge it was hot. This felt
good at first but half way across it I was sweating profusely. I stayed on
the far left side of the 8(?) lane bridge trying to pass along the narrow
sidewalk It was wall to wall people. As I looked at the ships down below
spouting water, helicopters above, a bridge full of people, a great view of
the ocean to the right, and the Manhattan skyline to the left in the
distance, finally, for the first time this week, my perspective changed from
a negative focus on the run to an attempt to enjoy the moment and for a
while I had a positive, happy, carefree feeling about the run.
Numerous people were running along the narrow bridge sidewalk in order to
pass but they had to step off from time to time as there were people
stopped on it either talking on a cell describing the view, taking
pictures, or peeing over the side. I realized at mile 0.5 that I had to
By the time the bridge was behind me, along with the view, I was drenched in
sweat but in Brooklyn at least, I could find shade most of the time but had
to run from side to side to get it.. When we first merged with the blue we
ran for about a km along side them with barricades between us. I was now
looking at a 4 hour marathon. A mile later I had to toss the yellow sponge
Bob hat as it was too soaked with sweat. The degree of closeness to other
runners intensified and decreased as the street widths changed back and
forth. Throughout Brooklyn and Queens I was amazed at how many spectators
knew the runners. I later realized that many runners had their names
written on their shirts etc. Through much of the first half of the run I
saw many of the same people over and over.
There were two guys running together dressed as the blues brothers in suits,
a guy in a tricycle pushing backwards, Norm, a 50 year old guy in a blond
wig and a woman's bathing suit (he got a lot of attention), a fed ex guy,
many bands playing, community groups, people giving candies, pretzels,
drinks, bananas, paper towels, thousands of children trying to high five
( I know I hit a few hundred children's hands), dozens of gatorade and water
stops, church and community groups, clubs, and finally I saw the porta
potties at about mile 8 and waited in line there. This did not take too
Throughout Brooklyn and Queens I felt like I was running down hill even
though it was hard. My aim was the 59th St bridge and I saw it a few kms
before we reached it. As we proceeded up the 59th Street (Queensboro)
bridge I was feeling quite good finally entering Manhattan. It was a climb
and the first time I really felt a hill. The views were great. We were not
on the top level of the bridge but the shade was elusive and the heat was
oppressive. A few people stopped to take pictures or pee off the bridge. As
we exit the bridge the ramp turns sharply to the left and curves around
under the bridge onto 1st Ave. This is the most dramatic scene next to the
beginning of the run as the ramp is steep and lined with spectators. I saw
one runner stop at the end of the bridge and pee over the side. As I
continued on it occurred to me that he must have been either peeing on
spectators or runners as the route went directly under him. I flew down the
ramp excited by the scene and people and made the turn. 1st Ave.- straight -
long - sun drenched - loud - did I say long?. I was immediately in trouble.
Throughout Brooklyn and Queens I engaged with the crowd and tried to feed
off their energy. This did not come natural I consciously did it to survive.
High fiving with hundreds of children really boosted my energy. In contrast,
along 1st Avenue I had my head down, I avoided the crowd, avoided eye
contact, avoided the children's high fives, avoided the scenery, the
runners, and the run. I expected Jube and crowd would be on the left side
but I studiously hugged the right side as there was a few feet shade in some
places along the left side where the buildings were taller. At each block
I recalculated the time cost of walking the remainder. Every step was a
chore and I was tempted to give up constantly. For this reason I wanted to
avoid seeing Jube and company. When I approached 86th St (27 blocks from the
bridge) I believed that they would not be down this far as Danny's room was
on 86th Street. I accidently stepped in a sunken valve hole and nearly
fell. I searched to the right of 86th and 87th Streets to see if I could see
the beer warehouse Russ and I used to visit when I was last here. No luck.
Meanwhile Jube, Danny and all the gang were indeed at 86th St and saw me but
couldn't get my attention. Saw me trip and saw me searching to the right.
Also although I was unaware of it, somewhere along here Wayne passed me.
I hadn't walked yet but I was moving slow and I did not think I could make
it. I kept saying "It's only one more hour of pain." I had said this
throughout ie four, three, and two hours of pain left. The first time I
stopped to stretch ( I probably used the "stretch" as an excuse to stop) was
near the end of First Ave. As I held the top of the barricade and squatted
(which felt great), I caught the eye of a man on a second floor balcony. He
seemed to know my plight and he offered words of encouragement. It helped.
Near by was a pommegrant juice stand, private, not with the official
marathon. I did not drink only because I don't like the taste. Somewhere
along here was the sponge (bob) table and 30,000 sponges were spread across
the Avenue. Also there was a power gel table and I consumed one. It was good
but for the next block the footing was slippery from discarded gel packs.
As we moved up the bridge into the Bronx, the bridge has a grated surface
and the right side is carpeted (orange) for the runners. I ran this bridge
with a guy who was also hurting (I thought I was the only one). I acted as
if I wasn't hurting. This was his first marathon and he asked in
desperation, how much further. I thought there was about 7 to 8 miles left.
Just then we came upon the 10 k remaining marker. Though he doubted it, I
told him he could make it now even if he walked the remainder. I was
certainly energized by the seeing the 10k mark and this carried me through
the Bronx. Again unknown to me I repassed Wayne for good somewhere in the
I had a warm feeling in the Bronx and it seemed down hill all the way. I
felt a warmth from the people or the area or just the closeness of Central
Park, or that 1st Ave was over. There were many smiles and much understandin
g on the faces of the neighborhood people lining the way. I began the
planning of the management of finishing. For the first time in weeks, I
believed if I managed it correctly, I could finish. There was not much
shade in the Bronx but I felt so good here that I forgot my need for it.
Up to this point (about 5 miles remaining), I had completely stopped at the
last few water stops. I stopped and stretch once and then walked after that
for about 30 seconds. I had slowed down a few times to rub my butt and legs
(The first time I massaged my legs I felt grit on my hands). I now realized
that due to severe cramping threatening in my legs, in order to finish I
would have to run walk. Initially, I would try walk a block, then run 5
blocks etc etc. This worked a few times but I had trouble counting the
blocks. I was in a great deal of pain and stress. Though my aim was now only
to finish, I still continued to calculate time. (If I walk this much, what
will my time be? etc.) I was now aiming for 4 hr and 30 min.
Central Park was mostly a blur and at about three and a half miles to go, I
went to a walking mode whenever I felt a cramp threatening. During one
short walk, my son Jube and my sister-in-law Donna appeared beside me. I saw
my brother Danny in the crowd. I felt embarrassed to be walking and
immediately began running. Jube ran for a few hundred yards then left to
meet the others at the finish. Donna asked if I wanted her to run with me
and help. It did. Though at this point I believed I would finish, I knew
she could help. I would now try to immediate begin walking when I felt a
cramp. I could tell that if I didn't I wouldn't make it. Donna at first
resisted this then quickly read the condition I was in and helped. During
one stop, stretch, and massage on the left side of the street, a race worker
was offering me encouragement saying "Don't worry, the hill is almost
finished then it is flat." This did not help as I had not realized I was on
a hill! As I walked I would massage my butt and I was still sane enough to
feel a little embarassed.
Anyway, I got over the hill and through the last few miles. Donna was
working up the crowd for me and they were responding. The barricades became
more and more secure. I began wondering how Donna was going to get off the
road before the finish. At about the 25.75 mile mark, the barricades were
moved out and around two stretchers containing runners that couldn't make
it. This was shocking and sad this close to the finish. I felt a little
Shortly after this, I made the turn into the park. Donna disappeared (I must
ask her how she got out) and I could see what I thought was the banner at
the finish. My watch showed more than a minute to get there to be under the
four and a half hour mark. I felt great even though I would have to run all
the wayto make it. The crowd was roaring and someone said "You're almost
there, there is the 26 mile mark!" Immediately I felt deflated realizing it
wasn't the finish and I would not make the four and a half hour mark however
I was very happy because with 4 and 1/2 out of reach, I could now have a
little short walk! It felt great. People screaming encouragement knowing
what was going on. I ran through the finish with my arms and head high and I
felt great for a few seconds.
Runners were being herded along the 15 foot wide barricaded path, packed
elbow to elbow and though I just wanted to lay down and sleep, there was no
place to do so. There were runners sitting on every space available along
the curb in front of the barricades. We then came upon a few tables where
volunteers were giving medallions and a "goodie" bag. I can't remember what
was in the bag except for a bottle of water which I sipped on. I was feeling
a little sick to my stomach. The workers kept us moving along and at the
next stop we were given heatsheet blankets. This was a first for me and
when I donned it, I immediately felt a warmth. It was good.
Soon I arrived at the UPS trucks and easily found mine and quickly received
my bag. The same young kid was working this truck as at the corral area and I
thanked him. The crowd continued surging along and down the path. Finally I
found a space on the curb to sit. Big mistake! I immediately cramped up in
both calves, one quad., and my arm. My legs immediately straightened out
into the path of the runners. I tried to bring them in and rolled over in
pain. A volunteer, dressed in military garb, a young woman about 28, black,
beautiful, petite, asked if I was in trouble and needed help. I was trying
to get up and continue moving but I couldn't move. We locked hands and she
pulled me up and supported me with my arm around her shoulder. As she walked
along with me, she said that if she hadn't just eaten, she would put me over
her shoulder. I whispered "thanks for not doing that." After a few yards I
could again make it on my own as I continued blindly along not really
knowing whatfor or wherefore.
The line split, orange to the left and others to the right. I had the sense
to go left. Immediately there were barricades with volunteers kneeling
behind them removing the race chips. Runners who did not wish to keep the
chip would hold the top of the barricade and put their foot on the bottom
rail while a volunteer would then remove it. I leaned on the rail. It felt
great. However, when I lifted my foot my leg immediately cramped. I backed
off and walked it off and tried again. This time I did not put my foot up
but when he (Chinese or Japanese) loosened my lace (my chip was on the
bottom of my laces), I cramped again. I took off my shoe and continued
walking in circles. When the volunteer finished I couldn't get in position
to get my shoe back on so I continued walking along holding my shoe in my
Ahead I saw the medical tent. I was feeling sick, I couldn't stop moving or
sit or lift my legs without experiencing extreme pain. At the tent entrance
I saw Danny waiting just outside the barrier. He told me to continue into
the med tent and he would wait as long as it took. The place was full, no
beds left, and a young doctor asked me my trouble. When I explained the
cramping he said "dehydrated" and asked if I hydrated during the race. I
explained that I drank a little at every water stop, he suggested then that
what I needed was salt. He gave me a pack and said "just don't take it if
you feel sick. I did feel sick so having no place to park myself in the
tent, I left. Clutching my shoe and a salt packet.
Danny put my shoe on and supported me arm on shoulder as we headed for the
others waiting further along. The crowd was relatively thinned out now as we
were on the Central Park West sidewalk. I moved along clutching my salt
packet. We met Donna Pound, Michelle, Macey-Jane, Betty-Jo (she knew where
I was), Jube, and finally the other Donna. It felt good to see her. They all
doted on me and I liked it!
I was cold. My heatsheet warmed my upper body but my legs were cold. Donna
had brought my denims but there was no way I could get them on. Michelle
however always the problem solver immediately took off her pink loose pants
(in the middle of New York City) and put them on me. (She then put on my
pants). This worked fine. They continued moving me along as I couldn't stop
without hurting. I remember at one point leaning and stretching over the
concrete wall around the park. The stretch felt good. (This was when
Michelle put her pants on me). I noticed the salt marks on my running shirt
After walking about 5 blocks, (Jube and Danny or Donna half carrying me part
of this) I had recovered well enough to be able to sit in a taxi. We all
agreed to meet for dinner in the village later if I felt up to it and Donna
and I left for the apartment at 3rd and 4th. The East Indian driver told
us, in no uncertain terms, a few stories about beautiful buildings,
accidents, bad drivers, insurance, when drivers have to pick you up etc. He
let us of on the west side of Cooper Square and we crossed to the apartment.
I was feeling very good though it was a struggle to mount the stairs.
I laid on the bed for a bit and called Wayne. He was not in the hotel room
but I talked a bit to Linda and found he had a similar experience in the
run. I think I talked to Jerome. I crawled to the washroom and Donna nursed
me through a long hot bath and we met Danny and Donna on Waverly Place and
Broadway by the subway stop. We wanted to have a beer at Chumleys, an 80
year old speak easy hidden on Bedford St in Greenish Village. As we walked
along we got a call from Phyllis in Vancouver who had Jube and Michelle on
the other phone. They couldn't get through to us so they called her. As it
turned out they were on our route so we soon met them and continued on to
BJ was missing as we had either no or poor phone communication. After much
concern, mix-up, and ado, she also arrived. Chumleys is a great old beer
place with about 15 ancient wooden tables, lots of noise and activity and a
great atmosphere. From the 20s onward, authors visited this bar and the
walls contain original book covers they would tack up when they published a
book. The waiter gave us an unused section in the back and as we walked to
it we had to wait as the bar tender opened a large door in the floor and
went down to get a keg of ale. There were two or three old dogs in the bar.
They seemed to belong there. One old dog (male) slowly moved over to the
front of the door to the men's washroom and peed on the floor. I ordered a
Pilsen draught and French onion soup. The best! A waitress in the place was
from Waterloo and covered half our beer.
After beer and appetizers we walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant. On the
way to the subway entered a little bar where "Georgia's Express" were
playing great blues. It was a neat place, no cover charge but Danny ordered
two Manhattans and paid $27. A few beer later, we all went home. Danny and
Donna to 86th and Lexington, us to Cooper Square, Jube, Michelle, and Macey
to 40th and 9th, and BJ though staying in Brooklyn, went Jube's couch for
the night. Donna and I walked home through NYU and Washington Square.
Tips for future NYC marathons:
1. Plan the few days before carefully, easy on the sight seeing as this can
mean a lot of walking and waiting.
2. Unless you need the social part of the event, avoid the pasta meal.
3.Get ear plugs if you are not in a hotel and your apartment is noisy
4. Leave on the last bus possible to minimize waiting time at Staten Island
5. Bring a blanket
6. Use the washrooms early, and look around as there are some in the back
with smaller lines
7. Don't count on a washroom being available just before the run begins so
plan an alternative
8. Line up late
9 Don't get in a group with a time too far behind what your aim is.
10. If you stop to drink from water stops, a good method is to curl in just
after the last water table.
11. Expect and prepare for the long view when you turn onto 1st Ave.
12. Rip-off long sleeves would be good.
13. Prepare for an evolution in your time aim.
14. Plan on things to focus on.
15. Trust the weather report, it's not like Halifax.
16. Expect long grueling waits before and after.