Nov. 1: Game day.
For me it started at 4:15 a.m. — shower, eat more carbs, kiss my wife and father good-bye, hop in a cab, and head over to catch my bus to Staten Island. The city has already partially shut down for the 45th running of the New York City Marathon. For the record, from the time I woke up until the time I started running, six-and-a-half hours has elapsed. But my day got started with a bang, literally. Unbeknownst to me, I was directly under the start cannon.
As we made our way over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge heading into Brooklyn, there is only the sound of soft rubber hitting the pavement — it's a little creepy. At Mile 2, however, everything would begin to change and for the rest of the 24.2 miles, I'm finding it difficult to hit my target pace after learning I was the only one in my start corral to give a realistic finish time. The rest needed to get home for the Jets game!
Anyway by the time I hit Mile 6, I've already run 6.2 from all the zig-zagging. OK, time to change my plan: Kick back and enjoy the ride. It wasn't that I hadn't noticed the drum line from a local high school as soon as I came off the bridge, or the Neil Young stunt double guy standing on top of orange crates belting out "Sugar Mountain," or the large Italian gentleman eating a dirty water dog (hot dog) and drinking a coffee while yelling out, "Youse guys is awesome," while pointing with his hot dog, "You all need therapy, what is wrong with youse? Don't get me wrong, youse is all an inspiration and stuff — but come on! Youse can't be serious with all this running." But hey I'm running in this city right now; this is, after all, where it all started for me, so I'm gonna drink it in.
Once I got into that place I relaxed and began to take it all in. I noticed every single cop who was keeping the crowds at bay so I could enjoy the day. I noticed the bands that were set up at various parts of the marathon route. Everything from that Neil Young stunt double to death metal screamers. Right before I ran out of Brooklyn, there was a huge Japanese Kabuki theater set up, drums and all, and they were awesome. I felt bad for not stopping to watch, but you can't — after all it's a race, right? So, on to Queens, the home of Archie and Edith Bunker, Carrie and Doug Heffernen, and my birthplace. Over the Pulaski Bridge and into the motherland for two-and-a-half miles before entering into Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge (you are now legally obligated to start signing Simon and Garfunkel's "Feelin' Groovy").
As I crossed over The Queensboro/59th Street Bridge, I couldn't help but hear ... nothing! It was as quiet as when the race started; all I could hear was the rubber hitting the road. Until about half-way over, then you could begin to hear faint crowd noise which only grew louder the closer you got. The minute the crowds came into sight, the energy pulled you in. This is Mile 16, only 10.2 to go, but you've got a newfound spring in your step. Three miles until the borough where the Yankees live — the Bronx, but we're only there for less than a mile before running back into Harlem on the West Side. I would look forward to this because I would see familiar faces for the first time!
At 123rd and 5th Avenue, I see my crew holding signs of encouragement! OK, one sign said, "Run, Nono, I just farted," but good enough for me. Four-point-two miles to go at that point, and I'm feeling pretty good. I tick off the final few miles and round the corner into Central Park and see my wife and father for the first time in the grandstand, give them a smooch and then collect my medal. It was awesome, didn't hit my goal finish time, but I did have a blast.
In case you were wondering, I wasn't even the fastest from Brattleboro! That distinction goes to Tammy Richards. She finished 35th overall for women and No. 1 for Vermonters at 2 hours, 56 minutes. What was my time? If I started two hours ahead of Tammy, I would have beaten her by one minute! What the hell is up with that?