Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I love New York City!  I love the New York Marathon!  I had never visited the city before except for a few short-lived entrances to play college football against Brooklyn College, but never really experienced the city itself.  As I walked away (with a noticeable gimp to my gait) on Monday I left New York a changed man.  And despite logging my slowest marathon time ever with a finish of 4:20:36 (a full 18 minutes slower than my first marathon in Cleveland ten years ago), I also left knowing that I had a successful and enjoyable weekend in the Big Apple.  I completed my 11th marathon, earning the coveted medal but I also experienced a lot of the flavor that New York City provides.  On Sunday I learned more about myself than I could have imagined along one of the toughest stretches of marathon roads I have ever run.

As promised, here is my race review for the 40th running of the Five Boroughs, the TCS New York City Marathon:

Friday, November 4, 2016

Not only was this a travel day for us, it just so happened to be my birthday.  I allowed myself to sleep in a bit before heading out for a final tune-up run of 2 miles.  I took it very easy knowing that my next run would come approximately 48 hours later on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  While waiting for Becky to get home from work so we could depart for our 4 ½ hour drive I settled in for a short nap.  When I awoke I started to head to the kitchen when I felt a very sharp twinge of pain in my left calf muscle.  Fortunately, I kind of caught it before I put all of my weight down on that foot but I clearly had cramped and felt pain that I knew instantly would be problematic with all of the walking around I would need to do over the next two days.  And then I would have to run a difficult 26.2-mile course.  Injuries, or issues of this nature have become so commonplace heading into my marathons I simply wrote it off as something I would have to deal with, just like I had done so many times before and walked delicately the rest of the day.

I had heard from many people that driving in Manhattan is insane, but I decided to ignore all that I had heard and drive my own car to the hotel where I would park for the weekend.  Insanity would be a huge understatement for me to describe what we experienced as we approached the Lincoln Tunnel and entered the city.  Given that it was a Friday evening and the Friday before the world’s largest marathon, I’m certain it was worse than “normal,” if there is such a thing.  After some frustrating moments we finally were able to park and get checked in.

The Seinfeld Effect

If you ever want to find yourself quoting Seinfeld at every single turn (if you’re a Seinfeld fan), the best way to do it is to go to New York City.  Having been a huge Seinfeld fan I really wanted to have dinner at Tavern on the Green, which I knew of only as a result of Seinfeld.  There is an episode where George is attending the Yankee Ball and wants his date to go with a backless dress, and tells her that Mr. Steinbrenner wants all the women to twirl upon entering.  I had to eat at Tavern on the Green.  So I had established reservations for Friday night at 9:00 p.m. and Becky and I walked over there for dinner.  What I didn’t realize was that the finish line of the race was actually AT Tavern on the Green in Central Park.  The final stretch of the race was along the park path and the finish line had a light show with lasers flashing at the finish line.  It was a very cool experience and our weekend was off to a great start.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Early to rise for our subway trip to the Javits Center where I picked up my race packet and checked out some of the vendors.  We were required to do a lot of walking around but my calf muscle seemed to be holding up pretty good.  It was just a little uncomfortable and achy.  Hard as I tried to rest it, the reality of these events is that a lot of walking is required.  It’s just something you deal with.  We returned to our room in order to get cleaned up and change for our very first Broadway Show.  We chose to take in a matinee for pricing and to save our evening for dinner and to maximize the amount of rest I would get.  We went to see School of Rock, and I absolutely loved the movie.  I wasn’t sure if it would transition very easily to Broadway but I am here to tell you that it felt like watching the movie in real life.  The performer who played Dewey absolutely nailed Jack Black’s mannerisms and made for an unforgettable first show to see.  I gave it a HUGE thumbs up.

After the show we walked a few blocks to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for mass and unexpectedly we were treated to a special blessing for all marathon runners by Cardinal Timothy Dolan who had all runners go up to the alter for the blessing and a sprinkling of holy water.  Afterward we made our way to dinner at a small corner restaurant near our hotel (Café Europa) for the pre-race pasta meal.  Knowing I would need a little extra energy for what I felt would be a difficult race we made our way down Broadway in search of a dessert, but instead ended up at another Seinfeld influenced restaurant (Ray’s Pizza) for a slice and that extra carbo-loading.  On the way in to pick up a slice of “Famous” Ray’s we were asked for spare change from a homeless man outside.  I must have given him a look because he then said, “how about on the way out?”  I replied, “Sure, when we come out.”

Exiting the restaurant a few minutes later, I reached into my pocket and grabbed all of my change and as I put it in his Styrofoam cup I remarked “I’m a man of my word.”  He seemed appreciative and said “God bless you.”  For some reason at that moment I wondered about this man’s story so I engaged him in some conversation and asked him his name, and why he was on the street.  It was only a few minutes of exchange but I learned that his name was Teddy and his mother had passed away four years ago and he wasn’t on their lease so he’s been homeless ever since.  He indicated that he had gout really bad in his left foot and told me he could barely stand.  I asked him how tough it got on the streets in the winter and he said it’s very tough.  The subways are warmer, but he said you can’t lay down in the subways.  We never got into the why, but I assume that it’s just too dangerous and I really felt for this man deep down.  His entire goal is to save $22 which will get him a room.  He really seemed to enjoy a shower, but doesn’t get them that often.  I wished Teddy luck, patted him on the back and said, “God Bless you.  Take care of yourself.”  I’m not sure why, but at that moment I realized that I did something I probably wouldn’t have done had I not been in New York City.  I walked away from this exchange sad at all the times I avoided looking at the homeless or not “seeing” them at all.  I realize I can’t do something for everyone, but hopefully by talking to Teddy he felt at least somewhat validated and wasn’t just the bum on the street.  I walked away sad, but also with a changed perspective.  Sore calf muscle?  At least I’d be sleeping in a nice warm bed tonight.  I knew I’d think of Teddy on my big run which was now about 12 or so hours away.

Run on…

Coming tomorrow:  Part 2.

Tavern on the Green. It didn't look at all like it did in Seinfeld.

Tavern on the Green. It didn’t look at all like it did in Seinfeld.

Times Square

Times Square

I imagine Xmas is awesome in NYC.

I imagine Xmas is awesome in NYC.

Saturday morning coffee and headed to the Javits Center

Saturday morning coffee and headed to the Javits Center

At the Expo

At the Expo

Got my bib and a photo op

Got my bib and a photo op

Our first Broadway Show. Bravo!

Our first Broadway Show. Bravo!

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

A special blessing

A special blessing

Famous Ray's? Or Famous Original Ray's?

Famous Ray’s? Or Famous Original Ray’s?