[Disclaimer: this is long but it was a marathon so expect a marathon of a recap. I tried to put in much of what I was thinking and feeling during the race. so, there you go...]
NYC MARATHON RECAP
"Sometimes it’s just surreal out there, while you’re running a marathon. People just standing out in the cold, even the rain, cheering for you, blasting music for you. It’s an awesome show of camaraderie and community." John Roberts
"Completing a marathon is a feeling that you can’t buy. You have to earn it. The experience is what you make of it. The camaraderie is awesome." Dan Morihiko
"I also remember crying. Not out sadness but for joy….The race was an exorcism that will stay with me forever. It whetted my appetite for the running life—as I think all first marathons do." Charles Lyons
"A marathon is a string of moments, mixtures of events and emotions that we sample as we move along." -Unknown
They are right when they say a marathon will humble you. They are right when they say you will feel a roller coaster of emotions. They are right in that it is beyond a physical test of endurance but a mental and emotional one as well.
MY EXPERIENCE: THE BEST AND WORST EXPERIENCE EVER
As I had twittered: finished..possibly the best and worst experience ever...
Part of why it is the best experience is that it is THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON...the BIGGEST marathon in the WORLD...it is indeed a major event in running. And, it is exciting to be part of that. It was exciting from the moment I got into the marathon about six months ago. The training was an experience with some tough moments but many many great moments. Also, all kinds of people (both friends and strangers) express such enthusiasm and excitement to me when I told them I am running in the NYC Marathon. That was definitely a wonderful aspect of this marathon experience.
BEFORE THE RACE...
Getting to NYC was just so exciting. I meet marathoners on the plane and at the airports. Even non-runners who hear I am going to the NYC marathon express excitement to me. I see the marathon banner on buses or businesses. Just walking around NYC, you meet people doing the marathon, people from all over the world. The Expo is this big pep rally and filled with such wonderful energy. Crowds of people from so many different places. I got to meet Bart Yasso, a runner/writer that I am a big fan of. He signs my Runner's World magazine with a message that inspires me. Then, I run through Central Park the day before the race. I see the beauty of the park as well as what it will look like on race day (the mile markers, the world flags, the people, etc). I see all sorts of other runners out doing the same. I see all sorts of people crowding near the finish line checking out the giant screen and getting excited for race day. All the buzz and excitement before the race was electric!
Then, from 3000 miles away, messages of support from so many wonderful friends are being sent to me. Not just support from my running friends either. Though, the best support came from my fellow java joggers. All the wonderful messages I got just were all so touching and really got me pepped up for the race. And almost every one I got while I out here in NYC got my eyes to well up a little as well as give me the biggest smile. Most definitely the night before the race.
I wake up early. Shower and get on the gear. I smile as I put on the Java Joggers shirt and my Java Joggers road ID bracelets on. The bracelets I have a special significance. They say "New York 2011 Go Helen We are with you Java Joggers". I rarely run without the company of at least one Java Jogger. And, there was hardly a time I ran a long run without the company of Java Joggers. And, to do such a long run without them physically with me had me a bit anxious about the race. So, wearing the shirt and especially the bracelets have particular important to me. The bracelets I have worn everyday since leaving Sacramento. They make me feel as though the Java Joggers are with me.
When I am mostly ready, Joanne & I find a Starbucks so I can get my usual pre-race meal...vanilla latte & an oatmeal. Then, we head to the Staten Island Ferry Building. As we head that way, we see the streets start filling with marathon runners. All headed in the same direction. Floods of people come out of the subway tunnels like ants out of an ant hill. The number of runners grows and grows as we get closer and closer to the Ferry Building.
Joanne goes into the building with me as far as she can. I am a little sad when we part ways. She has traveled from Sacramento with me and been with me all this time, being just the best supporter to me. Even as we were walking, she sensed my pre-race anxiety and reminded me about Run on the Sly (Run on the Sly was a 20 mile trail race with some brutal hills that I had to hike. During that race, I had told myself and her that finishing that race, I knew I could finish in NYC since there would be no tough dirt trails and no steep climbing). Joanne just knows what to say to put me at ease. So, it was tough to part with her as she has been with me this far. And as I parted with her, I start to really miss the rest of the Java Joggers as well. It's strange to feel so lonely in such a huge crowd of people but that is what I feel.
Getting to the start villages was very much like being herded like cattle. Crowds of people are herded onto the ferry. Fortunately on the ferry, I sat on the upper deck to watch a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty (who I felt was kind of waving at us) and the sunrise over Manhattan. From the ferry, we were all herded onto buses. Packed liked sardines on the buses, we were transported to Fort Worth. Then, we were all herded to the start villages.
The start villages were intense. Tens of thousands of runners gathered up awaiting the race start. Some were literally camped out (sleeping bags and all!). Many were doing whatever their pre-race rituals are. All the curbs, ground, grass, etc... were filled with runners sitting, laying, standing, eating, drinking, stretching, talking, etc.... I found a little spot for myself and got my running stuff in order, ate breakfast and listened to my Java Joggers soundtrack (recordings of my fellow Java Joggers' voices). I turn off the internet to my phone to preserve the battery but I feel disconnected now. But, hearing the voices of Dave, Cathy, Lora, Wendy, Theresa, Allan, and Susie comfort me. I replay the soundtrack a few times.
Eventually, we are told to get to our corrals. So, I head to the start and put into a corral (again, like cattle getting herded!). In the corral, I can faintly hear the national anthem. There's a chopper or two flying about. I hear the canons go off for the first wave. It is starting to get a little warm so I dispose of my gloves & sweatshirt. I tuck the Dunkin Donuts beanie they gave me into my race belt along with the other one I got for my friend Cathy (who's a huge dunkin' donuts fan). I get a text message from Desiree wishing me good luck! I know the Java Joggers are watching me, cheering me on from miles away. :)
Then, we start making our way to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge...
The canons boom and we start moving. Sinatra's "New York, New York" is blasting as we start taking the streets of NYC. This has to be one of the most amazing race starts I have ever experienced. There are helicopters flying over us waving. The bridge is beautiful and has a stunning view of Manhattan. Everyone is excited and enthused. Runners are shouting with joy. The bridge workers are cheering at all of us.
Clothes are getting tossed in every direction so I have to keep my eyes out on the road so I don't trip over a sweater or glove. A guy runs by me wearing a giant crown. This makes me think of David Friedman since I have been joking with him how he has my crazy crown. This guy has to be crazy to wear a crown for the whole marathon.
I keep a decent but moderate pace. I ended up running a 9:37 mile. Right around where I wanted to be.
Still on the bridge but starting to descend into Brooklyn. My first mile definitely warmed me up so I take off the arm warmers and tuck them in my belt. My sunglasses fall off my head and hit the ground. I just let them go. I must keep going so I will run without them.
At the bottom of the bridge, I see a row of guys lined along the bridge rail. They were all pissing over the edge. About a dozen of them. my friend Paul was running on the lower level and had said before the race, he hopes he doesn't get pee'd on. I thought he was just being funny but there were guys that literally pee'd over the edge of the bridge. It looked like many of them just did to say they pee'd over the bridge during the NYC marathon. I keep going.
Because of the decline, I naturally start picking up my pace. I finish this mile with an 8:29/mile pace.
Heading into Brooklyn. The streets are crowded with cheering people. It's really exciting now. Crowds and crowds of people. And, music of all sorts is playing. It was electric! I am rolling now.
But then, my right leg starts feeling a bit funny. This isn't good. I am only a couple miles into the race and a lot more miles to do and hope this doesn't worsen. Sometimes if I keep going, whatever it is will shake itself out and I will be fine. I am hoping for that. But, this starts to concern me a little. I fish out the motrin I stuffed in my fuel belt and take a couple pills.
I also really need to go to the bathroom. I run by some port-a-potties but the line is so long that I keep going. Not sure how much longer I can hold it.
I finish this mile with in 8:51 minutes.
MILE 4 & 5
Still crowds and crowds of people. A few bands along the way which are neat. Some rock bands and a couple ethnic bands as well. I hear cheering in all kinds of languages. I notice some of the runners have the names of whatever country they are from. I notice a couple runners wearing blue & white striped shirts that are what the Argentinean soccer players wear (I think of Pame & Meli). I am moved by the number of people from around the world here. This really is a world event that I am part of.
I still really need to go to the bathroom but I keep running. The crowds are fun to see. I keep running by people yelling "Go Alex!!", " Great job Alex!!" etc....I am thinking wow, this guy Alex who's near me has a ton of supporters out for him. After awhile and people are still cheering for "Alex," I realize that he is wearing his name on his shirt so people are shouting at him. I had heard that crowds will shout your name if they see it. This is really neat to see. Too bad I didn't get around to putting my name on my shirt. But, such amazing crowds out in Brooklyn! This stretch of road goes for a few miles and I just see endless crowds of people all along the sides of the road. This is amazing!
There are so many runners on the roads so it is hard to get into a good running groove. I cannot maintain a steady pace because I keep running into people. Then, I zip around this person and that person. My pace is going up and down. And, my right leg is still bothering me.
I finish this mile 4 in 8:57 minutes & mile 5 in 8:51 minutes
I finally cave and stop and use the port-a-potties. It takes of a minute or so. I have to readjust my belt and I get rolling again. I feel SO much better. I feel like I am running much faster now. I am thinking the motrin is kicking in too now as my leg doesn't hurt too much anymore.
I like the crowds so much I pull out the camera to take a few shots. As I put the camera back into the pouch, I miss and camera drops and hits the crowd. I have to run back a couple steps to get it. Camera was fine but whoops!
I finish this mile in 9:25 minutes.
MILE 7 & 8
Just enjoying seeing all the crowds and going through the different neighborhoods. So many different cultures. I am loving the cultural melting pot of Brooklyn.
I eat a couple peanut butter crackers and look at how my time is going. I would prefer to be going a little faster but this is good as I have a long way to go still.
At mile 8, they have the giant message screen up. I look to see if there's a message for me (Joanne really hoped I would see hers) but I do not see any for me so I trudge on.
mile 7 takes 8:39 minutes & mile 8 takes 8:48 minutes
For the past four-ish miles, we were mainly running on one long street. At the ninth mile, we turn and all the waves corrals merge together and so it gets even more packed. It is so crazy to navigate through all these crowds of people. It is hard to really take it all in since you are focused on the runners around you. Trying to keep going and not run into people or get run over.
At one point, the street narrows and I get boxed in by runners. Some maintenance person on some scooter or vehicle of some sort is on the road and creating a traffic jam of sorts (like when there is construction on the freeway and all the cars slow down to get around it). I bump into the back of a runner. I get elbowed by another runner. Someone bumps into my back. We eventually get around the obstruction. I really kick it up to make up for that delay.
I finish the mile in 8:44 minutes.
There are water & gatorade stations pretty much at every mile now. And, those stations are intense. I try to run up the middle so not to get knocked around but there are cups and liquid all over the place. People running in all sorts of directions. It is quite chaotic. I am not used to so many aid stations so frequently. Every mile, I have to deal with these aid stations and I generally run up the middle and try not to trip over cups or run into people.
I am also noting that my garmin is chirping its mile alerts a little before the mile markers. I sense that this course is going to be a little bit longer than 26.2. But, I feeling pretty decent at this point and nearing the halfway point.
I also think about Cindy. She told me you always remember your first marathon. She said in her first marathon, when she hit mile 10 and her formerly injured leg wasn't bothering her, she knew she could finish and was smiling the rest of the way. I hit mile 10 and thought of her and her story. I would not say I was smiling but her story was encouraging me onward. Fortunately, my leg seemed okay for the time being. It did not hurt but it did feel kind of off.
I finish this mile in 8:26 minutes.
I sense I cannot quite keep my usual race pace and I am slowing down a little. I start to think that I should not have tapered as much as I have. Fred told me that my body needs to hunger the long run. My body has tapered too much that it has forgotten how to do the long run. I rested my running legs too much. For other people, tapering is good for them. For me, I do not train like an average person and so, my way to taper is different than others. This is what I am thinking about as I run along.
I take a GU hoping that will give me a little boost. I normally do not take one this early but feel I could use the boost. I take it and trudge on. I am also noting I am drinking more water than usual. But, I was told to drink when I feel thirsty so I did. I was expecting slightly colder weather than this. However, it is a gorgeous day to be running in NYC.
At some point, I drop one of my water bottles. I just let it go rather than go chasing back for it. Some guy running behind me notices and says something like you can always buy another one later. I keep going.
I finish the mile in 8:55 minutes.
MILE 12 & 13
I can feel the halfway point nearing. I am nearly out of Brooklyn. The crowds are still amazing. There are still so many people all cheering. I remember hearing "Eye of the Tiger" and getting pumped with that before the song faded away and the sound of some bagpipes took over. Later, there were some gals bumping some good club-mix tunes that kind of pepped my stride a bit.
I finish the mile 12 in 8:43 minutes and mile 13 in 8:39 minutes.
They say I hit 13.1 (the halfway mark) at 1:57:07. I am happy that I managed to get my first half under 2 hours though I am not liking that it was not as faster as I should have been. Namely because the terrible teens are coming up and will be slowing down.
At this point, I am also thinking, I wonder if my half time posted on facebook for my friends to know where I am in the race (I would later learn the answer to this). I am also hoping Joanne got the text message of where I am in the race. I hope she can find me.
I cross the bridge out of Brooklyn and enter Queens. It's very industrial and not the prettiest part of Queens I remember the tour guide person saying.
I finish the mile in 8:57 minutes
This is the beginning of the terrible teens. And, in this race, they are indeed the TERRIBLE teens! I always struggle with these upper teen miles. Also, I am starting to run out of water, especially since I dropped a bottle. My electrolyte concoction in my other bottle is running low too. I think I have to start hitting the water stations. So, I hit the water station and stop to down a cup of Gatorade. I have learned that a short stop to fully drink water/Gatorade will have me running faster afterwards than if I did not stop at all. So, I do so.
But, I am starting to get tired. I can feel my pace dropping. I just keep on trekking along as best as I can. I know at mile 19, I will take my second GU, the one with the extra boost. And, I will kick it up in the twenties (like I did on my training run). Just have to get through the terrible teens.
I finish this mile in 9:34 minutes
We exit Queens and head to the Queensboro Bridge. This is one god awful segment of the race. You run on the lower level of the bridge (not sure if there is a top level) but it just feels like this dark tunnel with a very cold wind blowing on the left side. There are no fans on the bridge so we no longer have people cheering us on. And, there's a bit of an incline to the bridge. Steeper than the first bridge. Not the worst hill I have run but no hill is enjoyable, especially 16 miles into a race.
I absolutely hate wind and so really unhappy wind is blowing at me. I feel I am running so slow, I might as well walk to conserve some energy. So, I walk a little bit and really hating the terrible teens. I am very annoyed and very cranky at this point. I am thinking whoever said this would be the most amazing experience needs to suck it.
Then, this girl runs by wearing a tutu. I chuckle to myself. My friend Javier wore a tutu for a Halloween bike ride and posted that as his profile picture. The night before the race he wished me luck. I told him if I see a girl in a tutu, I will SO think of him and hopefully I don't trip from laughing. When I see the girl in the tutu, I just laugh a little to myself. Pull out the camera and snap a quick shot. And, I start running again. I have to keep going. Another girl in a tutu runs by. In an even cooler tutu. But, I do not get a chance to take a picture of that girl.
I eventually start descending down the bridge and I start to hear the crowds of Manhattan. I have been told that Manhattan is really loud. And, I can hear them as I descend down the bridge.
I finish the mile in 10:16 minutes.
I come off the bridge and turn into Manhattan and there are floods of people cheering. This is pretty amazing. They are SO loud! However, I feel like the streets of Manhattan are a lot wider than Brooklyn so I feel like the crowds a bit farther away from me than they were running through Brooklyn.
I pick it up for a bit but then I am getting wearing. I am struggling. I am hurting and just fighting to keep going. I cannot keep the pace I want and getting frustrated with myself. I walk through the aid stations now. And then I try to pick it up afterwards but I am just run walking at this point. What the F is going on?!?
I am really mad at those that pressured me to taper. I should have run 20 miles two weeks ago instead of 15. That was the plan but I was guilted to do less. I know I struggle with the terrible teens and needed to practice getting through the terrible teens. When I run an awful run, the next one I do shortly later feels much better. My body has forgotten how much it hates the terrible teens and I feel I tapered too much and lost the training to push through that. Now, I was never doubting my ability to get to the finish. I knew if I had to drag my beaten up body there, I would. But, I was irritated at this point that I am not running as well as I should be.
I finish the mile in 10:25 minutes
This has to be the longest stretch of road ever! I am struggling really badly. Finally, I give in and plug in my earphones and play the Java Joggers soundtrack. The crowds are so loud that is hard to hear the voices but I can hear Cathy's "Oh geez!", I can hear Lora's "Suck it Up Buttercup!" and "Open Up a Can of Whoop Ass," I hear Dave & Allan's voice. And, this gets me going again. I remember the words on the back of my shirt "Java Joggers - good to the last mile." I also remember Cathy joking that we need to add in tiny print "kind of" and this gets me to chuckle a bit and continue on.
As some point I think on this mile, they give us wet sponges to wipe ourselves down with. Best thing ever! I felt so refreshed after that.
I finish this mile in 9:26 minutes
I am relieved I am almost done with the terrible teens. But, I am SO hungry. The trouble with this race is that it started at 10:10 am so it's past the lunch hour and I am not used to running this late in the day. I eat the rest of my peanut butter crackers.
After I eat the last cracker, I do not zip the pouch to my fuel belt all the way and my iphone goes flying to the ground as does my GU. Talk about heart stopping panic! You probably know how attached I am to my iPhone. My phone also does not have its protective casing on as it hits the ground. I stop to scramble to get both my phone and GU (which I will definitely need). The phone seems to be okay but I have to shove everything back into the pouch and the cord to my earphones are dangling so I just stuff them into the pouch as well. Stressful!
I am struggling again. I start to run walk again. It's mental. I take the last GU hoping that will pep me up for the 20's.
Also, I drop one of my Dunkin' Donut hats. The hat I got for Cathy. That I was so excited to give to her and to be able to tell her I carried it through the marathon for her. But, it dropped somehow and somewhere. I was not even sure when or where to even pick it back up. (Cathy, know that I carried a Dunkin Donuts hat for 19 miles for you before I lost it. I made it but the hat did not).
I finish this mile in 10:16 minutes.
I walk through the aid stations again. Then, I try to run as best as I can but it's a struggle. I know I should not be stopping as much as I do and just keep going as that's easier but I cannot do that for some reason.
As I am trudging along, I see a few people on the side holding out bowls. I get closer and I see a bowl of pretzel sticks. I had seen other people hold out bowls of candy along the way earlier but these pretzel sticks were just what I wanted. I go up to the lady and grab a handful of pretzel sticks. A boy offers fruit and candy but I decline. The salty pretzels are just what I wanted. I eat those quickly and trudge along.
Towards the end of this mile, I think the pretzels and GU are starting to kick in and I feel my legs find their groove again. I cross into the Bronx starting to feel better.
I finish this mile in 10:05 minutes
I am running through the Bronx. There is some good music playing and that peps me along. I turn one corner and I see Joanne with her poster she has for me. I am SO happy to see her. She's looking the other way so I slow down a little and yell "Joanne!" She turns and sees me and immediately starts shaking her clappers and cheering! Finally, someone cheering for me.
I am feeling good now and my legs kick it up a notch. I am not too far off schedule from my goal time.
I finish this mile in 9:09 minutes
I cross the bridge back into Manhattan. The final stretch is upon me. I just need to get myself to Central Park. I am thinking about the Wall now. Is it going to hit? I see some runners really struggling. Cramping horribly. Hobbling. It's a scary sight. I keep on going. Things are starting to hurt but I am doing okay. I pop a couple Motrin pills (bad idea!).
I turn a corner and there's a message board. I look up and my brain is a little fried so does not read so easily but I see "E.B." and I just know. There is one person who calls me "E.B" (short for energizer bunny). I wonder if that message is for me. I then see the picture of the energizer bunny appear and I know it has to be for me. I quickly scan to the bottom of the message to see who it is from and I see "Kim & Dana." It is for me! wow, a message really did appear for me! WOW!!
I am so enthused by that message. I really start running. I look at my watch. I start to think that if I kick it into gear, I can still break four hours despite all those delays in the terrible teens.
I finish this mile in 9:04 minutes
I am running pretty good. Just thinking that I just need to get to Central Park and I am good since I know the finish. I grab a banana from one of the aid stations and get going.
This guy runs by wearing the marathon shirt. On the back, it says "I am in." I lock my eyes on the back of him and just run. This is when I run best. When I can focus on a target and chase it. It has been hard to do in this race because of the volume of people. I do the best I can to keep him within sight. I am able to follow him for a bit but as with everyone else, he gets lost in the crowds.
I run along. Then, I hear my name being yelled. I turn my head and see Joanne cheering away. She managed to get down from the Bronx and to Manhattan to cheer me for a second time. This really warms my heart and I run along. Not too much longer to the finish. I can do this.
I finish this mile in 9:17 minutes.
I start feeling light headed (Later, I think it as the motrin that did this). I think I really could use some more pretzels. I look at all the fans on the side seeing if anyone has any snacks to feed me. I really need it. I am also thinking that what I really want is a coke. I have not had one all day long. I think it's around 2pm at this point. I also have not had lunch and growing wearing. I feel faint. I also feel the muscles in my legs are twinging, almost ready to cramp up. Keep going I tell myself.
Ugh, this is just awful. I start to walk through the aid stations again. This time, I walk slower and stop to fully drink all the fluids. I run again and then immediately feel like walking. I do not care about the four hour mark anymore. I cannot make it. I will get to the finish line but I feel resigned. I want food. I need a coke fix. I should have told Joanne to have one for me at mile 20-something. I feel light headed and almost ready to faint but I keep going.
I finish this mile in 12:00 minutes
I am running and walking through Central Park. The crowds are there but I do not really hear or pay attention to them. I see all kinds of people struggling so I do not feel so bad. But, I am frustrated. I think this is the most awful thing I have put my body through and I have put my body through some brutal things before. I do not think I hit a physical wall as I was led to believe. It was a mental wall.
I wanted this to be over with. I wanted to not do this again. What the heck was I thinking. Who the heck said this was the most amazing experience ever. Who the heck told me this was going to be awesome. This is NOT awesome. This is awful, awful, awful!
I finish this mile in 10:51 minutes
I am going along as best as I can. When I am running, I am not running so bad but I do not go very far before I feel like walking again. My legs are nearly ready to give way. I can tell they are going to kill me tomorrow.
I exit out the front of Central Park. I know exactly how much farther I have to go. Less than a mile left I tell myself. Just keep going. I am nearly there.
Then, I think about how the finish line is less than a mile. Instead of getting energized and starting to run again (as I thought I might), I start to walk. I do not care about time anymore. I am just going to get there. I am almost there. I then start to cry. Not tears of sadness or really happiness. I am just emotional and the tears came. The finish is near. And there are not just some tears streaming down my eyes. I am sobbing, almost uncontrollably. I am hyperventilating and sobbing. I wipe my tears with the headband I had wrapped around my wrist but I cannot stop crying.
Also at this time, my whole right leg has cramped up. so now, I am crying and hobbling down the street. Though, I am not crying at the pain. I barely can feel the pain now. I am just crying as I am nearly done. A guy runs by me as I am hobbling and crying. He gives me a thumbs up and says you're almost there, you're doing great.
As I approach the turn, where we enter back into the park, the tears stop. I feel the energy return. I hear that they are playing "Don't Stop Believin'" I love that song and what a great song to end on! I also see all the flags of the world lining the sides to the finish line.
The tears quickly go away (they were not joking that the marathon will send you through a roller coaster of emotions). I start to run again. I am smiling. I know what is left in me.
I finish this mile in 11:13 minutes.
THE LAST 0.2 (or .4 according to the Garmin)
The final stretch, I am running again and almost back to my full stride, at my usual race pace. I am aware there's a short little hill before the finish and get up that just fine.
I see the finish and kick it up a little to cross that finish line with my arms raised in somewhat victory.
Thank god that was over with!
The last segment was at a 8:59/mile pace. And, my garmin says I ran a total of 26.43 miles (rather than 26.2).
Like the marathon, the finish had it's good and bad. I was happy the race was finally over with it. I was disappointed in myself that I did not break the four hour goal. Mainly, I felt disappointed because I feel like I did not give it my all towards the latter part. I felt I had given up at some point.
Also, the way the race organizers had it, it was kind of anti-climatic and lonely at the finish. There was no post-race expo as I have experienced in other races. I finish and then I am herded like cattle again. We go into a runner's only zone so there are no people around to greet the runners. It is just us runners getting herded through the street. Move this way. Get a medal. Move this way. Get a sheet put on me. Move this way. Get a bag of food. (I devour nearly everything in the bag). Move this way. Pick up stuff that I had checked in before the race. Move this way to get out of Central Park. Keep moving. Eventually, the runners get out of the park and they have to locate their friends and family members. There is no post-race shindig of any sorts. Yay, you did it. Here's your stuff and you need to leave now. That's how I felt. No one was there too. They have a no friends/family zone I had to go through and with all the marathon chaos, Joanne & I planned to meet at Penn Station. So, it really was just me at Central Park.
Now, the good part of finishing:
I feel part of the club now. The stupid marathon club.
Also, after the race, random strangers congratulated me. Not just at the race site but throughout the day as I journeyed to find Joanne and we journeyed back to lower Manhattan. Random strangers would come up to me and ask me about the race and tell me congratulations for doing a marathon. That was really nice. (Though one random jerk overheard someone else talking to me said "you didn't finish the race" in particular nasty tone. Weird and random. I ignored him).
And now, the REALLY good part about finishing:
Almost immediately after my finish (before I even got my medal), I felt my phone vibrate. It was texts from my fellow Java Joggers. One tells me that they had gathered at Starbucks to track me through the race. Five of my wonderful running friends knew I had just finished and sent me wonderful messages. They were there for me before, during, and after the race. How great they all are!
Then, as I am getting herded along, I figure I should tell people I finished. So, I text an update to twitter/facebook that I finished. I was going to say more about the awfulness of the race but knew there were good moments too (even if I could not think of them at the time). so, I simply said "possibly the best and worst experience ever..."
I then turn back on the internet to my phone. I remember thinking I wonder if whatever tracker they had posted the updates to facebook like they said they would. As soon as my phone reconnected with the internet, I found the answer. My phone was filled with the messages, comments, status updates, pictures even, etc.... People had been tracking me all along. They had been cheering me and following me to the finish. I was floored!
It is hard for me to describe what I felt then. I think I was zonked out when I finished and brain had not processed what I had done. But, I was seriously stunned by how many friends had been tracking me the whole way through and had been for cheering throughout the race. Tears came down again but this was different than when I was dragging myself through that last mile. These were happy tears. The reality that I finished the NYC Marathon, my first marathon, had finally hit. Though I am standing alone in Central Park, I felt the love of my wonderful friends from 3000 miles away. Each and every one of those messages/comments/etc.. meant SO very much to me at that moment. It made all that suffering I had endured worth it.
so, there you have it. possibly the best and worst experience ever.
Will I do it again? As much as I hated it. I know myself. My answer is probably. I probably will do it again and think why am I doing this again. ;-)