( 11/13: I had a typo on my time. I ran the marathon in 4:40:03 not in 4:04:03. My brother, Kyle was aghast at the typo. You see, he ran the Louisville marathon in 4:20:00 and it would be devastating to his ego if his little bro topped his time. Of course I was nursing a bum knee, the marathon was so crowded that our first two miles took us 32 minutes, and I was running with two other guys which meant that we stopped for more water breaks more than if I had been running solo. But I’m sure Kyle won’t take any of that into consideration. But hey, I’m smarter and better looking than him, so why not throw him a bone now and again. Congrats Kyle!)
The first time I visited New York City doesn’t really count. I was help hostage by Nepalese monks somewhere in Brooklyn.
As hostage-takers go, they were okay. I got four square meals a day and my own room. But I wasn’t able to go anywhere on my own. If I wanted to go for a walk someone went with me. If I wanted to see the city, a monk took me to Madame Tousseau’s as if that was all there was to be seen.
Monks are supposed to be peaceful, but their torture was particularly sinister. Hour after hour, I was forced to watch home movies from some Nepalese wedding reception. Nepalese danced. Nepalese laughed. Nepalese smiled and made faces for the camera. It was painful.
Almost as painful as my second trip to New York City to run the NYC marathon.
Did you know that a marathon is 26.2 miles?
That’s a long way.
I started training in June. I worked my way up to runs of 16, 18, and then 20 miles. I burned through packs of Gu, bottles of Gatorade, and running shoes. Everything went great up to a month before the race. And then I couldn’t run a mile without a sharp pain in my right knee.
I’d felt the pain before. It was illiotibial band syndrome. I stopped running for three weeks and began stretching. I swear half my calories came from Advil. At T-minus 10 days I got a cortisone shot. I did two runs of less than 7 miles pain-free and hoped that I would make it through the race.
Marathoners are gross.
We converged on Staten Island at 7 AM – all 44,000 of us. The damp ground turned to mud. It was cold. Someone heard about a guy passing out hand warmers. We found the poor guy. I think I saw a runner wearing his pants later.
The port-o-johns violated all codes of decency and probably some by the EPA. It was survival of the fittest. The fittest had toilet paper. The others, well, we pitied them.
Cattle have a better since of direction than runners trying to find the starting line. When we crossed it we were surprised, “Oh, I guess we start running now.”
I ran with Larry. Larry who works at my publisher. Larry who asked me to run with him and when I said maybe, he heard, “yes.” Larry who I emailed every Saturday after a long run and we’d compare how much our bodies ached.
At mile three my knee started to hurt. So much for cortisone. At mile 11 my knee went numb.
Brooklyn was awesome. It was a 15-mile street party with choirs, bands, DJs, and people reading the name on my shirt and rooting me on in a variety of accents, “Go Kelsey…Looking great Kelsey…All the way Kelsey.”
In Brooklyn I forgot about my legs.
Crossing from Brooklyn to Manhattan on the longest steepest bridge in the history of architecture, morale started to fade. Amid the shuffling soles and the huffing and puffing, one runner shouted, “Feeling strong! Who’s with me?” or something like that. I didn’t hear her. My blood and nerves were maintaining only the most necessary functions, and “rah rah” wasn’t among them. We never heard her again. I think the runner who stole the handwarmer guy’s pants might’ve nudged her off the side of the bridge.
Miles 15-22 were fine. With a nod or a point I acknowledged the folks who rooted me on by name.
But miles 22-26. I can only think of one thing to compare it to…
…(and I say this with some authority)…
The last 4 miles were more painful than being held hostage by Nepalese monks.
But that finish line, oh how sweet the sight.
Those who’ve had near death experiences say that life flashes before their eyes. When I looked at the finish line, I saw every training run. I saw Harper’s limp little fingers hanging onto the side of her stroller on a hot six-miler in June. I saw the deer that I scared up on a 20-miler. I saw all the folks who donated to my cause – Team Continuum – and shared their cancer stories and words of encouragement.
My time was 4:40:03. I finished 29,989th.
At the finish line I wasn’t near death. I was anything but. My heart pounded just fine.
I smiled like I’d won the lottery. I raised my hands above my head and clapped as if I’d won Wimbledon. (If you want a good laugh take a look at some action shots of me clapping and my inability to hold my left hand in any sort of manly fashion while running.)
It was a near life experience.