The anticipation of waiting 9 months for a single race, at times can be overwhelming. I signed up for the lottery drawing sometime in January for a race that is held in November. The odds were heavily against me getting in, but I thought…what the hell!
I’d sworn off doing another marathon after getting into the Big Sur last year. The distance is tough and the training is time-consuming. Not to mention, I’m getting older and things just love to break…lol! I’d had to go to my favorite foot doctor (Dr. Gregory Black) in the previous year and was telling him about the Big Sur Marathon. He then told me, “if you want to make a marathon your last…make it New York City”. He went on to tell me all about the race and that it was bucket list run for him. When I’d left his office, it seemed to stick in my head…I really should do that race. Thanks for that Dr. Black!
So, after the craziness of going through the sign up procedure, handing over my credit card number first, the waiting game began. The lottery system is done in a single day and they tell you that the way you usually find out first, your credit card is charged the almost $300.00 entry fee. (ouch!) I was working afternoon shift on the day of the drawing. I kept checking emails and my credit card account through out the day. Just before I left for work, I got a hit on my credit card for the entry fee! I was pretty sure at that time that I was really getting in. I started seeing social media light up with people who had received emails and was stressing because I hadn’t received an email. Deep into my shift…around 10:20 p.m., I received “the email”! I read it through several times and it really didn’t sink in at first. Then the rush of emotions hit…I announced to my co-workers that I’d been selected to participate in the New York City Marathon! I’m a crybaby….so, I may have been in tears…lol! The people at work were super excited and very supportive. They knew how much I wanted to get into this race. Now, the date was set and it was official.
The year of races and training went well and I really had no stresses about going to the marathon. Then, one of the races I’d planned to do a month prior, my first Ultra Marathon came up. The Hennepin 50K. I blogged about this race in a prior entry. The race was amazing, the people were so cool and I was with family. The race went well, we all felt great and finished! It wasn’t until I returned home that I noticed my hip didn’t want to settle back in. I had a limp and was sore. I headed for my super Doc (Dr. Odeh—at Genoa Medical). I gave him the run down on what was happening and that I was less than a month away from the New York City Marathon. Once I explained how hard it was to get into this race, I then said…”Doc, you have to get me through this race”! He gave me a shot in the hip and told me to take the next few weeks off entirely from running. Talk about stressful words…stop running? How would I ever finish a marathon if I didn’t keep training.
The day drew closer to leaving for New York and the body was easing on the pain front. I would just have to rest and believe that all the training I’d done during the summer and my ultra would be enough to see me through the race. While the hip felt better, the demons of doubt were hanging around in the back of my mind. Would this be my first DNF?! No, Not the New York City Marathon…I wouldn’t let it happen! There was too much riding on this one.
I’ve shared all about my sister Gini and her fight for life. She received the gift of life in September and received new lungs. She’d been fighting ever since the operation to stay alive and the stress on the entire family was mounting. I wanted to make New York about Gini. This race was dedicated to honor my sister who has been a care giver for her entire life. I can think of no one more deserving in this world than her. The pain I was going through and would be going through to finish this race was nothing compared to what she’d felt for so many years. The pain she was feeling trying to breathe again and survive. Yes…New York was Gini’s race! I’d finish if I had to crawl across the finish line!
The big day arrived in New York. The city was just a buzz with excitement and you could just feel it in the air. I woke up completely free of stress, none of the usual nerves were going. The calm was almost surreal. I prepared my gear, said a prayer, kissed my wife and left for my bus ride to the runner’s village near the starting line.
The day could not have been more perfect! Cool temperatures, no wind, low humidity and perfect cloud free blue skies! The bus ride to the starting area was wonderful. Getting to see the city in all it’s glory…it just shined that morning! I get it now, why so many seek out New York as their home. It took my breath away. I arrived at the runner’s village, found my area to wait and found a piece of ground to call my own for the next couple hours. I enjoyed a bagel and some other pre-race snacks and listened for my corral to be called to line up. When the moment came…I was ready!
While waiting in the corral with a portion of the almost 54,000 runners that had showed up, I just took the time to take everything in. I was really here and this was the day! I’m not sure if she could hear me, but I was talking to my sister while waiting for the cannon to fire. Telling her that it was time…time to make a turn for the better, time to reach out and grab life!
This race is everything that I’d ever heard and then some! I was greeted at every single turn by thousands of screaming people who were just happy to see you and cheer you on to success. The city wanted you to make it…they wanted you to finish this race, and you could feel it. The love that I felt on this day, at this race can never be matched. In all of my years of running, I’ve never felt anything so wonderful. There were neighborhoods that were having block parties, people sitting on roof tops, hanging out of windows, lining every single street. They were all there to greet you and welcome you to the greatest race in the world!
The miles went by quickly and my lovely wife was seeking me out at several different locations on the course. We first met up at mile 7. Just seeing one another brought tears to our eyes. The emotions from the race, the love from the city, the thoughts of my sister and seeing the woman I love just brought everything to a head. I ran up to her and we hugged and gave a quick kiss. My good friend Jolene Siana (who lives in New York) was standing by, taking pictures and video of our meeting at mile 7. Thank you Jolene for being so amazing to both of us!
Karla was hoping to catch me a couple more times, but getting around the city with the race going can be tough. She caught me at about mile 22…asked me how I was doing. I gave her the standard answer…”everything hurts, but I’m good”. She knows me well and knew at that time that I wouldn’t let anything stop me from getting to the finish. The next miles were just beautiful! I was in the area of Central park, it seemed as though there were even more people lining the streets now. Screaming, cheering fans of all of us runners were just everywhere! I stopped a couple of times to just really take it all in. The beauty of the moment. I wanted to remember this until my last day. I was just about to the finish when I came upon a lady who was suffering greatly with cramps. Her steps were small and you could see the pain she was in. I stopped and offered to help her in…at the very least be emotional assistance. This was when I got to see the strength and drive of a runner. She said “I’ll make it, I’m going to finish, now you go…go on and run”! She kissed her hand and tapped me on the shoulder with it…wow…just wow! I crossed the finish line…it was everything I knew it would be…and yes, I checked on the lady I met…she finished as well! I pulled my phone out and took a picture of the medal resting on my chest. The first person I sent it to was my brother-in-law Jeff Feller. I said “This is coming home for Gini”. When I arrived back in town, we went up to see Gini at the Cleveland Clinic, where I was able to present the finishing medal to her. To see her eyes full of life and the smile on her face, well, it touched my soul.
If you ask me today would I run it again, I’ll tell you No. I could never script a more perfect day! I’ve been spoiled by this beautiful day, perfect weather and a wonderful cast of runners. This was not only a bucket list run…it was a run of a lifetime!
Thank you to all the many people who followed me during this race. To my co-workers for being so loving and supportive. To my wife for going many miles around New York just to see me for moments. To my friend Jolene for making us feel how wonderful her city can be, and to all of you people that continue to follow me through my running and life adventures. I’m grateful for every step I’m able to take and enjoy sharing them with all of you.
I’ll see you on the road!