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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New York, New York

With blue sky, sunny weather, and refreshingly cool air on Sunday morning, 47,000 runners could not ask for a better day to run New York Marathon. Janet asked me to enjoy the start of the race which turned out to be high-ceremony and featured signing of the Star-Spangled Banner, speech by the president of NYRR, Michael Bloomberg on stage, choppers above, media everywhere, several celebrities running for charities, the world’s top elite runners ready for 26.2 mile sprint, and thousands of runners from over 100 countries on Verazzano Bridge embarking on a journey through five boroughs to the tunes by Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York. Yes, it was a big event on a big stage, and Madlene, Wayne and I were lucky to be part of it.  I’m happy to report that our small contingent from Alma RR did just fine.

Age Group
Age Group Place
Madlene Lazarian
Wayne Pagens
Jacek Gorwa

Madlene called me right after she finished. Her legs were sore. The second half of the race was harder and as expected slower, but she sounded very happy. Wayne decided to enjoy the experience and take it easy. I’m looking forward to seeing the photos he took throughout the course. 
Slowly shuffling back to my hotel after the race, I had some time to retrospect and quickly came to a realization that my expectation of breaking a personal record in NY was simply unrealistic. The course is hard. Climbing five bridges and several hills required fast downhill running to compensate for lost time. Countless repeats of running up and sprinting down eventually took a toll. By the time I left Queensboro Bridge and entered Manhattan my quads were shot. In great disbelief I had to admit that my race was over. The group of French runners I was following in Brooklyn was long gone. I could barely walk and there were still 10 miles to go. Someone once said about long distance running: pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. And at this moment I knew that my trip to the Big Apple was all about finishing those remaining long, very long miles to Central Park. Feeding off the energy from screaming crowds along 1st Ave, I started running again one mile at a time, hoping to reach the finish line in the best possible time. My memories are blurry from this point on.  I was reminding myself to look for a gospel choir in Harlem, Pepe was telling me about. Did I miss the college band playing a theme from Rocky? Was Robert able to get through thick crowds and watch the race close to Columbus Circle subway station he was going to come to? Most of the time I was simply too tired to think. 
Crossing the finish line in Central Park was anticlimactic. No jubilation. No despair. Exhaustion and simple satisfaction from finishing. Realization that it was an amazing yet very tough race. A text message from Robert popped up on my phone shortly after I changed to dry clothes. He saw me at 26 mile. Made me happy.
This was my 8th marathon. It was the largest, the hardest, most spectacular, most painful and yet most memorable race. Chris is right. New York Marathon is, without a doubt, the best. Would love to do it again.   

Run Strong! 

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