I was registered for a run that's very special to me: the Poland Spring 5 Mile Marathon Kickoff. (I had to do another 2 miles after I finished) This particular event is special to me for a few reasons:
- It finishes at the actual marathon finish line (they are already setting everything up in Central Park for next Sunday)
- It was my first ever NYRR run, 4 years ago.
- It was my first run where I had someone waiting for me at the finish line - a blog reader and her family who were visiting NYC (in 2012)
As usual, I rode my bike to the event - first taking in the sunrise as I crossed the Pulaski (Mile 13 of the NYC Marathon!)
Then over the spectacular 59th St Bridge (Mile 16 of the NYC Marathon!)
And I continue up 1st Ave (also part of the Marathon route!), turning onto 72nd Street to get to Central Park.
It was a stunningly beautiful morning in Central Park. The weather was absolutely *perfect*! It was sunny but cool and only a little windy. I hope we get lucky and have similar weather next Sunday.
As I was stretching and getting ready for my corral, I saw a familiar face. This is David, who always has a kind word. I asked him if he'd be in a photo for the blog :)
These are the bleachers set up by the finish line. These seats cost $75 if you want to see the finishers in the park next week -
I made my way to the starting corral
and soon enough, it was time to begin!
It was an absolutely gorgeous morning to run in the park. And I knew at times it would be emotional for me. But the start was just business as usual.
When we reached the East side of the park, 90th Street at the engineer's gate, that's when I started to get nostalgic and emotional. This is Mile 23.
I remembered just before entering this spot during the marathon, I ran into my friend Christina outside on Fifth Ave. I didn't expect to see anyone around there, so that was a treat since I was hurting pretty badly by then and very happy to see a familiar face to take my mind off how I was feeling.
This is a peek at that entrance, from today's run -
As I ran past it today, I remembered when I entered the park right there last year, that's when I used a port-o-pottie. And I remember the woman that offered to hold my heat sheet while I was in there. I thanked her several times. And I recall how she thanked ME for what I was doing. What I was doing? I wasn't doing anything. I wasn't helping humanity or saving the world. I was just running this crazy race to prove something to myself. Anyway, I remember how she made me feel like a superstar - just because I was there.
Then I looked up and I could see the Marathon Route flags hanging in this part of the park, since we were now on the same route we will be on next Sunday. That made me teary too. I remember how I felt last year at this point - mentally, physically and emotionally. And I hope to feel better this year when I reach this part - physically at least.
Then we ran past the spot last year where I saw my friend Marcus. He was volunteering with Front Runners at that water table. I remember telling him how awful I felt. He just flashed his dazzling smile he always has and gave me a hug and said he knows. He's such a great soul.
We continued on this morning, passing the cat perched on cat hill -
When I reached this spot last year it was darker than when I had entered the park just a few minutes earlier. I remember seeing that cat and thinking (possibly saying aloud) "mother fucking cat hill!".
Today I ran down cat hill, feeling great and strong!
As we rounded a turn (just past the Mile 24 marker), I remembered the woman that profoundly affected me last year - the woman in the wheelchair that was cheering for us, even though she couldn't walk. It was so dark by then that I couldn't get a photo of her but I will never forget her there or how she made me feel and how her enthusiasm for us, people with mobility, wasn't bitter at all, even though she didn't have that same mobility. This is that spot, as it looked today -
By this point we were at Mile 4 in the today's 5 Mile race. On my left, someone pulled up next to me and said hello. It was my new friend and girl crush, Laura! I was so happy to see her flying past me. I know she's had a terrible time training lately because of what she thought was an IT band issue. Turns out it was the shoes causing the problems. She had new shoes on and was running strong. I'm so happy for her! (you'll see her from the front later…)
Shortly after that I remembered another woman cheering for us last year around this point. It was on the service road we take out of the park to get to 57th Street. She was standing on the right and in the cold, dark night she was chanting to us "You! Are! Amazing!" over and over. She probably didn't know any of us, but she certainly made us feel amazing. And to this day, I say that chant in my head whenever I pass that part of the park.
On our way towards the finish line I thought back to my first time I ran this event - in 2010. As I mentioned, it was my first ever NYRR event. And it was Halloween. I remember running in my cat woman costume. I also remember that my ankle was really bothering me and I was having a terrible time that day. I was in a very dark place emotionally and part of me wanted to walk off that course and get my bike and go home. But I knew it would take me just as long to get to my bike if I quit as it would if I kept going. So I kept going. Reluctantly. Probably crying. Out of nowhere, a friend named Jonscott pulled up next to me. He was training for the marathon (something I wouldn't even have considered a possibility for me back then!) He saw I was having a terrible time and he gave me some helpful and friendly advice, even though I was probably a jerk and tried to ignore him because I felt so awful. But somehow he got through to me and convinced me to finish, and even got me to stop walking and start running. And because of him, I made it to that finish line. I crossed it. And I'm thankful I did. So I thought about him a lot today, and how much he helped me 4 years ago. Thank you, Jonscott.
Of course when we got to the Columbus Circle entrance, I was back to thinking about last year's marathon - and next Sunday's marathon! I know how it feels to run in that entrance. And I can't wait to be there again and feel that again, knowing the finish is so close!
And before I knew it - the bleachers were in sight.
And the finish line was just beyond them!
I crossed today's finish line beaming from ear to ear. And I thought about Allison and her family that came to see me finish right at this spot in 2012 - the day Hurricane Sandy was touching down on NYC. I'll never forget them being there for me! :)
After I finished, I found Laura. I want to tell you a little about her: I met Laura this summer at the 18 Mile marathon tune up run in September. If you follow me on Facebook, you may recall that was the day I was in very rough shape emotionally and I actually walked off the course after 13.5 miles. I didn't finish that run. I've never quit an event without finishing until that day. I was crying and just wanted to go home so badly. As I was walking to my bike, Laura passed me and told me she loved my blog. I always try to stop and talk to anyone that wants to talk to me but I remember just wanting to get out of there before I broke down in front of her or she saw my tears. I felt awful about it too. I remember that when I saw her face I thought "wow, she's pretty" but I was so distracted by my sadness I just had to get out of there, so I just thanked her and continued on. I was embarrassed and wanted to be alone.
Cut to - the Bronx 10 Mile run, 2 weeks later. Around mile 6 I saw her walking the course and was struck by the beauty of her face. I called out to her "You're so pretty!" She shot back some compliment to me and mentioned my blog. I couldn't believe she knew who I was (I still hadn't put it together)
Cut again to a lunch time run about a week later. Out of nowhere, as my mind was wandering all over the place, it came to me: "Laura! The pretty woman I met at the 18 mile run when I was crying was the same pretty woman from the Bronx run!" So anyway, that's Laura. And I think she's stunning. I got a photo with her after today's run -
After that I had to do 2 more miles to complete my 7, so I ran back through the park.
I exited at Columbus Circle -
I ran on 57th St towards the Plaza Hotel and took a shot of my favorite pigeons. There are always dozens of pigeons on this traffic light and pole. Always. (mark my words and see for yourself when you visit!)
Then I turned around and ran the last mile of the marathon route. Out on 57th St -
And back into the park at Columbus Circle, just like I will next Sunday!
And I ran for the final push to the finish line!
So that was today's event. It was a great 5 mile run followed by another 2 miles tracing the end of the marathon course. It was full of memories from past events and giddy anticipation for next week.
Oh, and today's run pushed me over 100 miles for the month again! That's 3 months of 100+ miles in a row! And I still have 3 little runs this week… before the BIG one on Sunday!
I'm not nervous. I'm just excited - so excited - and I feel so ready to take on the NYC Marathon!