It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. Not since I’ve been here. I visit my WordPress dashboard nearly every day. With five years’ worth of weekly posts, there’s some content that folks seem to find their way to. It’s kinda interesting. A post from 2018, Annie…Are You Okay? seems to get a lot of hits. Haven’t really figured out why.
There were some good things to write about in 2022, but I just couldn’t get myself to write them. I started a post about the James Webb Space Telescope in March 2022, but never finished it. For the first quarter of last year, I anxiously followed its journey, first settling in a million miles away from earth, then unfolding all its delicate instruments. That’s another website I visit almost daily, awestruck at the images and observations from the farthest reaches of our universe.
And I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five last year. Also awestruck at that. Loved it. Goes up as one of my favorite books of all time. But still not enough to dislodge the massive case of writer’s block I’ve been struggling with the past few years.
But then, this post is not about my writer’s block, or about all the great things I should have written about. It’s about the great experience I had running the TCS New York City Marathon in November 2022.
To set the stage: this was not my first marathon. I ran Los Angeles in 2000, New Orleans in 2005, and Houston in 2010. The highlights of Houston: it was my PR, I ran it in 4:29:29. And I saw former president George H.W. Bush in a secluded location somewhere around mile 18. He was by himself, sorta, (I’m positive Secret Service folks were close behind him) cheering on the runners. Wearing a long black coat, fitting for a former head of the CIA, he was not more than ten feet away. I think I shouted something lame like “Thank you, Mr. President!” Interesting, because his was the first presidential election I voted in. I didn’t vote for him, but I had always liked him.
So, anyway, having run a few marathons before, New York had been on my bucket list for a while. The prospect of running through all five boroughs was just something that sounded so enticing. I guess that sounds kind of wacky, but I think it’s a kind of marathon logic. When you’ve covered 26.2 miles on foot a few times, you see a lot of different parts of a city, and they’re not all memorable. Not every part of NYC was memorable, either, but one of the things that made this race so special to me is that I can make that memorable claim, specific to the city. “I’ve run through all five boroughs of New York City.” More than three months later, it still thrills me to say this. I hope it always will.
There were a lot of things that made this race special, and such an awesome experience. Since my first presidential election was 1988, you can figure I’m no spring chicken anymore. I went into training for this race not knowing how my limbs and ligaments would handle all the miles. I told myself it would be my last marathon, creaky knees and tight hips just needed to get me to the finish line so many miles away just one last time.
However, a funny thing happened. I listened to the advice of physical therapists, and consistently did the exercises they gave me. I did the strength training exercises, targeted for runners, provided by the NY Road Runners Team for Kids. Team for Kids is another big reason this was such a phenomenal experience, but more on them in a bit. The funny thing? I finished the race, in pretty good shape. I wasn’t hobbled at the end, nothing gave out on me.
The actual experience of race day was spectacular, too. The day was unseasonably warm for New York in November, and my wave started at 10:55 am. The temperature was no big deal for me—having trained in all the heat and humidity of a New Orleans summer, I was pretty well conditioned for it. The time of day was likely my biggest obstacle. Because having trained in all the heat and humidity of a New Orleans summer, I was conditioned as an early morning runner. Even on my longest training runs, I was finished before 11:00 am.
I finished the race roughly 20 minutes slower than I was hoping for. (I was hoping to finish in under five and a half hours.) But I have absolutely no regrets about that! While I blame the time of day (and a bit of the heat) for making me slower, I think the timing might have been key to what ultimately made the race my best marathon experience: the crowds. The people who filled the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan were phenomenal. (The only crowds in Staten Island were the other runners at the start of the race, but they were pretty great, too.) I just don’t think the spectators would have been as enthusiastic, or numerous, if I had encountered them at 7:00 am. 🙂
And Team for Kids. I could not have had this experience without them, literally. I raised over $3,000 for Team for Kids and got to run the marathon. This was my first time raising that amount of money for an organization, and I don’t think I could have picked a better one. For the last 20 years, they’ve offered free health and fitness programs to children in schools across the country. By teaching goal-setting, perseverance, determination, and teamwork, these youth running programs get kids on track toward a healthy and successful life. I’ve been the beneficiary of all the fringe benefits of running (mental, emotional, physical) for a long time now. I was very happy to be part of an effort to open the door to those benefits for anyone who’s willing to try it out.
So, finally. Maybe the best part of this whole experience is that I want to do another marathon now. While my knees are still creaky and my hips are still tight, that finisher feeling is just too appealing. Lookout, Paris.