I did it.

I still can’t believe I ran a freaking MARATHON. I was extremely nervous on Saturday. Knowing I was supposed to load up on carbs, I had two eggs, toast, potatoes, and french toast for breakfast. Here’s a photo of my pre-race day lunch:

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Baked potato AND pasta.  It was yummy, and normally I would love to indulge in this sort of carb fest, but it made me want to barf.  I packed up the kids, took the dog to the doggie hotel, and headed into the city for a dinner of…. PASTA.  I bought a bagel with peanut butter and jelly for the morning. Still freaking out I had a vodka grapefruit to calm down, took a shower and went to sleep.  I woke up at about 3, which was really 4 because of Daylight Savings, then I just stared at the back of my eyelids for two hours until I decided to get up and make a cup of coffee, pull on my running pants, get all my gear together, which I had carefully packed and repacked five times to make sure I had everything, kiss the kids and Frank goodbye and head over to meet my friend Vanessa and the team she runs with, for the 7 am Staten Island Ferry.

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Ferry terminal.

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Heavy security escorting the ferry to Staten Island.

When you pick up your marathon bib, they give you all kinds of stuff like a shirt, a clear plastic bag, and some information that I probably should have looked at.  I didn’t know that the clear plastic bag I had been provided would be the ONLY bag allowed into the village (which is what they call the area where you wait for the marathon to start).  There was a moment of panic when I had to clear out all of the stuff I had been told to bring – bananas, toilet paper, water, bagel, wipes – and put it into another friend’s bag.  Then we all piled on to a bus for an interminable ride to the base of the Verrazano Bridge, where the race begins.

Luckily when we got to the entrance to the village, a nice police officer gave me a plastic bag, so Denise didn’t have to carry around my toilet paper.  I brought the whole roll by the way, not knowing how much I would need.  I didn’t need the whole roll.  Then we walked around for a bit, got free coffee and more bagels from Dunkin Donuts.  Pretty much everyone had bananas.  I would not have been at all surprised to see a sign reading, “Welcome to the 2013 NYC Marathon, brought to you by BANANAS.”  Finally we sat down and listened to the announcements about baggage, and start times being read in seven different languages.  Runners from all over the world come to NYC for the marathon.  It’s really the biggest marathon, and I felt like I had cheated a bit by doing it first.  Not really, because I will always be a New Yorker, and that’s where I became a runner, logging miles along the river and through the park.

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The first wave of runners taking off across the bridge. Two cannon shots are fired before each wave starts. The first were unexpected, and when they shook the ground, it was more than a little disconcerting. I don’t need to say why.

Amazingly in that crowd of 50,000 I bumped into my friend Jessica, who was really inspiring when I first started running.  She was running her first full marathon, too.  We had a good hug, then went to find the entrances to our corrals.   I lined up behind a man who was in his late sixties, wearing a long fur coat.  I told him I was nervous.  He said, “What’s there to be nervous about?  Get nervous for a 5K, not for this.  This is going to a parade, and the parade is the crowd.  It’s the best way to see the city, so enjoy it.”  I tried to calm myself down and  breathe.  They started herding us to the bridge.  At this point, runners shed the throwaway clothes brought to keep them warm while they wait for the start.  Mine were a lovely extra-large pair of sweats, and a jacket from Sears.

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Piles of discarded clothing. It is picked up and donated.

Walking up to the bridge I took a moment to realize what I was about to do.  It’s monumental, the NYC Marathon.  Even now when I think about it I get teary.  I looked around at the other runners in my wave – many of us running for the first time, and we gave each other nervous looks and wondered what the hell we were doing.  I felt a bit like I was in the wrong place.  They say that running a marathon is 40% training, 40% mental, 20% nutrition.  I hoped I had the mental fortitude to override my body when it told me to stop.  I also really hoped it wouldn’t hurt till after mile 13.


The announcer told us that in our wave was Bill Rancic, who won Celebrity Apprentice (yay?) who was running to raise money for cancer research.  He would start last, and earn a dollar for every person he passed.  Also in my wave was Pamela Anderson.  I never saw her.  Then he said, “On your marks” and the cannons fired.  We were off.

I was trying not to run too fast.  A lot of runners start out too fast and then can’t finish the race, having spent all their energy at the start.  I shed my hat somewhere, looked around and tried to enjoy the view.  Manhattan seemed really far away, and that’s where we were going.  Here’s something I didn’t know – runners travel across the bridge on both the upper and lower decks.  Apparently many of them stop on the upper deck to pee off the bridge, which ends up showering those on the lower level with urine.  Luckily I was on the upper level because that would be a really terrible way to begin the race.  Another terrible way to begin the race is with a cramp, and I got one pretty much right away.  I tried to blow it out, exhaling all my breath, and just calm down.  After a while it went away.

I can’t imagine there is anything in the world like running the NYC Marathon.  Crowds line the streets the entire way, and complete strangers scream your name.  “Way to go Heather!”  “Heather you got this!” “Go Heather!” It seems kind of dorky, but I can tell you it is awesome, and I ran most of the way with only one earbud in so that I could hear the crowd.  I saw my friend Maria Ramroop which was AMAZING.  Then I saw my husband and kids in Brooklyn at mile 8.  I stopped to give them kisses,  burst into tears, and asked my husband for some Chapstick.  Then I was on my way again.

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Bursting into tears when I saw my kids and my husband.

Running through Brooklyn was the best.  The bars were all open to the street, and people were screaming, dancing.  There are bands that play at every mile along the route.  I think that Williamsburg was the most fun probably because on Sunday afternoon in Williamsburg everyone is drunk.  I saw my friend Kelly McCann who took a picture of me just as I had put a glucose gummy thing in my mouth.  Yay!  It was AWESOME to see her.  She ran the marathon a few years back and has been super supportive.  Also Kelly and I swam together when we were growing up, for an Olympic training team.  It was absurdly hard training, so I’m no stranger to people puking or collapsing during a workout.  That’s what makes you stronger.  It’s also probably what made me think I could actually do this thing.  Thanks Kelly!

I stopped at the first port-a-potties that didn’t have too long a line.  It added three minutes to my time, but I didn’t think about that. I wasn’t going to pee off any bridge.

After Brooklyn came Queens, and then we crossed the Queensborough Bridge between miles 15 and 16.  This is when a lot of people started walking.  I was feeling good, hamstrings tired, but I wasn’t about to walk.  All those hills I complained about during training prepared me for this.  Then, as we sloped down off of the bridge there were three signs reading:

If having only 10 miles left is easier

Life just got easier.

Welcome to Manhattan.

What is wrong with me that I’m crying as I type this?!  Anyway, I was really happy to see those signs, but was picturing how far those ten miles were.  From 59th Street, all they way up to the Willis Avenue Bridge, into the Bronx, then back into Manhattan, 79 blocks downtown, across Central Park South, then up to the finish.  It was starting to really hurt.  I was dragging.  I just wanted to get to 89th Street where I was supposed to meet my family again.  But when I got there I couldn’t find them, so I just kept going.  I ate two strawberry banana gels they were handing out, which I usually hate, but it’s so much easier to swallow the gel when you’re running than it is to chew the gummies.  Must remember that for next time (next time?!?).  On the Willis Avenue Bridge, people were stopping right and left.  I thought I must really be slow.  I didn’t really have a goal time for the race, my only goal was to finish without pooping in my pants (it happens to marathon runners – OFTEN).  But I though it would be nice to finish in under five hours.  Ideally, at 4:45.  I figured I was at the back of the pack, the way everyone around me seemed to be dropping out.  A pain like I had torn something had appeared on the outside of my right knee. My hip flexors were so tight, my hamstrings were angry. Then, the most amazing thing happened.  I’m not a religious person, but something appeared to me like a vision, a beacon, a guardian angel, fairy whatever you want to call it.  A runner in purple pigtails, with a little flag sticking up from her back reading “4:30.”  She was the pace runner for people who want to finish in four hours and thirty minutes.  I was kicking ass.  I kept up with her for several miles – the miles that are the hardest, 18-22.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it was divine intervention.  Then at mile 23 I needed water, and I lost her to the crowd of runners before me.

I couldn’t actually stop for water at that point – it is so hard to start once you’ve stopped, I had to keep running and try to toss the water into my mouth.  When your legs and knees are that exhausted it’s even hard to move right or left, so when pedestrians tried to sneak across the marathon route that close to the finish, it was VERY ANNOYING.  I approached Central Park calculating in my mind that I had fifty blocks to run until I got to Central Park South.  Fifty blocks.  How was I going to make it?  How was I going to run these last three miles? My right knee was screaming at me again. How on earth was I going to do this?  And then I realized, I was already doing it.  I wasn’t stopping.  I wasn’t going to stop.  I hadn’t even walked.  I was doing it.  I was running the NYC Marathon.  I just kept repeating that over and over to myself.  I entered the park, Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side came on my headphones and I kept right on going, thinking about the finish line rather than what I was doing at that moment.  That was the last song I listened to before turning off the music.  I let the spectators carry me through to the end.  It is not sentiment to say that the absolute best people in the world live in New York City.  I love each and every person who encouraged me those last few miles.

Between miles 25 and 26 two people stopped right next to me.  They just stopped running and stood.  “Don’t stop NOW!” I told them, but the man just screamed in agony.  I passed a runner carrying his friend on his back.  At mile 26 I tried to go faster, I could see the finish line.  As I crossed the line I said, out loud to myself, “I did it.”  A woman placed the medal over my head, and again I burst into tears.  I wasn’t the only one.  People all around me were crying, and I high fived the stranger next to me.  I was freezing.  Teeth chattering, feet unable to move.  I could barely lift my legs to walk and it took me half an hour to walk the two blocks to meet my family, but I was done.  I did it.  My time was 4:40:20.  If I hadn’t asked Frank for the Chapstick, it would have been 4:39.  If I hadn’t gone to the bathroom it would have been 4:37.  Aaaargh.

I hung my medal over the corner of my mirror in my closet, so that I look at it every morning.  I’m still tired, feel nauseous and achy, but today I signed up for the Manhattan Half Marathon which is in January.

Oh, I beat both Bill Rancic and Pamela Anderson by an hour.

Thank you a million times to everyone who donated to my run for Story Pirates.  And a HUGE thank you to the Story Pirates themselves, for giving me this opportunity.  THANK YOU.

I assume the desire to get a 26.2 tattoo will go away eventually.  Right?

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My sister, her husband and his parents watching me finish on Track My Runner:

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Full-on, super-awesome, extended, excellent, extreme playlist.

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Today I ran 12 miles with my friend Vanessa.  Funny thing, when you drive in your car you don’t really notice the thousands of small hills that actually make up a long country road.  Anyway, we did it, it’s done.  I felt good, even though it was very muggy.  Many thanks to the homeowner whose sprinklers I ran through.  That was nice.

Here is the extended playlist I listen to on long runs.  I realize that some songs were left out of the one I posted the other day, and some people, not saying who, but maybe some Oxford ladies college educated gents were a bit miffed at my song selection.  Here’s the real deal, super extended, extremely awesome playlist I have compiled which NEVER BORES.  It’s long – over three hours, and wouldn’t fit on one screen in iTunes, so some effort was spent on my part to pass along the whole thing.  I hope that makes up for my song deficiancies earlier in the week.

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20 miles.

I haven’t posted in a while, and in that time I have completed one 18 mile run, and last Friday, a run that was 20 freaking miles long.  For the 18 I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it where I live, with all the hills. And I was worried that I would pass out along the way, so I decided to split it into three six miles runs and run the first and last at the gym.  Well, six miles on a treadmill is one thing, but twelve is another. Bo-ring! So I ran the last twelve outside.  I had an excellent playlist with me courtesy of friends on Facebook recommending their favorite songs to run to. I also had Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running on Audible. I had some chewy glucose things that are supposed to keep you going, but really just break up the monotony of all the running.  When it was over I was extremely achy but pretty darn proud of myself.

 

On Friday I ran the 20 miles.  Along the way I passed another runner twice, and when I stopped to tie my shoe she stopped to ask if I was running a half or a whole marathon (the myriad little bottles of water on my waist were a dead giveaway).  Turns out she is training for the Hartford half marathon which is in a couple of weeks.  We friended each other on Facebook, which is what you do when you bump into people on rambling country roads.  When I looked at my iPhone, I noticed it was about to lose power. Ugh.  I was just about to the ten mile mark, so I ran until the GPS said 10 miles, then turned around and retraced my steps, the last half mile being straight uphill.  Haruki Murakami says that every runner needs a mantra.  He mentions one in his book, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” which is pretty good.  But I can tell you very honestly that as I ran up that last half mile, not having had anything to listen to that might distract me from the exhaustion creeping in and the fact that my feet were on fire, my mantra was, “Fuck this. Fuck this. Fuck this.”  Whatever works.  I did it.

 

This week is a pretty light schedule.  My longest run is twelve miles, and I’m running it on Friday.  It’s really crazy that a twelve mile run is kind of no big deal at this point.  I’m actually enjoying the training.  There is something very freeing about being able to run long distances.  It slows you down considerably, to the point that you notice things you would fly right past in normal non-running life.  For instance, the most common form of roadkill I see are snakes.  I see some chipmunks, not too many, and some frogs. But I see a lot of dead snakes.  Snakes are everywhere. On Friday I also saw a pretty yellow bird that was dead in the street.  It wasn’t squashed flat, but sort of lying on its side with its feet in the air, which made me think that maybe he had a fight with another bird and the other bird tossed him out of the nest when he wasn’t ready.  Your mind wanders when you run for a long time.  There is also a very calming thing that happens, not when I’m running, but after, when I have been completely drained of energy, and there is nothing left inside me but the feeling of muscles that have been overworked and finally resting.  I picture all the tension and aggravation in my life being left on the road like a vapor trail, and when I’m done I am clean and shiny and new and good.  Except I’m a sweaty mess covered in sticky glucose from those chewy things.

 

If you haven’t donated to my run for Story Pirates, please please please do so now.  Arts education can literally save a kid’s life.  By allowing a child to experience the power of their own imagination you show them that anything is possible.   CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW!!!!!  NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL!!!!!!!

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Sunday, September 8, 17 miles.

On Sunday I ran my 17 in NYC.  Since moving out of the city, the thing I have missed most is running on the river.  It is so easy to run long distances in New York.  There is so much to look at, other runners, the river, the city in general.  And it’s pretty flat.  So in a sense I was really looking forward to Sunday’s long run.  I started out at about 7:30 am, leaving from Battery Park City.  I quickly realized that although the temperature said 71, it was pretty muggy.  I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, and knew that I would really regret it, so I took it off and hid it in the crook of a tree near a playground.  Then I headed up the West Side Highway, over to the Highline, then back over to the highway to 59th Street.  Then I ran over to Central Park where the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was taking place.  I was thinking to run once around the park, then back down the West Side Highway, but instead I just ran all over the park, a few times around the reservoir, then doubling back until I had run 17 miles.  My new North Face Fuel Tool Belt really helped.  I had water and Gatorade, plus some little gummy energy booster things.  Apparently I really shocked my system last week, running 15 with no water and not replenishing my glycogen.  I had terrible chills and pretty much passed out when I got home.  Not this time!  How was the run?  It was okay, and my shirt was still in the tree when I got back!  I was sore, and for the rest of the day I felt like I was in a fog.  But the next day I felt better. And today I ran 5 miles faster than I have run before – up hills and everything!

Oh!  One other thing about running in New York City, is that sometimes you see interesting people also running – David Bowie used to run around Washington Square Park every morning, and I’ve seen Al Roker and Christy Turlington jogging along the river.  Not together.  That would be awesome – best running buddies ever.  On Sunday I saw Kristen Schaal, from Flight of the Concords and The Daily Show AND The Story Pirates.  That’s right.  Serendipity. If you have not donated to my run for Story Pirates, please consider doing so now!

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE STORY PIRATES!

Sunday, September 1

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Thanks to my friend Vanessa who recommended Mizuno running shoes, my feet were not in unbearably extreme pain after this run.  However there are two problems which plague me on these long runs that I didn’t have when I used to run in NYC.  First, I was extremely thirsty.  Today I purchased one of those dorky waist belt water holder things, so we will see how that goes.  Second, in NYC there are public restrooms here and there, but where I’m running now it’s just woods, which is fine, I’m not complaining.  But I might have to start planning my routes to include stops off at friend’s houses.

I picked Sunday’s route by driving in my car using the odometer to track 15 miles.  It turned out  that when I ran the same route, I hit 15 miles about three quarters of a mile before I got home.  So much for German engineering.  Luckily my husband and kids were more than happy to pick me up in the car to spare me the last bit which was a killer hill.  Next up, 17 miles.

What I listened to:

BBC World News

BBC Programme about why women shave off their body hair.

Stuff You Should Know

How Icebergs Work, Why was Davy Crockett the King of the Wild Frontier, 10 Big Cases of Revenge

Playlist from last week, which I really really have to remember to update.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and the Story Pirates so far!  If you haven’t done so, you can

CLICK HERE AND DONATE TO MY RUN FOR STORY PIRATES!!!!!

 

Enjoy this message from Story Pirate friends Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Reggie Watts, Ana Gasteyer!

Saturday, August 24th 14 miles

I had never run 14 miles before.  But now I have!  I ran a half-marathon in January 2012, and it occurs to me at least four times a day that running a full marathon would be the same as running that half, then turning around and running it again.  I was dying at the end of that marathon.  Well, not literally.  The good news is that Saturday’s 14 miles wasn’t really any harder than running eight miles was a month ago.  That’s something.  Right?  Here are some highlights:

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Selfie at mile 5.

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Deep, dark woods. On this day, these woods were pretty, but on less-sunny days, they are disconcerting. Did I mention bears? Gruffalos?

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I often miss running along the river in NYC, but then I will come around a corner and see this.

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Playlist got old really fast. I also listened to three podcasts from Stuff You Missed in History Class: Cannibalism at Jamestown, The Luddites, and The Boxer Rebellion. Must update playlist this week, and would love some suggestions!

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Also I need new shoes. Around mile 9 my left foot started hurting under my toes and it was a total practice in mind over matter to finish. I stopped briefly to stretch and saw this lil frog.

All in all, it was hard.  My knees hurt, I drank about a gallon of water after, and ate constantly all day.  BUT… I felt better on Sunday.  So, next week is 15.

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I think that I will choose a different route that does not end in three straight miles uphill. That was a mistake.

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Here’s my run!  Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far!