I had a blast at the New York Marathon—not just during the race itself, but for the whole long weekend. There’s a full report at my site, mostly pictorial. Marvel at Joan Benoit Samuelson, the bunny-head runner, and the crowds! Thrill as I pose pretentiously in front of banners! Sigh at the cuteness of my children in Halloween costumes! Find it below.
New York City Marathon, 2009
This is more of an event report/gastronomical tour than a race report, because my trip to New York for the 2009 marathon involved much more than the race itself. Everything but the race was very well documented, between my camera, my husband Wes’s camera, and our phones, so here’s a pictorial history.
We arrived in town on Friday, dropped off the kids with our family (who took them to the carousel and on a carriage ride in Central Park, poor things), and headed to the expo. It was very well organized, even more efficient than the Boston Marathon expo. I was through the line in under five minutes, which felt like record time, and which was echoed at the race start on Sunday.
But expos are overwhelming places, and not the place to spend your energy when you have a race to run. Wes and I met up with Katie Neitz, my editor at Runner’s World, and retreated to the basement to enjoy a coffee. Katie is primed for her race in Richmond in two weeks, part of the Runner’s World Marathon Challenge.
Friday night, we attended the Runner’s World party, where we got to stand in front of a printed background and felt very glamorous. We had dinner with the race and PR directors of the Peachtree Road Race, who were lovely.
Saturday morning, we went to preview the last mile of the marathon course and ran into Brian Sabin, who helped me put together this nice video for Runner’s World’s site. He was waiting for the arrival of the Runner’s World Marathon Challenge crew.
We had a great lunch at Landmarc with Lily’s godmother, Cathy, who had to make it across the runners traveling down 4th Avenue in Brooklyn to catch a flight to India on Sunday.
While I taught a workshop at Om Factory to a nice group of folks who were preparing to run the race, my family took the kids trick-or-treating at the Natural History Museum. We followed up with a Halloween parade and more begging for candy in our family’s apartment building. Lily was a Greek goddess (“the goddess of wisdom,” she announced at the parade); Vivian was a witch. I made a really lame attempt to get into the spirit by becoming some kind of eyeliner-bewhiskered animal. Wes went as “a stressed parent.”
We pitied the runners who stood in a long line in the drizzling rain for the official pasta dinner—we walked past them for blocks and blocks en route to Sambuca, a great place for a prerace meal. As we waited for our table, we heard explosions. Thunder? No: the prerace fireworks, which capped a great day for the kids. (“This is the icing on the cake,” Lily exclaimed.)
My uncle Ahmad sweetly accompanied me all the way to Staten Island, so I had no fear about getting on the wrong train. In the subway, I made a friend: Gemma Dawson, from England. Gemma, if you read this, get in touch. I think you could use a wedgy!
Look how perfect the weather is for running: overcast but not raining. The temperature was about 55. It was cold waiting at Fort Wadsworth, and I had no camera at that point, but a number of mental images fill the pictorial gap:
- Lying on the cold ground in savasana, wrapped in garbage bags, feeling completely relaxed.
- Watching a German man move beautifully through yoga poses nearby. While static stretching like that may not the best idea immediately prerace, he was so obviously enjoying the opportunity to focus, it was a joy to behold.
- Standing no further than one bike’s length from the starting line. I had the great fortune of being in the first corral of the second wave, so the start of the race felt no bigger—and no slower—than running a local 5K.
- The whoosh of wind from the helicopters that buzzed around the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge.
- The sign reading, “Yo! Welcome to Brooklyn, baby!”
- The sign placed far too soon, at mile 4, reading, “You’re strong, you’re tough, you have no fuckin’ limits.” (Sir, next time, please stand at the base of 5th Avenue in Manhattan with that gem!)
- Green Gatorade cups piling up like fallen leaves.
- The fabulous crowd in Williamsburg. Hipsters can cheer, y’all.
- A group of three African American teenagers on Bedford Avenue playing Nirvana on guitar, bass, and drums.
- Runners stopping to pose for pictures with the cop directing foot traffic on the Pulaski bridge.
- Potholes in Queens.
- The Queensboro Bridge, where things got very quiet and familiar. This is you running a hill. It is hard. Hard is good.
- First Avenue, which was loud but not as loud as I’d expected.
- Dropping ballast: tossing my beloved pink Fuel Belt at a spectator’s feet. Clicking my ragged gloves together and handing them to a child. Chucking my arm warmers, tied in a knot, at the feet of a handsome couple.
- The policeman in the Bronx promising, “There’s cake and ice cream on the other side of the bridge!”
- Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, one of many turns where I couldn’t line the tangent right because of the crowds.
- Fifth Avenue, as tough as promised.
- A spectator in Central Park shouting, “Go, Saggy!” At least that was the only person who couldn’t make sense of S-A-G-E. Surely, “Saggy” made me run hard!
- Central Park South, where any lateral move to dodge a runner threatened total lockdown in my right calf.
Just before the mile 26 marker, right in place, was Wes, whose voice carries to me through any crowd. He got a few quick shots of me, including this one, which shows the traffic on the course, even at the bitter end. I’m in braids and a white shirt. The back exhorted “best form & full breaths.”
While he waited, Wes got some good pictures of the trailing elites and fast subelites. Without knowing who she was, he caught Joan Benoit Samuelson.
He also got a great shot of this guy. Do you think he ran the whole race with that bunny head on? The spectators are amused. The other runners don’t seem so pleased.
I finished in 3:46:36, 37 seconds shy of a Boston requalification. I’m already in Boston for 2010, though, so the 3:45 goal was more of a focusing tool, an expression of the best I could do on a day with such fine weather and such voracious crowds, given my training, which involved a lot of lounging around post-Ironman; a few weeks of good old-fashioned speedwork, running my heart out with my wonderful group; and a max long run of 30K, plus a second 18-miler. My other secrets: spreading long runs out to every nine or ten days, and shifting from my triathlon-season three-swims/three-rides/three-runs routine to a five-day-a-week running routine, complemented by thrashing through two desultory swims and teaching two Spinning classes. The way I felt on finishing showed me that I’d run to my max. The enforced march all the way up to 78th, then my walk back down to 25 Central Park West, started in pain and dizziness but ended in me feeling great, singing along to Creedence Clearwater Revival while slurping wonderful deli soup in an ice bath before watching football in my PJs.
Sunday night, I rallied briefly to attend the PowerBar party, where I enjoyed talking yoga with Peter Reid and Tim DeBoom. (I’d been too shy to introduce myself in Boston last year.) Wes was really cute talking to them, as he had no idea they were such famous and successful athletes.
Part of his conversation with Tim DeBoom: “Have you done the Hawaii Ironman?”
“Did you win it?”
“I did, twice; Peter won it three times.”
“What was your time?”
“What’s the course record?”
“Cool. Who’s pitching for the Phillies tonight?”
Monday, we enjoyed a trip to the Guggenheim to see the Kandinsky retrospective, which Wes really liked. I thought the ramped gallery would be perfect on my trashed legs, but the constant angle of the floor proved tougher to negotiate than stairs. Vivi got a hat from a street vendor before getting to sit at the desk of a big-time Broadway producer, Wes’s childhood friend Jayna.
Monday evening, we switched party mode to roll with the Byzantinists, who are really a bunch of fun. This was a reception for a group of Byzantine art historians at the Institute of Fine Arts to present their professor and colleague Tom Mathews, shown here at center, with a Festschrift that I’ve been copyediting for the last two years.
Here, I get to hold the hard copy for the first time. I know enough not to examine the first printing too closely, lest I catch typos that have been missed!
We finished the evening at the interactive wine bar Clo. The concept is fun: you scroll through a virtual list using this projected computer, then travel to the wall of wine to hold your glass under the spigot, pressing a button like a vending machine. (Wes played it old school and used the paper menu.)
What a weekend! As Ferris Bueller said, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”