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Sunday, November 07, 2010

God I was nervous for the ING New York City Marathon. Only because I have been working sick lately with three jobs and cutting sleep for months and I thought by now I would have done irreperable damage to my body. Which I have noticed differences of course in my energy and I KNOW something needs to be done about it soon, but I digress.

Today was the New York Effing City Marathon.... I was privileged to be among athletes from all over the world, representing more than 100 countries, and equally privileged that I got to raise money for the American Cancer Society in exchange for my spot in the race.

Thanks to friends, family, spark friends and a few complete strangers, I was able to not only hit their required $3,500 fundraiser goal, but I surpassed it and ended with a total contribution of $5,876.50. If you ever get the chance to fundraise for a team in order to run a marathon, or as a part of your experience participating in one, TAKE IT. They were so supportive all the way, sending weekly workout e-mails and training tips, giving us coaches and mentors to get advice and help from, they organized a free pasta dinner for us the friday before the marathon where we were praised and given delicious food and heard stories about cancer survivors and inspirations for marathoners that made us cry. They had a special chartered bus to take us to the start line on Staten Island so we wouldn't have to wade through the busses for everyone else. They had a special tent for us to gather in the waiting areas before starting - which made a MAJOR difference. It was FREEZING out this morning and a special tent that kept the heat in, that we could be together in as a team, that HAD IT'S OWN PORTAPOTTIES, was crucial and sooo amazing.

Encounters with strangers who would find out I was running the marathon and their excitement for me
The eve of the marathon eve, a shot of Jameson at the Irish Haven with a stark and sparkly person
The night before - having dinner with some really meaningful people in my life, not to mention a new baby
Being blessed in Arabic, all the friends encircling me
Eric putting my shoes in the oven for a second to incite "flames"
A photojournalistic type book with pictures of people scaling massive waves all over the world because it reminded Eric of my shoes - the Mizuno Wave Alchemys.... ironic in that waves have such a significance to my connection to my family, to California, to my concept of certain parts of this country. It felt doubly significant, and like a treasure. And waves hve such a connection to the idea of Grief and Loss (Joan DIdion says in her book The Year of Magical Thinking that grief comes in waves, all survivors know the phenomenon of "waves".) and I felt so many literal waves of emotion during the marathon... waves of energy and tiredness and frustration and determination. I felt waves like I was letting go of an old life, an old body, that I was running toward my dreams. And I was.

Crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and being passed by hundreds of marathoners.
Stopped at the first set of portapotties at mile 3 - had to pee after all that electrolyte water (Ultima packet mixed with one of those long bullet looking Smart Waters) I downed waiting for the wave to start. (We had to be on Staten Island by 7 or else not get there due to bridge closing, and my wave wasn't until 10:40. Again, thank god for that ACS tent. Also Dunkin Donuts gave us all free fleece hats and I have never been more grateful.)
We got into corrals within waves to further delineate the faster from the slower so people weren't getting trampled. I was in corral 63 - the last one hahah. There were hundreds of others there too though. It was tight for like 10 minutes (and I mean bodies pressed up against mine but I was surprisingly not uncomfortable with it) but I think if anyone is claustrophobic, that would have been disastrous.
First set of portapotties totally NASTY. The one I got someone totally puked everywhere and then someone else topped it off with super gross diarrhea. I squatted quite well (thanks hamstrings and pilates classes) and don't normally get nauseous by that kind of stuff but i had to hold back vomitting everywhere for a minute.
Picked up running again. All through Brooklyn. Coasted down 4th ave - the very one that I had been on all week with my AB girls and I recognized the area. That was awesome. People were playing reggaeton and kids were loving marathon runners coming by and high fiving them.
Polish shops somewhere in Brooklyn, roads that looked like they came out of movies, entirely too beautiful people walking around like they had nothing to do but look good and cheer when they'd notice me and Ray coming by.
Ray - a late 60s man who was walking, running, shuffling about the same pace as me - we kept on each other for the first 13 miles - sometimes he would be ahead, sometimes i would. he had "Slow But Sure" tagged on the back of his shirt and he made every point to show people who screamed his name from the sidewalks and cheered and sometimes I would get ahead because he would stop to actually have conversations with the volunteers handing out the water and gatorade. He smiled all thirteen miles, and I smiled too. I thought about how there was some reason in the constellation of the universe that we were sharing so many miles like that, that he was there when I was. I thought about how maybe we'd cross the finish line together, but then a jolt took me and I pulled ahead, passing people here and there as we came into a predominately Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. People walking around dressed all in black and very neatly. Then I saw Italian shops, no one else running for miles, people in balconies and rooftops that would suddenly burst into yelling and cheering as I passed. Random individuals who would smile hugely and STOP and cheer and stare - I felt like a celebrity, like I was doing something unearthly, that these people loved me haha.
Ran to Queens. Felt swell of pride remembering that epic run from back in May. Felt like I knew the area and people were saying Welcome to Queens! Welcome to Queens! and that was where a man called me beautiful.
Middle aged women beating aluminum trash can lids and cheering in Queens.

Water tables were getting shut down before some of us got there because we were so far behind. I didn't start til 10:40 Wave (They had three waves according to how fast the runners were: 9:40, 10:10 and 10:40. Given that there were hundreds of people in the corral before me, I didn't actually cross the start line until 9 min and 52 seconds into the third wave. Luckily I'm okay with the fact that I wasn't contending to win the thing. I ended up snagging a full water bottle from the Medical Tent as it was getting shut down. I think it was a cop's, but hey. I needed it. I get greedy in marathons. Strangers passed me bananas along the way, one person a mixed nut Kind Bar.... eating all those things made a big, big difference. I could feel my body change with the different energy sources coming in, sugars, carbs, salt, potassium, electrolytes. I managed to scout gatorade cups left at some of the stations as they were closing, and felt lucky. For the most part, I had the energy replacements I needed. And I used them on intuition - guessing when to eat what, according to when it was given to me randomly. I held on to a banana for miles because I wasnt sure I'd get another and the water bottle lasted me until the Bronx. It was surprisingly strange to carry it and not feel like it was weighing me down or affecting me at all. The universe provides.

Then the Queensboro Bridge. This bridge is like NEVERENDING. I was on a steady incline for no lie, like 15-18 minutes. Then it finally peaked and started cresting down. I stopped to stretch my shins and toes a bit on the rail. I passed several people because I was effing determined. This was one of the moments I shone... I refused to stop and just let my body take over, pulling me towards something. It felt amazing. I came to the end ramp to find my meaningful friends from the night-before-dinner waiting for me there - so lucky with the timing. They hugged me, I was so overly excited and they took pictures and I kept going. A man held out a Kleenex box so I could grab one as I went by. Amazing. (and maybe TMI, but my nose was a waterworks all day today- so much snot and just plain dripping - every time i drank fluids it seemed to get worse haha so now my nose is a little raw from wiping it, blowing it on paper towels, tissues and my sleeve at times.)

Strangers continued to cheer and smile and look on with incredulous excitement. Men called me beautiful in thick accents, people told me I would make it from the beginning and even at times when I wasn't sure, they were. New Yorkers are unmatched in ways; I had about a week and a half here and many many instances in which people offered me their seat on the subway, smiled at me, offered me things, helped me. Which is surprising, since everyone has these ideas of what the big city is like. Serendipitously, songs came onto my ipod at the perfect moments, completely unplanned. rap artists singing about Brooklyn when I was in Queens, John Mellencamp singing about Little Pink Houses and small towns and America when I was in the last miles, thinking of my family and growing up and how I was coming to define my life through experiences like this. Beach Boys singing about California Girls, Elton John singing about Philadelphia freedom when I was seeing all these international runners and I was thinking of my own concept of what this race means to the heart of the country I live in- how when i think of an epic marathon in America, it's gotta be New York City, right??

I cried in desperation at one point because I saw a clock crossing a bridge out of Queens towards Manhattan and the Bronx that said 5:40 when it was really 4:40 but I didn't know, and then ten minutes later a cop told me I was only about to be at mile 20. That meant I needed to do 6 miles in less than an hour and ten minutes.... so close to possible but likely impossible for me, especially at the end stretch that I couldn't tell if I'd make it by the 7PM cut off. I tried booking it for a couple blocks and when I felt like it was sustainable possibly, I realized I still wasn't going fast enough. A cop in a pretentious tone said to me "You can do it...." totally unenthused and all his buddies were right there and I felt like he was mocking me but I could have been on an emotional wave. I ignored it and pressed on. Then I cried a little. Then a woman caught up to me and held my hand for several blocks and kept saying we're making it, we're going to make it, i won't leave you. And she told me it was only 5:30 at that point! Thank You Time Change! We had 1.5 hours and now we were at 22. 4 miles to go and we knew we'd make it. Her cousin was there, and I was in serious pain and exhaustion, and when he said, "It can't be that bad, can it?"I said yes it was and what time did he finish the marathon in, and started running again. I had a prayer with the universe and said, I. Will. Not. Give. In.

Ran down the streets from 130s to 90s to 72nd st transverse I think it was, and we were coasting into Central Park. A huge sign welcoming us, and at that moment the climax of Florence and the Stone's The Dog Days are Over hit my ears and I started crying again - this time out of sheer will and drive and I picked up the speed and felt invincible for a while. It was dark, I was tired, my feet hurt but I wasn't noticing it as much any more as visions of the last miles came into play. I had seen them on Friday when I did the NYRR5 race, which they had finish in the same area. At the time, I had hated it, thought it bad luck to see the finish line of a marathon before actually finishing the marathon, but now I was so grateful I had, because I knew about how much left there was to go and an end felt like it was actually real. Still, even after having done a marathon before, I don't know that I really get the concept of the full distance of 26 miles. I arrived on Staten Island just as the sun was coming up, having boarded the bus in pitch dark this morning, and was running after nightfall, still. I realized that at one point and thought how miraculous it was to have a body that did not quit on me and I had several instances throughout the run to think of how much I really actually appreciated that.

I finally crossed the finish line, and I made it in time to count, thanks to last minute determination and fight that I think came from the deepest parts of my bones, because I know there was no energy reserve left elsewhere by then. Seeing the finish line was so emotional somehow, and I cried when they put the medal on me, exasperated and I felt beautiful. The woman with the medals hugged me genuinely. Someone handed me a bag filled with food. I drank the Gatorade and ate the NY apple. I drank the water.

My family was there waiting at the end. And I knew they were coming- and that took over me the last couple miles, i kept thinking, my family is waiting for me, my family is waiting for me! and I booked it. We walked around a few blocks after and I couldn't believe how I was still moving- last year I nearly died at the end and could not move by the time I got back to the hotel. This time I was walking blocks, albeit in my socks and it was tight and uncomfortable, I noticed a significant difference. I got back and took off my compression tights AND compression socks (not too sure if it was a good idea to wear both of them together... but what was done is done.) I sat in an ice bath for like 20 good minutes and let the cold water run. I shivered but my body felt good, even old, and used. I sort of massaged my feet with my hands under the water, holding both sides and flexing the tops and the toes a little and squeezing them. It helped. I put biofreeze ( a sample mentholyptus scented gel they gave us samples of at the expo) on my toes and it took the pain away almost instantly. it wore off pretty quickly though and I'm saving the rest for tomorrow since I have to manuever myself and all my crap to JFK from Columbus Circle somehow hahah. Two toenails (one on each foot, the toes right next to the pinky toes) seem like they're going to fall off. They both got chipped and broken diagonally on one side of them and got a little tiny bit bloody. That's why my feet were probably throbbing for a good 25 miles. No joke. Oh well. Live and learn.

I'm waiting on my official results. But it took a little less than 8 hours I think, and i can say, having lost about 40 pounds since my first marathon, huge difference. I feel like I am at least 63% alive right now- where as last year I felt like I was experiencing organ failure hhaha. I feel grateful to my body in ways I never have before.

Thank you for not giving up on me, body.
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