New York City Marathon 2008

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Lacing my running shoes, deep in thought, it dawned on me that the day I had been thinking and talking about for a long time had finally arrived. It had been a journey that had taken me across a continent, provided opportunities to run in amazing places, and most importantly highlight the amazing network of family and friends I am blessed with. There had been moments of self questioning and doubt, but looking out onto a crisp New York morning, it had all been worthwhile.

statue-of-libertyI had signed up for the 4.30am bus from mid-town Manhattan, but wisely opted for the public transport option, meaning a couple more hours of sleep and less waiting time at the starting area. On arrival at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and following the masses onto the train, I was soon disembarking the metro and boarding the Staten Island Ferry. On the trip across to the island, I had my first view of the Statue of Liberty, a beacon of dreams and opportunities – quite appropriate for the occasion, I thought.

staten-islandFor the first time, in an attempt to get all 39 000 runners onto the course safely, race organisers scheduled three separate wave starts. Along with being allocated a starting colour (blue, green or orange), which represented a different starting area, runners were also allocated into corrals from A-F. So, I headed to the blue start area where I was in wave 1, corral F and would be starting at 0940.

Like many other virgin NY marathon runners, I underestimated how cold the morning could get and regretted not heeding Tanya’s advice and taking more warm clothes. Seeing people wrapped up in sleeping bags and plenty of clothes made me very envious. The runners who took the early buses (including some mates of mine) had arrived there hours before me, so I was one of the lucky ones.

About 1½ hours before the start, the first call came over the loudspeaker for all runners in the first wave to head to their allocated corral. The recorded announcement stressed this was the final call, so being ever punctual I checked in my drop bag and headed straight to the pen. In hindsight, on hearing this same announcement for the next ½ hour, there was probably no need to rush! Once in the corral the only warm clothes you could wear were ones you were willing to discard (to be collected by local charities) and the small brown fleece I had didn’t really cut the mustard.

Having lost the feeling in my hands and experiencing uncontrollable shakes, the gates were finally drawn back and the masses headed towards the starting line at the base of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. There was an amazing feeling of nervous excitement and anticipation at what lay ahead. We were addressed by Mayor Bloomberg who reminded us that NY had come in their thousands to support the marathon and we were part of a very special race. The American National Anthem played and I couldn’t help holding my hand over my heart, then finally, the starter’s gun sounded.

I had mentally prepared myself that the start would be slow due to the number of runners, but surprisingly I had a pretty clear run. The wind was whipping over the bridge, so I was still cold and worried that I was expending a lot of unnecessary energy getting my body temperature back to normal.

leaving-verrazano-narrows-bridge1Leaving the bridge and wind chill, we entered into Brooklyn, the borough we would spend the most time in. This was my first real experience of the hype and excitement the marathon generated in New York and how people from all walks of life came out in their thousands to support the race. I ran for a while with a guy who was celebrating his 40th birthday, which he had advertised on his shirt. I am sure he got more birthday wishes in that one day than he would in a lifetime.

I ran through the halfway mark in 1hr40, which was on pace for my gold goal time of a 3hr20 marathon. My heart rate though had not been below 160bpm since the start of the race and I was struggling to find my stride, which was a worry entering into the 2nd half of the race.

Leaving Brooklyn, we ran through the borough of Queens and soon were crossing the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. Leaving the bridge we rounded a sweeping corner onto 1st Avenue to be greeted by thousands of cheering spectators, a welcome sight and pick-up for tiring runners.

manhattenI knew Tanya was going to be around the 17 mile mark, but didn’t realise just how many thousands of other spectators would be there as well. I ran down the middle of the road scanning both sides of the street, very keen to see a familiar face. I was starting to give up on seeing her when somehow, above all the crowd noise, I heard her call out my name (all those years of nagging). I picked her out in the crowd and made a b-line straight to her, planted a kiss and was on my way again. It was just what I needed and it carried me through the next couple of miles and into the borough of the Bronx.

It was in the Bronx that I started to struggle, big time. I was dropping way back off the pace I needed to break 3hr20 and was even starting to doubt I could reach my silver goal, which was to break 3hr30 (something I hadn’t done before). I had not hydrated well and my glycogen stores were running low, things I should know how to manage better. I could not fault the supporters in the Bronx though, they were awesome and doing everything in their power to encourage the runners on, especially as so many were hurting, me being no exception.

Around the 20 mile mark I justified to myself to take a walking break and was not in a good state mentally or physically. A South African guy ran past at that moment and made a comment “come on Kiwi” – just what I needed to run again, can’t be shown up by a South African!

near-the-endAt the 22 mile mark, a mate who was in town to watch the marathon emerged from the crowd in his running gear and his timing was impeccable. I was starting to really doubt my ability to break the 3hr30 mark and having him to pace off was exactly what I needed. I latched on and with my focus back, was more determined than ever that I would not let this marathon slip through my fingers.

I could hear and see the spectators as we entered Central Park, but was so focused on finishing it was all quite a surreal experience. I was hurting but starting to believe I could break 3hr30 and just kept following my mate, zigzagging through the runners. He jumped out with about a mile to go (before he got taken out by security) and I powered on towards the finish line.

finishThe last mile is all a bit of a blur, all I really remember clearly is getting my first glimpse of the timer and realising I was going to break 3hr30. My hands went up as I crossed the line and I was not the only one to be over the moon at breaking the barrier, there were cheers, tears and celebrations all around me. After the initial rush of finishing, the realisation of how shattered I was hit me. I just wanted to lie down on the spot, but there was no way this was going to happen with a herd of volunteers ensuring runners kept moving up the finishing shoot. I received my heat blanket and headed very slowly up the shoot.

My number, 10 333, meant that I had to walk about 20 blocks before I could exit the park – it was the tunnel of torture. I sat down for one brief moment and was told by a volunteer (in a friendly way) not to be there when they came back in a couple of minutes. About a quarter of the way up, a wave of emotion hit me and just at that minute Tanya appeared and was lucky enough to receive a long sweaty hug. After what seemed like an eternity, I made my way out of the park and headed to the hotel for a shower and beer!

On reflection, it was a tough day at the office and another steep learning curve in how hard it can get out on the road. I was a little disappointed in how sections of the race unfolded for me, but to take part in such an amazing race and break the 3hr30 mark well and truly overshadows that.

shatteredThe whole build up to the marathon and the way it is embraced in New York has left an everlasting impression on me and my mates that came over from Oz. We were made to feel very welcome and received so many well wishes before and congratulations after the race. Being part of the Lance Armstrong Foundation team and raising money for such a worthy cause also provided me with a sense that I had, in a small way, made a difference.

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The Boston Story – John Atkinson


John Atkinson is someone I have been lucky enough to meet and become acquainted with through our affiliation with the Knee Knacker Trail Run. He is a very accomplished road runner who is also trying his hand at trail running. It has provided him with a new set of challenges and I am sure he will be a stronger runner for it. When he starts talking about running under 2hr 50 minute marathons, my jaw drops but I know he has the abiltiy and drive to do it.

John, who is also a journalist, has kindly provided an account of his recent trip to the 112th Boston Marthon, one of the oldest and most prestigious marathons going around. This is a great read and thanks to John for the insight into his Boston experience; The Boston Story – John Atkinson.

 

Before and After

Not long ago, I posted a blog congratulating Chris Price (Pricey) on his achievement of winning the Flight Centre ’12 Week Challenge’. If ever a before and after story is worth telling, this is definitely one of them. As part of the challenge, contestants were asked to submit an essay talking about how getting into shape has impacted on their life, please go to the pages section of my blog to read Pricey’s story.

12 Week Challenge

I just wanted to congratulate a friend, Chris Price, on winning Flight Centre’s ‘2008 12 Week Challenge’. This was a global competition for employees of Flight Centre, with the individual winner being determined by the greatest overall positive change in their body-shape and lifestyle. This is an amazing achievement and one that Pricey should be very proud of. I am hoping he will have the time to write a personal account of the 12 week challenge, which I will post on this blog.

Run for One Planet

I first heard about ‘Run for One Planet’ at EPIC Vancouver, a sustainable living Expo, a few months ago. Matt and Stephanie Tait were advertised to speak on the Saturday afternoon and I was very keen to hear what they had to say. A couple of mad keen runners, they have decided to run close to 11 thousand miles (17.7 thousand kilometres) across North America in a year, about the equivalent of a marathon a day. I won’t go into too much detail, as you can check out their website (www.runforoneplanet.com) for yourselves, but this is all for a great cause – to raise awareness and inspire actions for the environment. They have already run close to 1.5 thousand miles and raised $42 thousand dollars, which is awesome. I hope to catch up with them later in our travels across Canada and maybe even keep them company for a few miles or so!

Guest Blogger – Brendan Merrotsy

Team Timmy

I would like to introduce Brendan Merrosty and thank him for taking the time to contribute to my blog. Brendan has been one of my main sources of motivation over the years and has always pushed me to improve and believe in my own ability. He is an all-round athlete, excelling in  most sports he decides to tackle and always works hard to achieve his goals. Over to Brendan;

I am enjoying reading about your running, it sounds like you have it very sussed, and have learnt a lot from previous experiences and new encounters with experienced runners. I have been going ok, although have been doing less I feel than this time last year. It certainly has been harder not having Brendan to get up and train with in the mornings for shorter runs and hill and speed sessions (anterior cruciate remember).

 

So that has certainly changed my training, and I find myself doing more in the afternoon, rather than morning. I still make Saturday mornings my long one, mostly with the boys, but some on my own, and ran 30k yesterday, but have pulled up a bit lame which is a little concerning.

 

I have joined an interesting class also with the same intention of building strength, core and flexibility. It is called ‘Urban Gymnastics’, and it is basically for adults who have no formal gym  training but want to learn some new moves, learn how to do rolls, saults, flips, as well as develop some strength along the way. I have been for the last 2 weeks now and it is pretty awesome. I was very sore last week after doing an hour of strength, then an hour of practice trying to learn a back sault into the foam pit – very fun!

The first hour involves climbing those thick ropes as high as you can get, doing round offs and cartwheels, lunges, core exercises, walking along the pareallel bars (with your arms), chin ups on the horizontal bars, pull ups on the rings and a few other things. I understand why gymnasts pound for pound would have to be the strongest guys going around. I cant even pull myself up on the rings, very shameful. I am really enjoying it though as I am in a totally unfamiliar environment, and get a lot of satisfaction from learning a new skill each week. I will take you out mate when you get back, you would love it,  and you could wear your yoga tights…

 

Back to the marathon. My goal – I guess I have set myself up to try to break 3.10. As long as I remain relatively injury free, I think this is achievable, as I have been running between 2.12 -2.18’s for 30k over the last few weeks. I am trying to do what worked for me last year, and make my 10k splits similar in time, obviously allowing for a few ‘fatigue seconds’ in the latter stages. I feel I know my body better this time round, and haven’t trained with a polar for a long time now (probably because I couldn’t be arssed changing the batteries…).

 

I have enjoyed the odd podcast though on my solo long runs – I have listened to a few you have passed on, (thanks for that), and have downloaded quite a few from ‘Endurance Planet.com”. They have some great stories about running, and also some special guests who offer specific advice to runners/riders/triathletes on a bunch of topics. There seems to be a common theme amongst runners – everyone talks about the passion that running generates, and how it gives us an outlet. Nothing new I guess, but it is good to be reminded of that every once in a while. When someone talks about how running affects them, and how it is hard to go without for any extended period of time, I smile to myself as I plod along and acknowledge how that speaker just nailed my exact sentiments.

The things you do!

I recently worked two days at the Vancouver Marathon Expo through a temp agency. This assignment involved donning a tux and standing at the Team in Training stall (part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) with a silver tray and Tiffany boxes! Team in Training are taking a group to the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Fransisco and one of the incentives is that you are presented with a Tiffany necklace by a San Francisco Fireman dressed in a tux when you complete the race… hence me in a tux. Not exactly fireman material, but never mind. I got to meet and chat to fellow runners, which was right up my alley.

I had the privilege of meeting one inspirational lady who lost her mother to cancer 2 years ago, then was diagnosed with cancer herself 6 months later. She was still running 6-8 marathons a year and only stopped when she was in the middle of chemo. Shortly after meeting her I had a call to tell me I’d missed out on a job I was keen on getting. After a brief moment of feeling sorry for myself, I made a conscious choice to put things in perspective and not to be too disappointed.