It's now only eight weeks until I run the TCS New York City Marathon. After the last few weeks of training, I'm confident I can, to paraphrase the late Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy, finish the damn thing. But will I be done before the sweeper vehicles show up? Will the roads still be open? Will it be nightfall when I finish? Will there still even be spectators around by the time I'm running? Those are some of the big questions I worry about.
I expect to be in the last wave of the marathon and in the last corral, which means I will probably start running close to 11 a.m. or so. Sunset that day is 4:47 p.m. And according to the marathon's rules:
Sweep buses will follow the marathon route at a 6 1/2-hour marathon pace, roughly 15 minutes per mile, after the final wave start. These buses will transport any entrant who wishes to drop out to the post-finish area.
After the sweep buses pass by, the city streets will reopen to traffic. Cross-street protection, medical assistance, aid stations, and other services will no longer be available. Runners on the course should move onto the sidewalks. The official end time of the race is 7:30 p.m.
Yikes! It looks like I will be running in the dark, which I need to mentally prepare for. And six and a half hours for the race closing up shop is much quicker than I had thought! I was thinking I would have eight hours. When I hit 20 miles for the first time in my life two weeks ago, I ran that in 5:58:04, a 17:54 per mile pace. According to McMillan Running's calculator, that pace over a full marathon would be just under eight hours.
My running coach has emphasized over and over that I need to worry now about hitting the miles, not the speed. And that the speed will come with time. But nobody wants to run the marathon on the sidewalk, with everybody gone and no water.
Fortunately, my speed is starting to improve. Last week, I also ran 20 miles, this time in 5:29:15 (16:28 per mile) -- an improvement. I also got a PR in the four-mile Celic Run last Saturday, and then a PR in my running club's weekly fun run yesterday.
This week, my coach wanted me to run at least 21 miles. I was also hoping that my speed would continue to get better.
And as the marathon date edges closer, I cannot take the chance that anything can screw up this day. I also don't want to take any unnecessary risks, for fear of getting hurt. I'm paranoid every time I see a dog that is going too far on their leash, that he could get loose and bite me. Or that I'll accidentally collide into somebody and get hurt.
In addition to making sure I'm in tip-top physical condition, I also need to be strong mentally as well, and I can't let unpleasant things distract me. I can't run well when I'm sad. Two years ago, just before I was driving to Asbury Park for a 5K, I read an extremely nasty, personal email from a Subway Squawkers reader who was irate that I criticized Derek Jeter's retirement tour. This guy denigrated my weight and looks in very disgusting terms. The email really shook me and threw me off my game. I had a terrible race that day because I was so upset to get such a hateful email simply for having a differing opinion.
So I've had to recently make some hard choices to keep me tough mentally, and guard against anything messing with my day. I've never faced a challenge in my life as daunting as this race, and I'm not going to let anything screw it up. I owe it to myself to do the best I can.
On that note, I had two private goals in mind when I set out to do my long run today: to do a better per-mile time than I did last week, and to run 22 miles, a little shorter than the 23 miles I will hit at the peak of my training -- my longest distance before the marathon. I decided to run from my house to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and back, along Staten Island' east shore, by the local beaches.
After a slow first mile this morning, I noticed that I felt pretty strong, and was moving faster. I'm getting used to the long runs now, which amazes me, given that July 31 of this year was the first time I ever ran more than 13.1 miles at a time.
I generally do a lot of thinking when running, especially during long runs. Today I thought a lot about two things on the run: today being the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and my father, who died nine years ago this weekend. I will write about my thoughts of 9/11 in my Subway Squawkers blog, But here are a few words about my father.
My dad was a real character -- good at talking to anybody! One of the best ways I can describe him as to point out that Joe DiMaggio gave him an autograph. Let me explain. DiMaggio was notorious for being prickly when it came to signing autographs. Even some Yankees at Old Timers' Days were reportedly unable to get him to sign for him. In the 1990s, my parents were in Dallas-Fort Worth Airport from visiting my brother, and my mother spotted Joltin' Joe. My father went up to him, talked about seeing him play in a game in the 1930s, and shared the memory. Then my dad walked away. DiMaggio called him back and offered the autograph!
My father wasn't manipulative or anything; he was just good at talking to people and making a connection. He was the polar opposite of my mother, who is private and introverted.
Depending upon the situation, I can be either way. But I find myself channeling my dad more and more when running. Like talking people at businesses to let me use their bathroom during long runs, or getting them to give me water for my water bottle. I had to do the latter several times today.
I also remember the challenges my dad faced in life. He grew up in the Great Depression and left his New Jersey home as a teenager to be a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Then he served in the Pacific in World War II as a paratrooper. The very first time he was in an airplane, he jumped out of it!
He became a police officer relatively late -- at age 33. My dad served 17 years as a patrolman before finally becoming a sergeant. That must have been really hard as well, especially raising four children on a patrolman's salary. But he kept at and eventually became a police captain.
My dad met, and then married my mom, shortly after becoming a cop. And in November 1955, just 10 months after getting married, they had a baby, my sister Marjorie. Unfortunately, she had a heart condition and died just 12 days later. Imagine at the time you're getting your nursery together, planning a funeral instead. My mom was only 23 then. Neither of my parents ever talked about it much, but it must have been devastating. (And me nearly dying when I was 6 from encephalitis must have been tough to deal with as well.)
So remembering what courage my father showed in life has inspired me when things seem rough. He had much tougher things to deal with than I did, but he got through them and built a great life.
Anyhow, I powered through the run today and felt pretty good for most of the race. My stomach didn't have a great reaction at Mile 18 to a diet Powerade I drank, but I didn't quit. And when I reached 20 miles, I was excited to see that my time was 5:03:48 -- almost 26 minutes better than last week and 55 minutes better than two weeks ago! Even Mile 21 was pretty good.
The last mile was terrible, though. I had to will myself to finish it, and found myself giving a pep talk out loud to get it done. I couldn't have run a second more after the 22 miles. My final time: 5:35:42, putting me at a 15:15 per mile pace. That's much closer to where I want to be on November 6 than I could have hoped for!
After I finished, I went to Starbucks, had a peach lemonade, and tried to relax. (See photo at right.) I was a little out of it, though. When I left the cafe, a man tried to talk me up about my France 8K shirt, and was asking me all sorts of questions about that course. I talked to him for a bit, but I finally had to end the conversation. It was too many questions, and my head was spinning! I was like, "Look, I just ran 22 miles. This is too much thinking for me now!"
Tomorrow is a rest day, and then it's time for next week's adventure.