The last time we spoke, I was feeling considerably cheesed off when the much anticipated 2012 New York City Marathon was cancelled, with little over 36 hours notice. Having said that, it didn’t surprise me; partly because this is the kind of thing that happens to me (if it can go wrong, it will go wrong), and mostly because it would have been hugely inappropriate to stage the event in its usual format. After seeing the news confirmed in Times Square, the only rational thing to do was go and get drunk! Off we went to what would have been the marathon eve carb-loading venue, to basically pig out on great pasta, sexy calzone, and a drop or two of Pinot. We weren’t alone. The place was packed, with a lot of people presumably in the same situation we were in. We stood in line for a table with a group of women from New Zealand who were over to run too, and they were as shocked and disappointed as we were. Shit, it would appear, really had happened. Needless to say, the hefty feed rendered the wine useless and the intial tipsy buzz wore off, swiftly replaced with a dose of the snoozies. I stayed awake long enough to write the previous blog post, took a sad look at my now irrelevant race pack, and went to sleep.
The decision had been made over dinner to run the 26.2 miles anyway, and a quick look at Twitter/Facebook showed us that lots of others were planning on doing the same, so Saturday morning was an early start as had been planned. When we made our way down to the hotel lobby, a large flipchart message from our tour operator alerted us to a meeting scheduled for 5pm where a contingency plan would be discussed. So after a fairly aimless day of farting about New York, we took our seats in the meeting room to hear what the plan was. As expected, the guys from Sports Tours International suggested that we meet at Central Park the next morning to hold a ‘solidarity run’ of either 10K or half marathon distance, ie. one or two laps of the Park itself. In addition to this, representatives from the Dublin City Marathon announced that they would be holding a marathon event in Phoenix Park, Dublin for all the disaffected runners on the trip. Fair play to them, it’s a great gesture, but I couldn’t in all good conscience leave New York without having ran the marathon there. It’s all I’ve talked about for two years! I would have felt like a fraud if I had only done a piddly 10K. Also, the thought of having to key myself up for a marathon in two weeks time was seriously unappealing. I just wanted this whole running endeavour to be OVER. I also didn’t see the point in just doing one or two laps – we were all there to run the 26 miles in the first place, why take the easy option of a 10K or a half? As always, things are never that simple, as I was to find out the next morning….
The alarm went off at 6.15am. Marathon day had finally arrived. After all the months of losing weight, trying to increase from a plod to a trot, from a trot to a run, and having every pain under the sun in the process – it was finally here. I can’t ever recall being both scared shitless and underwhelmed at the same time, but that’s how I was feeling as I got my gear on and headed to the diner next door for some breakfast.
One omelette and coffee later, I was in the shower, making myself movie-star gorgeous for the big event. Realising that a turd can only be polished so much, I had a wee cry before heading downstairs to meet the rest of the troop in the lobby and begin the 1.8 mile trundle to Central Park. And what a troop!
After a few group photos (cringe), we entered the Park and set up camp. By this I mean we fucked everything in a heap and a few people kept an eye. And that was it! Off everyone went, calmly in pursuit of their 10K/half marathon. I started off at a walk, but the usual mix of shame and impatience washed over me, so I upped it to a canter and chased the Other Half away on. The race was on.
FIRST LOW POINT
Needing to wee after mile four. To my horror, I realised that no official race meant no official Portaloos. And so began the negative thoughts: What am I doing? Why am I doing this? How the fuck am I going to do four laps of this place when I’m dying to whizz after four miles?
SECOND LOW POINT
Pain. Already. My arse/hip was hurting already, and along with this was a nice neat pain at the top of my calf – in behind the knee. I had another wee cry as I went past a crowd of well wishers, trying to maintain some kind of momentum as I high-fived some very cute kids.
FIRST HIGH POINT
A solitary line of Potaloos came into view, like some kind of wonderful sanitary dream. Off I went, knowing in my heart that the dream would be more like a fairly unsanitary reality – how right I was. Nevertheless, I wee-d my little heart out.
SECOND HIGH POINT
After a fleeting moment of panic regarding the unavailability of official water stations, I suddenly spotted a group of three or four women handing out cups of water at the side of the road. I almost kissed them. This turned out to be the ultimate high point of the event – ordinary New Yorkers out to support the ‘selfish runners’ with water, pretzels, sweets, and most of all lots of cheers and applause. Granted, there was one woman of about sixty out in her jammies applauding too; so perhaps mild insanity had a part to play when it came to some supporters! Mostly though, I think they just wanted to spur us on. A lot of the ‘locals’ I spoke to throughout the trip felt as aggrieved about the cancellation as we did! Anyway, the much needed water meant I could swamp my Powerbar gel into me, if only to act as some kind of psychological kick up the arse.
THE FINISH LINE
Yes. You heard me. Around the six mile mark, I encountered what was supposed to be the official finish line. Whilst it hadn’t been dismantled, it had been blocked off, so you had to kind of shimmy around it. Cue a bottleneck of fools taking photos. I reckoned if you can’t beat them…
…join them. Not how I imagined my finish line photo. Plus, I knew that with THREE laps still to go, I would get to see the finish line again. And again. And again.
THE ULTIMATE LOW POINT
I battled on through lap two, feeling sore, needing to pee again (trip two to the Portaloos was more horrific than the first), and generally feeling like utter crap. This was not how I imagined my marathon would be. I felt like I’d never ran before in my life, and like all the training had never happened. I was slow, awkward, and really uncomfortable. I had nobody to talk to. It was a lonely run, made bearable only by the enthusiasm of the spectators dotted around the course. I was regretting not having written my name on my shirt – a result of general marathon apathy on Saturday. In a way though, I was happy to be anonymous as I was making terrible progress. As I hit the half marathon mark, I stopped. Stopped the Nike Plus, stopped running, stopped walking, started crying. Again. Not because I was in pain or because I was angry at my slow pace; simply because I was hating every second of my eagerly anticipated marathon.
I sat down on a big rock in a grassy bit of park, off the main course where I’d been running/hobbling. I had no idea what to do next. Should I:
A: Just call it a day at the half marathon? That’s what everyone else is doing!
B: Come back tomorrow and do another half marathon?
C: Keep going and just get it done?
None of these options were attractive. I texted the Other Half for advice! Needless to say, she was on lap three but had some aches and pains too. I waited til she came along and we walked her final lap together. I figured I should just keep going. I would complete a third lap of the Park, then go out onto the streets of New York. I swear, if I never see Central Park again, it’ll be too soon.
THE AWKWARD MOMENT WHEN YOU REALISE A GOOD IDEA IS ACTUALLY SHITE
I had broken out of the Park of Doom, and decided to take my battle to the streets. Little did I realise how short a distance a ‘block’ is. In short, after some zigzagging and backtracking, I made my way to the hotel and STILL had about two miles to go. Basically, I ran around in circles until I reached the second 13.1 miler of the day. It was not pretty. Whilst I was still in Central Park, I realised my hands had swollen to twice their original size. Assuming a stroke/heart attack was on the cards, I whacked a salty pretzel into me. It was vile, and it did not help. Out on the streets, my hands were still fat, so I reckoned a bit of grub wouldn’t hurt. Cue the Snickers:
And cue my angry chewing face:
Not a good look. Especially whilst you’re trundling past skinny Asians taking pictures of each other outside the NY Public Library – “Yes of course you look just like Carrie Bradshaw!” Arseholes. You can sense my frustration I hope? This rage culminated in a huge FFFFFFUUUUCCCKKKKKK moment, when a woman and her teenage child wouldn’t get out of my way walking past a pharmacy. I broke into what was surely a nine minute mile burst of running, which lasted a good twenty seconds, and got me away from them and their dawdling. How dare they hold up an athlete!
With a lot to do, I ended up back at the hotel, with another half marathon completed
I felt no sense of achievement. My only spectator was a slightly confused looking concierge who watched me hobble into the lobby, futtering wildly with my phone and taking my trainers off at the same time. Not the Kodak moment I had dreamt of!
Crisps. Red Bull. Water. Pizza. Coco Pops. Ice packs. Hot bath. Ice pack again. Raisin Bran Crunch. Sweets. Bed. Not in that order! We weren’t fit for the celebratory feed in the BBQ joint designated the year before (see? Lots of preparation done in advance!), so it was an early night. Even if we had been fit, was there anything to celebrate? Even now I don’t feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to, yet I completed the distance. Is a marathon all about the distance? Or is it more about the event? If the event had taken place as normal would I have performed better? Did my mind let me down?
I don’t know. I know I dwell on the negatives a lot, but that’s the nature of this particular beast. Still, I did ‘run’ a marathon in New York, which is what I set out to do. Will I do another one? I can’t see it. But I’d love to experience it as an event, not just as a distance. I’ve always said ‘know your limitations’, and I think this applies here. Half marathons will be quite enough for me I think, and I don’t mean two on the same day!
THE ULTIMATE HIGH POINT
The tour operator managed to secure medals for the whole group, and those of us who ran the marathon distance on Sunday got our medals! The rest of the group have to run the Phoenix Park marathon in a fortnights time. I’m so glad I chose to get it all over and done with in New York! At least I have something tangible to show for my endeavours. That and the amazing amount of funds raised! The final total hasn’t been counted up yet, but it looks like it’ll be over the £3000 mark – so thank you so much to everyone who donated. Thank you also to everyone who has been reading my nonsense over the last seven months. I considered changing the name to BigFatHalfMarathon, but that sounds crap. Looks like it’ll be back to Slimming World recipes and tales of being a fat fuck with a German Biscuit addiction.
Some things never change.