I had the pleasure of writing a guest post for the NoMeatAthlete community blog about, what else, chasing unicorns. I struggled more with writing this post than I have with any writing I’ve done in a really long time, and I’m grateful to have enlisted an editor, who’s chasing down her own unicorn this morning (hey girl, heeeeeeeeeeeey) to help me work through some trash.
I’ve been doing this blogging thing off and on for a while now, and I’ve written some blog entries about marathons I’ve done that have spanned a over a couple entries, but I don’t think I’ve ever written a 4-part series like I have for NYC. Perhaps it is overkill, but honestly, given everything that went into making NYC what it was, though, it seems appropriate for me to shine a spotlight on it, if for no other reason than to help me remember what a cool weekend and race experience it was.
By this point in the game, though, I’ve already talked in pretty exhaustive detail about my strategy, the race experience, and the numbers behind the race, so this post, the last (I think) in the NYC series, will focus on all the other stuff that helped make the weekend so memorable.
I guess an interesting place to begin this recollection is a confession: I really wasn’t particularly looking forward to running NYC–not this year, not ever.
On a fluke in 2009, I had applied to the lottery and got in on my first go but decided to defer because I had committed to other fall races that year (Akron, Marine Corps). Stupid me misunderstood the whole deferral process and didn’t realize I’d end up paying twice to run the race once. Then, in 2012, after PRing in a half at a 1:35 and then, six days later, a 1:33, my good friend David told me that I should do NYC because I’d be guaranteed entry by way of the qualification standards (that have since been tightened to a sub-1:30 half for women my age), and I thought ‘what the hell.’ Then, of course, Superstorm Sandy hit last year, and all the fall-out happened because of the way the NYRR handled (or didn’t, depending on your source) the race, so by now, in 2013, I had essentially paid over $600 to run NYC once.
That is a HELL of an expensive marathon, folks.
Like I said earlier, though, it wasn’t until after I ran Chicago ’13 and began to feel like I had pretty much recovered from it that I thought maybe I’d see what I still had left in the tank and go for gold in NYC. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Once I got to that point, I was just excited about the race–not nervous, not anticipating, just excited.
On my flight out Thursday night (Halloween), I quickly met other runners–easy to do when you’re wearing running tights at an airport, folks!–which was a cool way to begin the NYC experience (though, word to the wise: tread cautiously when interacting with male runners when their SO is present. Wow, did the lasers from that woman’s eyes sting. Good grief…). Friday mid-day, I leisurely made my way over to the expo to meet-up with Corey and Lynton and partake in all the expo goodness. Along the way, I had the pleasure of chatting with a NYCM expo volunteer for a good twenty minutes, and her energy was simply infectious. I thanked her relentlessly for taking time out of her life to help at the marathon–I’m sure she thought I was crazy when I said that–but the funny thing was that she thanked me for coming to run in her city.
Funny how that works.
Exploring the expo with Corey and Lynton was fun–these things are always funner with another–and shortly after they split, David arrived, so he and I met up for enough time to get a quick picture and try to arrange logistics to meet at the SI ferry Sunday morning (which, spoiler, never happened).
An uneventful Friday night (grading… wish I were kidding here) was probably one of the better choices I made all weekend. Saturday morning, Lynton ventured up to the Upper East Side, where I was staying with Willa Rose, a friend of a friend, and he and I made our way over to Central Park for a four-mile (or four mile & change) shake-out, where we got caught up in the NYRR’s Dash to the Finish 5k. Shortly after we got into Central Park, we were running the marathon course–very cool–so naturally, I had to risk getting run over by a bunch of 8:30-9 minute/mi 5kers so I could take sub-par pictures of the mile markers. They were on banners over the roads, people! And, strangely enough, during our shake-out, we managed to run into Chanthana, another Chicago runner, who had come into town to cheer at the marathon. Such a small world.
After a delish breakfast with Lynton, we split so he could go on his Marathon in a Motorcoach bus tour and so I could make my way down to Brooklyn, to Williamsburg, to see my girl Leanne, whom I had stayed with last year. We met when we were RAs at DePaul in 2003, and she has to be one of my favorite people ever–just a super classy, super passionate, mega vegan all-star sweetheart of a person. She had invited some other Chicago friends of hers, who were also in town for the marathon, and me to meet her in Willamsburg at Dunwell Donuts, a vegan donut shop, for a late afternoon snack and to catch up. It was a blast seeing her and meeting these other Chicago vegan runners, and bonus! I got my new Vaute Couture coat from the maker/owner/creative director/founder herself, my girl, Leanne 😉
Lots of vegan deliciousness later, I hauled back to the Upper East Side to drop off and pick-up some personal effects before meeting Lynton and the rest of the Bootlegger gang at Angelo’s in Little Italy. Along the way, I somehow managed to get a bus all to myself for a while, which resulted in some fantastic banter with the incredibly nice driver. Seriously, this driver couldn’t have been cooler; I’m pretty sure there were invitations of post-marathon partying flying around, haha (ed. note: stop being so trusting…). Once I got to Angelo’s, having dinner with many folks in the BRC gang was a blast, and hey, I got a tutorial on what Tinder was and apparently (and accidentally) proved my photoshop prowess 😉
As far as race eves go, this was a pretty fantastic one. I wasn’t feeling especially nervous about the race, but more than anything, my face actually kinda hurt because I had been smiling so much. Yeah, it was that kind of awesome 🙂
Sunday morning, the race experience? Simply unmatchable. Totally amazing and wonderful and, at least right now, probably my favorite race to date.
Immediately after the race, marathon stinky funkiness and all, Lynton and I met up with another bootlegger, Colin, my San Diego Yogger relay captain from the summer, who had FREAKIN’ RUN SUB-3 IN HIS SECOND GO AT THE MARATHON DISTANCE, and his wife, Stephanie, before the rest of the BRC gang arrived. Again, being with other teammates or training buddies immediately after the race was so uplifting because they could totally identify with the experience that day. It’s a feeling that’s hard to convey, but suffice it to say that I loved being hundreds of miles away from home yet feeling like I was just at some bar in Chicago with some of my runner friends, and this feeling of utter elation just magnified once David and the rest of the BRC gang arrived–Lee Ann, LeeAnn, and others whose names totally escape me right now. We all partook in the obligatory libations and bar food consumption (which, actually, wasn’t bad) and celebrated each other’s victories–PRs, BQs–and commiserated over similar experiences on the course–not starting in the correct wave, hitting a wall of humanity, that sort of thing.
After several hours in Manhattan celebrating another marathon milestone, we split ways, and late at night, around midnight or so, when I was damn near operating on fumes, my hostess, Willa, her roommate, and I heralded in another decade of my life–hello, 30s!–with rum and cokes and vegan donuts. (Apparently, it’s like an unspoken thing that I only stay with vegans in NYC. Noted.).
Somehow, it didn’t matter that I had a 6:20 a.m. flight Monday to get back to Chicago in time to teach my first class at 10:10 because I didn’t want to miss a nanosecond of anything when I was in NYC. It’s one thing to just run a race and to run it poorly or well; it’s such a different thing, though, to make an experience out of it.
By the time the marathon rolled around on Sunday morning, I was already completely satisfied with my time in NYC, and I think I had even told Corey as much on the bus and ferry rides out to Staten Island. That I could, and did, have such a positive racing experience in addition to the amazing weekend I had catching up with old friends and cultivating new friendships was just incredible.
Absolutely, completely, incredible.
And something for which I am so genuinely grateful that I can’t even talk honestly about my race without talking about all these other components that made my NYCM weekend about so much more than how well I covered 26.2.
After doing 21 of these things since 2007, I’m beginning to learn that the best races I have–including Houston, Eugene, and Chicago from this year alone–are the ones where I realize that it’s about much more than a race. Sure, I want to race well after training for months and after ‘practice’ running hundreds of miles so I can run 26.2 efficiently and intelligently in one go, but this whole marathoning thing has become so much more to me than that.
It’s so weird to admit that now, because I can promise you I don’t think of it in those terms when I’m getting my ass handed to me during a grueling workout, but it has become damn near gospel for me.
At the end of the day, the race, itself, is but a strand in the quilt, and in the case of the NYC quilt, it was a quilt that was years in the making.