Run To Manhattan: Timetable of a Marathon Weekend
Saturday 9:00 am
Posie gets ready to drive from Hunter to meet me in Phoenicia so I can drive her to Kingston so she can get the bus to New York City so she can walk to the Javitts Center so she can pick up her bag and race number so she can catch the subway to Brooklyn so she can stay with friends so she can get up at 5:30 am so she can catch a cab to Staten Island so she can run the New York City Marathon.
Tony gets up and goes for a four mile run. He runs it hard and fast and is proud of his time. Only on reflection does he realize that to qualify for the Boston Marathon, as he so wants to do one day, he would need to run 26.2 miles at a pace a full 7 seconds faster per mile than he just averaged.
Saturday 11:40 am
Posie calls to say she’s leaving the house now. It’s a 45-minute drive. The bus leaves in 50 minutes. She asks me to meet her at the corner in Phoenicia in 15 minutes so I can drive her the rest of the way. In the meantime can I buy her bus ticket?
Tony meets Posie with her bus ticket at 12:00. It’s a 30-minute drive to Kingston. The bus leaves in 30 minutes. This just happens to be a direct bus so there’s no chance of overtaking it en route to the next town. Miss this, she misses the marathon. Tony drives as fast as he can along Route 28 allowing for weekend drivers and road repairs and police presence and pulls up at the station as the bus to New York City prepares to pull out. Tony handles things the masculine way: he pulls the car into the bus station through the “no entry – buses only” entrance and points it right in front of the bus. The driver sympathizes and lets her on board. This bodes well. Or not. Depending on your perspective about tempting fate.
Posie is having dinner with an old high school friend in Park Slope who is a veteran marathon runner and a fantastic coach.
Tony is making dinner for the kids and, with Campbell, making a sign to carry en route. In case we didn’t think of doing one up, Posie has indiscreetly left one of the signs from one of my Marathons sitting out in the bedroom. What were we doing moving house with pieces of cardboard that date back several years?
Posie is at Staten Island. She’s been here an hour already and the race does not start for another 160 minutes. It’s cold.
Tony and Campbell get up and get ready to drive to the city. It’s really cold. There’s snow on the ground.
Posie calls with a last minute request to have spare socks ready at mile 19. The ones she’s wearing right now don’t feel right. I know that feeling. And I know that socks will be the last thing on her mind by the time she gets to mile 19.
Tony gets Noel out of bed. Gets him breakfast. Makes him a sandwich. Packs snacks, more snacks, juice bottles, diapers, wipes, Halloween candy, drinks and sandwiches, mittens, hats, camera, phone – and our hand-made good luck sign.
Posie starts her first Marathon. Only 26.2 miles to go.
Tony and Campbell and Noel start their journey down from Hunter. Only 125 miles to go before Posie gets to mile 20.
Posie’s first Athlete Alert e-mail is sent out. She’s signed us and four others up to receive e-mails with her split time as she passes through set distances on the course: 5k, 10k, half marathon etc. The wonders of technology.
Tony breathes sigh of relief that the first e-mail comes in on his Blackberry with her 5k and her 10k time on it. We were starting to get worried there. We figure Posie must be somewhere near the top of 4th Avenue in Brooklyn right now, running past our old block. We’re somewhere on the New York State Thruway.
Posie’s at the 15k mark, in Clinton Hill, and picking her pace up a bit. She’s averaging 14 minute miles. Allow for the 17 minutes it took to get to the start line and that means she’s running under 13 minutes a mile right now. This was her goal.
Tony is at the George Washington Bridge, about to enter New York City. He has to stop at the Cash lanes to pay his toll: his E-Z Pass privileges were taken away for two months because he was clocked going too fast through the E-Z Pass lanes. Once a racer…
Posie’s half-marathon time finally reaches us. Her pace has dropped back a bit but she’s still averaging 14:30 minute miles. We wonder if she’s listening to her iPod or just grooving to the crowds. Unlike too many so-called Marathon runners these days, at least she did not take her phone on the run with her.
Tony is in the South Bronx, figuring whether to leave the new family car, with far too many bags and possessions clearly visible inside, either parked on the street, where it will be locked but tempting, or in a garage – where he will need to leave his key. He opts for the latter.
Posie is running through the industrial part of Queens.
Tony and the kids are taking the subway from the Bronx down to Harlem, where Noel is completely fascinated by the New York City streets, which he won’t recall having seen before. Knowing we have time to spare, I feed Campbell on French fries from Wendy’s because, obviously, I didn’t pack the right snacks. Noel asks to have some in baby talk because, obviously, based on Campbell’s enthusiasm, French fries from Wendy’s are really good for you.
Posie’s passed the 25k mark, on the Queensboro Bridge, one of the loneliest and hardest parts of the run. She’s bang on the same pace.
Tony and Campbell and Noel are on 1st Avenue and 116th Street waiting for her. Turns out there’s a lovely outdoor café right on the corner serving brunch. We ignore it while we cheer on runners – “Looking Good!” (they’re not) and “Not far too go now!” (there is) – and let Noel play in the street. Though there are no cars to knock him over, there are plenty runners and walkers not thinking straight and his mother probably won’t be thrilled if she runs right into him and knocks him over. We bolt him into the baby stroller. And decide to make the most of our day out. We sit down at the restaurant and order brunch. Tony has eggs and home fries. Campbell has a bowl of ice cream. Noel plays peek-a-boo with Campbell. This is the way to watch a Marathon.
Posie comes up 1st Avenue, into her 20th mile, searching for us at our corner. She’s looking good: lots of colour in her face and no visible pains or strains. This section really deflated me on my 2nd and 3rd NYC Marathons. So I’m thrilled to see her so healthy.
Tony and Campbell have fortunately – thanks to the accuracy of the e-mail alerts – left their ice cream and home fries at the table and are waiting for her at the street corner. She has no idea we’re in the middle of brunch. There are hugs and kisses and photo ops. Even Noel looks excited. Then Posie asks to keep running. “I need to catch up the 80-year old woman,” she says. Oh.
Posie carries on up 1st Avenue towards The Bronx.
Tony and Campbell return to their brunch.
Posie’s 25k time comes to us by e-mail, about 20 minutes late. You can’t blame the system though: it’s sending out e-mail alerts for up to 37,000 runners, to 5 chosen e-mail addresses, every 20-45 minutes all day long. That should be at least a million e-mails. I wouldn’t like to see their server bill.
Tony and Campbell and Noel are walking down 116th Street towards 5th Avenue when they realize they’ve left their Go Posie Go sign at the restaurant. Campbell runs – yes, runs – back to the restaurant. I’m impressed – until he demands to sit and rest and drink Gatorade and generally act like he just ran a Marathon.
Posie’s 35k time arrives. She’s back in Harlem from the Bronx and has only slowed down by a few seconds a mile. If you can stay on pace through the Bronx and back into Manhattan, the last 10k should be a cinch.
Tony looks at the map after looking at his Blackberry, and realizes he only has a few seconds to get everyone to the corner of 116th Street to greet her.
Posie comes jogging down 5th Avenue and again, she looks good. There are walking wounded all around her, some with heads down (been there) and faces grimacing (been there, too). Only 4 miles to go, we say to her as we’re saying to all the others. They happen to feel like the longest 4 miles in the world but hey, that’s what you get for deciding to do a Marathon.
Tony and Campbell push the stroller to the subway at 116th and Manhattan and decide to ride it to Columbus Circle, figuring we should be able to get there before Posie does. We enjoy a classic few New York City minutes as a guy starts talking loudly to the stranger next to him on the train in absoslute gibberish but for the occasional pearl of wisdom: “The Germans were Barbarians, they fought off the Romans.” “The Nazis were all coke addicts.” “You know why Jay-Z wears diamonds? To protect himself from demons.” I think about what certifies one as crazy: the need to say random stuff to strangers on the subway, or the need to run 26.2 miles through New York City on a cold day?
Posie comes jogging round Columbus Circle, fidgeting with her iPod. Considering the state of the stragglers all around her, she’s looking pretty good.
Tony and Campbell shout loudly at her, waving their Go Posie Go sign.
Posie sees us and grins. She knows she’s nearly home. Then, being a mother, she finds the energy to raise the important question: “Where’s the baby?”
Tony shouts back from behind the barrier, where Noel is hidden, sleeping in his stroller: “I sold him to a crazy guy on the subway.”
Posie finishes the Marathon. Somehow her sister, in from New Jersey, and having called me no less than 10 times to find out where the Marathon is being run, has managed to find her way to the finish line, which is reserved for VIPs for most of the day.
Tony and Campbell walk up Central Park West offering congratulations to tired runners. Several of them smile at the sight of Noel, his head lifted up, his eyes weighed shut. That’s probably how they’d like to be right now.
Posie calls us from a stranger’s cell phone. She’s got her bag back already. Seems like it’s just a stroll in the park.
Tony and Posie find her at the corner of 81st and Central Park West. She looks good. And she can still walk. Just.
Posie has a message on her running shorts saying “hello” in various languages and concluding with an anti-Bush slogan in French. Someone on the D train starts speaking to her in French. Posie replies in French. The guy doesn’t understand her. She reverts to English. He understands her. Turns out he’s American after all. “We need a regime change,” he says. “You won’t get it by running a Marathon.”
Tony snaps at him. It’s been a long tiring day and I don’t need someone trying to start a revolution with my wife after she’s just been running for 385 minutes straight. “Alright, I’m getting off at the next stop,” he says, subdued.
Posie needs to use the elevators in the subway at 161st Street. Both of them. It then takes us a few minutes to hobble down the city block to the car park. After my second marathon, I actually could not walk at all. So she’s doing just fine.
Tony is relieved that everything is still in the car. And a little ashamed that he ever thought it would be otherwise. Then again, he lived in this city until a year ago. He remembers the time his Park Slope street woke to find one of the resident’s cars up on cinder blocks, its pro tyres professionally removed overnight. He remembers coming out of his house one day to find a stranger walking his bike up the street. He remembers when a neighbor got mugged on his block and another got car-jacked. And all this on one of the better Brooklyn blocks. He’s been aware today that he doesn’t miss living in the city.
Posie is in the passenger seat, analyzing her run like everyone does after the Marathon. The 17 minutes it took to cross the start line, the 6 minute wait at one bathroom line alone en route, the three other bathroom stops (this being a cold day) the 10 minutes lost at photo ops and family meets… all minutes she’s convinced should be discounted from her time.
Tony is in the driver’s seat, looking at race reports on the Blackberry and reminding her that unless you’re Lance Armstrong and you have a pacer who happens to be a former Marathon champion who is literally elbowing people out of the way so you can keep to your much vaunted 3hr time, then these are the breaks. Campbell and I saw thousands of people who had gone out too fast and could barely walk over the finish line, their faces curled up in pain; Posie stayed at a steady pace and with a smile on her face throughout. That’s a victory.
Posie refuses to eat anything from her finisher’s bag. She wants fish. I suggest we stop for a victory dinner in Saugerties at Miss Lucy’s Kitchen.
Campbell gets upset when he hears this. He wanted to get home in time to play. Noel gets upset because Campbell’s upset and starts crying. Posie gets upset that Campbell’s not thinking of mummy first. MELTDOWN! Tony stops the car at a service station to take a breather, change Noel’s diaper one more time and get a cup of coffee he would normally never drink so late. Why does going to watch the marathon feel like more effort than running one? Because we didn’t train for it?
Posie sits down at the window table at Miss Lucy’s in Saugerties and orders a glass of sparkling wine from Saumur in the Loire. We hear the pop of the cork as they open a fresh bottle. That’s the spirit.
Tony orders a pint of Fuller’s ESB. There’s nothing he likes more than a beer a few hours after a marathon. He tells the waitress that his wife just ran the new York Marathon. The waitress looks at Posie’s medal and asks, in all seriousness, “Oh, my Gosh, did you win?”
Posie has scallops in front of her. Tony has pumpkin ravioli in front of him. Campbell has mac’n’cheese in front of him. Noel has his Thomas train Skarloey in front of him. Everyone is happy. Finally.
We take the long road back home. We pass up along the east of the Catsksills. There’s a full moon in the sky. The Escarpment Trail is illuminated. Tony remembers that, following his Escarpment Trail Run this year, he has been invited to the exclusive club that hikes the Escarpment Trail together every year. At night. Under a full moon. In December. Only four weeks away. Tell me again, how do you define insanity?