There are only a few times in my life where I felt like all of NYC was on the same page--sharing the same moment, and most of them were pretty bad. We all went through 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy together, but of course, we'd rather not have had to endure those tragedies, even though we were resiliant.
The blackout was shared citywide, and I suppose we fared ok, taking it in stride and even having a little fun, but again, we probably wouldn't choose to go through it again if we had to.
Sports championships aren't the same. Yankee fans weren't all that enthused in '86 and lord knows us long sufferring blue and orange folk weren't thrilled to have to see the Pinstripes come down Broadway time and time again. At least I'm not a Jet fan, too.
But yesterday--yesterday was all in for the NYC Marathon, including me. I finally ran my first after last year obviously didn't work out. The race was extremely hard. I'm not going to lie--it was the hardest phyiscal thing I've ever pushed myself to do, and I say that after doing four NYC Triathlons and a Tough Mudder.
Pro Tip: Write your name on your shirt so everyone cheering will call your name out across all 26.2 miles. That really helped.
Being a part of yesterday was like something I've never experienced. Literally, the whole city was watching--across so many different communities, both local and international. Standing on the Verrazano Bridge was amazing--and it's the one time you can do that. I've cycled over just about every other bridge we have.
Honestly, it was really hard not to run too fast, which I completely did, because of all the excitement. Yes, I blame you, NYC, with all your cheering, makeshift signage and little kid high fives, for convincing me that I could run at an 8:15 pace the whole day. That dream died around Mile 17, with 8:30 dying around Mile 20.
Damn you supportive folk!
I saw my dad just after the bridge, on the turn to 92nd street in Bay Ridge. I ran out of the turn over to give him a high five. I think he was holding the "Go Charlie" sign my mom had made for one of my triathlons. Hilarious.
I'm glad he made it out, because he has a knack for talking himself out of crowds and events. He'd generally watch things on the big screen and his couch, and avoid the frustration of parking, pushing, shoving, but he picked out a spot and made it work.
I need to thank two other specific people. One kid, I'll probably never know. Around Mile 18 on the Upper East Side, I was in serious need of some food. I burned right through breakfast, and was on the hunt for something solid, regretting that I had passed on earlier offerings. I visually scanned the crowd for small yellow curvatures and spotted one out of the corner of my eye--a little kid who was awkwardly holding onto a banana. He was so small that I think he was standing under the rope. I'm not totally sure he knew what he was supposed to do with it. I almost ran past him and then doubled back a little bit with my hand out. I hope that wasn't his banana, but he did hand it to me as I approached. It was a lifesaver. Thanks, kid.
Once I got through the Bronx and back into the city, I was in one foot in front of the other mode, chanting "Forward" to myself as I mentally did the math on how fast I needed to go to still make four hours. Things were not going well and the mile markers weren't coming fast enough. As I exited the park, each attempt to move just a little faster was greeted with cramps in each calf.
Then, out of the blue, I saw Cyna Alderman, who runs the NY Daily News Innovation Lab and who couldn't be more enthusiastic about working with the startup community. A career lawyer, she's turned her attention towards innovation in the publishing space and has been incredibly fun to work with. I didn't expect to see her--other than my Dad and a random friend from junior high school I hadn't spotted too many people in the crowd that day. It couldn't have been better timing. She screamed her head off when she saw me and it was enough to kickstart my legs. I started my ususal all out sprint to the finish with about a half mile to go.
My legs had other plans and my left hamstring cramped up big time. I said out loud, "Oh, no no no no... we're doing this. I don't care, " and ran through it. I'll deal with you later, legs. I sprinted into the park and grunted my way in with each step. There might have been grandstands of people, I'm really not sure. I just locked onto the Finish Line, and just pumped as hard as I could.
It was incredibly rewarding--but honestly, that wasn't even the best part.
The best part was after--on the street, in the subways, on Twitter and Instagram. Everyone knows what you went through. The moment I finished, I was getting texts of congratulations. I called my mom as soon as I crossed, knowing that she was tracking me on the iPad she's just learning to use. She's not feeling well enough quite yet to navigate the walk and the crowds, but the internet and Apple brought the race into her living room in a very personal way.
Some Hispanic guy on the subway fistbumped me after asking about the run.
"All five boroughs? Serious? Mad props, yo. Congrats."
There was a couple who had just gotten engaged riding along with us. Seemed like she said yes, but perhaps on the condition that he gets his lazy ass into the race next year.
A girl tried to give me her seat, but I was too afraid I wouldn't be able to get back up again. I'd rather lean against the pole in my bright orange poncho, but thanks. The sales associate in Foot Locker asked me if I had won--and I thought about the Kenyans. You know, everyone thinks what they do is about stamina, but then you have to remember that they're running like 12-13 miles per hour, too. That's the most impressive part about their run--they're running the whole marathon faster than most people can sprint.
Everyone I saw on the street congratulated me--and there were thousands, millions of people headed home, talking about the race. Everyone gets behind you, whether they know you or not.
Well, thank you, New York. I couldn't have done it without you. I'm glad to see you back up on your feet after last year. It's days like yesterday that make me wonder why anyone ever asks me, "Do you think you'll ever live somewhere else?"