It is often said that a marathon is designed for those who have a strong will. That moreso than physical endurance, it is the mental tenacity of the runner that gets them just past 26 miles.
In my lifetime, I have managed to finish a masters degree, quit smoking and stop biting my fingernails. For the latter two, I set the date, smoked my last cig, chomped my last nail, and it was done. Forever.
I may be in the slow poke wave for tomorrow’s New York City Marathon, but I can honestly say I have the mental ardor to compete. Hopefully it will be enough with proper training.
I have completed one marathon in my life and although that makes me no expert, I have a vague idea what to expect tomorrow—the rush of excitement that comes with the sound of the starting gun, the seemingly never-ending strife found between miles 18 and 23, the brief moment of blame directed towards the Brits who just had to extend the historically 25 mile race to 26.2, so the 2008 Olympic finish would be at the base of the Royal Box. And then the elation that rises when you realize you somehow didn’t die! You MADE it! (God, I hope I make it!)
When people ask how I’m feeing about the NYM—Are you ready? Are you nervous?—I’m conflicted. Yes, in a way I am ready. I’ve done the miles, seen the masseuse, checked in with the chiro, allowed time for recovery, mapped out the race day nutrition plan for before, during and after the race.
But deep down, I’m terrified.
There are factors I just don’t (and won’t) know. Like anything else when it comes to New York, the challenge for me seems to be found less in the act of actually running the marathon (or working or school or… fill in the blank). The battle, as was the case when I lived in NY for a couple years, is with the city itself.
For a winemaker, the uncontrollable element will always be the weather. An early frost, a hailstorm, a drought or excessive rain can take them out. On the flip side, a blessed vintage brings great success. In fact, it may be the reason a small winery is first recognized (bigger name wineries, particularly in places like Bordeaux, tend to sky rocket the pricing during golden vintages, whereas lesser known wineries can offer fantastic values).
Like any marathon, weather plays its unpredictable role, especially November in New York. You check it off the list of things you cannot control and move forward. But with NY, that list goes on…
We’ll start with pre-race meals. They say two days before the race is actually the most important for ‘carb-loading.’ Conveniently on a plane for the duration of that meal time, I decided lunch would mark the ceremony at home with pasta and veggies. My lovely dinner would be a clif bar, apple, pretzels and water. Luckily, I wasn’t hungry, though, and my boyfriend had pomodoro waiting at the hotel. I certainly loaded on the carbs yesterday.
New York may be home to some of the best restaurants in the world, but that’s little help when you are neurotically wondering what ingredients compose each menu item the night before. You must strategize and find someone in the city who still has a working stove/oven (one that hasn’t been transformed into a second closet for sweaters). Then, invite yourself to a pasta party in your honor. Really great pre-race vibes and home cooked food! That’s what I will be doing in a few hours (thanks Ava and Finch! PS- Heard there’s a magnum of Chianti? I can’t pass up a glass…)
All week I have tried to prepare for the time change—a detail one normally may not take into consideration until you learn you are to board a ferry at 6 am for Staten Island, where you will be dropped off for nearly 5 hours to wait in the sub-freezing cold. My boyfriend bought me a one-piece argyle flannel footy outfit for the occasion.
Sure, there are numerous teeny details that cumulatively freak me out about tomorrow (will I wake up on time? Will I have everything I need?), but I am extremely grateful about one thing: it’s time to switch the clocks back tonight! Genius whoever thought of that.
Another note of gratitude goes to google. All kinds of tips fell from the search field. The most important in my book? BRING TOILET PAPER TO THE START! That savior in disguise runs out pretty darn fast. There were many more tips, but the point is clear: nothing is simple in NY. Along the route, there may be thousands of potties lined up, but rumor has it the lines are over 20 minutes long. Just getting to the start is a hassle, fueling with hours til go-time, etc…
When I lived here, I’d pack a water bottle, heels to change into after class, a coat, library books, cab fare, metro card, school ID, and so on… I’d step into the street, armored in anticipation, travel 3 subway lines down to NYU and realize 4 hours after leaving my apt on 110th and Amsterdam that, inevitably, I had forgotten my umbrella. And so I’d get soaked as I ran from one awning to the next on 8th and Broadway. If I could get through a day—slowly climbing each stair to my fourth story apt holding grocery bags, backpack, book tote and shopping bags in hand—dry and in one piece, I knew I had won that day’s battle with the city.
And so, I return to my nemesis, the keeper of my heart, to run its many boroughs. To feel its diversity, its range of sound, its incomparable energy. To allow its pulse to set my pace. I’ll let go of the fact that I hate my running shoes that have injured my left leg as a whole, that I have to wake up around 4am Denver time, and I will arrive as fully armored as I can with my peanut butter and banana sandwich, inhaler and toilet paper in hand to brave the ultimate battle of running through this grand city. And it will be incredible (as will be the many restaurants in mind for post-race recovery). Stay tuned for final results and reviews of some of the city’s best places to wine and dine.