I was at the NYC marathon last Sunday as a spectator this year. My wife, Lisa, was racing this time. I was up at 2am with her - she was nervous about the race, and I was nervous for her. I was more anxious about the three hours leading up to the start for her rather than the race itself. The NYC marathon is logistically a nightmare. Starting in Staten Island at the foot of the Verranzano Bridge, just getting to the start is a pain in the ass. Lisa was catching a bus that my friend Bob Sabre organizes every year. I had to have her at the pick-up in Stratford by 5am, and this was the last time I'd talk to her until after the race besides yelling to her a few times on the course. Lisa was quite emotional race morning and I could see her sitting on the bus wiping tears as I drove off. Don't mistake Lisa for some wuss though - she's tough as nails and I'll get more into that in a bit.
Once you get to the start of the race, you have to sit around waiting for three hours until the gun goes off. It was very cold out that morning, so I sent Lisa off with sweat pants, ski pants, a fleece pullover, a fleece vest, and an old winter jacket, plus hand and feet warmers and a hat and two pairs of gloves. Some homeless person is going to get a decent score since everything she was wearing would be donated as she stripped down to her running shorts and top just prior to the start.
This waiting period sucks! You desperately just want the race to start and you are trapped in a tight area with 48000 runners, most waiting in port-o-potty lines. On top of this, Lisa was in the wave that started on the lower level of the Verrenzano which is where you don't want to be. You see, the runners on the upper level that are couped up and overhydrated begin peeing wherever, which drips down and onto the lower level - disgusting! Lisa was really freaked out about this but thankfully, she didn't experience any showers.
Baker and I drove into Manhattan and parked near the finish area on the west side of central park, then purchased a one day subway pass, and headed over to Brooklyn. First, we watched the elite/pro women come by. They started 33 minutes earlier then the pro men/first wave. We were positioned between miles eight and nine, and a pack of pro women rolled through looking comfortable in 47 minutes. Then there were some smaller groups and solo women, before the pro men came cruising through, again, the leaders in a big pack, looking effortless in 41 minutes. The crowds of spectators in Brooklyn were amazing, yet nothing compared to Manhattan later in the race. Lots of runners began coming through although they were still thinned out until the 7 minute per mile group hit us. For the next 30 minutes, it was a sea of runners that was so dense, it made you dizzy viewing it. I was nervous I'd miss Lisa, but I had a hunch she'd be running on the right side of the road and sure enough, she came cruising through, looking great!
Lisa is not your typical endurance athlete. I'm assuming that if there are a few of you reading this "random gibberish", that you are endurance athletes of some kind. Either that or you are really bored at work. Endurance athletes have a mindset that's different then most. They love to train, and eat and breathe endurance training and racing. It's a huge part of their life whether they admit it or not. I'm an endurance athlete. Lisa is not. She is an unbelievable athlete, who was CT state champion in high school in the 200 meters, and who was a multiple college all American in the 400. Her raw athleticism towers over mine. But a two mile run for a 400 meter runner is distance. Lisa was burnt out on running and so didn't do much after college. Then, after seeing me race in Hawaii a few times, she was inspired to the point that she committed to run the Philadelphia marathon a few years ago. She did well considering her training. Lisa's running form is a thing of beauty and I'm not just saying that because she's my wife. But solid genetics and years of honing her form on the track in her youth have implanted a flowing, light, land on your toes stride that looks effortless. She's fortunate that she is such a gifted runner because she ran on average twice per week training for her first marathon. She did a long run on the weekend and a mid week easy run. That's it. Again, she's not an endurance athlete who panics over a missed or shortened session. This training garnered a 3:46 virgin marathon. Lisa had talked about doing New York one day and so put her name into the lottery the past few years. This year, she was picked! Most endurance athletes would think "Awesome!!! I'm in!". Lisa's response was "Oh, fuck!". However, even though she's not an endurance athlete by mindset, she is amazingly determined, and her work ethic in everything she does, her conscientiousness, and her humbleness are attributes that I am daily impressed with. Lisa is the type of person that is a bosses dream. She sets her mind to something and she does it. Simple as that. I very, very loosely coach Lisa. I know that coaching or working with your spouse is rarely a good thing. So I direct her with an idea of what she should do each week, but her training mainly came down to her weekly long run. Not much changed from her training for Philly to her training for NY. She ran once or twice per week on the treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes, and then got in her long run on the weekends.
Back to the race: Baker and I subwayed up to Queens, and yelled to Lisa although she didn't see us there, then we went back to Manhattan and watched at the 18 and 24 mile mark. Lisa was really struggling at the 24 mile mark, and I gave her some tough love yelling "Lis, be tough! Finish this thing!!!" She did finish in 4:01 and she left it all out there. For the next day and half, she swore "never again!". I can tell though that the 90 sec she needed to get under 4 hours is haunting her. She's not done yet. Maybe for awhile, but not yet. And I'm also willing to bet she runs New york again. Besides Boston, there isn't a cooler, more festive marathon experience.
Anyways, i rarely talk about my family in this blog, but I wanted to record here in my archives how impressed and amazed I am with my wife. Everything she does, she does more than well. What a very cool way also for her to exit her thirties. Alright, enough of the sappy stuff.
I plan on starting up my daily challenge on my website right after Thanksgiving, so stay tuned.