ING New York City Marathon 2009: Running Together

Wow, it’s been over a week since Irene and I along with 40,000+ other runners woke up to different beeps, chirps and buzzes from clock radios, running watches and blackberry’s for the 40th running of the NYC Marathon. Which starts over at Staten Island and weaves around the 4 other boroughs and ends at Central Park, next to Tavern on the Green.

Actually I was already up around 4am waiting for the digits to show 04:30am. As soon as I hit the buttons to turn off the alarms , I turned to Irene with excitement and said, “Are you ready!” She said, “Yes!” Next, I click on the television to find out that the Yankees are ahead 2 games to 1. And. now where is that Weather Channel. Looks like short sleeves and shorts will be my running attire for today. Irene will also wear short sleeve shirt but with running pants. She never quite got use to running in shorts. While there was a light drizzle misting the outside of our hotel window, as long as the temp stayed below 60, I would be a very happy runner.

We began to layer on our running clothes that we layed out on the dresser the night before, and checking off the list of items we are going to bring with us. That list was so handy, and made the rest of the day stress free. I’d rather not run around like a chicken with its head cut off today.

I went downstairs and walked to the 24 hour diner, and order some omlettes for breakfast. Originally, I was going to cook up my own eggs, but the room did not have a stove top, that I thought it would have. I remember a stove top when staying at the Affinia before, but not in this room.

My friend, Allison, came to our room and had oatmeal for breakfast. She says that I inspire her to do her first marathon. I really hope it would be a most memorable experience because I know the agonizing aches and pains that I have cause the rest of the team including myself. I will detail other injuries that my team mates have endured. Allison had developed a runner’s knee injury just a couple week ago, but she rested it and was ready to run. I am so happy that she was able to do the marathoin as she planned many months ago.

Around 5:45 and it’s time to get our feet moving, as we entered into the elevator, we were warmly greeted by a post Halloween partier enjoying a large bottle of Colt 45 Malt Liquor and listening to some kind of hip hop music blasting away in his headphones. He grinned and said, “It’s Halloween.” And got off on Floor 7. All of us turned to each other in amazement. I wonder if he was going to pass out in the hallway or polish off the other half of the amber liquid.

What other strange thing could happen next?!?

As we walked out the front of the hotel on to the still very dark Lexington Avenue, I shivered slightly in the little nippy morning air. The road was still slick from the morning mist, and I raised my arm to hail a cab. On the far side of avenue, a driver of a yellow cab saw my arm waving and started to move closer to me. At the same time, he was merging into a lane that was already occupied by another cab. This was not going to be good! I stepped back on to the curb and all in slow motion the second cab slammed into the the rear of the first cab. I just shook my head in bewilderment as the second cab driver got out and said to the first one, “You need to call the police!”. They both look fine (no blood or lost limbs), so I walked north to 38th Street steering clear of the calamity that I caused, and waved to Irene and Allison to follow. We got to go! And immediately hopped into a crash free cab up the block and passed the 2 cabs as one of the bumpers dropped to the street. What a way to start a morning!

We arrived at 51st and 6th accident free. There were about 15 buses waited for us Team for Kids Marathoner Class of 2009. We were greeted by Zakia F, who is the Senior Manager, and gets everything on the right track and Gail K, who is a TFK coach and my cheerleader always routing for me, Irene and the rest of the team. We found our bus, and climbed aboard #5. As I looked for a pair of seats, it was very quiet on the bus. The silence was probably the nervous excitement of what did we all get ourselves into. 6:30am sharp, the caravan of buses headed south by police escort!

The starting area seemed the same as last year, thousands of runners packed into a small section of Fort Wadsworth. I remember it was alittle muddy last year, so we brought some garbage bags to sit on, but this year was incredibly muddy as we walked towards the Charity Village/Team for Kids Tent. My feet sank about an inch into the soggy ground. Just as long as the mud does not cover the top of the shoe, I should be fine. Mental note, make sure to include kitchen sized garbage bags to keep your shoes clean while you wait for the start.

Just a little something on Team for Kids. In addition to supporting programs to give kids a running start to healthier lives. We are so happy to be able to support TFK and in turn they provide very helpful coaching to make our training smarter and efficient. Anyone considering doing the NYC Marathon next year, please consider running with Team for Kids as your charity choice. Please call me if you have any questions.

We got to the tent and made a small settlement with garbage bags as foundation. Plenty of bagels, water and gatorade we located on several tables in the center of the circus like tent. We awaited for Irene’s brother, Ray and sister, Jen to arrive. They took the Staten Island Ferry for passage to the Village.

Both Ray and Jen are running their first marathon also! They both ran in High School, so they were better conditioned.

What I find amazing is that Ray can probably do a sub 4 hour race, and he still has time to take a drag of a cigarette. I am very proud that he has cut down the smoking a lot since we started our training. I think he as a sub 3 hour time as soon as the tosses his last puff. I am so happy that he is so into running that we will probably be doing more marathons together! He was the only person who pretty much ran injury free.

Jen who just married my brother, Norbert and as if being married to him wasn’t crazy enough. She was having troubles with her knees. As she prepared for the race she revealed her brace wrapped knees cause by a poor shoe recommendation. Now she has the right shoes on and ready to take the 5 boroughs! At least, she will have 5 hours free from Norbert. LOL! I love you, Norbert.

It was time to abandon the TFK tent and warm up. We trudged through the wet and soggy ground, making sure our feet did not sink too much into the mud. We all circled around the Team for Kids coaches who lead us in a round of light stretching and a pep talk which I could not hear, but applauded as everyone started to clap. You can see their enthusiasm and it translated to the rest of us.

We then walked closer, to bridge and drop off our baggage. As soon as we arrived at the Baggage Trucks they started to pull away, leaving about 200 runners holding our bags and wondering how in the world would we carry these bags all 26.2 miles. Zakia started to bang on the UPS drivers door and Michael M (another coach who made my marathon expericence as best as it could be) hanging off the back of the truck banging away to make sure the driver would stop. Zakia was going to make sure our baggage would get to its destination at Cherry Hill. Finally a UPS supervisor spoke to us to leave our bags in a pile and another Truck will pick up our bags.

After that debacle, we headed to our starting corral. A loud cannon boomed and announced the official start of the Marathon. Last year I was in a middle of the Orange Corral, in which you can not see the bridge until you are on it. This year, it was so exciting to be able to see all the runners start streaming across the bridge.

We all had green bibs and were all in wave 3, both Ray and Jen had a lower numbers so their start group was ahead of mine, and they headed toward the front. Allison, Irene and I stuck together, as we started to be packed together like a can of sardines and shuffled closer to the start. This year, our start would be on the bottom deck of the Verrazano Bridge.

As we made our final left curve toward the Bridge, I saw Gail on the upper deck waving and cheering for us. We passed through the starting gate and we were now officially on the clock. About a minute later, I remembered to start my stopclock on my watch.

The head and cross winds were magnified between the 2 decks. I had to readjust my hat to make sure it did not fly off. It was kind of chilly, but I knew it would warm up as soon as we got off the bridge and headed towards 4th Avenue.

After the Verrazano Bridge, there were many stains on the side of the bridge and several guys backs were facing us, as we saw some shaking and hopping. Still not sure why they needed to relieve themselves, maybe it’s tradition or a rite of passage, but both Allison and Irene were disgusted. And at the same time they wish they could do it also.

Irene and I slowed down at the first water station. Looks like they placed the Gatorade first, then the Poland Spring Water. Last Year, I remember the sticking sound as we passed the Gatorade stations. This year I think the Water washed away some of the sticky Gatorade that is splashed on the ground. This where we lost Allison. Irene and I turned around and poof she was off and away. We caught up around mile 5 or 6, then she was gone again. She was doing great!

This year, I made sure to include my name on my singlet. It’s great to hear your name and a great job, or looking good, or any cheer. The encouragement from strangers is so helpful. I usually run with my arm swing very low, so everyone could read my name. During the run, Irene was like, “How come they are saying your name more than mine?” Irene has a higher swing, which made it difficult for some spectators to read her name. I told her not to worry, everyone will be cheering for you, and they started to.

After mile 7, I had a mental note that Lanie K would be cheering from the sidelines at mile 8-9. But a little after the water station, I heard my name being called. I looked over and it was Lanie and her fiance, David. Originally Lanie was going to be running with us, but due to a very serious injury (almost a stress fracture), she had to withdraw. Fortunately, she was able to defer her entry until next year. I would like to cheer for her from the street like she did for us this year, but I have a feeling that I will be right along side of her.

Around mile 8, it seems that Borat’s Cousins were doing the Marathon. All I said to Irene was, “Run faster, I do not want to be behind them for the next 20 miles!” So for the next several hours, we ran ahead. Then they would pass us when we took a bathroom break, and it was butt cheeks again. Many older lady’s on the sidewalks stared. Next year, must run faster!

We also passed the Eiffel Tower on the route, more like I can’t believe someone would want to promote French Tourism on his shoulders. This particular runner must have been paid a lot to carry at least a 30-40 lbs structure with the heigt of 12 feet.

Mile 11, Coach Andrew popped out of no way and greeted us. He was the one who helped us during our 23 miler a few weeks back and gave us some tips to stave off the bonk/the wall. I think we were looking good to him so he said that we were doing great and peeled off to see if he could find the next TFK member.

During the course, there we many photographers in cranes and on the road. I reminded Irene to smile, because I wanted to make sure we get plenty of pictures together. We do plenty of things together, but this event was very special, one of a kind that may never happen again.

There were also a few video cameras, and Irene always said that I was walking and texting. Last year, when I passed a certain mile marker,. I would text everyone of where I was, and it happened to be a spot where a video camera was. So if you watch my video, I am walking. This year will not have the same mistake..

We passed the Pulaski Sky Bridge and the glass Citibank building along the way to the 57th Street Bridge. Towards the Manhattan side of the bridge, I pointed to Irene where I took a leak, she just said that it not fair!

Around Mile 17, Irene started to pull away as I started to see spots. I was hitting the wall, but at least I recognized the symptoms. I quickly ran into a bodega searched for a bottle of Coke, asked the cashier the cost, and looked for 2 bucks from my shoe wallet. I opened the refreshing drink and gulped a quarter of it, then gave some to Irene. I took another swig, and offered some more to Irene. I reclosed the bottle ran to the side and left it on First Avenue as Irene told me that some old lady was chuckling on what I just did.

Thank God, that Coke snapped me out of my haze, because our neighbors, the McKeevers were around Mile 18. I heard, “Great Job, Noah and Irene” from a familiar voice. Usually I would glance over to the cheerer and give a wave or a fist pump. This time, I said that guy looks so familiar. It was totally unexpected, especially with 2 million people screaming as you pass. To be able to recognize anyone you know is really tough. For those of you who don’t know, Chris is a familiar runner in our neighborhood, and for many years I would see him run in the rain or snow. Everytime he would pass by I would get inspired to run, and finially I did. Anyway, I can’t imagine the embarressment I would have felt if I was walking past him. Also there to cheer was his wife, AnnMarie (who I think is ready for a marathon) and their daughter, Kerri. Seeing all of them really helped!

Pass Harlem and into the Bronx. Some special surprises that Asics had in store for us. During the expo, we filled out something, basically fill in the blank. “Hello, New York. Goodbye ____________” I entered, “My Gut” and Irene entered, “Doubt and Giving up” then they took our picture. I was thinking that they would flash our mugs on Time Square. So somewhere in the Bronx there was a big screen in from of us. We past a signal marker and on the screen we saw our pictures and our Goodbyes… It kept us inspired for the rest of the race.

Back in Manhattan, after mile 21, Irene was having problems with her knees and we stopped at a first aid station and got some Tylenol. I was feeling fine, but what the heck, might as well just in case. What I found disturbing that they did not throw out the cup for the pills that I just put my lips on. Well I don’t think we caught anything.

We could see the Empire State Building down 5th Avenue, and we turned into the Park at 90th Street. Almost done! I knew that Irene was in a lot pain, and she tried to hid a tear or two from me. She’s a real trooper, and she wasn’t going to say anything, so I slowed down several times, walking up the hills and reseting ourselves on the downhills. She was worried that I would not beat my time from last year. Looking at my watch, we were way ahead of last year, and more importantly I reminded her that this was something that I wanted to do with her. I wasn’t going to leave her for a PR and actually I really didn’t think about my time until she mentioned it. Well in that case, let’s hurry up. LOL

Around Mile 25 Irene start to complain about her right shoulder, as we were greeted by Christine (TFK Coach) who ran with us until Central Park South and reminded that we were doing great. I was kind of worried, but it was on the right side instead of the left. So I figure it was just the mental stress she was going through that probably pinched a nerve somewhere.

After Mile 26, Frances, Ray’s fiance, and she cheered for us and we took some pictures.

About 150 yards from the Finish, our kids and my Dad waited patiently for us at the TFK Bleachers. You have to appreciate modern technology, because we received many encouraging words from Emily, Zachary and Elijah as the day went on. We took several pictures with the kids! I am very happy that the kids could see the both of us run together. I am very proud that we could set an example for them to follow. In fact, all of them now ask, “When can we do a marathon?”

We kissed each of the kids, and sprinted towards the finish line! I grabbed Irene’s hand about 10 feet in front of the finish and raised it high. I gave her a kiss just passed the finish and said that she did great! We then walked towards the medal presenters and they draped our medals around our necks. Took some more pictures. Then wrapped a thin metallic heat shield around our bodies.

We walked over to the medical tent so that someone could look at Irene’s shoulder. First an EMT, then a Physical Therapist, then a Neurological Specialist, all examined Irene for movement of her shoulder. Basically they concluded that she probably pinched a nerve with all the running and to do some light stretches and heat to loosen it muscle up. I much felt better after that.

06:00:58 was our unoffical time, and every millisecond was special because I was by my wife’s side the whole time. On top of that, Ray ran a 04:03, Jen did it in 04:28, and Allison finished with 05:22. That is totally incredible.

We also raised close to $15,000 for Team for Kids, and overall, all the Team for Kids runners raised over $4 million.

I am so proud of Irene, Ray, Jen, Allison and Lanie for their dedication, and I am so happy that everyone is planning to do more marathons! I can’t wait for Lanie to do her first Marathon, but first heal that leg of yours

Again Thank You for letting me email my little blog out. So many of you mentioned that you started to exercise because of my newsletter, and I never expected that anyone would want to run, let alone do a marathon.

I also want to thank everyone for your words of encouragement and support. I would love to hear from all of you, especially if you sign up for a race, 5K, 10K, ½ marathon, and especially if you want to do a full marathon. Let me know if you are doing a triathalon also, which I am thinking of doing, but the swimming part scares me.

Also, thanks to all the race volunteers for making the day possible. Thanks for all the Team for Kids Coaches for making my training better. Thanks for Dr. Pollack for patching Irene and I up, and Thanks for everyone at my office making things run smooth as I trained for the marathon, especially my General Manager, Allison C.

A special thanks for my Dad, who had to deal with my three monkeys for a few hours all by himself. Was it that bad, Dad?

Only 362 days until the 2010 NYC Marathon. Maybe I’ll run with Mickey Mouse in 2011 instead.

Live a life that you love and love a life that you live!


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