Monday, November 27, 2006

I'M A MARATHONER!!!! 4 HOURS 25 MINUTES!!

I am officially a marathoner. Yes folks, I did it! Count it - 4 hours, 25 minutes and 9 seconds. And here is a lengthy recap for all:

4:20am - Alarm goes off. I didn't sleep all that much. My mind kept anticipating NOT waking up to my alarm while my body was anticipating running 26.2 miles. We all know what happens when mind and body don't cooperate when trying to sleep. So all in all I'd say I got about 3-4 hours of 'on and off' sleep. I called a car the night before to pick me up at 5am - as we had to be at the Team For Kids buses at 5:45am. The dispatcher on the phone said (in his bronx accent) - "You runnin' da marathon or somethin'?" I replied, "You got it!" He followed with an awe-inspiring, "No shit! Best a luck, guy! I'll have a car dere at 5 onna dot." The feeling of comradery had already begun.
4:50am - My cell phone rings. "Yeah buddy, dis is da dispatcha. Your car's out front. Besta luck to you, guy. That's some cool shit, you runnin' da marathon." I say thank you - tie up my sneaks - and jet out the door. I walk up to a 200 lb. white 'bronx' guy leaning on the outside of his Lincoln Town Car. He says hello, and I slide into the back seat. "You runnin' the marathon?" he asks. "Yep!" He turns around and looks at me (my number is pinned to my shirt). "Get the fuck outta here!" The car smells vaguely of beer. I don't really notice the smell too much at first, but as the car ride continues it gets stronger and stronger. Needless to say, the semi-drunken 'bronxian' proceeds to tell me how he used to run track, how he was currently on the patch, how he once ran a marathon in about 1 hour and 45 minutes (okay, that would be the FASTEST marathon EVER ---- I decide not to tell him that.....just nod and smile), and then finishes the car ride by telling me why he couldn't run anymore. This part of the conversation bears repeating. We're seriously about 4 minutes from the buses, and 'bronxian' turns to me and says, "Yeah....ya know....yeah.....ya know, I can't really run dose things anymore. Cuz I got this thing, ya know. Like this......it's a thing.....not like a fungus or something......it's like.....like by your testicles." Now what the hell can you say to that? I said, "Uh, yeah." And he finishes with, "I got like jock itch or something. So I can't run. I gotta put powder down there or something.....like by the testicles. So I don't run." The car stops, I pay (careful not to shake his hand - but just say thank you and wish him luck for some reason...I didn't know what else to say.), and he wishes me luck in return and I'm off to the buses!!
I get on the bus that is second in line. A man boards the bus about 10 minutes after me and takes the empty seat next to me. Jerry. Jerry is an amazing man who is running his fourth marathon. He is from Florida, and he has come up with his wife and year old son. His goal is to finish in under 3 hours. Wow! He asks if it is my first time running. "It is", I say, "I have no idea how or if I'm going to finish." (I had been having this conversation for about 5 days with my friend Steve who was also running the marathon for the first time. We spent days going back and forth with texts, voicemails, and conversations almost always including "Am I really going to finish this?" ---- he finished too, no worries.) Jerry takes out his elevation map and goes over the course with me. "Now be really careful of mile 23 - that's uphill back into Central Park. You really have to get yourself mentally prepared for that one. And also know that The Verazzano and getting back into Manhattan --- mile 1 and mile 16 are steep as well. So just prepare yourself and push through. And don't give it all you got when that cannon goes off. Take it easy. Everyone will pick things up when things open up after The Verrazano. Don't follow suit. You just keep the light pace you have trained with. Let the pack go. You can start to gun it slightly at mile 11 or 12 - when your body is starting to get used to what you're putting it through. Then at mile 20 or so, pick it up a bit too. And once your into Central Park - after that hill - you just give it all you got." I'm literally taking everything in. It's like there is a mental pad and paper in my head scribbling these 'remember this' and 'remember that' notes down. Jerry tells me a bit about his family - and I tell him about mine. He keeps asking what things are outside the window. "Is that Jersey?" "What's Chelsea Piers?" As he educates me on running, I take a bit of pride in educating him about New York City. Nothing like two strangers sharing a genuine moment.
We arrive at Staten Island, and Jerry and I part ways. He has a 'blue' bib (for the faster runners' starting zones) - and mine is 'green'. I make my way to the Team For Kids tent where they are serving bagels, bananas, muffins, gatorade, powerbars, and water. I sit, stretch a bit every now and then, begin to focus on finishing, and wait to go to the bathroom. The waiting lasts about 2.5 - 3 hours, and it's time to line up. People bring what are called "throw aways" for extra warmth before the race. These are pieces of clothing one simply 'throws away' while running. So the cannon goes off, and people begin tossing clothes left and right. Piles of outerware cover the Staten Island starting point. Thousands of people are now jogging in front of me, behind me, and next to me. Amazing. We begin to cross The Verrazano --- and the strangest thing happens. I begin to feel dizzy ----- only to realize that the bridge is actually MOVING up and down. It is the strangest feeling trying to gauge your steps on a moving bridge. A woman behind me starts screaming, "Oh my god! Oh my god! What's happening?! The bridge is collapsing!" To which another woman somewhere shouts out, "Keep moving! The bridge is fine. It takes cars that weigh much more than all of us. Just keep moving forward!" To which the crazy lady shouts back, "No! No! I've done this before! This has never happened! Oh my god!" I am just laughing. Here we are, people who (for the most part) don't know each other from Adam.....and we're shouting at each other. I secretly want to join in and say, "I just felt cement hit me on the head! Look the middle of the bridge is gone!", but I think it best to just "keep moving forward" as the pro had suggested. Good choice.
Running into Brooklyn is incredible --- that is the first borough you go through. Herds....and I am talking HERDS of people show up on the sidelines to cheer this marathon along. Children are there, old people are there, cops are there, fireman, bar owners, indy bands, people handing out paper towel wipes, people handing out oranges, small cups of water, american flags, german flags, french flags, people shouting your names (most people, as I did, wrote their names on their shirts), people holding their hands out trying to slap you five.....utterly amazing, emotionally incredible, and just truly breathtaking. I know I will never experience anything like this again. Police officers block off the roads, and I can't help but say thank you as I run past them. Toddlers - some wearing Team For Kids shirts - scream holding out their hands.....the Team For Kids children screaming "Thank you!!!!!" as green shirted folk run by. The support is truly incredible.
Support..........which leads me to mile 17. 70th Street and 1st Avenue - my biggest support 'team' ever. About 10 of my friends gathered at that spot to greet me. As I hit mile 16 - one of the 'tough uphill parts' - I run through it with ease. Why? Because I know my posse is waiting for me just one mile ahead. They gave me strength, they gave me encouragement, and best of all, they gave me something to look forward to! So I'm running up First Avenue. 67th Street........68th Street.........69th Street.......70th Street --- where are they?? I look to my left and there's my group, all wearing "Team Malow" shirts that Alyssa, Kristin, and Tom had made the night before. An iron on "Team Malow" above my head that is superimposed on a black man's body -crossing the ING Marathon finish line. Now who in the world could ask for anything more? I mean, come on. I stop and open my arms to one of the warmest hugs I think I have ever received. Jimmy Daly wearing the "Sponge Bob" hat I left for him on the kitchen table. Alyssa Coffey holding my secret elixir and screaming in my ear. Kristin Waldram shouting her head off and trying to flash pictures left and right. Tom Russo, arms open wide and smile as big as can be. Little Maria Setaro just jumping up and down. Randy Noval climbing onboard from behind, shouting and screaming. And who else added the love? Colleen, Chet, and Joe. There is nothing like true friends. I am so so lucky.
After the big, loud bear hug, it's on to mile 18 --- still going strong. I make it into the Bronx and start to feel the 'wall'. So, yes, what do I do? I decide to take a ONE minute walk break. I ain't walkin' for more than a minute. I have promised myself that if I am going to stop along the way, i can only walk for a minute. (Aside from peeing. I made ONE pee stop on a Brooklyn Street. That was a memory. Me and about 5 other guys all peeing along some random chain link fence. "Hey." "Hi." "Hey." "Good luck." "See ya." Done.) As I start up again, I see one of the worst things that could possibly enter my line of vision just after walking. A woman steps off of the course and begins to dry heave. She dry heaves after dry heave. And what do we all do? Like true marathoners -- we keep on running. I pray that doesn't happen to me. I have my gel packs (of which I have taken two already) - I have trained for this - and it dawns on me......mile 20.....I AM GOING TO FINISH! My eyes well up a bit. I-am-really-doing-this. I can't believe it. I will finish.
Here it comes, mile 23. Jerry told me to prep so I'm prepping. It is steep, yes. I feel it in my legs. It becomes a bit too much for me, and I keep my promise to myself once again. I slow down and walk --- take a look at my watch --- and time myself for one minute. "No more walking, Brad." I start up again. I get a bolt of energy from somewhere and start passing people left and right. I hear people in the crowd, "Yeah, Brad! Go baby! You got it!" It pushes me on even harder. I make it up the hill to Central Park. I am SO almost there. Mile 24 hits. Again, I get fatigued. ONE more walk break, Brad. ONE more. ONE minute. I walk. 60 seconds pass, and I'm back on track. I see it, mile 25. One - more - to - go. Holy shit! Jerry's words (and my friend Kryz who helped train me) pound in my head. "Give it all you got, baby!" That is exactly what I did. Mile 25 is the fastest mile of my race. I hit Central Park South, and I am cruising. I am c-r-u-i-s-i-n-g. I feel amazing. Here comes the curve into Central Park once again - the finish line is about 400 meters away. The bleechers of the final cheering section come into view. The sign above me says "Mile 26" --- I know I have .2 to go. My heart begins to pound, and once again, the tears fill my eyes. I-am-going-to-finish. Everything I worked for, everything I pushed for, all the self-discipline, the charity money I raised, the belief in myself, the times I said 'yes' when my body said 'no', the foot problems, the shin splints I endured, the early morning long runs, the miles in the swimming pool, the miles on the bicycle, the no-drinking for three months, the yearning to get my physique to a place where I am happy with myself.........it is all about to pay off. I lock eyes with people in the bleechers. A slight 'jump' or 'skip', if you will, enters my step. My mouth opens, and I'm yelling "MAKE SOME NOISE!! YEAH!! MAKE SOME NOISE, BABY!!!" People are cheering - yelling out my name. I'm jumping to the finish line. I am feeling nothing but pure joy. I spread my arms wide, and with a huge smile across my face, I cross the finish line. 4 hours, 25 minutes, and 9 seconds of my life that I will never ever forget.
I get my space cape to keep me warm..........and my medal. I meet my closest friends Alyssa and Kristin (who flew in from Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon) at the finish line meeting area. They don't know it, but as I limp up to greet them, I see them talking to another Team For Kids marathon finisher. I stop for just a second and take them in. Holding back the tears is very difficult. Two of my closest friends......the very first two I see after this amazing experience.....here......here to share one of the best moments of my life. It is almost too much. I am so so lucky.
They put me in warm clothes. Alyssa gives me her jacket and puts my medal around her neck. (She deserves it too. If your best friend in the world can't share in your accomplishments then what the hell is the point of doing them in the first place?) Kristin keeps asking if I'm okay (yes, although I'm shivering profusely) and takes all of my belongings on her back. And the power of three shuffle out to greet the remaining crew. Kim, Gabi, Maria, Courtney, and Trevor have come along as well. We all meet at my gracious friend Julie's apartment --- where I take the best shower of my life (well, one of them). Maria hands me my requested double cheeseburger and a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Half the cheeseburger is enough - and I give Julie the ice cream. We end the evening with drinks and eats at a restaurant down the way, and a final evening goodbye ensues on Central Park South. My wonderful friends put me in a cab, and it's me, my space jacket, and my medal. Just the three of us. I look back through the window. I will never forget this. Who knows, I might even do it again. Whether I do or not, I know that I am forever changed.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

One Week Away!!

Just one more week until it arrives. My right foot has still been a bit bothersome so I have not been running as hardcore as I, perhaps, should. I visited my family in Chicago last week - and took some time to run in the cold. I did an 11 mile run (for speed) last week there -- finished in 1 hour 40 minutes. The foot hurt a teeny bit after ----- so I have decided in tapering the last week, I am going to really take it easy. I had the option of running a 5K race this morning but yesterday, I thought it best not to tempt the 'foot-god' fates. I'll save that for Marathon Day. The weather is starting to change here in NYC --- training in 75 degree summer weather is much different than 50 degree coolness. (In Chicago, I did the eleven miles in 40 degree weather. That was a new adventure!)
I'm a bit nervous about the marathon coming up.....perhaps it's because I'm fighting the beginnings of an injury. I have no idea what to expect (which is part of the fun!!) I haven't run a big "race" --- so running with hundreds and hundreds of people is going to be new. My goal of a finish time has shifted to a goal of a finish. I'm confident I can do it --------- a new experience to add to my life.
I am $400 away from reaching my fundraising goal too!! So I'm almost there!! I'm hoping this week's final pull for support will put me over the edge. I believe I can do it. Raising $2100 thus far makes me feel good though. Fundraising ain't easy!!
So one week and counting!! Soon...................................

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Catching up

So life takes its tolls as does injury. I have been spending the past week and a half swimming my brains out. I ran my 18 miles that week and a half ago -- and along the final 4 minutes of running, my right foot starting having a bit of pain. I hobbled home and iced it a bit - went to bed - only to wake up the next morning to a bit of pain then in my left foot. Advil and ice became my best friend (along with the swimming pool). After a few days, I decided it was time to see a podiatrist. So I made an appointment with Dr. Geller --- great doc, very sweet guy, extremely knowledgeable. He used many terms that I cannot repeat (because I don't remember the medical mumbo jumbo.....what were you thinking?!?) I think it boiled down to having tendonitis in my left foot....and something else in my right. I had to get an orthodic for my left shoe - and we'll see what happens when I get to try a 15 min jog tomorrow or Friday. It is feeling better, but I haven't run on it yet. So I will keep all posted after the next try and running.

Needless to say - the 18 miles was pretty fantastic. The first 11 miles were eeeeeeasy. I couldn't believe it. I remember back to a time when 3 felt like a bitch! My buddy Kryz ran with me. I have to tell you - that man is a trooper. We finished in 3 hours and 7 minutes.....and for a guy that runs marathons in 2 hours 2o min....he stuck with me at my pace, we chatted, we laughed, we drank, we 'checked out' other runners (ya know, for form and stuff....ahem), he coached me a bit.........he is just an all around amazing guy. A great deal of my joy in this has been running with him. Having a traning partner can make all the difference in the world. So I have actually RUN 18 miles!!! Insane!! I WILL run the marathon - injury or not. That is for certain. So for those of you reading this asking yourselves, "He's injured. Should he run? Is it worth the potential injury?" The answer is yes, it is worth it. November 5 is fast approaching, and so is that finish line.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Checkin' back in!!

It has been a bit since I have written. Isn't it funny when 'life' just happens? But I am happy to say that in the midst of all of 'life' still moving forward, I have been staying consistent with training. After the 16 mile run, my body was constantly asking me to rest....or at least to refrain from running for a bit. Climbing stairs was HELL.....couldn't do it without wincing and taking breaths through knee pain. Your body definitely takes time in adjusting to the long runs. So I took a couple days of rest - and then got back into the swimming pool. (If you've been following the blog, the swimming pool was the savior when I had my shin splints in the beginning of training.) So after about 4 days of swimming, I got back on my feet for a couple of 3-5 mile warm-up jogs. It actually felt better to run. While it hurt at first, once the blood started flowing - all was good. And this weekend I went home to visit the lil' nephew (what an amazing little guy he is.....and what a fantastic time I had.) I was able to run 6 miles while I was there --- and took the other 2 days off to spend with the family. Sometimes things just have to 'trump' the training, ya know. ; ) And now back in NYC and have been doing 3 days of swimming --- which I am finding to be so enjoyable. BUT..........this weekend is 18 miles. Wait, let me say that again. This weekend is 18 miles!! YOWZA!!! I am going to run it with my buddy Chris (4 time marathon runner) --- and the goal is just to finish. My schedule is crazed so it's looking like it is going to have to be a 5:45am run on Saturday or Sunday. I'm planning on about 3 hours. If someone has a chance and wants to install one of those 'electric seats' that can automatically go up the 4 flights of stairs to my apartment - I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER!! But again, I have to say.........I think again about WHY I am doing this. The charity, the self-discipline, being healthier.........and for some reason, it all just makes sense to me. Good to be back on the writing front......................more later.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

16 Miles DONE and $600 left!

So I managed to finish my 16 miles yesterday....WOW! 2 hours, 46 minutes. I decided to do this run alone. Ran through the Riverdale area and then up through Van Cortland Park. It was a great day for running - a slight drizzle here and there, but it was about 70 degrees so the heat was not a problem at all. I hit a bit of a wall at mile 13, my mind was telling me to stop and either go home - or walk the rest of the way. I did take two 1 minute walk breaks....to stretch the 'beginning to ache' legs, but I wouldn't let myself give up. And I didn't! And today, I lie in bed with legs that are a bit sore - but that is to be expected. It will start with a morning of stretching, a couple of Advil, and a trip into downtown NYC. I'm glad I did it....16 miles is the longest I have ever run. I'm TRYING to fathom how I can go 10 more, but I still have 2 months of training........and to be at 16 right now is fantastic.

As far as fundraising goes --- I am ONLY $600 away from my goal!!! That is FANTASTIC. Only a few hundred left to go.....and I know I can raise it. Off to shower and get ready for this well needed, well deserved day of rest.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

16 mile day

Today is 16 miles!! Off to run.........we'll see if I make it back to write more!!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blogging continues.......

The running continues, as always. Been feeling a tiny bit of pain in my left knee for a few days now ---- I've been taking it easy, as a result. 3 Miles yesterday followed by 15 minutes of non-stop push-ups and sit-ups. That is a part of our strength training. It figures that when summer ends, I'm finally going to be in great, great shape. So I'll get to wear all of my cut off wool-sleeved sweaters. SCHWEET!!

I got an interesting email sent to all of us "Team for Kids" folk. A woman ran 14 miles this past weekend with the group. She was in the 12:30 min mile pace group - and upon her completion of the 14 miles, a small group of 'fast' runners (that had finished quite a bit earlier) snickered at her and tapped their watch. It was a disheartening story, and her effort to send an email reminding us that we are all heading towards the same goal was very inspirational. I emailed her back thanking her for her email ----- because when I went to do my first 12 miler with the group, it seemed very 'clicky' and no one really made an effort to talk to me. And believe me, I was saying hello to all!! It wasn't until after I finished the 2 hour run that 2 people in my group asked me if I was new. I was like, "NOW you ask me?!" ; ) Needless to say, I thought I'd post portions of the woman's email below:

"I run a 12 minute/12:30 pace. My best time was five months ago at a 9:10 mile for a four mile race. It was spectacular. But I felt crappy afterwards. I vowed to enjoy myself and my breathing from that point on. I started running shortly before that. I joined Team For Kids and am now, after last Sunday - running more miles than I ever had. Most of you know this but I lost 80 pounds and quit smoking and vowed to change my life - two years ago I started. I vowed to run a marathon. It has been my dream. And fighting obesity was the one thing I wanted to convey to my loved ones and to strangers when I passed that finish line. Some of us have not run a long time. Some of us have. Some of us care about the best time ever. Some of us just want to just finish. Point is, we are ALL RUNNERS. We all have our own stories. Please remember that! I did not appreciate the snide girl who looked at her watch as I came in. And you know what? She was not the only one who made a comment about the slower runners. There was a group of you, and we heard it............................We are ALL now runners regardless of our time. In the real world VERY FEW people can do what even the slowest of runners in TEAM FOR KIDS can do. My trainer at my gym, the man who helped me lose my weight - He cannot run the miles we all ran last Sunday. He was amazed...so perspective to you all. WE ARE ALL RUNNERS. I am not a part of a team beause I want to be judged. I was judged harshly at 250 pounds - I know what it feels like..........................I run with people who travel the world. I run with people who have saved lives. I run with mothers and fathers. I run with teachers. I run with performers. Some of us may not be the fastest runners but we play a better game at basketball instead.............we all have a story to tell as to what brought us to this incredible team. And that we are - a team. If I must wait or walk with someone who does not want to finish alone - I will do that. It's what we do. And the same respect is given back to me. TEAM. Please learn from this letter. That's all I ask. Keeping the snide comments to yourself is great but LEARNING what we are ALL about --................. I am one of the first ones out and among the last to return but damn it, I am still doing it. My warmest regards to you all.

Here's to 7 more weeks of training. The finish line gets closer and closeSo much of the letter touched me - notably, how far this woman has come. It gives me strength to know that no matter what time I finish ---- even if I have to walk, I can finish with pride. The finish line keeps getting closer and closer.