Saturday, November 10, 2007

NYC Marathon 2007 Part One

Wow. What a difference a week makes. I didn't realize -- or maybe didn't remember -- how emotionally draining a marathon can be. For those who have read my earlier posts, you know what I wreck I was. But I am feeling on a much more even keel, and ready to share the most incredible weekend of running and living with you.



bringing the grand total going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to an astounding


Just because the NYC Marathon is over doesn't mean it's too late to donate to Fred's Team and the Aubrey Fund. You can always click here to access my Fred's Team page to learn about the Team, the Aubrey Fund, and MSKCC, or to make a donation.

And before I forget, the winner of the last contest -- guess my finish time -- was


who must be psychic because her guess was 4:11:59.

(my mom guessed 4:12:12, by the way. No wonder she tried to stall me at mile 14!!)

After a two week taper, where I did a few runs, including a couple of runs from 90th Street to the finish line, it was just about the big day. But first, Saturday brought the US Men's Olympic Marathon Trials to NYC. The course began at Rockefeller Center, crosses up to 7th Avenue, and into Central Park, for a punishing 4 1/2 loops before crossing the finish line. I live right off 7th Avenue, so at 7:30am I took my coffee and went outside to watch the action. It wasn't crowded, but there were a lot more people there than I had thought. When the police cars started heading up 7th, followed by the camera trucks, we all started to cheer. And quick as a flash, they were gone! At their "jogging" speed of 5:20 minute miles! Most of the crowd stampeded to the Park to watch from there, but I went home and watched the whole thing unfold online. I wanted to see more than just a three-second flash of people passing.

A road race is really fascinating, there's so much strategy and action, and what made this particular race more interesting is that while it's an individual competition, most of the competitors are friends and train together. I was really curious to see how that dynamic would play out.

Watching these guys run was such a thing of beauty. Ryan Hall in particular -- he looked like a gazelle. His form is so fluid and powerful. I couldn't take my eyes off him. Though I am not normally a sports fan, I watched the whole thing from start to finish.

We all know what happened during the race -- Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenheim and Brian Sell ran astounding races and secured the Olympic slots, and 28-year-old Ryan Shay inexplicably collapsed at the 5-mile mark and died shortly thereafter. An incredibly tragic event in the midst of one of the most spectacular finishes in marathon history. I thought NYRR handled it extremely well, by the way.

Here is a moment that struck me, and sums up why runners are amazing. It was still fairly early on, the lead pack had already established itself, and they had just passed the fluid station (for this event, the runners had their specific bottles set up for them at individual tables, and they grabbed them as they went by.) One of the runners in the lead pack either missed his bottle or didn't have one there, and another of the lead runners saw this and shared his bottle.

Now, how cool is that? Competing, yet still helping their fellow competitors to do their best. Makes me proud to be a runner.

It's a shame that top runners are not being touted as role models for children as much as top football and baseball players are. If you read up a little bit on some of these top runners, they are straight-arrow, clean-living, family-oriented, and work so hard to be the best at this sport, with none of the scandals that plague many major-league sports stars. That's why the Marion Jones steroid scandal was so devastating. For the majority of us who will never win a race, it's about trying to do the best you can. When you hear about a runner who takes a shortcut, it's such a slap in the face. It makes all the miles you've put in seem worthless.

After a few hours of resting up (and a couple of trips to Paragon Sports, where I once again met Grete Waitz!) it was time for the Barilla Pasta Party at Tavern on the Green. That's the official pre-marathon pasta party. For those who have never been to NYC and seen Tavern, it's kind of hard to describe. It's one of the few restaurants actually in the Park, and it's an enormous Habitrail of rooms, permanent tents and pavilions, decorated in varying styles from classic to floral to just plain over-the-top. It used to be a NY institution for upper-crust dining, but over the years has become more of a tourist destination and event locale (I've been to a number of Opening Night parties there.) For the pre-marathon dinner they are set up to serve 15,000 (!) people. Fred's Team members get our own room for a specific amount of time, and special tickets that allow us to cut the line and go directly inside. Because we had so many people on the Team this year, we needed a bigger room, so our time slot for dinner was 3:30 - 5:00. Prime dinner time. Not.

A bunch of us met at 4:00 and went in. We had the Crystal Pavillion, one of the sunnier rooms in the place. The pasta was again plentiful and, while not entirely gourmet quality (cooking for 15,000 will do that) it was a little tastier than last year's. However, I found that I had very little appetite. I guess the nerves were taking hold. It's funny, because the day before it was like there wasn't enough food left in the world, and now -- nothing. So I choked down a plateful, nibbled on breadsticks, and chased it down with Gatorade. And, of course, took pictures, which will be at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, we all hung out until about 5:30, when the room opened up to general marathon participants. There's a fireworks display over the finish line at 7:30, but a lot of people didn't want to hang out. A couple of us live close enough to come back for it, and we did. It was very exciting and a lot of fun, but possibly one of the most random music choices ever made for an event. I wish I could remember what they were, but all I can recall is that most of the songs had nothing to do with running or New York. It was a great display. The night was cool but not cold, and a surprising amount of runners (in running gear) making a point of running through the post-fireworks crowd. Why? Are they marathoners who think a really-last-minute workout is going to help them, or non-marathoners who feel they must show the marathoners that they are the REAL runners? Either way, baffling.

Choked down a bagel and some Gatorade, and off to bed, for a surprisingly good sleep. Set two alarms, though, just in case!!

This post is starting to get long, and there are still pictures to be had, so let's leave it here, show you some fun photos, and then get to Race Day in the next day or so.

Brothers Harrie and Rich, and Julia. Harrie and Rich ran together to celebrate Harrie's survival from cancer of the salivary gland. Harrie finished treatment in June, and he ran the marathon. Julia is also a cancer survivor, and decided to celebrate by doing "50 by 50" -- 50 marathons in 50 states before age 50. I get to run with amazing people.

Our fabulous coach Annie. Annie is one of the only people I know who not only has managed to hang onto the good sense God gave her, but to listen to it as well. She had been battling a cold and cough during the taper weeks and decided at the last minute that it would be better for her not to run. How many of us would have said, "I don't care HOW I feel, I'm still doing it!" and paid a huge price? Me, probably.
According to last month's NYRR magazine, Matt is a "distinguished runner." Very distinguished, as you can see! Matt is also a cancer survivor; last year, just one year after treatment, he ran his first marathon in 3:03. We are all rock stars on our Team, but Matt's the real deal. What did he run this year? Wait until the next post!
Abby and Jill! Jill heads the pediatric unit at MSKCC. A lot of people from MSKCC run on Fred's Team.

A whole bunch of us -- left to right, Lynn, Heather and Kelly on the bottom row; me, Jeff, Emily and Lucy on the top. Lucy's a nurse at MSKCC.

What's Bono doing here? Nope, it's David, sporting the ING NYC Marathon orange glasses. First rule of picture taking -- reflective apparel works. David's another one of our rock star runners, last year he did HIS first marathon in 3:13. What did he run this year? I told you, wait for the next post!

From left to right -- Erica, Jeff, David S, Karen, and Nicole. They are some of the strongest runners on our team. Jeff's our coach, and I couldn't have gotten to this point without him or Annie.

Next up -- MARATHON DAY!!

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