November 2, 2008
I was never a runner. My thing was bike riding, at least, for the the last 9 years that is. I race a single speed, brake-less track bike, throughout Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs. I do not do this for exercise, I do this because it makes me happy.
In 2007, my coworker Heather ran in the NYC Marathon. I stood sideline on 1st Avenue and cheered her on. It was then, that the magnitude of running a marathon really set in. I had never really grasped the concept nor was I concerned with it, but here, someone I knew was pushing their boundaries to complete a great personal challenge. I liked it.
The following week at work we had a party for her to celebrate the accomplishment. During this party the President of our company asked 'who would run it next year?' as his glance came my way. Without hesitation I simply said 'I'll do it' and that was that. This was November of 2007.
My first actual run (5 miles) was during Thanksgiving weekend at my Mom's house in tampa. I had purchased the Nike + to sync with my iPod. This would help alleviate my assumption that running was boring - now I had data to play with. Throughout the rest of the winter I would continue to go on 3-6 mile runs.
March 8th was a pinnacle moment for me. I set out in the morning with the notion that I would run 6 miles down the West Side bike path. Once I reached Battery Park I felt great and was flying, it was here I made the decision to keep going. I rounded the island and exited on Houston street making my way up 2nd Avenue. Glancing at my iPod it said I was at 11 miles! My greatest distance yet! I wanted to push the envelope, and knowing still that I had to make it home to 29th street, I decided Id round out my number to 15 miles. Looping around Midtown and finally making my way home I was very excited at my accomplishment. Entering my apartment my legs were on fire and I was beginning to develop a crazy hunger. I was shaking and kind of a mess. I showered and then got and egg and cheese sandwich devouring it and looking for more. This moment is crucial to me as my body was going through a very weird evolution. It was in shock. I would later coin this concept as 'Body Evolution'.
The following weekend I ran the same distance, this time with no aftershock.
A week after that I ran my first 20 miler. March 15th to be exact. I had another 'Body Evolution' moment after this new distance where I felt in shock and my internal organs were going haywire. After this run I would no longer experience this sort of feeling, as if my body was adjusted to the distance and ready. Hence the term 'Body Evolution'... most people call it training, but I think its something different. More of a conditioning of the body.
I would continue to run 3-8 mile runs before work and a long 12-22 mile run one weekend morning until it got close to Marathon time. There were some weeks I would go without running, mainly because I was out on my bike due to the nice weather.
The Night Before.
Jeffs Birthday was Saturday so we were all supposed to have a big Italian meal at Cucina de Pesce then head to Bleeker Bar. He, unfortunately, was hit with food poisoning that morning so all bets were off.
Todd suggested we still go to Cucina being that I needed some serious fuel for tomorrows race. We sat at the bar and polished off some pasta (I had shrimp scampi, a personal favorite) and a bottle of Cabernet. We met up with Andy and shot over to Todd and Ila's place which was where I was sleeping due its close proximity to the Staten Island Ferry. We had some more wine as it got to be midnight or so. It was now that Andy reminded us that I did indeed have to run a Marathon the following morning and we should get some shut eye. agreed.
The morning was perfect. Todd and Ila rigged up some Cafe Bustelo for me and I had a bagel. I was a little nervous, but after some pep talking from the Doyles I was good to go. Ila was taking my bag to the finish line for me. I left for the Ferry and was definitely in my head during the walk. A chilly quiet morning in the Battery...
On the Ferry and Bus to the main event I mostly did some people watching. Once at the fair grounds my game instinct kicked in and I set off to hit my checklist. Eat a banana, use the restroom, and get to the start post. Finding my corral was very difficult and I almost didnt make it into my corral which would have upset me because I get to start with the Professional and Elite Men aka all the tall thin people.
I was waiting in the first 2000 people to go and had this German running squad next to me which was very intimidating as their pelvises all came up to my head. My sunglasses, however, were much cooler than any of theirs.
A little Frank Sinatra 'New York, New York' and we were off! It is very moving and emotional. To this day the memory that sticks with me the most is the Verranzano Bridge. As we were crossing, the sun was just taking its position in the sky as I glanced left and saw Manhattan off in the distance some 20 miles away, and in my head said 'that's where I need to get to.'
The first half of the race is of course the best because the pain and emotional drain hasn't yet set in. I will give Brooklyn props to having a great cheering section. The difference is that you can actually make out what people are saying to you and can occasionally high five a young kid on the sidelines. At Atlantic Avenue I saw Anna and Danny and soon after Billy, all cheering me forward. It really does give you a burst of energy seeing friends like that.
The first half of the Marathon was going seemingly well and I was running 6:30 miles... which some of my runner friends would say is not smart. In my defense, this was my first race and I didn't know what the word 'pacing' meant yet.
As soon as we entered the Queensboro Bridge all hell broke loose... and I mean in my head, not in the streets. For the first time in 14 miles you have no one cheering you on and you are in a dark tunnel running in silence over the river. It was painful. I struggled to keep up with the people I had been tailing. Sure enough though as we came over the top and started making our way down onto 1st Avenue I got some hope back. I also laughed because a group of police talking to each other in the tunnel said "Hey, look at that crazy guy, he's wearing pants..." its true...
and then it happened...
I turned the corner onto 1st Avenue and it felt like I was the center of attention at my own parade. People were screaming my name, 5 deep in the crowds! My spirits soared and I held my head up and kept going increasing my pace. My target was 87th Street where my brother Jeff and my crew were waiting for me to pass by. Seriously, the Avenue is mayhem. I would later find out that many of my friends (even an ex-girlfriend) saw me and yelled my name, but it was like roaring white noise. As I approached 87th Street I really needed a break. I pulled over and saw my brother and his girlfriend Allison. I high-fived them and said "see you in an hour!" and moved on.
That was at mile 18. Things were about to take a serious turn for the worse and of course... I was headed straight for the South Bronx.
At mile 19 I heard from the right side of 1st Avenue, "Hey Chris!!! GO!" It was my friend Shamin pointing in my direction. I was now close to the bridge into the Bronx. Wow, what a different ball game it is up there. Once again we lacked a cheering squad. I was moving in slow motion now, fighting pain and hunger. Luckily Todd had given me a Powerbar-like thing that I kept taking bites out of in a ration-like manner every mile. I compared myself to Frodo and Sam with their bread that they saved and rationed. It really did help though.
Once I entered old Manhattan again I still had 4 solid miles to go. The Autumn Sun was casting deep shadows across the street and into my eyes. I felt like I was out of my body. People kept yelling for me to go on, but this time in a more passionate understanding manner, as if they knew the pain we were all in at mile 21. "Come on Baker, not far now..." in a quiet soothing voice. It really did help. I picked out a guy going my speed and trailed him. He and I worked back and forth keeping our pace up. I felt like I was running 10 minute miles when in reality I was running a 7 minute mile, which shows you my mental state.
As I rounded the corner on the last mile I saw my friend Billy again. I could barely say hi. Taking a right onto Central Park South the crowds were back in full force! As I ran, to my left a cute blond gal caught my eye... I turned in her direction and she saw me at the same time. With a devilish smile she looked up and yelled "Thats right Baker! go go go!!!" With a shit eating grin on my face I sped along making my way closer to the finish.
Amazingly enough, the last 300 yards were easy, but blurry in my mind, like a dream. Ila was sidelining it right at the finish and I didnt even notice! As soon as I crossed, my mind was on one thing, FOOD!
I had finished in 3:15:51 which to me was great as I though for sure I had lost 20 minutes the last few miles. No, it was just an illusion. They threw the Medal around my neck and I felt like a Million Bucks.
I walked through to 86th Street where Ila had my bag. I met her with a big hug and she told me all about the calls she got from Todd's parents and our mutual friends. I was quoted as saying "I will never do that again"
We jumped on the bus to head to Aces and Eights where everyone was awaiting our arrival. It is now 12:30.
As we entered the crowded bar I immediately came across my friend Peate. He was like "Baker! You're done already?!" and he high fived me. As we pressed through the crowd we came to the back where there were 2 full tables of my friends who yelled upon seeing me in one piece. Roll call... Jeff, Allison, Robin, Ahern, Benny, Tess, Morgan, Julia, Andy, Claire, Jon Boy, and many more. We had some Italian Subs I had requested from Robin. She asked me the day before, if I could have any food after the race what would it be? That came to mind and wow, what a treat it was. They were so good. We took down a few pitchers of beer and occasionally strangers would yell and salute me, it really felt amazing.
We decided at 3 to go to Brother Jimmy's so my Philly friends could watch the game. Whatever... if they have food I'm in.
At Brother Jimmy's (the 92nd Street location) we grabbed a huge table in the back and in the middle. Beers, cocktails... then, the wait staff came out cheering with a giant fishbowl of booze for me on the house! I felt like a college student again! As we sat and drank and ate more friends showed up like... Roll Call... Asher, Justine, Jenn, Jaimie, Chad. It was a grand old time. Ahern and I must have celebrated our Irish heritage with Jameson shots like 3 times. The amazing thing, I was maybe buzzed, but not even close to drunk. Someone explain! At 10 PM, that's right 10, we decided to call it a night.
On my way home I was walking down the street and an older woman, quite well-to-do and done up stopped me. She was on her cell phone and told her friend to hold on... "Hi." she said, "You ran in the Marathon today?" she asked. "Yes, I certainly did." she nodded her head and held her hand out for me to shake it. "Congratulations to you, that is quite a feat, I hope you're proud of yourself." I said thank you and went on my way home almost breaking into tears... seriously, it was one of those days.