Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The "Run For Boston" Marathon

"Hey did you hear Meb won???"

A guy saw my bib and told me that somewhere on my 23rd mile in the center of Central Park, near a softball field by the Great Lawn and Arboretum. I had no idea whatsoever what was going on in Boston because I was in my own world, literally. On Monday I staged my own "Run For Boston Marathon," my first invented/unofficial marathon since my Statues on Parade Marathon in 2008, and this was part of the overall Boston Marathon World Run, in which I could pledge my miles to raise money for One Fund Boston. It also was dedicated to Meg Menzies, the Virginia mom who was training for Boston in January when a drunk driver claimed her life. So while so many were closely watching Meb and the emotions of Boylston, I was doing a world run in my own world and compiling nine negative splits.

It was a unique "vacation day" that was not about me and was filled with two major difficulties, one being that very solitude that I created for myself (no one ran with me) and a race run entirely within Central Park, where hills rule. Oh what I would have given for only the hills of the Boston Marathon course! In a sense, this was an extension of that course, though. We were one as a running community on this day. All I really needed was my new ASICS GEL-Cumulus 16s, money for food carts, my heart and . . .

A new Garmin. To start with, I knew I would need a way to record this marathon inasmuch as it was only me out there all day. The 2008 Statues on Parade Marathon had been easy because that year it was part of our MLB All-Star Week, with 42 scale versions of the Statue of Liberty places throughout the NYC area. I had run to see all of them, taking a photo with each, even helped by the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation. To document this one, I bought my first GPS watch, saying goodbye to my trust Timex Ironman that I'd had since 2007. On Saturday, I got a Garmin Forerunner 220 at Dick's Sporting Goods, $249.

I set out my gear the night before just as I would for any  marathon. I enjoyed seeing all the social posts by Boston Marathoners who were doing the same thing. I was with them in spirit, I thought to myself.

I planned to arrive at Runner's Gate on the east side of Central Park at 7, and it took a while to find parking. I finally went to the Mt. Sinai Hospital parking garage on 102nd Street. You are NOT going to believe the license plate on the car immediately in front of me there. I mean it's New York, but on this day?

Needless to say, many others loved Boston on this day. That included a lot of people who saw my race bib and said "Boston Strong" or "Good job" -- just some kind of recognition. Not many people did, but some.

I started at 7:20 by running down Cat Hill, and that would be the only time this marathon that I would have a mile in 10 or less pace. My only goal today was FINISH because of (a) the hills, (b) I was solo, and (c) this was an impromptu race, with not much training after the March 22 ASICS LA Marathon. I expected it to be 6-something for my finish because I just did 5:43 at the ASICS LA Marathon and this was harder.

At the 4-mile point on the West Side I entered the flat Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir path, about 1 2/3 miles around. That became my "safe haven," mixing in three sets 3 or 4 laps during the course of my marathon. I hope you can view this. It's the Garmin Connect Player, and if you hit the Play button it will show a replay of my entire madness. You'll see that a lot of concentration in the Rez area. I thought about many things. One, Meg's spirit seemed to be with me; it was my first truly good running weather since last fall, and I would see these signs like a jet overhead with a fuel path pointing straight at the visible moon. Two, the unbelievable cherry blossoms. It brought back so many memories of great runs there.

I enjoyed beautiful panaromas . . .

I made one trip down to the Shakespeare in the Park area to use the bathroom, and I saw a couple that had just gotten married. Great day for them.

I ran back up north to the 102nd Street Transverse, cut over to the East Drive and ran back into the reservoir, doing another 3 or 4 loops. Then I exited on the West, cut over on the 72nd Street Transverse and decided to run UP Cat Hill just for some pain. It was one time when the famous lurking black panther on Cat Hill made me take notice.

The great thing about running Central Park is that the park provides. You want liquid? I know where every fountain is in the park and the water recently was turned back on for park visitors. You want food? I know where every cart is. As I said, this was impromptu so there was not the best fuel prep in the days before, and I figured my glycogen stores would be tapped out quickly. I got to know one particular cart vendor very well, the one on West Drive by the reservoir around 86th. Here is a pic I took of it:

I actually hit that cart FOUR times during my marathon. Two times were for just Gatorade. The second time was for a salty pretzel, which worked out great because I got salt and I could put the unused part in my pocket for fuel when needed. The fourth time? Ohnoyoudidnt...I bought a Central Park hot dog! Mile 20, I kid you not. Michelle Lovitt, ASICS fitness expert and nutritionist, I hope you aren't reading this part. It looked too good. I was unofficial. I was...oh hell I bought it and it tasted AWESOME!

The next 3 miles I paid for it as every burp was hot dog. Fortunately I did not throw up. I guarantee you that I was the only person on Planet Earth who ate a hot dog during his marathon on this day. I don't care.

I killed some more time running around the reservoir for flatness, and took this video:

Between the fluids and all the dust and dirt, I was a pigpen in the park at that point. . .

Then I ventured  back out and went down Cat Hill for the big finish. I was dying. So was my iPhone. I had never used my Garmin before so I was worried that my iPhone would die before I could take a picture of the finish time. I had not brought my Garmin instructions so I wasn't sure what buttons I would hit. Would I ZAP the whole race? Really worried at that point. Finally I got around the bottom of the park, passed the NYC Marathon finish line, and then, lo and behold, 26.2 finally arrived. Very randomly, I happened to be at the Daniel Webster statue at Strawberry Fields. My Garmin said 25.18. I stopped in my tracks. Took my iPhone out, and its final action that day before dying was to take a picture of my watch.

My slowest marathon ever but again I wasn't thinking about time, just finishing and raising money for One Fund Boston and feeling Meg's presence. Then I pressed what I thought were the right buttons and it turns out I was OK. It saved my race time. I love the Garmin. So that's what I've been missing! Here were my splits. Don't laugh, especially when you see my combined 40 minutes in miles 12 and 13.

As I said, my finishing point was very random and turned out to be on the opposite corner of the park than my car. So I hobbled over to the area by The Dakota hotel where John Lennon last breathed and I hailed a taxi that took me up and over to the Mt. Sinai Hospital. My car cost only $18 to park there! I then hopped into my new Jeep Compass and headed home up the Hudson, happy at this day. I began to soak up all that I had missed on social media with the Boston Marathon. I tried to congratulate all the many runners I know who ran there, people I so admire. I will never be fast enough in my life to run Boston, and while I respect wishes of others, I don't feel it's a race to enter through a charity funding, I feel you qualify or you don't run.

Thanks to the Boston Athletic Association, I finally had a chance to be involved in some way. Thanks to them for the Boston Marathon World Run. Congrats to Scott Menzies, who ran an amazing 3:51 Boston Marathon in the place of his late wife, Meg. Congrats to Kel Kelly, who finished strong in Boston and gave everyone that beautiful Mile 1 "Meg Soles of Love" monument featuring over 400 shoes, including mine. I was up there in a way, both on the course and in Central Park.

And congrats to MEB! Did you hear he won?

What did Monday, April 21, mean to you?

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