26.2 Miles For Lupus: The TCS New York City Marathon in Review

Sunday November 4 has come and gone, two Sundays ago today in fact, and is a true testament to how quickly time is flying on by. It’s also a tip of the hat to the very clichéd saying “this too shall pass,” because as it was then – out there running on November 4 – it felt like an eternity in purgatory. I exaggerate of course as I have no idea what purgatory is like, but surprise, surprise, I fell victim to another impaired performance at the NYC marathon. I shouldn’t be surprised given the year I’ve had with running..it’s been up, down, and sideways..so the chances that I’d get away with a perfect run was almost nonexistent I’d say. What was crazy was that I was perfectly fine up to three days before the marathon and fell sick on Halloween. What timing huh! Hell, I was shivering, blowing hot, then cold, and stuffy-nosed all in the matter of a day. What an appropriate freak show! That feeling, tempered by some meds, prevailed for the next couple of days until marathon Sunday.

Source: lupusresearchalliance.org

On Saturday, the day before the marathon, I tried to have a relaxing day, which worked out for the most part as I only had an early charity dinner to attend with other runners and members of Team Life Without Lupus. Because I was medicated and feeling a slight chill, I excused myself after a decent showing and went home to rest. Despite this, I still didn’t get to bed until about 9pm. I woke up at 5am to grab a ride with a friend – friends are very awesome! – and was able to rest on the drive over to Staten Island, which took about 40 minutes – best decision ever! – as I didn’t have to go through the crazy logistics of waking up extra early to catch the bus or ferry and then indulge in the waiting once on the island to get on a bus to the start if I had taken the ferry. Thus, we got there early enough and got through the security lines pretty fast before heading to our respective wave assignments.

This year, I’m happy to say, there were open tents; hand warmers; and minor seating, provided by United Airlines. I quickly found my shivering and voiceless self a spot, lay on my heat sheet, wrapped myself in 2015’s marathon poncho, and promptly fell asleep for about 40 minutes. All too soon it was time to get up. I was ecstatic to see that the sun was out though that had little effect on the chilly air. I did a last check to make sure I had everything, bagged up my stuff to take to the baggage check, and then got in line to use the bathroom; still shivering some, but feeling much better. Seems the Tylenol I had taken earlier was finally kicking in.

9:45 am found me in Coral F tripping along with hundreds of others as we made our way to the start on the Verazzano bridge. And we had blinding sunshine! The excitement and hype around me was real, although I maintained my cool for the most part. It’s the signing of the national anthem, the voice of Sinatra, and his “New York,” the official fly over by the NYPD helicopters, and the sounding off of the start horn that never gets old. Runners reacted with a rising chorus of delight and anticipation and hollered for the elite athletes as they took off. Fortunately, I’ve always been placed in the first wave atop of the bridge and hadn’t considered before then how unfortunate those below were. It’s a whole different experience up there. Soon after 10am we took off to Sinatra’s “New York” and a lot of excited runners peeled off to enjoy the run across the bridge and the ensuing amazing view.

Source: ceritalari.com

Past experience proved a good teacher and I paced myself across the bridge and into Brooklyn remembering to stay present and enjoy the moment. A moment that lasted pretty much until mile 13, all before which I remained tuned in to the amazing crowds – I even saw a friend and a couple of people I knew there in Brooklyn – one of the most diverse boroughs of New York. Around mile 8 I stopped for a minute to use the port-a-potty, something I try hard to never do, but I really wasn’t chasing a time under the circumstances and didn’t want to give myself any additional pressure to work with. Technically, about 11 miles of the race is in Brooklyn and I felt really good most of that time. It was around mile 13, on entering into Queens, when a sudden feeling of lethargy seized me, along with a pounding headache, and I started sniffling. I could feel a temperature coming on again. At that point, I was sorely tempted to sit down right there in the streets. However, good sense, prayers, and a couple of Tylenol prevailed and after stopping to grab some water – bless the hearts of those volunteers at every station, every 2-3 miles, they did awesome double-duty both serving and encouraging us – to swallow the pills, I continued on slowly praying for the meds to kick in.

Source: nyrr.com

A few miles later, and feeling slightly better we got to the Queensboro bridge – daunting as ever in its length, ascendancy, and silence. Surprisingly, a few spectators got themselves to the halfway point on the bridge – I didn’t think it was allowed – and provided a welcome distraction for my one tracked mind, cheering loudly as we ran by. If only they knew how much that meant to me. Coming off the bridge at mile 16 to the sea of spectators on First Avenue in Manhattan was helluva amazing! It always is. I forgot everything for a brief moment and started to look around for my friends in the crowds and was hugely excited to get to see some of them. It totally floored them that I was voiceless and I had to settle for hugs, no words on my part. They thought me a hero, more like crazy I thought, to be running in my state but really all I cared about was that those cheering and running would identify with my cause and even give us a shout out as I ran by. Raising the level of awareness of Lupus is, after all, what I’m after.

Me looking dead in The Bronx – Source: Lupus Research Alliance

I continued up First Avenue all the way over the Willis Avenue bridge into The Bronx at which point I was told to look out for the charity cheer squad. Try as I might, I didn’t see them, though there was lots of spectators and cheers going on, which probably accounted for us not connecting. The truth is I was beginning to feel crappy once more; It didn’t help that I was getting ready to stare down Fifth Avenue, not a favorite part of this race for me. I recalled the weekend before, running down that stretch, when I had run the final 10 miles of the marathon with a group, I was running a 7:24 minute p/mile pace back then. What a difference a week makes. There I was, on Marathon Sunday, trying my darndest to keep one foot in front of the other and running an entire minute slower. In all fairness, it was a good pace considering how I was feeling, and I was really happy for the cheer support we got in Harlem and as we headed toward Central Park North. As it turned out, I remember feeling worse heading into Central Park my last time around, so this time I leaned into the sounds of the crowds and soaked up the calls, whistles, claps, and all-round cheers. New York City spectators are the best in the world and are a huge part of the marathon experience. It would have been a mistake to not feed off of them and their contagious excitement.

Central Park I know and could anticipate every turn, which was good and bad. It meant I could quite literally see the end within grasping distance but had to abide with my legs to work for a bit longer to physically get me there. The crowds converted Central Park into an arena of sorts, it looked so surreal with people all around. By then, we were on the last couple of miles as we headed out of the park at 59th Street to run the final leg of Central Park South with the backdrop of The Plaza Hotel receding in the distance. Runners headed back into the park at Columbus Circle and as we made the turn onto West Drive I attempted to locate the Trinidad and Tobago flag amidst the mass of other flags and people, as I always do, to give it a tiny tug. I then ran the final 800 meters to cross the finish line and finished amidst much fanfare as is usual for this race. It’s always a bit emotional but this time I was happily so in support of a life without Lupus. I had done it again!


If you took the time to read this super-long review, thank you! I am grateful to you for following my running and taking the time to read my stories. Please, if you can, give a gift to support the work of The Lupus Research Alliance [ https://www.lupusresearch.org/]
in developing treatment, research, and finding a cure. Click on the link to give and find out more.⤵
This is the campaign for Team Life Without Lupus TCS New York City Marathon 2018 (Loren Caldon):


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