Friday, October 31, 2014

Scott's Post-One Last Thank You, And I’m Off

I’ve been obsessed with this whole marathon thing.  I admit.  Some who know me well know the real motivations behind it all and will likely understand, if not sympathize with this obsession.  Other friends won’t know what’s behind it all but will still be genuinely interested, while still others may flip through my multiple updates and pay no mind.  A small group will likely see my incessant facebook postings about how many miles I ran each Saturday and my requests for donations every other week and roll their eyes or feel annoyed or think that I’m trying to impress people.  I don’t mind that really, that’s their own business.

The internet is a strange tool that people use for lots of different reasons.  I find facebook, in particular, to be a fascinating study.  Some people seem to use it for sheer networking purposes.  Others use it to get extended free play in Candy Crush to the point I can no longer stand it and need to cut the cord (maybe I’ll friend you again one day, Steve Cody).  Others post pictures of their family here and there to share with people they know and love.  Some seemingly use it to show off, while others seem to use it in a veiled desperation to prove to everyone they ever met that their life is fun, when perhaps it really isn’t.

At times, I am likely guilty of a little bit of all of these things (Note: except the Candy Crush, Steve Cody).  But here’s what I know and admit.  I genuinely appreciate every person who has taken their time to read my posts.  I smile at every comment and I guiltily admit to taking note of every “like.”  But above all, I am humbled and touched at all the people who have taken their time to click through to the donation page and leave a few bucks, because that takes effort and no matter the amount of the donation, that is a sacrifice.  Every time I get an e-mail from DetermiNation saying that I have received a new donation, I get butterflies.  And again, in the most sincere way possible, I thank all of you for your help and sacrifice.  In the end, I’ve helped raise nearly $6,000 for cancer research and I’m part of a group who has collectively raised over a million dollars.  For that, I am very proud.

I packed up my things last evening in preparation for this journey.  I am both excited and nervous as I don’t really know what to expect, though I certainly expect to finish.  The weather forecast has worsened, going from pleasantly warm to cold and windy, but I’m trying not to let that bother me.  Many of my co-workers have been falling ill the past few days, and while I should be ingesting my calories mostly in the form of carbs this week, a good portion of them have come in the form of chewable Airborne and Halls Vitamin C tablets.  Getting sick is not an option… at least not until Monday.

When I finished, I had everything I needed for the run packed in two bags  – my clothes, my registration form, all the little things like gels, salt pills, band-aids, anti-chaffing cream, race day breakfast stuff, snacks, liquids, you name it.  I packed it all up in bags and took a good hard look at it.  There it was… 11 months of training in two small bags.  The culmination of a journey that started on a treadmill in a hotel in Long Island last December.  I remembered some of the stepping stones – pacing my living room and getting psyched the day of my first 5k, hitting my first five mile run on a treadmill in upstate New York, finishing a 10k in Holyoke on St. Patty’s Day weekend and conquering the half-marathon.  I remembered the Facebook chat I had with Anthony Marino that made this opportunity possible, and all of the Saturdaylong-runs when I hit previously unchartered territory – 14 miles, 15 miles, 17 miles, 19 miles, and 20 miles.

Now the only one left is 26.2.

And while this is surely a challenge and one I expect to conquer, I wondered how long the elation of it all would last.  What am I going to feel like on Monday when I pack up my bags again only this time to head home, although with a shiny new medal?  Better yet, what am I going to feel like next Saturday, the day I’m used to getting up early, putting my sneakers on and heading out for my weekly long-run?  The race will be over, but how long is this journey exactly?

I think I found that answer late last night, when my five year old daughter came into the room after lights-out.  “How come I can’t go with you to your race, Daddy?”  I picked her up and put her next to me on the bed.  We sat together and had a very adult-like chat about how I’ve been running so much lately to prepare for this race.  We looked at internet pictures on my phone of previous races – the mob of runners crossing the Verrazano Bridge.  I showed her the lane where I intended to run and showed her the shirt I would be wearing, though I cautioned her that in all likelihood, she was not going to be able to pick me out of the crowd.  She seemed to understand. 

I then gave her a medal from one of my previous half-marathons and asked her to keep it safe until I came back.  She was happy to do that.  And then I told her that even though she wasn’t going to be at the race watching it in person, that she really would be there in a way because I always keep her close to my heart.  That made her very happy, and she took the medal and headed back to bed.

She hesitated a moment and turned around.  “Daddy will you win the race?” she asked.

Looking at my daughter standing in the doorway, I was so amazed at her interest in my running and realized how much of a bond it had created between us.  She ran a mile with me once before, though the last quarter-mile found her on my shoulders.  She has seen me come home from long-runs – sweaty, smelly, exhausted and barely able to walk.  She has been fascinated and always asks questions.  I knew at that moment that come next Saturday, I’ll be putting those sneakers on again and heading out in the morning to run.  Though I’m certain her question was quite literal in the sense that she really wants, if not expects me to win the New York City Marathon, I understood the question of whether or not I would win to be a more introspective one.  “Daddy, will you win the race?” she had asked.

“I already have,” I answered.

And maybe, above all, that is what will keep me running after mile 20.  I have all the support I could ask for from so many friends and family, and so many generous people have donated to such a great charity.  I will remember all of that in the early going.  But when it gets tough and I really need to dig deep, I think what will keep me moving the most is one thing…  I have to bring this little girl home a medal. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

With 3 Days to Go aka Long Time, No Talk.

            I want to say that the reason why there have been no posts since late June is that I was training at altitude in Kenya and am preparing to run the New York City Marathon in 4:59:59 which is the stated goal of this blog.
            The truth is I was abducted by aliens.  Yeah, that’s it.  I was running hills one night and saw a bright light above me.  I was lifted into the air and the rest was a blur.  I definitely remember that Scott Baio gave me pink eye.
            Unfortunately, part of me not writing was just that life got busy.  The twins have enough energy to run 5 marathons except for the fact that they can’t really run yet.  This means that in addition to not writing, I haven’t been running the way that I should.  That’s also part of why I haven’t been writing.  If I could post some super-arrogant “I ran 432 miles this week” I would have been writing all the time.  But that hasn’t been the case.
            First things first: I completed my second marathon in San Francisco on July 27th.  I set a new Personal Best for that distance even though there were a lot of issues in terms of the logistics of the race.  Without going deep into it, I had no idea where the race course was for about 3 miles which slowed me down.  I’ve had a block trying to write about the marathon and have started 4 posts about it and was unable to complete any of them.  I know I owe you a post about San Francisco and you’ll get it but not right now.  It’s amazing that writing about the race is harder than running it.
            October 9th was the 20th Anniversary of Fred Lebow’s death.  I never knew who Fred was until 2011 and as far as I know, Fred never met me.  For a full background on Fred, I heartily recommend the movie Run For Your Life.  It is the Fred Lebow story but is also deals with the confluence of this man, the NYC Marathon, New York City in the 70’s and the running movement in general.  He was the right man at the right time and without him the marathon might still just be loops around Central Park.  Actually, it might still be the Cherry Tree Marathon in the Bronx.  And the entrance fee would be only a $1.
            The first modern New York City Marathon was held in 1976, the year I was born.  Part of the appeal was that it would be a big event in honor of the country’s bicentennial.  A lot of people thought that 1977 would see the race disappear back into Central Park.
Fred convinced sponsors and the City, which was undergoing tremendous financial difficulty, to support him.  He spoke to the Hasidic Community in Yiddish to allow and to encourage a bunch of half-naked adults to run through their neighborhood.  He gave local gangs shirts and hats and made them course marshalls.  Finally, he convinced everyone to come and run. 
While the marathon was his baby, he was so busy planning and organizing the race that he didn’t take the time to run it.  In 1990, he was diagnosed with cancer which was treated and went into remission which allowed Fred to run the marathon in 1992.  He was surrounded by friends and supporters, most notably Grete Waitz, a 9 Time Winner of the Marathon who had come out of nowhere and shocked the running world when she won her first New York Marathon in 1978 after being entered into the race to provide a pacer for the runners who were expected to win.
Watching him cross the finish line always makes me tear up.  He was finally able to experience what it was that he was giving to everyone else.  In honor of the anniversary of his passing, I’d like to thank him for one of the greatest experiences of my life. 
Since its initial run, the Marathon has become more than just a race.  It is a celebration.  It’s a celebration of the city.  It’s a celebration of humanity.  It’s estimated that over 2 million people turn out to watch the race.  Sparks of passion thrown from runners ignite wildfires in the crowd, people vowing, some silently, some right out loud, that they too will run this race.  For some, it’s the alcohol talking.  For others, the sparks might not fully ignite and they will stand on the sidewalk again next year hoping to be consumed by whatever it is that’s making the runners run.
There are too many stories for the spectators to ever figure out what it is that chases the runners or what it is the runners chase.  T-shirts with pictures of loved ones or names with words like Cancer, Autism or Wounded Warriors give clues as frequently happens, it’s only part of a story.  There’s always something more, something that possibly we as runners don’t even know or realize.
More than these stories, the Marathon is triumph.  2013 was run through neighborhoods devastated by Superstorm Sandy the year before.  It was run in defiance of terrorists like those who struck in Boston earlier in the year.  In 2001, the Marathon was run less than two months after the attacks at the World Trade Center in a time when wounds were still very raw and the world was still reshaping itself.  I was reminded of the attacks and the terrorists while on the Staten Island Ferry riding to the start.  The Ferry was flanked by Coast Guard Gunships and the new World Trade Center was visible, rising proudly on the southern tip of Manhattan.
And it’s not just those nationwide triumphs either.  It is each individual’s triumph.  For as many running groups out there, it is simply you when you are out there.  There is nothing else.  There are two marathons per marathon.  There is the training that leads to the actual day and then the day itself.  To make it do race day is a victory, your first step across the Starting Line is another but it is also a promise.  It says, “I will complete this undertaking.”  And while we follow the same course route, no two runners run exactly the same race the same way our paths to get here have not been the same.

Then there is the triumph of finishing which seems to be more beautiful the more broken it is.  The obstacles that we face during our lives, our training and that day break us down but they also make us stronger.  We learn to overcome, we can adapt.  We can make ourselves better, even if it’s only for one afternoon in November.