Saturday, April 07, 2007

A NYC Trip Down Memory Lane

After mentioning to Uptown Girl about how I went to NYC for eight straight years, all most during the month of November, it ‘forced’ me to go down memory lane.

1997: I had been bitten by the bug of running a marathon, even though I had only run one race before, and it had been a total disaster for me. I had been running semi-consistently – read: 5 miles, three times a week. To test myself I decided to run 18 miles and see if I could complete the race. I think up to then, the longest I had run was nine miles or so. While the 18 miles were not easy, they were not hard either. I knew I could do one of those what-you-ma-call-them. What marathon did I choose? Certainly not Los Angeles … Boston ? I didn’t even know one was run there. It was NYC. Why? You ask. Because I was infatuated with tall buildings (still am).

The NYCM happened to land during the weekend of my BD. So I booked a flight and made reservations at the Hilton-Millennium hotel. I went to the City that never sleeps with one goal in mind: to run the darn marathon and to see one of the greatest cities in the world. BUT, I went unprepared; I went without doing ANY research. Stupid is as stupid does.

I managed to find out that the marathon expo is taking place across from Columbus Circle , so I make my way there, walking mind you. It took me almost two hours to get there. Can you see a pattern? I get there and the expo is HUGE. I make my way to registration and I am told the race has been sold-out for weeks, that the race is so popular that the NYRRC has to hold a lottery. Could my naiveté have been more obvious?

So I walk disappointed through the expo. I stop by the Disney marathon which was still in its infancy. Mickey is there as well as the then 100 m WR holder: Maurice Greene. I see the medal they give out and I instantly fall in love with it and I know I want one. The race is being held in two months and I fill out a registration form on the spot. They make me pay an additional $15 because they require me to be a member of USATF. No worries. [I ended up running a 4:02:3X. Not bad for a debut marathon, but I walked way too much.]

My flight was departing at 6pm and I head to the 42nd Station to catch the A-train for Rockaway. Not knowing how many times the NY-MTA changes schedules, I spend an hour seeing A-trains fly by me w/o stopping. Then I see a flyer stating that the A-train to JFK does not stop there. Argh, I fret I will miss my plane.

As I am about to head to the ‘right’ station I see this guy wearing a Mylar blanket and a medal. I ask him for his time and he says 4:XX proudly with a grin. Darn, I want to run the NYCM more than ever.

1998: Three of my friends and I decide to make a trip to the east coast in early spring. We visit DC, NYC and Bahston. NYC was a blur for we only spent two days. We did get to go to the top of the Statue of Liberty. i don't remember if I applied or not to the lottery.

1999: I go to NYC during the summer, just for the heck of it. I attend happy hour at TGIFs in Times Square . Have three draft beers and some appetizers, all within an hour. I am buzzing and head towards Central Park . My dream had been ‘till then to run in Central Park . So I run in jeans and a polo shirt. It must of have been quite the sight. I am sure people thought I was crazy. I must have ran 3 miles at about 8 mpm pace.

I also get to visit the restaurant on top of one of the Twin Towers . I keep a rectangular match box, with the skyline and a blue background. I still have that match box.

I also enter the lottery and actually get in. I decide to stay in Secaucus to save dinero. That decision almost did not pay off as I frantically searched for a bus route that would take me to NYC and then catch the train to the NYC Library; I was so stressed; thankfully, I made it to the busses okay.

This will be the only time I would run the whole distance. The next four times I would walk for significant periods of time, while wanting to quit every single time. I remember how cold I was and how much I hated it waiting in Staten Island for the start. Three hours there and with the bitter cold winds made it ugly. I did get to chat with a couple of Mexican Nationals, one who would run with me for the first eight miles.

I finished in a not-too shabby time of 3:47:25. Oh and two runners pushed me during the race, how rude? Oh and the end was just so windy and cold. Walking that mile to get out of CP was just added torture to an already tough day. I also had to catch a plane at 10 pm.

2000: Do not get into the lottery. Decide not to go to NYC and go to SF instead.

2001: Do not get into lottery, but get contacted about volunteering to run it with a disable athlete at no cost to me. I happily agree. I get to visit ground-Zero and the sight is unforgettable.

I get to ride with the Achilles buses and meet Saul Mendoza and five-time winner of the Los Angeles marathon, wheelchair division. I ended up ‘helping’ out two wheelchair athletes and complete the ‘thon in just over four hours. There is no official record that I ran the race as I did it as a volunteer. I think it was 4:03 and change. I am in pain because I ran the Marine Corps Marathon the week before. The irony does not escape me that I ran two marathons back-to-back in cities where terrorists changed the American way of life. America has not been the same since; 9/11 is forever engraved in our very souls.

This was also the year that I found the Chirping Chicken the best chicken in the world; I make sure I eat there at least once every time I am in NYC.

2002: Applied and got into the lottery. Best race yet with a 3:40:39. First time I take the SI Ferry to the start. Much, much better than the busses. I don't understand why locals don't use this service. Particularly because of the fact that those busses do not stop for bathroom breaks, and they do not have facilities in them!

2003: This year would be known as the P-Diddy Marathon, or as it was advertised: Puff Diddy runs the City. I had a very rough time and HE passes me somewhere inside the Queensborough Bridge. I managed to find some grit and make my way to a better-than-expected 4:01:46 beating P. Diddy on the way.

I passed him right about 20 miles. He was constantly grabbing his calves. Poor thing.

2004: I religiously applied once again and get in, AGAIN. I have dinner at Tavern on The Green to celebrate my BD.

This is by far the most painful of them all. I swear I will stop running the NYCM. It seems so masochistic of me to come back again and again. Finish in 3:42:19. But the time does not really tell the mental struggle I went through. Suffice it to say, it was more than tough. It was here that I decided to get serious with my marathon training. It was time to fulfill my endurance potential.

2005: I break down and apply but do not get in. Still, I find my way to NYC for marathon weekend. It has become a tradition to celebrate my BD here. I celebrate my BD at some burger joint that was recommended in an article I read; its name escapes me, but the burger is HUGE and quite tasty.

I end up cheering runners nonetheless and I have a ball. It was nice to be on the other side, but my feet itched to be hitting the blacktop.

2006: Again, I apply BUT when I find out that I will not be able to be there I send an email to NYRRC and ask them to withdraw my application. They oblige. I spend my BD in Heidelburg, Germany.

2007: Right now I am on the fence as I don’t know if it’s worth applying since I don’t even know if I will be able to be there. Besides, the fee alone is enough to scare me away. I’ll wait until the end of this month to make my decision.


Chelle said...

You should be glad you didn't run in POURED like Noah was out there building another boat.

Maybe the burger place was Jackson Hole? Really good, really BIG burgers.

Quinto Sol said...

Yes! That's it! Jackson Hole is the name of the Burger Joint; I believe there are three or four in NYC.

Hmmm,it must have been 1998 when I first tried to run it. It was definitely not raining... or was it. I am getting old; I don't remember.