We left Brooklyn, running over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. I was starting to grow tired.
The Black Sabbath cover band made me laugh. I may have been the last time I laughed.
The Queensboro Bridge was looming. We started up the incline and my back started to hurt. A lot. Each step sent a shock of pain into my lower back. A mile later, we finally hit the downhill side of the bridge. I could hear the cheering from First Ave in Manhattan, but I couldn’t run faster. The decline was even more painful to my back than the incline had been.
25K at 2:47. Pace fell again to 10:44.
And the pain didn’t lessen. I was at 59th St. Andrew was supposed to be waiting at 96th. I counted off the blocks but when I got to 96th, he was no where to be seen. I checked my phone and saw a text from him saying that he wasn’t going to be there in time to see me. It was a little demoralizing.
30K at 3:23. Pace down to 10:52.
First Ave was basically a blur. I wasn’t feeling encouraged by the spectators. In fact, I was mostly just miserable and wallowing in my pain. On the bridge into the Bronx, I texted Andrew, “I am falling apart.”
There was some salsa playing in the Bronx, I think. My memory grows a bit hazy here. Also, at this point, I started walking through the water stops, whether I was drinking or not. The problem with this approach was that the transition from walking to running was excruciating. I literally cried out in pain each time. I tried pressing my hands into my back, HARD when I started running again, and that helped a bit. There was a huge jumbotron screen in the Bronx that was sort of impressive just for the sheer size of the thing. I couldn’t bring myself to wave. Also, I got passed by the 5 hour pace group at that point. It wasn’t looking good.
Over another bridge and back in to Manhattan. The crowd was sparse that far up on 5th Ave, but I do remember another gospel singer. I trudged on.
35K: 4:01. Another drop in pace to 10:52.
As we went around Marcus Garvey Park, I started hearing people yell out “Blues Brothers!!!” but I didn’t have the energy to turn around and look. I later saw pictures. Two guys in costume. Cute.
Starting at 110th St, 5th Ave has a gradual incline all the way to where the race enters the park at 86th. Perhaps the only positive aspect of my back pain was the fact that it greatly overshadowed the torture of that uphill stretch. It also made the pain in my left ankle and left foot seem trivial.
I saw my crew again at 93rd. I gave them a double thumbs down and said, “I hate this!” Andrew put his arm around my shoulder and ran with me. He said, “You’re going great!” Tears welled up in my eyes and I said, “I don’t know if I can keep going. My back hurts so much.” He squeezed me and said, “Yes. You can. It’s three pussy miles. You can run three miles. You are almost done!!” I thanked him, told him that I love him and kept moving.
The miles in the park seemed endless. I kept looking at my watch in disbelief. I couldn’t believe how long it was taking to get to each mile marker.
40K: 4:39; average pace: 11:14
I kept talking myself through each mile. Breaking the distance down into familiar, easy chunks. Like, “Two miles left. That’s just to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and back. You’ve done that a million times. You can do it now.” Or “One mile. One fucking mile. You can deal with this for another ten minutes.”, “Four hundred meters. Two avenues. Just two avenues!”
Then I could see the finish and a minute or so later, I was done. I crossed the finish line and then I cried. 4:54:41. Average pace: 11:15.
Someone gave me a medal and someone else handed me one of those weird silvery blankets and taped it closed. I trudged forward. I got my picture taken. A bag of crappy food, water and gatorade was handed to me.
And still we moved forward. Barely. The finishers area was jam packed. Standing still hurt my back. Taking a step hurt my back. My legs were shaky and weak. I was shivering and cold and so tired. But we couldn’t leave the park until 77th St, half a mile from the finish.
Finally, I hit the exit and I sort of shuffled another two block to the bar where Andrew and Jen were waiting for me, a bar that was below street level. I laughed out loud when I saw the stairs leading down to the door. No wonder that place wasn’t crowded. At that point, stairs were my worst enemy.
At the bar, there were hugs and many kind words, delicious beer and loads of pretzels.
Every part of my body hurt. My legs, my hips, MY BACK, my abs, my shoulders, my arms, my neck. Seriously. EVERYTHING.
Andrew said something about me running again next year and I laughed out loud, saying, “No fucking way. That was my last marathon.”