I appear to be broken

My calves are so solid that I have to be lifted out of bed (not unlike many of my blog readers I’m guessing). My back is completely shot, one toe nail is being held on by a plaster, one toe has gone black and I have a nice pool of blood all inside another toe. Urgh.

Yes, I do require a lot of sympathy and more medals!

So, yesterday, I went for this run thing after a full 5 weeks of not a single piece of exercise and the pain of a torn calf muscle.

It didn’t get off to a great start because the clocks changed at 2am. So, this meant I wasn’t entirely certain what time to set the alarm for. If my phone updated its time OK then I’d set it for 4:45, but if it didn’t then I’d have to set it for 3:45. This was easily fixed though as I set the alarm for 3:45, 4:45 and 5:45 (-:

Ready to Go

I got myself ready (after of course the alarm going off an hour early) and left for the 6am bus… shit it was raining! Urgh, but the organisation was amazing and I managed to get straight onto a bus at 5:30… it was a pretty long drive out to the starting areas and the sun had come up by the time I arrived… there were big crowds of volunteers to greet us as we left the buses with cheers and encouragement which was nice.

The start zone was, well, a bit of a huge run down car park and field. There were stalls with free water, dunkin donuts (!), coffee (!) and other snacks. I got a couple of bottles of water and noticed that there were hundreds of people huddled on the wet ground in the rain. Oh god, 4hours of this? Then I heard someone ask where the tents were… woohoo there are tents! So I wandered along to the tent area. Well, this turned out to be a few massive tents (without sides) on soaking wet, soggy grass! I put my sleeping bag out and got in, wish I’d had a damned ground sheet. It was quite quiet in the tent at this point so I lay on my back and shivered. When I looked around again I was slightly shocked. There were now about 4million people in the tent with me. I could have (I didn’t) pursed my lips and kissed the thigh of the man next to me he was that close! (yeh, I was tempted of course). It was extremely noisy, loads of loud conversations and a speaker system giving advice and calling people to the start corrals all the time. Urgh, 4hours of this, but at least I had my pony to keep me company (thanks Mum)…

Poniesss

But at least I was comfortable and not too cold…. then the worst happened. I need a wee. Noooo, the queues were pretty huge and I didn’t want to lose my patch… aha, no problem… I have an empty water bottle and I can justttt sneak that into my sleeping bag….

A word of advice for men out there, or adventurous women I guess. Before you get to the point of no return when weeing into a bottle, make sure your willy fits into the opening.

Mine didn’t, yeh, I’m bragging.

So, now I not only still needed a wee but had let a trickle of wee out in my sleeping bag! Sigh. So I got up and joined the queues. Luckily everything was wet from the ground so I didn’t look too silly.

Time passed slowly and when the 30minute call came I sorted out my running gear and started to head towards the corrals. My bum bag was FULL. Far too full. Inside it I had my phone, 100dollars (for taxi if I had to quit), 3 energy gels, some anti chafing gel, a lipsalve and, well, urrr, some jelly babies. When I say “some” I mean a lot. So I decided to ditch a couple of the gels and ate many of the jelly babies (here is the belt before I left the hotel)…

Sweeets

We then started walking slowly towards the starting area, what we left behind can only be described as the Day After Mankind Gets Wiped Out. It was the debris from 40,000 people who had all dumped several items of warm clothing and food each. We were serenaded by the American national anthem and rounded the corner and there was the start and the bridge. We were off! There was a guy with some loudspeakers calling out peoples names and shouting encouragement about this being the biggest day of our lives so obviously I was sobbing already. The pressure of the years training, the thought that I was probably going to be unable to finish and the general emotion of it all and I was whimpering quietly.

That bridge, urgh, it was half a mile up hill and then half a mile down hill, what a place to start. Weirdly an amazing number of people were stopping for photos, filming themselves and recording video diaries or climbing the side of the bridge to take photos of New York, wtf! It’s a marathon! This continued throughout the race where people would stop to have their photo taken with cops and firemen etc. Crazy.

The first couple of miles passed OK, no pain in my legs, just quite a bit of whimpering. The crowds were ridiculously amazing. If you ran anywhere near the sides of the road you were constantly called out by name and given amazing encouragement. People were giving out sweets, high fives and generally being so cool. I loved how when you entered a new area people would welcome you with for example “Hey Pete, welcome to Bedford, you’re looking strong”, constantly. I’m so glad I had my name on my top. Each borough was so different, passing through some poor areas was amazing, the orthadox jewish part of town was interesting as not a single person paid any attention to the runners, it was like we were invisible. Some areas made so much noise! Lots of people having parties in their apartments etc.etc. There was live music nearly the entire way around, this was mainly hip-hop (some with lyrics targeted at the peoples names as they passed), there was even a thrash-metal band… just what I needed!

Some highlights from the run…

  • I high-fived a goggie. Haha, how cool is that. He was stood on his back legs and his owner was holding his paws out, made me laugh so much.
  • The fire-crews and police all dressed in uniform shouting encouragement
  • All the signs, lots of typical ones like “Pain is temporary, pride is forever”, but my favourite one was a huge sign with a photo of a kitteh on it and MEOW below it. Haha, fantastic!
  • So many people with messages on their t-shirts like “This is for you Dad” or dedications to lost family members (these all made me sob).
  • The sticky zone… every mile of the race had water and gatorade stations. After these you had to wade through the plastic cups… then about 300metres later your feet started to stick to the ground as you ran through all the spilt gatorade, it was really difficult to run through this!
  • Seeing Jen and the rest of the Macmillan team who gave you a real boost.
  • Nearly having my entire race cut short by a little asian woman… I was nervous about the crowds of runners and you did have to constantly weave in and out of people but this was pretty easy to do. What I was not expecting though was a local woman who decided to cross the road in front of me. This wouldn’t have been a problem… except she managed to get a “Police Line Do Not Cross” stuck to her shoe which she pulled out behind her and I had to jump over! Jesus.

Am disappointed the Victoria Secret girls weren’t out… although the ambulance/poster combination was apt…

Alison

I need to check which bridge it is that nearly killed me… I think it was Queensboro… jesus christ it was hell. You began to realise it was going to be difficult as all the crowds before it were shouting things like “Don’t worry Pete, you can take this bridge”. It went up and up and up and up, urgh it was horrible but luckily Jen was screaming at me (along with tens of thousands of other people) at the end of it.

The Bronx was… hmm… not the nicest area. Imagine American cop films where bad things happen… that was here. Not  many crowds and the people didn’t cheer, just stared. But then it was back into Manhattan. I can’t really believe that they put a massive hill alongside central park, it was crushing. This was at about mile 23 and by then I was on autopilot. My injured right leg had been perfect through the entire run. However my left calf was sooo tight and painful. This paled into insignificance though compared to my back pain. I’ve never had back pain running before but from mile 12 it was excrutiating. Imagine spending a full day lifting heavy boxes and then having to run 26.2miles. So the last 4miles I have no idea how I kept going, if I’d stopped to think about it I would have just collapsed, I never walked though. I could tell I was suffering from the crowd feedback, comments had gone from “Looking good Pete, looking strong” to “Looking hot Pete, Don’t worry not far to go”. I made sure I said thankyou and waved back to every single person who talked to me. Oh and that reminds me, the guy from the restaurant who I’d met a couple of nights before and who’d said he’d make up a sign and watch for me was there! He was so pleased to see me (and me him).

24 miles and I am smiling

After a huge hill at mile 25 I knew it was going to happen, I was going to finish. I just had to make sure I didn’t think about anything though as I was having trouble breathing properly – I think due to the emotion of it. Lots of people were crying or in pain at this point and you could see people stopping and clutching at their legs or stopping, however some people even managed to sprint at the end, jesus. I had a good old sob as I passed the line and then the unbelievable pain settled in. Every single inch of my body went ARGHHGGHYOUBASTARD at me. The poor thing probably couldn’t realise what I’d just forced it through. I collected my medal and my food bag and had my photo taken and got the best thing of all… my silver foil space blanket. Didn’t take too long to meet up with Jen and we and several hundred thousand/million other people tried to make their way home. It took me a few minutes to get up a curb so thankfully we found one of those bike/rickshaw things and paid the guy 70bucks to get back to Time Square. Yes, I wore my silver blanket all the way from Time Square to the hotel of course and my medal when I went out to dinner (-:

If you don’t believe that I did it… here is the Garmin record of it where you can play back the entire run. To get an authentic experience then stamp on your feet and beat yourself with a stick and sob through the playback. It recorded my heart rate at the beginning at 204.. I don’t *think* it was accurate, gulp.

Now? collapssssse. I did it. Sob. My previous blog posts have said how I was always planning on doing another marathon… hmm… no, I don’t think so, maybe, I dunno, I doubt it. We’ll see after I recover. I didn’t spend a single second of this run concentrating on the actual process of running or breathing or speed and hadn’t run for 5weeks so I was really pleased with my time of 4:36, I know I can improve this… my own hidden dream time based on my long runs before my injury were 3:55 so there is a lot left in me if I decided to do another… but… jesus christ it’s extreme. Hats off to all those people who do a marathon each day of the week for 7 days, in fact, hats off to anyone who can do a marathon. It’s the hardest thing you could imagine doing… but it’s possible for anyone. Thanks to all my sponsors… if you haven’t sponsored me yet there is still time… use the JustGiving link on this page.

I didn’t get a pony, damnit, but I did get the amazing surprise of a helicopter tour of New York!…

New York

To finish, actually my favourite banner actually was this one…. “If you can get to the start, you can finish it”. Sums up my year perfectly.

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