Sunday, May 19, 2013

BROOKLYN 13.1: IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY


When I set my alarm clock on Friday night, I was kind of hoping the battery on the cellphone
would die or malfunction before 3:45am around. I was emotionally spent after marking the fifth
anniversary of my father's death and covering an adrenaline-filled story for a local television
station. I didn't know where the energy to run the Brooklyn Half-Marathon was going to come
from.

3:45am arrived and my phone went off like a 5-alarm fire. Man, that was painful. I rolled out
of  bed with my running shorts already on. I didn't care. Anything to save time. I smelled like a
pair of socks that hadn't felt liquid Tide in two weeks, but I had no interest in taking a shower,
after all, I was going to run 13.1 miles, not trying to find a date for that night. A generous
stick of Old Spice and Crest would take care of that, anyway.


I looked in the mirror and saw something staring back at me that looked like it got hit upside
the head with a shovel. It wasn't pretty. Father Time caught me and is kicking my ass. I went downstairs, stuffed my face with the leftover pasta I chowed on the night before. Had to do
that carbo-loading thing. Still half-asleep, I wolfed down two bananas, a cold hamburger from
the fridge, and a pear. There's nothing scientific about my race day diet. I eat pretty much the
first thing I see. I stopped at a McDonald's drive-thru on the way to the race and stuffed
three pancakes (more carbs) and a piece of sausage down my throat like it was my last meal.

As I was making the 1.5 hour drive to Brooklyn at 4:30am, I said to myself, "What the hell are
you doing? You're 48 years old and going to run 13 miles in Brooklyn, New York. There's
nobody on the road and you're eating dry pancakes from McDonald's!"

I got down to lower Manhattan where I planned to park and then take the subway to Brooklyn
for the race. As I was looking for a spot, I passed a nightclub at 5:15am. A throng of 20-something partiers were coming out of night club. Boy, did I feel old. I'd much rather be in bed at this time
and these kids are just going home. I'm going to run a half-marathon, and they're going to get
laid. What's wrong with this picture?


I parked and made my way to the nearest subway station and quickly discovered I was heading
in the right direction. The platform was filled with people looking exactly like me. Jogging shoes,
shorts, IPod, Bib number already attached to shirt, and bottles of water in hand. It's 5:30am and
I was in great company with people who, like me, wanted to punish their bodies as the sun was
coming up. I didn't feel badly. I actually felt energized.

We all walked out of the subway an exited near the Brooklyn Museum. I had never seen so
many joggers in my life. It felt like the United Nations with Nike's on. Black, white, Asian,
Muslims, there was even two guys dressed up like Jake and Elwood who sported British accents.
This had all the makings of a great experience, and it was.


Nearly 20,000 people entered the race and took off around 7am. The Ethiopians were long gone
and out of sight by the time the mere mortals and weekend warriors crossed the starting line. I
cranked up my IPod and opened up the race to Jay-Z's, "Empire State of Mind". I found it
fitting because he's from Brooklyn and rapped about many of the places we'd be running through. It was easy to feed off the song and the energy of New York City. There is no place
like it.

The people's whose idea of exercise is watching people run, lined the streets to gaze at everybody
going by, perhaps laughing at all of us who chose to endure nearly two hours of pain on a Saturday
morning. I love people watching, and I got as much out of viewing the characters of New York
City as they got out of checking out 20,000 runners barreling through their neighborhoods while
sweating and writhing in pain. It'll take me a while to get the sight of an overweight,  frosty-
white man in nothing but a red, white, and blue speedo that was two sizes too small, out of my
mind. Right, it's NYC, what else did I expect.

My only goal on this day was to finish without injuring myself. I strained a calf muscle just
three weeks before the race and I was apprehensive every time my left foot landed and hit the
pavement. But I ran the first three miles of the race with a canyon-sized grin on my face. This
was fun and exhilarating. I took in the atmosphere, the faces, and all the charm of Brooklyn.
I can only imagine how great things were when it had the Dodgers and Ebbets Field.


After meandering our way through New York City's largest borough, we came down a highway
ramp that led to the final four miles of the race. It was nothing but a flat, straightaway, leading
to Coney Island and the finish line. This was my third half-marathon since March 24th, so my
body was accustomed to the pain and punishment that goes with a 13.1 mile race. I was hoping
for a 1:48 finish, which would have been a personal record. When I reached the boardwalk at
Coney Island, I checked my watch and saw that wasn't going to happen. But I didn't care. This
run was all about the journey. The 3:45am, the drive to NYC, the subway ride, and the 13.1
jaunt through Brooklyn. It was a great experience. Running in the Big Apple is simply awesome.


I crossed the line in the amusement park at 1:53:04, which came out to be 8:38 per mile. Out of
21, 378 runners, I was the 7, 908th to cross the line. Finishing 7,908 never felt so good. I saw
some of the pictures taken of me on-line early Sunday night, and I, well, I didn't look so good.
The pain on my face said I was laboring with quintuplets. Nobody ever looks good with pain
on their face.

Inside though, I felt great. It wasn't about the ending, but rather the journey, and it was awesome.

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