It was spring of 2010 when I decided to run my first marathon and what better place to do it than NYC. For noobs, Marathon is 26 miles or 42 Km. I used to do 10K and half marathons before that but never a full race. So I took on the challenge of running a marathon. I registered the race with some folks at clearchannel where I used to work before. My training for the big one was decent and I was confident enough that I can finish it. I completed three 20 milers before the race and was confident that I could do 26.2 miles let alone set a decent time. The training was intense, I did not consume alcohol 2 months prior to the race and ate only healthy food, mostly protein. I must have eaten upto 6000 calories a day during my training. My saturday mornings after the long runs were usually pretty intense. I ate 10 eggs or 12 pancakes for breakfast, a full sized chicken for lunch and a slab a salmon for dinner and protein suppliments. The best or the worst part was, I was always hungry and nothing stuck with me.
The day before my raceday I went for a brisk 2 mile jog and loaded up on carbs. I gave my roommates and couple of my friends instructions on where to see me during the race. I had fairly decent sleep and was ready to run. No matter how hard I trained, I could not avoid thinking the possibility of not finishing the race or coming down with an injury as it has happened to many of my friends. Also, one of my friend told me that sometimes, you pee and poop without your body knowing it when you are running your last couple of miles because your muscles are not controlled by you anymore and I was really really hoping not to do either of them :D.
On the raceday, I woke up at 6 AM and the first thing I did was to go outside and check out the weather. It was cold. Probably around 36F or 2C. For my friends who live in the tropics, thats ball freezing weather. I got ready and took the ferry from Battery park to go to Staten Island where the race starts. My start time was 9:40 AM and I had enough time to chill out there. 10 minutes before the start, I looked behind and saw around 20,000 people behind me and about 30,000 in front of me. It was nothing like I have seen before. I made friends with a spanish dude at the start as he was running the race alone as well. The race started and about a mile in, my shoulders started to stiffen up. Probably from the lack of warming up. Before even I crossed the bridge, my muscles were cold and didn’t want to run at all. All I can think of was “FUCK”, “what the hell?”. But then, once I crossed the bridge, got some blood flowing in my body, I started to warm up.
The next borough was Brooklyn. Heck yeah, thats where I live, so I was a little excited and I knew a couple of my friends were cheering for me on 4th ave, so I kept an eye on them. I did see them yelling my name and felt a little proud that someone is cheering for me. After a couple of miles, we switched to bedford ave, which runs pretty close to my apartment and I knew the surroundings pretty well. It was so energizing to see people stand on the sides of the road and cheer the runners. I had my name printed on my shirt and people were screaming my name “R-Man” :). There were bands on either side of the street playing music and giving away water/gatorade etc. This was about mile 8 or 9 and I kept a close eye on the timers. I was doing well under 8 min mile for the first 10 miles.
Once I hit greenpoint, I felt pretty decent and it was around 13 miles which is half marathon distance and I was around 1:29:00 which would have put me under 3 hour mark for a marathon which is my dream but things got worse from here. Much worse. Running through queens was a bit dragging as all I can think of was when was I going to cross queens borough bridge as I was warned that this is where a lot of people pass out. I started showing signs of slowing down and all I can think of was just crossing the mile markers one by one. Every mile seemed longer and my energy was draining. As soon as I crossed queens borough bridge I drank some gatorade even though I wasn’t thirsty at all. You have to keep yourself hydrated or else you will cramp out. Running though 1st ave was amazing. The road was wide with people going insane on the road side, cheering for me and women taking their tops off (ok, that didn’t happen but still!!!). Once I entered the Bronx, my shoulders started cramping and my body temperature got hot . I had to take my gloves off and my full sleeve shit off. At this time I had just a half shirt and shorts running in 40F weather. Still ball freezing weather my dear friends.
I could not lift my arms up at this point. My shoulders were killing me and the pain was starting to become unbearable and I was just at mile 19. I have not stopped running so far and I had no intention to stop. If I did, that would have been the end of race for me. Somehow I kept going from the cheers of the people and the will to finish. I had more fluids and this time, my stomach cramped up. So I was running pretty slow with 10 minute miles and had my left shoulder to my thigh while running as I could not move it. While I was running, I slowly rotated my shoulder and tried to make small movements, and it seemed to help me a bit.
I was at mile 21 when I cut across and came to Manhattan and a new sigh of relief as I know that I dont have to cross any more bridges and I am on the final home stretch. I knew my friends were somewhere on mile 25 and I tried not to look bitter as I pretty much was in extreme pain. The last 6 miles were painful and terrifying as I saw people collapse in front of me and I had to jump some of them and dodge falling people. Somehow, I kept going.
It was funny that my legs didn’t give up yet, but my shoulders and stomach did. Running through 5th ave was so much fun as people were just screaming my name and there were scores of people chanting and yelling. This kept me going through all my pain and my pace dropped to 12 min mile but I never stopped. At mile 25, I heard someone shout my name and it was my friends!. Boy, was I glad to see them. But I was in such bad shape that I couldn’t even lift my head up or rotate my head to see them. This is definitely the most painful thing I have done so far to date. As I started running, the finish was measured in yards and not miles and every single step I took to the finish line was just very very painful. All I could think now is to push and push till the finish line and not give up till then. I knew pain is temporary, but glory is forever. So I kept running and saw the finish line and wanted to look pretty and smile at the finish line because I knew they were taking photographs. Nothing hit me that I finished the race. Just a mere minute after finishing the race, my calf muscles started to spasm and I went into hyperthermia and shivered uncontrollably. Two of the medics came over and took me to the warming tent and gave me hot tea and iced both my legs. Boy, was that an experience!. My time was around 3:49:00 and it wasn’t bad for my first NYC marathon.
As soon as I recovered, I met up with my friends in a bar where they were celebrating my race. I went to heartland brewery on 51st street and everyone in the bar cheered for me. I felt like a diva for a minute. The waiter comes over and asked me if I need water and all I said was, get me a pint of your darkest beer and drank that in less than 4 seconds, boom!. I swear, you can ask pete. They were witness!. I got a sweet stuffed great white shark as a gift that night from my friends.
As I was going home that evening, I tried to digest the race and the experience itself and it was fantastic at the end. No pain, no gain is what I learnt.
These best part about the race??? I am on ESPN baby!!!
Anyone who is training for a marathon or trying to run a race soon or want to share your experiences, please feel free to contact me.