I've mentioned the beginning of runs before, when you're still working out the kinks, figuring out how you feel, getting accustomed to the weather, regulating your breath, adjusting to the idea that you're going to be running for a long time-and today was no different. Despite months and months of training and knowing that you're physically ready, the mind games start as early as the start line, though for me they started in Brooklyn for no apparent reason, really, except for the fact that this experience, as awe-inspiring and noteworthy as it was, was totally and completely overwhelming physically, mentally, and emotionally. I found myself thinking about mile 26 waaaay to early, and worked hard to reign it in, to enjoy myself, to take in the experience.
A week or so before the race my friend Heather had suggested that she "run" a portion of the race with me, that we find a part of the race where she would be with me since she couldn't actually be there. She considered 5th Avenue, but when she realized that was miles 22-25 and hilly, she thought twice. After some course consideration we ultimately decided on miles 5-8 in Brooklyn because the crowds here are awesome, it's relatively flat, everyone's still fresh, and at this point you're still thinking it was a good idea to run a marathon.
I mentally picked up Heather at mile 5. If this sounds a little crazy, let me say this; one thing I realized while running this race amidst 45,000 other runners and upwards of 2 million spectators is how completely isolated I felt, how totally alone some of those miles became. It was literally body to body the whole time, but somewhere around mile 10 of this Brooklyn stretch I realized that, ironically, nobody but me was running this race, that only I could finish it. Knowing that certain friends were thinking of me during certain miles-I'd assigned a few other portions too-was reassuring. I also knew that Jay, the kids, Jimmy and Dottie, and Tommy and Madeleine were at mile 8, and that kept me going. Dan and Krydo were around mile 8 as well, but on the opposite side of 4th, which was nearly impossible to cross with so many runners, unfortunately.
I kept seeing things Heather would find funny during this portion of the run--one spectator, for example, held up a sign that said "To me, you are all Kenyans!" I passed a Dunkin Donuts, which I know she loves. I passed another spectator with a sign that said "You're cute! Call me!"
Around mile 7 I started to stick to the left side of the street, knowing that's where my crowd was going to be. In this race, you have to know exactly where to look for people; otherwise there's no way you'll see them. I also realized I'd be dropping Heather off mentally and picking up Katie, who would run with me through mile 13.
As I approached mile 8, I kept looking left and I'll be darned if I didn't see Heather standing there on the sidewalk. I thought well, that's a mirage, there she is where I'm going to leave her.
Running long distances puts me just this side of crazy, and when you're out on the road for a while the insanity is always there, lurking around the edges, hovering nearby, not unlike the cloudy edges of an old black and white photograph threatening to take over the image.
Let's just say the crazy took over for a moment.
You can see me realizing I'm not totally nuts below, as the complete and total shock of actually seeing not only Heather- but Shannon too- started to sink in.
I do look a titch insane here, and it's clear I'm not really processing the enormity of this surprise. After Tommy and Madeleine, and Ashley (who may have tipped me off by posting "NYC!" as her facebook status update), and now these two showed up in New York, I started to think post mile 8 that whoah, this thing must be A Really Big Deal. Either that or folks just wanted to come to New York, which is probably the case too.
Seeing Heather and Shannon and the rest of my fan club, pictured above, sustained me through the remainder of Brooklyn. The miles afterwards saw a lovely tree-lined neighborhood chockablock full of brownstones and spectators. After that, truth be told, I don't really remember much except the aforementioned realization of loneliness. I'd stopped looking at my watch at this point, and just kept repeating Reign it in. Stay controlled. Reign it in. Stay controlled. I just kept running, and running, and thinking Am I still in Brooklyn? Really? Am I going to be running for the rest of my life?
I wasn't sure I'd ever make it to Queens.