This is the song that never ends...: It all comes down to this. Part II

This is the song that never ends...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It all comes down to this. Part II

I slept like crap Saturday night. I kept having dreams that I missed the race or that the hotel-room alarm clock wasn’t set correctly. I must have woken up every hour just to check the time. When the clock finally went off at 4:30a, I hit snooze. John turned over and started growling, “No, no, no---we are not doing this again. Get up now!” I oozed out of bed and started the in-room coffee-pot (even though I never did drink it). I grabbed an apple-juice and stole a bagel from the basement storage area of the hotel. John walked me to the subway stop, gave me a quick kiss and wished me luck.

Once on the subway, a man seated next to me must have noticed the chip on my shoe and the Participant Handbook that I was carrying. Our conversation went like this:

Him (in a very thick, middle-eastern accent) “Are you running today?”

Me: “Yes, I am.”

“How long is this run?”

“It’s just over 26 miles.”

“Ha! I can’t run two blocks! How you do this?”

“If you practiced, I bet you could do it, too.”

At this point the train has stopped and several runners have gotten up to get off.

(Said in a very dramatic way with a sweeping motion of his hand) “Good luck to you and to all the other marathon!”

That was just the coolest.

Once off the train, it seemed like every single person on that platform was running. Which makes sense considering that it was, like, 6:10a on a Sunday morning---who else is on the subway? We all filed out up the stairs, with our UPS bags in tow, super-conveniently right into the line for the busses. Honestly, the timing or placement couldn’t have been better. Once in line, there were dozens of volunteers clapping, telling us to show our numbers and wishing us luck. My heart was starting to get very full and I couldn’t wipe the perma-grin that was all over my face. I must have looked ridiculous…

I sat down on the bus and a very nice, older gentleman sat next to me. He’s run a billion marathons and ultras and offered me tips and such. He told me about how his wife didn’t come this time because the hotel rates were so high-so he decided to stay at the ‘Y’ about a quarter mile away from the finish line. He seemed so happy as he described his cell-like accommodations.

We were on the bus for what seemed like forever. It had to have been close to two hours. There was some huge traffic jam and it was so disheartening to see all of the empty busses driving past us in the on-coming lanes. I had visions of being the last bus to arrive and not having time to finish eating or go to the bathroom----ack! I was seriously starting to stress. It was at about this point that some runners got up and demanded that the bus-driver open the doors to let us off. We were ridiculously close to the staging area and even though the bus driver protested, he just couldn’t compete with a bunch of nervous runners with full bladders yelling at him. Poor guy. He never stood a chance.

There was a buzz in the air. Music was playing on the bridge. Runners were either bustling around with coffees in hand or lying on their yoga mats reading the paper. Lines were getting long at the potties so I stopped there first. I only had to wait about ten minutes or so and the potty was in pretty decent shape. Definitely a good omen.

I grabbed a bagel and a cookies-n-cream Power Bar – which I normally abhor - and ate like it was the most amazing meal of my life. I still don’t know why it tasted so good - even when I think about it now, my stomach turns at the thought of those bars. I had a cup of yummy, green Gatorade and sipped my water, too. I didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom again before the start, so I was careful not to fill my bladder too quickly.

After I loaded my bag onto my designated UPS truck, I took a seat on a curb and began stretching a bit. I kept looking for the 5:00 pace group and never did find them. I met a sweet woman from the Netherlands. She told me this was her first marathon and that she was nervous. We both exchanged a few pleasantries and offered encouragement to one another. It was at this time that I met Gianine. Gianine was also looking for the 5:00 pace group so we stuck together to see if we could find them, and at the very least, we could try our best together to see if we could keep each other on pace.

All of a sudden, the runners started lining up in their corrals and began moving in a slow shuffle. I think I caught the tail-end of the national anthem and then heard the cannon. Everyone cheered and started shuffling slowly. It took us almost 13 minutes to make it to the starting line.

The run up the bridge was surprisingly easy and after Gianine and I complained about summer training runs, we both agreed that they were worth it. It was getting pretty hot out there on the top portion of the bridge and I was really beginning to regret not putting on sunblock (it was supposed to be CLOUDY!!!)

It was quiet on the bridge and our side (blue bibs) seemed sparse. Contrary to what I had imagined, there was plenty of room and I only saw a couple of men peeing on the edge. Once we made it to the crest, it felt nice to let the descent do most of the work and just ease on down. Our legs were still fresh and we were running at a comfortable pace getting to know each other. Once we got to the end of the bridge, I got my first taste of what would be the very essence of this race……..the spectators. I am still moved when I think of every single man, woman and child who stood on the sidelines to cheer on a complete stranger like myself. I wore a human bumper sticker across my chest that said CAROL in black marker. John told me that if I wore something that had my name on it, people might cheer for me.


For the next 24 miles, the cheers were continuous, “Go Carol!” “Carol, you look great!” “Almost there, Carol!” “Carol, you’re awesome!” “Carol, baby, lookin’ good!” The best part is the way that New Yorkers say ‘Carol’. The ‘Ca’ gets pronounced long and drawn out—it’s awesome! It made me feel like I had the best name ever. And the one that will forever stay etched in my brain…. as we made our way through Brooklyn, a man on the sidewalk met eyes with me and said, “Hey, Carol! Welcome to Brooklyn! How you doin’?” He said it with the thickest New York slant you can imagine. It was wonderful.

The rest of the miles are mostly blurry. I remember certain moments throughout the race:

The Hasidic neighborhood, eerily quiet with lots of people passing through the streets as if a race wasn’t going on.

The 2nd to last bridge (I think) that made me want to scream. The incline felt like it lasted forever and the descent felt way too harsh---that one was tough.

The Korean couple in front of me. I greet them with an “On Yong Ah Seh Yo” and the husband looked at me, then at his wife. He asked me if I spoke Korean and I responded that I only spoke a little bit. They laughed and waved me on.

I remember someone lying on the side of the road with several other runners and some medics---he looked like he was going into some type of seizure. I hope he’s okay.

Natasha---dressed in a blue running skirt and a blue tank top. I paced with her for a while and we exchanged greetings. She’s from New York. She told me that she liked the Strawberry/Banana Powergel better than the Chocolate.

A gentleman who was also supposed to be with the elusive 5:00 pace team. He wore a red T-shirt, thanked me for my pace and said I was doing great for a first-time marathoner.

The countless little kids throughout the course that held bags of mini-Snickers and Hershey Miniatures and called out the names of runners who passed them by.

Every single beverage volunteer who took the time to say, “Here you go, Carol!”

The most awesome smell of fresh baked doughnuts around mile 18 (?)

Some woman holding her dog and waving his paws at me.

Countless bands and artists playing their musical instruments just to entertain the runners.

Windows of Brownstones wide open with stereos blaring into the street.

There were so many little moments that I remember – and together, they made for the most amazing day of my life. There was a moment near the end of the race, when Central Park was in my sights and the end of the course could just be felt in the air. Everyone’s pace was picking up and the energy was almost tangible. All at once, it felt like every awful, unhappy, uncomfortable moment of my life was vivid in my brain. Every low feeling I’ve ever experienced. Every fight I’ve ever had-mental and physical. It all sat on my chest and I started to tear up. I never had a full-out cry, just wet eyes and a heavy feeling on my body. It was like all the unhappiness was just falling like bricks onto me. This lasted for about a mile. It was then that I saw John---holding up his sign that he made for me with a very personal message on it. We locked eyes and the four women standing next to him were yelling my name. He didn’t have to say a word. We just looked at each other and smiled. Then I saw the 800 meter mark… the 400 meter mark…. I could see the finish line!

I can’t remember if I crossed the finish line with my arms up or down or if I made any type of victory pose. I just remember being handed my medal and starting to hyperventilate. At least I think that’s what it was-it’s never happened to me before. It felt like all the sadness that climbed into my pores in the last mile of the race was coming out and just going away. All that I had left was pure happiness. I’ve always loved the word ‘joy’ but never thought I had ever really felt it. This had to be it. I took some deep breaths and got my thermal blanket thingy taped around my shoulders. It was still warm and I didn’t think I’d need it but it was nice---and form-flattering, too.

We were handed water and goody bags that had a Powerbar, apple, bagel and some Tylenol in it. I took out the apple and almost had sex with it. It looked so good-I was practically stroking it. A volunteer looked at me and laughed. I smiled at her and told her that it looked like the most delicious apple ever (apparently the euphoria was still pretty prevalent-even in my taste buds). I just can’t get describe enough how happy I was. After a quick stretch on a barricade, we made our way to the baggage claim area. I saw John and he took a couple pictures of me after yelling to me that he was proud of me. After we met up in the area corresponding to our last name’s initial, we made the VERY slow journey back to the hotel. My legs were unbelievably tight, but I was happy to feel every single twinge. Once in the subway, the person behind the glass made an announcement that anyone who ran the marathon got free fare today and to just stand by the gate and open it. I thought that was pretty cool.

We got to the hotel subway stop and John asked if I was hungry. We saw a Korean noodle restaurant near the hotel and I told him that I could do that for dinner. He sent me back to the room to shower while he ordered some dinner for us. He was only gone for a little while when he came back with a sack of White Castle and a bag of doughnuts. He said that the noodle place looked gross so he grabbed the sliders and he remembered me telling him about the wonderful doughnut smell and hoped the Dunkin’ Donuts would suffice. I couldn’t have been happier. I ate five burgers without flinching and polished off a honey cruller --- then promptly fell asleep.

The nighttime was tough. Every time I moved, my knees would ache and I would wake up. We slept in for a little while and finally made our way to the continental breakfast area for a bite. I wore my NYRRC long-sleeve freebie T-shirt and got a bunch of really nice comments. The best one was as we were getting on the plane. The stewardess smiled at me and said she thought she recognized me. She asked for my name and when she noticed my shirt, she congratulated me and made a joke about how if it had been her, she’d still be running. We had a quiet laugh and I found my seat. Later, as she was going through the safety procedures, she stopped at the end of the spiel and asked everyone to “…please give Carol Lee in seat 7A a round of applause! She finished the New York City Marathon yesterday!” Thanks, Noreen! You rock! I eat that dorky shit right up.

So, here I am three days later. The soreness is almost all gone. I’m itching to get back to working out and it all comes down to this:

On Sunday, November 6th, 2005, I completed the New York City Marathon.

Contrary to prior fears,
I did not throw up.
I did not shit myself.
I did not collapse to the ground.
I did not wonder if I could finish.
I did not wish it would just end already.
I ran (okay, okay… jogged) 26.2 miles in a net time of 5:40:04.
I also realized just who I am and what I have.


  • At 1:11 PM , Blogger PartTimeMom said...

    What a fantastic story I love reading it and actually teared up. Congrats to you - doesn't seem to say enough but it's all I can think of to say.

  • At 3:23 PM , Blogger Marijayde said...

    Incredible story - felt like I was running with you, I totally got chills!!

    Congrats to you CAROL!!! The only Carol I know who has completed the New York City marathon!!!


    Joanna (friend of parttimemom)

  • At 4:16 PM , Blogger PhitLee said...

    Wow! I actually have TWO people reading my blog! This rocks!

    Thanks for the kind words...


  • At 5:08 PM , Blogger Mari said...

    Wow what an amazing story. I was on the edge of my seat. Congrats Carol on your marathon it will be with you for a lifetime.

    Mari (blog friend parttimemom)

  • At 10:45 PM , Blogger havlow said...

    Wow I'm just floored!! What an incredible journey and what a wonderful experience. I'm glad that you had so many positive moments before during and after the race. I used to be a long distance swimmer years ago, both indoor and open water and when you're underwater you can't hear that words of encouragement and have to rely a lot on your inner strength to get you though. Had I been able to hear everyone cheering me on like they did for you I think I might have been world class lol!! Congratulations again!!

    Btw I'm Havlow/Jeremy on the BFL Tracker site and go to your blog from parttimemom's blog :)

  • At 9:27 AM , Blogger Persephone66 said...

    What an amazing account!! I'd love to run a marathon! I trained for the LOndon marathon a few years ago but ended up damaging my heels. Maybe I could give it another go. . .

    Well done Carol!

    All the best, Persephone

  • At 7:23 PM , Blogger Miss Fit said...

    OMGoodness! I'm so happy for you!!! Congratulations on finishing the New York City Marathon!!! I truly, truly loved reading your blog (and I went waaaay back per PartTimeMom's suggestion). It inspired me and made me proud and made me cry - I really felt like I was there experiencing all the highs and lows with you.

    I ran the Portland, Oregon marathon in 2001... I finished, but I was waaaaaaay slower than I had hoped. I didn't train consistently and then I tripped and sprained my ankle before the 1 mile marker! But, I did finish and it was a great sense of accomplishment. I've told myself that I'd like to run another just so I can come in with a finish time I can be proud of... you may have inspired me just enough to go for it...

    Congratulations again!!!

    All the best, Rachel

  • At 11:06 PM , Blogger PhitLee said...

    How did you damage your heels? I'm curious, because (among other things) my heels were pretty unhappy throughout most of my training.

  • At 3:31 AM , Blogger Persephone66 said...

    Hi Phitlee--
    I have plantar facilitis (heel spurs). I saw xrays when I sprained my ankle and they look exactly how they feel: like there's a spike coming out of my heel. It's like walking on a nail. I'm better now--the spikes have curled over so the pain isn't so sharp. I think it's a common injury for runners. I understand there are rememdies including surgery and steroids which I may look into again if there's a flare up. I'm fine at the moment and have just gotten back into jogging as my cardio choice. Hope this helps. See you, Persephone

  • At 1:17 PM , Anonymous Josh T. said...

    WOW!!! Amazing story, I am so proud of if I helped at all? I am still proud to know you though. Thanks for making me feel guilty every time I watch TV instead of excercise...that's just cruel. Also, big props to John...I am sure it takes a very supportive spouse to allow for such a tremendous happening. You two are awesome! Look forward to hanging out with you soon.

    Impressed all to hell - Josh

  • At 9:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Congrats Carol!!

    That's awesome, your blog is so inspirational. I've always wanted to run a marathon, but never got up the guts to do it, I'm super impressed :) The NYC marathon is a tough one too, congratulations again!!



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