Friday, November 8, 2013

Run This Town

If you had told me a year ago that last year's cancellation of the New York City Marathon would be a non-story prior to Sunday, I would have laughed you off. The controversy that surrounded the decision to call off the race, the emotions from a city in anguish, runners coming together to help complete strangers - how could these story lines not be the focus come November 3rd?

That was all prior to April 15th, just before 3pm.

Thinking back to last year, it all seems so distant. My community back home had been affected, and it was a tough time. Then Marathon Monday came along and changed everything. Every local 5k is worried it's going to be the next target; every runner is "doing it for Boston" and running "Boston Strong."

With my involvement in these two mammoth events, I couldn't help but wonder what might happen at NYC this year. Increased security, metal detectors outside the start village, baggage restrictions, spectators having to show ID to get into the family reunion area. For the 50,304 finishers on Sunday, every person had a story about their journey to the start line. The show, as they say on the Great White Way, must go on. And so it did.

For my brother Kevin, his journey to the start line began 5 years ago, when he first entered the lottery. 24 years old at the time, he figured he'd start applying, so worst case it took him 3 tries to get in. I remember saying to him, "what if you get in this year?" He chuckled and said, "I guess I'll have to run a marathon." Well, he didn't get in. Nor did he get in the next year. Or the year after that. Being a 3 time loser, at least until now, guaranteed your admission on the 4th try - which happened to be last year. For me, the opportunity to share the start line with my brother at NYC, for his first marathon, was one I was supremely excited for. I used a qualifying time to get in and after a less-than-stellar 2012, I wasn't really looking forward to running. The only thing that got me through my fall training was the fact that I was going to get to do it with Kevin.

Last year's race was canceled around 5pm on Friday, conveniently at the time I was begin my trek north to New Jersey. I still went. There was far too much on anyone's mind to worry that moment about what to do about next year's race, but when the details were sorted and we were offered refunds, or a guaranteed spot in one of the next 3 editions of the race, I asked my brother was he wanted to do.

Sure, he could have gone out and run another marathon, but he had been waiting so long to run THIS marathon. New York isn't just any race, it's the race. For us, growing up within sight of lower Manhattan, with a clear view of the Verrazano Bridge, I completely understand. After all, when I decided to finally run a marathon in 2008, it was NYC.

Most of you know my brother, and know he's not a small guy. Hardly built like a runner, and since you just never know what's down the road, there may not be a ton of marathons in his future. In his build-up he'd endured injuries like any of us. He got his runs in, and made progress through the fall. He came to the line as prepared as he could be for Sunday, but it's still a marathon. It's still 26.2 miles of pounding pavement. The marathon is a cruel test for even the most prepared athletes.

I didn't know what to expect for my brother, I just hoped he could get through it and enjoy the experience. There really is nothing like running through the streets of New York, a city he lived in for years.

In the morning, our dad drove us to Staten Island. The 30 minute trip got slowed down just before the exit, but we finally got there. We got as close as we could, hopped out, and were on our way. The day prior it had been 70 degrees with sun, and no wind. This morning it was cooler, in the upper 40s there, with a not-so-subtle wind out of the north. We found our way to our color-coded village and made camp on the grass. When it was time to get to our start corrals, a quick brother hug that was totally manly sent him on his way.

At the start line I wondered what must have been going through his head. The start of that race is exciting and nerve-racking. As I spent my own very long day on the roads, I thought about Kevin and his day. I was so focused on running a particular time in 2008 that I didn't really enjoy the race. We all have goals, but at a race like New York, it's important to not lose the forest through the skyscrapers.

I waited around the letter M at the reunion area and spotted Kevin. He looked great for just having run his first marathon! He had crossed the line in 4:17:57, which I thought was pretty darn good. More than that, though, he accomplished something that had been a goal for a long time, and that was far from easy for him. We're surrounded by tremendously talented and hard-working individuals, but sometimes we take for granted that marathons are really hard.

After the race we took some quick family photos, minus my sister, and made haste out of the city. The way we treat most races underscored the magnitude of the day. A year is a long time to wait for something. 5 years is even longer. I was so proud of what my brother had done, and how cool he was about it. A few days later I haven't caught back up with him, but I hope it's sinking in for him now: he ran the New York City Marathon.

It was quite obvious he was going to earn the Purple Drink Athlete of the Week award, but not just because he finished. More that he got there in the first place.

My brother's achievement takes nothing away from the other amazing performances from over the weekend. Graham Peck, by the numbers, was awesome. 51st overall. 11th American. 2nd in his age classification. 1st Marylander. He ran 2:32:08 and that was after throwing up somewhere around mile 15! Lee DiPietro ran 3:18. Jeff Rumbaugh, 3:18. Dr. Rodney Taylor had an exceptional day as he pretty evenly split a 3:10.

Elsewhere, more impressive results: Conrad Laskowski ripped the Downs Park 5M, winning in 24:48. Nate Brigham was 3rd in 25:29 and Dustin Meeker was 4th in 25:53. Steve Febish was 5th just a little behind that, and Tim Burns, who I missed in the email because nobody mentioned he was there, was just over 27 minutes.

In Rockville, Christa Wagner WON the Rockville 10k in a non-Pike's Peek PR. Sara Damiano ran really well too, finishing 5th in 44:06. Patty Stott rocked the 5k and is making serious strides towards an 8 minute pace Celtic Solstice.

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