Spirits In The Sixth Borough: Post New York City Marathon Recap

LocalBozo.com has sent one of our correspondents out for some field research, as our own Link Cromwell attempts to bar crawl his way through Hoboken, New Jersey- just a stones throw away from Manhattan. Check back for his adventures and travels every single Friday as LocalBozo.com attempts to do the unimaginable. And yes, it involves drinking.

“The most fun you never want to have again.” That was a quote describing pledging a fraternity in college. And it comes pretty close to describing how I felt finishing up the NYC Marathon. My day started at 4:30 AM with my alarm going off. I was infinitely indebted to whoever decided to turn back the clocks on Sunday morning to allow me an extra hour of sleep. I took a bus the marathon provided and arrived at Fort Wadsworth with multiple hours to spare. I wandered around in amazement at the number of international runners in the race. Sweden, Netherlands, France, South Africa, etc all brought fairly large running contingents.

I was in the second wave to start, meaning that I took off at 10:10 instead of 9:40 or 10:40. I was also in the last corral in the Blue Group which mean that I had about 15,000 runners in front of me at the start of the race. Unfortunately being so far back it was really tough to hear the starting announcements and “God Bless America” from the starting line. But then all of a sudden blaring out of the speakers was Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and I knew it was going to be time to run. Finally as the huge mass of humanity started to move, I looked ahead of me at the starting line and the thousands upon thousands of people who were heading up the Verrazano Bridge. I soon joined them starting the race at a pace slower than a brisk walk. That’s the problem with many popular races- people are so bunched together that you can barely move, let alone run. As we climbed higher on the longest bridge span in America, space between runners opened up a little and I was able to at least get some semblance of a normal stride. In the divider between what normally is oncoming and your direction of traffic were NYPD officers hanging outside their vans and trucks cheering everyone on. Overhead, helicopters buzzed nearby taking pictures of the crowd.

Then we headed into Brooklyn. The fans were immediately cheering for us right as we decended from the bridge. There are 3 routes from the bridge and mine was straight down onto 4th Avenue. Then up the street, thousands of people from the other routes joined our parade of runners making one huge blob of people. For the first 3 to 4 miles there wasn’t any kind of a pace. It was basically run as fast as you can to an open spot, run a little, slow down because you start getting to close to someone, and then run fast again to an open spot. I can see how everyone tells you not to run too fast in Brooklyn, because you are basically forced to sprint every 50 feet. Besides the difficulty in finding a pace, Brooklyn was incredible. The crowd on the sidewalks was consistently deep and boisterous. As we approached the first major turn in the road at Lafayette Street, the crowd grew to about 8-10 people deep. It was crazy seeing all of those people out there just to see us run down the street. Bands were playing along the side of the road with some covering classic rock tunes from Springsteen to U2 and some playing just drums with others playing reggae or rap. People were calling out my last name as it was printed on the front and back of my shirt. It was great getting that encouragement. The only issue is that I kept thinking that it was a friend or acquaintance that was calling out my name, so I would turn and realize I have never seen that person before in my life.

As I got further and further into Brooklyn I was feeling great. I was running at a nice pace, weather was good. Then Brooklyn kept going and going and going. It was feeling like it was never ending. You aren’t running on the water, so you don’t get a sense of moving north past the normal landmarks of the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges. I started feeling fatigued for the first time as I was anxiously looking forward to getting to the Pulaski Bridge and finally getting into another Borough.

Finally I passed the half marathon point, at 1 hour and 52 minutes, or just slightly quicker than it took the winner to run all 26.2 miles. Right after the half marathon mark we started climbing up the Pulaski Bridge which was much steeper than I thought it was going to be. On the bridge you can tell who had trained with sufficient hills because those people were pumping right up the bridge, while other people started to walk. As I descended into in Queens I started thinking about the fact that even though I was half way done, there were still the big 3 spots ahead; The Queensborough Bridge, the hill up 1st Avenue, and the hill up 5th Avenue. Queens was a lot of fun, in fact I think it was in Queens that I saw my favorite sign that said “You are all Kenyans to us!” Besides that there were a lot of signs about how close we were to finally having a beer and about our toenails.

Queens went by in a flash and next thing you knew it was time to make the sharp turn onto the Queensborough Bridge. I think it was on the bridge approach where one of the dynamic message signs that they had had for cars during road construction that was saying “Slow Down…Sharp Curve Ahead”, which I thought was funny because it was the only sign the entire trip that was not encouraging. As I climbed up the 59th Street Bridge I was Feelin’ Groovy (Simon & Garfunkel reference… anyone… anyone? ). We ran on the lower level of the bridge and it was the first time I felt cold because we were in the shade and there was a small crosswind blowing. It was at that point that I saw the 3 hour and 50 minute pace team pass me by, and I realized I probably didn’t have enough in my tank to catch back up. But before I could get too discouraged I reached the crest of the mile+ long bridge and started to stride down into Manhattan.

The cheering was as loud as I imagined, coming down off the bridge and turning the corners onto First Avenue. The streets were lined at least 6 deep. First Avenue seemed so wide compared to the rest of the course making it hard to look into the crowd for familiar faces. With the extra momentum of the anticipation of seeing some family and friends I started running up First Avenue at a real good pace…which is a classic rookie mistake. The streets started passing by one by one, and in the high 80s and low 90s I was greeted with some great friendly cheers and had to keep moving on up to the Bronx.

Boy was the Bronx something I wasn’t prepared for. Nothing against the fine residents or fans that were up there, but you just killed me. Leaving the crowds of the Upper East Side behind I was closing in on the 20 mile mark…which was the most my training ever took me. Right about the 20 mile mark is also the Willis Avenue Bridge. Again a fairly unassuming bridge most days, but when you are at your training limit and running a marathon it might as well have been Mt. Kilimanjaro. I struggled up the hill and all of a sudden in my head I realized that I still had around 6 miles to go. As I wrapped around the streets of the Bronx my legs felt dead. I was just basically shuffling my feet. I felt that the fans that were there cheered harder for me, sensing that I was losing my grip on the pace. As I looked at my watch I could tell any dreams of getting a 3 hour 45 minute race was down the drain…now it would just be a struggle to get to the finish line.

Over the Madison Avenue Bridge I went back into the borough of Manhattan. The one thing I was happy about is that there was basically just one direction to go now…just south, except for the little loop on Central Park South. I started looking at the street signs. While at the beginning of the race the numbers seemed to fly by, now every time I looked the street numbers only decreased by 1… 135th Street, 134th Street. I knew I had people waiting to cheer me on at the entrance to the Park at 86th Street and I just couldn’t wait to get there. Each step felt like I was taking steps with concrete shoes. The crowds thickened as I got closer and closer to the park, I got some inspiration from the guy with the Friday Night Lights inspired “Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose” sign.

Entering the park is something I always had looked forward to. The massive amount of people cheering everyone on was motivating…but there is only so much you can do when your legs don’t feel like moving. I got to see my friends and my family and I gave them a look of “Please somebody carry me to the finish line.” I looked at my watch and in my head I was seeing how slow I could go and still crack 4 hours. There was still about 3 miles to go and knew that I could keep up a pace of 10 minute miles and finish comfortably under 4 hours. I knew I just had to keep moving. I wouldn’t let myself stop and walk because I knew I would hate myself afterwards for doing so. The whole race in the park gets sloppy. You have some people in great shape flying by the stragglers like me. You have people even in worse shape walking. The water/Gatorade stations are a huge mess, with everyone grabbing something to drink. Even the wet cups on the ground seemed like an obstacle impeding my progress to the finish.

Whenever I have gone on my training runs, I always leave a little left to kick it to the end of my workout. I just didn’t think I had it for this marathon. We turned down Central Park South and past the Plaza. Everyone was telling us we were almost there. I wanted to look up and see the finish line but we were still too far away. I thought the 26th mile marker was approaching, but they fooled me and it was the ½ mile to go marker…then the ¼ mile to go marker. I tried to find that extra gear telling myself there was the equivalent of just one lap on the track to go. I maybe found a little bit, but not much. The finish line was finally within reach…. I raised my hands posed for the pictures and came across the line at 3 hours and 56 minutes…just under my 4 hour goal.

Instant pain all over as I crossed the line. I don’t know if it is because they know you shouldn’t stop moving after such a long run, but you basically have to walk a mile in the park just to meet anyone after the race. I got my bag of food and drinks, got my medal, and then walked and walked and walked to get the bag I checked at the beginning of the race. That was the most painful mile. My feet killed, my calves were burning and cramping. I stopped a couple of times to lean on the fences and the attentive medical staff encouraged me to keep moving. It took about 40 minutes to walk that mile. At the start of my walk I immediately texted my wife and my family “I am never doing this again.” I really thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever done. To be in this kind of pain…who would ever want to go through this?

Monday morning I awoke. Sure my legs were a little sore, but nothing too unusual. My toes…boy were they in pain; extremely swollen with disfigured toe nails. Apparently the way to quickly reduce the pain is to heat up a paper clip, burn a hole through your toenail and get relief from puncturing the skin under your toenail and allowing the puss under the nail to ooze/shootout…or just wait it out in pain. I decided to wait it out instead of playing amateur surgeon. It was nearly too painful to walk in shoes. After a good amount of people had left my office at 5:30 I just walked around with no shoes at all.

While I was hobbling around Monday, I thought more about the rash judgment I made in saying I would never run the marathon again. The competitiveness inside me wondered what I could have done if I had been better prepared for the last 6 miles. Maybe getting the same enjoyment out of the end of the race as I did at the beginning could be attainable. Now I am reconsidering swearing off the marathon. A day, 2 days, 3 days removed I am looking back fondly. How surreal was it to have thousands upon thousands of strangers cheering you on and screaming your name. What an accomplishment it was having friends congratulate you on something that takes a great deal of time and devotion. So who knows, maybe you will see me out there running the 5 boroughs again…but of course it will take the same love and support from my countless friends who texted me good luck, followed my race online, and most of all who took time out of their Sunday to cheer me on. And of course my wife and family for cheering me on when I was in my biggest pain, turning in the park and for waiting for me at the end of the race ready to help me walk home. Thanks!

- Link Cromwell



Completed Bars
Northern Soul – 9.3/10
The Clinton Social – 9.1/10
The Turtle Club – 9.0/10
Court Street – 8.9/10
Hudson Tavern – 8.9/10
Elysian Cafe – 8.8/10
Grimaldi’s – 8.8/10
Onieals – 8.7/10
Village Pourhouse – 8.7/10
1 Republik – 8.6/10
Wicked Wolf Tavern – 8.5/10
Zack’s Oak Bar – 8.5/10
Arthur’s Tavern – 8.3/10
Oddfellows – 8.1/10
Cucharamama – 8.0/10
The Shannon – 7.9/10
Carpe Diem – 7.9/10
Helmers’ – 7.9/10
Teak – 7.8/10
Mulligan’s – 7.7/10
Karma Kafe – 7.7/10
DC’s Tavern – 7.7/10
Louise & Jerry’s – 7.7/10
Brass Rail – 7.6/10
Hoboken Bar and Grill – 7.5/10
Four L’s – 7.5/10
Liberty Bar – 7.5/10
McSwiggans – 7.4/10
Nag’s Head – 7.4/10
Eight Street Tavern – 7.3/10
Maggie’s Place – 7.3/10
Three A’s – 7.3/10
The Quays – 7.2/10
Willow Billiard Club & Lounge – 7.1/10
S. Sullivan’s – 7.1/10
Farside – 7.1/10
Hobson’s Choice – 7.0/10
Rogo’s – 6.7/10

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