Spirits in the Sixth Borough: Pre-Marathon


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.

When I told people that I was going to run the NYC Marathon this year, most people thought I was crazy. It’s not that I was terribly out of shape or anything like that, but not many people understood the joy that a person can get from running.  In fact, I don’t know if it’s running that gives me joy or just throwing a goal out there and working really hard to achieve it.  It is that feeling of achievement which is the main drive to probably 30,000 of the 45,000 runners that will be taking off from the Verrazano Bridge this Sunday to go on their 26.2 mile journey around New York City. And I will take you into the mind of someone that is looking for a punishing achievement on Sunday.

I started training around the last week of June. I probably have logged more than 750 miles to get here.  I have dragged my trusty pair of shoes and my Garmin GPS watch all over this country and beyond. That’s the thing with marathon training, even though life will have its twists and turns, once you start it’s really tough to stop.  I took my training to Ft. Lauderdale, the Poconos, Italy, the mean streets of Newark, NJ (Branch Brook Park is actually really nice), St. Louis, and of course New York City. However my main places of training was one of three routes; Hoboken-Jersey City-Liberty State Park, Hoboken-Weehawken-Union City-West New York-Fairfield- Edgewater, Bloomfield-Montclair-Cedar Grove.  It was always a key to find routes that had nice views, had decent hills, and most of all contained one long loop so I didn’t have to do repetitive laps.  

And all of that training comes down to this Sunday.  26.2 miles between me and that goal I put out there in January. And they don’t make it easy… having to catch a bus a little after 5 AM, despite starting for another 5 hours.  For those of you who don’t know, because there are soooo many participants there are 3 different start times for the race.  The elite runners start at 9:30.  These are the men and the women that look like they are sprinting the entire distance, and the TV crew cars basically have to break local speed limit laws to keep up.  I will be starting in the second wave at 10:10 and there is a third wave that starts 40 minutes after that.

The race map can be found here but for a quick summary. You start on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano. Luckily for me I will be on the top of the bridge…runners on the bottom of the bridge are known for sometimes being the unlucky recipients of bodily fluids those on the top deck need to expel before the race.  The first mile is up the bridge (and as I am told) at a very slow space because you are packed shoulder to shoulder with everyone.  The second mile is basically down the bridge and into Brooklyn. Brooklyn is supposedly very flat, and you cross into Queens via the Pulaski Bridge at mile 13 and run through Queens (essentially Long Island City).  Then the imposing Queensboro/ 59th Street Bridge (I won’t call it any other name) as you descend into Manhattan. Then up First Avenue into the Bronx…little loop in the Bronx and back down 5th Avenue and into Central Park for the grand finale.

Now that’s information you can get almost anywhere.  But I want you to know the feelings of a person about to embark on their first marathon in the greatest city in the world …and that feeling is a whole lotta nervous.  
I am nervous about reaching 26.2 for the first time. My training maxed out with a single run mileage of 20 miles (which is pretty typical).  I reached 20 twice out of the 3 times I tried.  However, to get to 26.2 you have to run about 30% longer than any other run!! Anything can happen in that extra 30%….its pretty daunting.  Also as with any training program, my runs have gotten shorter and shorter as I have gotten closer to the race.  So now it’s like I have forgotten what it takes to get to 20 miles and I feel like I am getting out of shape.  But all the advice says you can only hurt yourself the last week…not help. I also second that feeling as running in the post October snow storm/tree limb armageddon that occurred over the last week has made it very tough to run safely in any park as you have to hurdle over many massive branches.

I am nervous that I am going to go out too fast.  Every person I have spoken to that has done NY has said the same thing; from family friends, to fraternity brothers, to internet running gurus, to the guy who cleaned the carpets in my office three days ago…they all say don’t go out too fast.  Apparently Brooklyn is very inviting with its flat terrain, jubilant people ready to greet you at the start of the race.  But everyone is telling me it’s a trap.  ’Stay slower than your goal pace’ they say.  I don’t know if I am going to be able to hold back that much. Part of me wants to get out to a quicker than goal pace so that I won’t feel bad slowing down later when I am tired. But that’s exactly the trap that novice marathoners fall far apparently.

I am nervous about the hills.  New York is known for being a fairly hilly course.  Obviously all of the bridges have pretty big inclines but luckily they are followed by declines.  However the hills in New York come at inopportune times.  Most of them happen at the end of the race while during most of my training the hills were at the beginning.  There was something easier about my mindset when I knew that I had conquered the hills and just had flat/downhill to run. With this race you basically never finish the hills. The Queensboro Bridge is supposedly a doozy and that’s at mile 15. Mile 15 is basically where I typically experience my “wall”.  The only thing that pulled me through that wall on my longer runs was the fact that at most I only had 5 miles to go. Now at this marathon, not only is there a huge bridge in front of me to climb up at mile 15, but now I have 10.2 miles to go.  Then after the Queensboro Bridge there is a slow climb up 1st Avenue which I have heard is fairly tough. But then the killer (I assume) is 5th Avenue coming back towards Central Park.  Around miles 22-24 it represents a mileage increase of 10-20% more than anything I have ever run before and it is a slow gradual hill.  Slow gradual hills are my worst. I like my hills to be ripped off like band aids. Gradual hills take a ton out of you…they don’t have that definite crest to look forward to. It just seems like it goes on and on and on….

I am nervous about the fight.  I have always felt that even though running is a solo activity you are really fighting against 3 things…the clock…your mind…and your body.  I am constantly waging a war with those 3 every step of the way. I am constantly looking at my watch which is telling me my pace, trying to find a balance between going too fast or too slow. Literally every 10 strides I may be working on accelerating or slowing down depending on my pace.  Then there is my mind. When things are going well my mind is preoccupied on some music I am listening to.  But when things are going bad my mind is like the devil on my shoulder.  Its telling me its OK to slow down, its OK to stop, its OK to give up.  It gets louder and louder.  As I see other people slowing down or stopping it tends to tell me that I can do that too.  And then it also starts telling me that things are hurting. Which leads me to the fight against the body.  If you pay enough attention to your body, you are always going to find something that hurts you. Whether its your shins, or your knees, or your back, or your lungs…literally anything.  In concert with my mind, if I am not strong enough it’s going to bring attention to the inevitable chest cramps, or that my shoe is too tight so it feels like I am running with a cement brick for a foot for 15 miles. I know it’s going to happen…it’s just whether I have enough in it to fight it.

So obviously you can tell how nervous this first time runner is.  However, I still think I can do it.  I have a goal to finish the marathon.  A secondary goal to finish in under 4 hours.  And an outlandish goal to finish in under 3 hours and 45 minutes.  I’ll be wearing a red running shirt (for my World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals) with my name on the front and the back.  You can follow my progress on the web for free here  or through the iPhone and Android apps for $3 (while you are at the Android Store, why don’t you download the LocalBozo App for free?). My bib number is #28018, so hopefully this Sunday you can either cheer me on along the course or virtually.  

Also I would be remiss to talk all about this marathon and not say thank you to those you helped me get to this point.  Thanks to all of my friends for their well wishes and their cheers.  Thanks to those family members who have bought me training equipment to help me get prepared for this day. And a special thanks to my wife, who has sacrificed many hours of sleep (as I have woken up early to run), cooked my endless meals while I went on runs after work, changed her weekend plans so that I could go on time consuming long runs, and always looking on the positive. I’ll see you at the finish line…

- 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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