Business first: Next month’s project will be a “short story/writing piece a day”–there is no length requirement or minimum. I will be taking all of my prompts from the front page of reddit.com (a community with a wide number of links) when I log in.
You are welcome to read and critique.
It if is hubris that causes one to try and run a marathon with only a month’s training, it is punch-you-in-the-face stupidity for you to put on short shorts and run through Bed-Stuy Brooklyn at 4:30 in the morning. This is what I did.
Started out at 4:20 this morning, with a long loop down through some iffy neighborhoods. At 6:30 I was due to meet a friend around mile 16 who would bike along side and provide mental support, food and water for the final 10.2. She had to be at work by ten, so we were leaving early.
I was nervous about my left foot, which I had been treating gingerly since my 20-mile run the week before. I’d injured it by ignoring the advice to stop running if the pain changes your gait (a cramp on the inside had forced me to run on the outside). I had not–perhaps stupidly–stopped then and I wasn’t going to be stopping this morning.
As I ran turned the corner from my street I heard a woman sitting on a bench about a block down singing in a beautiful, ringing voice that echoed on the empty street “I can see clearly now that the rain is gone…” I decided this was a good omen. I’m not superstitious except when it comes to endurance events-long runs, 100-mile bike rides. It’s a good way to distract yourself and give yourself small mental victories.
It was just me and the delivery trucks as I headed south through Bed-Stuy and then cut over Atlantic Avenue towards downtown Brooklyn. I turned left down 4th Ave. Here I picked up the NYC marathon route (the O.G. marathon route)–but was headed in the wrong direction. I ran two miles down and then doubled back. In those fifteen minutes, the same quiet street I’d run down had woken up. Same was true as I ran through the Orthodox neighborhood of South WIlliamsburg–again the short shorts came into play, but it was a different sort of discomfort, what with all the black-robed Hasids heading to morning services.
I was less than ten miles in, and already I could feel a twinge in my left hip–with a sensitive foot, my hip was doing more work than it should have been stabilizing my stride, and it wasn’t impressed.
Up all of Bedford Avenue, and then into Queens via the Pulaski bridge. Sunrise was coming all orange and red over Queens and north Brooklyn.
The Queensboro bridge, I’d heard from my friendcoach, was the test of the marathon-a long slog of a climb followed by a steep, muscle-taxing descent. This all coming 16 miles in. My foot, which had been protesting since mile two, finally got its act together and led my lower body in all out rebellion–my knee stiffened, my ankles got wobbly, and worst of all the pain in my hip got so bad that by the time I was off the bridge I was limping. Want to know what it feels like to be sixty-five? Run a marathon.
Mercifully waiting for me was Sara, with a bag full of goodies–mainly water and energy goop. I stretched out my hip best I could while updating Sara, guzzling water and gooping. We stopped roughly every mile for a quick “stretch and goop”–NOT to be misread as a “stretch and poop” which is an activity I was mercifully spared on this marathon.
Bronx bound, I could feel myself slowing down, but my body was taking a break from its ongoing rebellion–my hip loosened and my foot briefly satisfied itself with some grumbling. I kept getting interrupted by crosstown traffic, which was putting more stress and my body.
Through the Bronx I started to feel not just pain but the heavy, slow twinges of exhaustion in my legs. I was close to the final leg, only 6 or so miles to go, but it felt a long way off. Sara patiently bicycle alongside, and at each quick stop we would decide when we would next take a break for a “stretch and goop.”
My mind started going blank–usually on long rides it wanders or wraps itself around an idea until it turns into an essay that I can never manage to bring to paper. Sometimes it just loops a song lyric–earlier in the run, sadistically, I’d had Papa Roach’s insipid hit about suicide stuck in my head, sining “cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort/suffocation, no feeling/don’t give a [rat’s patoot] if I cut my arm bleeding.” The blankness helped-I zoned out on nothing and suddenly another quarter mile would be gone.
The long slog up the slight hill that is 5th avenue along much of the park was pushing me, and I felt that I’d lost any spring to my step. I could hear my shoes scraping along when I didn’t lift them enough–I no longer cared as middle-aged women out for the morning jog zoomed past me. Sara suggest a stopping point once we got into Central Park–and I ran painfully up and down the hills and curves, each change in angle giving my hip another reason to protest. I wanted to close my eyes.
Sara had wisely chosen a stopping point that left me with only a mile to run. I can’t say I was re-energized, but it was a smart decision on her part, and I felt more eager to start running again than I had since we’d first met up near the Queensboro.
Ran/hobbled along Central Park West, and then back into to the park for the final stretch. I didn’t collapse or anything dramatic, but I did breath an enormous sigh of relief when Sara’s offered high-five signified the finish. We stopped for an obligatory exhausted-face photo.
Sara brought along her medal from running the official NYC marathon in 2010, and I managed to give a smile. Lance Armstrong said that running the NYC marathon was harder than the Tour de France. As a cyclist, I scoffed at the idea. What you are unused to is always harder, I’m sure any marathon runner would struggle mightily in the tour. This is what I like about these 30 day projects–each new project is a different sort of challenge, some physical, some mental. In this case, it was both. The mental game was excruciating, constantly calculating how much I had left to run while not moving very fast at all made the distances seem undoable. I only seriously contemplated quitting once–when I came off the Queensboro, but was not only encouraged by Sara but also had the lingering thought that if I didn’t complete my goal, I might be tempted to attempt it again sometime soon, which seemed dangerous. Physically, the challenge was incredible. I’ve felt more exhausted on a bicycle, have spent more time on a bicycle, and traveled far great distances, but on a bike, one can coast if you need a break. On a bike, you get exhausted, but every step doesn’t hurt. The sheer relentless with a mix of pain made this likely the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done.
My body hurts, but I admit I’m pleased. Thanks for reading!