Well, since you ask, I feel as if my lower limbs have been removed and replaced with someone else’s, but the unlicensed charlatan performing the operation has screwed them on the wrong way. My feet are pointing south while I am attempting to proceed northwards. Since you ask.
I have taken the day off work as I am also running a fever and have just finished watching How to Marry a Millionaire through streaming eyes in my pyjamas.
But I completed the New York marathon. Yes.
Picture it, as Sofia says in The Golden Girls…
It was quite a production just to get to the starting line: taxis, ferries, buses. The sight of a Coastguard boat helmed by a man in black pointing a machine gun escorting our ferry to the start didn’t even rouse my attention more than momentarily.
Fifty thousand people hopping from foot to foot at the starting corral and the body heat still no match for those biting winds coming in from New York Bay. By then I knew I was getting sick. My eyes and legs felt heavy and I was sneezing. I wasn’t feeling remotely optimistic about what lay immediately ahead. I retied my shoe laces.
My thoughts were basic: Had I eaten enough? Had I eaten too much? Another half a bagel? Oh, what are these…vanilla protein bars? Why not? Hope the aspirin I took doesn’t lead to that fatal condition marathoners suffer from. What, Dunkin Donuts provides coffee, but no donuts? A trip to the PortaPotty? Can we get this show on the road. Maybe I should guzzle a kick of Gatorade. What if there’s no toilet roll in the PortaPotty? Best take this napkin… As I said, basic. Not exactly a glimpse into an elite athlete’s pre-race psyche.
For the first ten miles I enjoyed the buzz from the crowds (Park Slope and Williamsburg, in particular); I high-fived more babies than a politician; I laughed at the funny signs people had made (You’re running better than Obama’s healthcare! Go, random stranger, go!); and I thought how glorious that the city had dressed for the occasion in its sweeping autumnal tecnicolour dream coat.
I understood what people meant when they described it as a special experience. That was until around Mile 17. Then what became truly special was the agony of it. Roads seemed to extend forever and, as far as the eye could see, there were fluorescent dressed human beings. Or human beans, as my mother-in-law says. Which seems so much more appropriate as I felt like such a small entity and the task seemed suddenly overwhelming. We were a sea of small fluorescent entities. Running beans.
I thought about giving up numerous times. Or at least stopping and resting, but I knew if I did that I would seize up, and not get moving again. Before fever struck, I had hoped to complete it in 4 hours but every time I spotted the 4 hour pacesetter in the crowd, I became irritated. She was a teenager who bobbed along with her 4 hour placard held aloft, not a note of exertion showing on her face. I decided to steer clear of her from then on. My hopes of finishing in 4 hours were no longer realistic.
The last five miles were nothing short of hell. I believed the end of Fifth Avenue would never arrive. It seemed as if I was on a conveyor belt that kept dragging us backwards as we pushed our tired legs forward. By then I didn’t even see faces in the crowd. They couldn’t know what I was suffering so what did it matter what they were yelling? The trees could just as well have been coloured sky-blue-pink and I wouldn’t have noticed. I hated all the tunes on my play list, ready to throw my cumbersome iPhone down among the crumpled Gatorade paper cups.
We entered the last leg, Central Park, and thankfully, it was mostly downhill. I defied my body to pick up any iota of extra speed it had in reserve. It sputtered in disbelief. Try for under 4 hours, just try. I’ll never put you through this again, I promise. Strangely enough, the finish line snuck up on me. It was almost anti-climactic. I didn’t believe it was the finish line–not because I was so delirious I thought it was a mirage–but because I convinced myself there was another finish line after, farther on into the park, like the one I saw on TV that morning, the real one. I lifted my heels and when I realized that, in fact, this was it, I had crossed it. I had finished. I remember making unhealthy gasping sounds.
Officials kept herding us forward, telling us if we stopped we would cramp up. We were wrapped in neon orange ponchos and as we trudged silently through New York City’s streets, we resembled quarantined specimens cordoned off from society in some post-apocalyptic sic-fi or zombie TV show. There was no joy or elation; everyone seemed broken, incapable of reaction. Total silence. I still didn’t know my finishing time.
And then I did:
The next morning, I crawled out into the still-glorious autumnal streets to pick up my New York TImes. While I wait for my novel to hit the New York Times Bestseller list, this will keep me going: my name in small print among the list of finishers in their special annual Marathon edition. You need a magnifying glass to see it but it’s there. I placed 13, 849.
But not only that. According to the website, at a pace of 9 minutes 2 seconds per mile, I was the 2,910th woman to place. But still, never mind that, here’s the crowning glory: I beat Christy Turlington’s time and she’s a supermodel!
That must make me a super something. Oh yes, a super soggy mess sitting on a sofa still in her sleepwear.
Incidentally folks, reaching the New York TImes Bestsellers list would really speed up my recovery. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.