Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Map of David’s run generated by his GPS watch.

With Achilles athlete, John Young.

The walking dead marching into the Bronx.

The NYC Marathon starts on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge.

(Fun fact: The Verrazano is the second longest bridge in NYC. The longest is the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.)

Fun fact: It is tough to start a marathon at the foot of a bridge because you are on an incline.

(Which feels like...)

Which feels like it never ends. 

(It’s like what? A half mile to the center of the bridge?)

Yes and it is a huge relief to crest the top and start running downhill, since no one wants to start a marathon like this.

(No one but you wants to start a marathon, period.) 

Ah, but how often do you get to run over a bridge? The thought that I tend to drive over this bridge in summer is not lost on me while I’m running over it.

Plus all around me people are doing strange things. Holding conversations while they run. People are stripping off sweatshirts and throwing them to the side.

People are stopping to take selfies

(You take selfies.)

I don’t stop in the middle of a bridge.

(How is that different?)

I stop if it’s somebody else at the side of the road like a friend. These people are just standing in front of the bridge while we’re running by.

Running down the off ramp you see runners from the other deck of the bridge running across the street. It’s like watching a wall of water just flow by. Then the two lines merge. Now that we’re in Brooklyn at mile two, the landscape changes from hipster families to African American families to Hispanic families.

(Which one is the most interactive crowd?)

You are asking the wrong question. It’s all about the kids. Little kids love the costume.

For almost the entire race, I was high fiving the kids on the side of the road. 

Cops love the costume as well.

“Go Tony!” is a common NYPD chant.

(Tony?)

Tony Stark. Ironman.

(Does anyone notice how much you look like him?)

Many do, but I get the occasional, “Superman” or “Hulk.”

(Hulk is green.)

I know. Go figure.

Ten miles in and I was feeling good. I had already run through Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, Gowanus and Williamsburg.

In the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, I pass my friend John Young, the man whose Instagram handle is “DwarfParaTri.”

Want to feel inspired? Run with a man who is four feet four inches tall. 

(If he is four foot four, how did you get the picture?)

I got down on one knee.

Once in Queens, I knew that it was a short sprint until the 59th Street Bridge

(The Ed Koch Bridge.)

Whatever. 

As the bridge came into sight, the wheels came off the bus.

Fatigue set in at mile 14 and I had to walk.

A few steps to catch my breath became half a mile.

I started to think, “If can’t run this marathon, how am I going to run the ultra marathon?” 

(Did you call your wife to come get you?)

The thought did occur, but then what would I tell my children? “Daddy quit because it got too difficult?”

That is when experience came in hand. I’ve walked a few Ironman marathons, I would be able to get through this.  

I decided that if I just kept moving forward, I would be OK.

I walked up the incline of the Ed Koch Bridge. I was grumpy that I  was walking and people were running past me.

Old people, young people, Achilles athletes with their guides. 

(Achilles?)

Achilles is an organization that provides guides to athletes with disabilities.

(Like blind athletes?)

Perfect example.

At the apex of the bridge, I passed the mile 15 sign and started running again.

Post race phone conversation with my coaching mentor Justin Trolle revealed that I bonked.

(You hit your head?)

No, I hit the wall.

(Wait. What wall?)

Hitting the wall or bonking are terms for running out of energy because you’re out of fuel.

As Justin put it, I “ran out of carbohydrates”. 

(Doesn’t the Marathon provide you with tables of food?)

Yes the do, but I think that’s the thing about running. You can be in a carbohydrate deficit without feeling hungry.

(First time this has happened?)

Yup.

(Live and learn.)

Where was I?

(Mile 15, in Manhattan.)

Off the bridge and I was running up First Avenue. It occurred to me that I had to reach 135th street.

(To finish?)

To reach the Bronx.

(Where were you in Manhattan?)

Sixty third and first.

Stop thinking blocks.

(Think miles?)

Don’t think. Just run.

Sixties became 70, became 80s and 90s.

Screaming crowd. Kids  behind barricade giving “Ironman” a high five. 

Finally, the incline at 135th st., the entrance to the Willis Ave Bridge. All these marathoners walking...but not me.

(Ah, the walking dead.) 

Zombie apocalypse is what I call it, since all the walkers look dead.

I ran. Albeit a little slower, but I ran when others walked.

It should have been simple. Just run straight to the finish line. Up the Willis Ave Bridge into the Motthaven section of the Bronx. Turn left, run west on 138th st. Cross the Madison Ave Bridge back into Manhattan.

(Did you get lost?)

No, the New York Road Runner put in so many turns between entering the Bronx at 135th and exiting at 138th street Bridge that you feeling like you’ve added three miles.    

Once you turn onto 138th, you are only one mile from Manhattan. 

(But you are still six miles from the finish.)

That’s fine. Counting down six miles makes it go faster.

(Does it make you go faster?)

No but it makes me fight harder to resist walking.

I cross back into Manhattan at 138th and was greeted by a sign that read Mile 21.

That’s when you tap into your memories.

Five miles to go? Heck, I can do that in under an hour.

South on 5th, around Marcus Garvey Park and back onto 5th.

Four miles to go.

Four miles? That’s two sets of two milers.

At 110th, Central Park in on my right and I see the mile 23 sign.

(3.2 miles? That’s a 5k...kinda.)

5k is 3.1, but who’s counting at this point?

Mile 24 sign, I can see the photographers sitting above us as we begin to turn on West 90th and enter the park at the Engineers Gate.

2.2 miles, but the road keeps going.

(So close, yet so freaking far.)

At this point everything hurt and I didn’t want to high five anymore. I don’t want to thank people. I just want to be done. At least we were running downwards in the park, not up hill.

Then my wireless headphones died.

Yay me, no more music.

(So listen to the music in your head.) 

That’s what tapping into those memories is all about. 

Near the bottom of the park was the Mile 25 sign. The uphill will be here soon. We exited the park and ran along 59th street. The crowds were screaming something fierce and there was a strong smell of horse pee. I just focused on trying to pass whoever was in front, since they were hurting too.

At the corner of 59th and Columbus Circle we round the “Remember the Maine” memorial and entered the park again. Half a mile from the finish and we had to go....uphill.


David Roher is a USAT certified marathon and triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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