Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Running The New York Marathon 2017: Challenges and Accomplishments

By Randy Buikema, Human Resoure Director

Mary and I took off for New York City on Friday, November 3rd.  We have found that walking over to Peppy's Grill and getting a Blue Indy car is our preferred mode of transportation to the Indianapolis airport.  The cost from Fountain Square was $7. Our direct flight to LaGuardia arrived about 9:00 am. We took an Uber to the Grand Hyatt and were in our room by 10:00 am. I made my final 6-mile training run through Central Park. It was a beautiful day at about 75 degrees, and I got to check out the finish line of the marathon. The park was full of runners shaking out the nerves of anticipation. We took a quick trip to the Javits Convention Center to pick up the race packet. We set a record at staying at the expo for less than an hour. 

There are a lot of cool over-priced running items at the expo, however, I did get a Meb running shirt.
We ate at a nice Italian restaurant - pasta, of course. Next up was the Broadway show The Lion King. This month was the 20th anniversary of the show on Broadway.  The stage, costumes, and lighting were spectacular.  It was a great evening at the show.  The walk-through Times Square to and from the hotel was also very nice.

Saturday, I had a short 3 mile run on the sidewalks of Manhattan.  What a challenge to get around the mass of humanity.  We had a late breakfast at a local shop.  We then took a nice stroll to Central Park.  We hung out in the park sitting on park benches and enjoying people watching and the beautiful weather.  Walking to the park was around one mile from the hotel. You can walk a lot in the park! We did go to Strawberry Field and saw the "Imagination" memorial for John Lennon.  Saturday night we had a nice dinner on the second floor of Grand Central Station. It was a balcony area overlooking the main hall of the station.

Sunday was race day. We were awake at 4:45. We had a favorite breakfast snack of avocado on whole grain bread, and fruit.  I was off for the Public Library at 5:30 to catch my 6:00 bus. I was surprised to find a massive line for the busses. Finally, I boarded the bus at 6:30. It was a little over an hour ride to Staten Island. I was impressed with the traffic jam of busses. All of us over-hydrated runners got in our first line for porta johns. I then could spread out my little blanket and garbage bags and hunker down for about an hour. I was in the green village, corral C, wave 2. 

The next step was going through security one more time, and getting in line for the porta johns one more time. A very important thing for the overly hydrated runners. We then waited about 30 minutes before the march to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. A beautiful rendition of "God Bless America" was sung. Runners started tossing their warm-up gear to the side of the bridge. The bridge is a double decker with runners on both decks. A big howitzer cannon is fired to start the race. It is all uphill the first half mile up the bridge. I believe there were four different splits at the bottom of the bridge and then everyone converged again. My tactics for the race were a little different this time. I was going to stay at a slower pace starting out. I was not going to get the adrenaline rush and excitement get me out too fast. This tactic seemed to work. My overall pace was about 50 seconds per mile slower than I had planned. I think there were a couple of things that attributed to the slower pace: 1.) I typically had a Power Aide and water at every station; 2.) I had to stop twice for bathroom breaks because of the water and Power Aide.  I think previous marathons have taught me that "bonking" partially occurs because of dehydration and electrolyte depletion. I also had six food packs made by Hudson Wikoff - sports nutrition expert. Some were a banana base, some had chia seeds. I think they were a tremendous help in not "bonking" at mile 20. 

I did see Mary a few times throughout the race.  She got some nice pictures. She hooked me up with a clean shirt at mile 17. The shirt transition needs some refinement. I got the new shirt on backwards and then proceeded to rip my bib number. It was very special to run the last few miles with no serious bonking pain. I felt bad for all the people I ran past that were truly suffering. The New York Marathon is much more difficult than Chicago. The 2,500,000 spectators were spectacular. Oh, so loud in their cheering! The last 200 meters were really cool. I ended up crossing the finish line with Tiki Barber! Tiki was a star running back for the New York Giants. Of course, the crowd was really excited to see me and Tiki cross the finish line. Once across the finish line, there was a long walk to receive my finishing medal, warming poncho, and bag of snacks. The medics were busy treating people that fell ill after the race. I assume cramps and upset stomachs. I personally felt really good, besides exhausted. I chose not to check a bag at the start line so I got a thermal poncho at the finish. 

The next step was to reunite with Mary outside of the runner’s secure zone. We met at 76th St and Central Park West. We walked a few blocks to Ella's Kitchen and Bar and finally got to sit and rest the tired legs and feet. A couple of cold ones and a burger, and we were ready for the journey back to the hotel. We found the best way to get around the city after the race was the subway. We could get back to Grand Central Station with just one train change at Time Square. The toughest part of riding the packed trains is that there were a lot of steps to get to the train. My comment to Mary was that we were going down to the depths of hell to get to the 7 train which took us into Grand Central Station. Mary and I were both exhausted from the great day.  I believe we were both sound asleep by 9:00.  

I highly recommend people to set a wild and crazy goal like running a marathon.  You learn so much about yourself.  You meet a lot of people along the journey.  You always have an icebreaker conversation with folks.  I now must decide what the next marathon or adventure is going to be.

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