To start at the recap beginning click here.
The Bronx mile had taken us 11:25. We'd lost another 30 seconds. The next two miles were flat. I had good leg turnover working, no pains and nothing in my way except a lot of walkers and slooooow joggers.
After I took on the single mission of running as best I could for the remaining five miles, I came up upon a man running with a memorial t-shirt. It listed the birth and death dates of his mother. She had died three days before my mother. I hailed him as I passed and told him of our similar circumstances and wished him luck the rest of the way. At the time I was maybe 20 blocks from where my mother grew up as a girl.
I got back on the 4:45 pace in the 22nd mile and bettered it on the 23rd mile. The last stretch of Fifth Avenue was unbelievably tough as it ascended 100 feet over the mile up to 90th Street where it turned into Central Park. I was wearing down and made time for a half blok of margarita shots. I felt a cramp in my right foot start up and worked to relax it as I ran.
I wondered where my fan club would be next. I was putting so much focus on my pace and stamina that I blew off giving them a cell call. I just hoped for them they were having a good time. As it turns out they were near mile 24 in the Park and my sister-in-law saw me ever so briefly. Nobody else did. I was taking off.
I entered Central Park East and found congestion, tons of spectators cheering, cooler air, and more hills. My time on the 25th mile was as good as any mile back in Brooklyn: 10:32. I was running the tangents, elbowing people out of my way, drafting behind those who were running when we went up hills. I kept looking for the 40K mats. My lungs were heaving. I knew after the 40K mats I had just 1.4 miles to go.
Finally I saw them around a curve and let the beeps ring around in my head. I imagined Ryan Hall cruising this stretch the morning before with crowds screaming, an Olympic qualifying race victory minutes away and a place in the Beijing Summer Games as a marathon favorite. He had a smile on his face and was pointing to the sky.
I became Ryan Hall in my head and ran like a gazelle (by my standard of gazelle, thank you) to towards the finish line. I passed the 26th mile marker. 10:17. My fastest time of the day except for the downhill mile of the Verrazano Bridge.
Next was the 800 meters to go sign. Two laps around the Glenridge Middle School track on a Tuesday morning in August. Hot. Sweaty. Dark. With purpose.
400 meters to go. Less than a quarter mile. An uphill finish stretch to deal with. Push. Pump. Bump my way through.
100 yards. What a dash. Cheering sounds bouncing off the trees and rocks of Central Park. Bleachers on either side of the massive finish line structure. A slight leveling. The mats. The finish. A personal best time of 4:46:44. YES!
Post race. I reveled in the accomplishment for a few minutes right there at the Finish line. Others moved forward for their just rewards. I dawdled to be there and hear all the encouraging words from the incredible race volunteers and officials to everyone who finished. I kept an eye for Susan. I checked my watch and calculated. Maybe soon. Maybe soon Susan.
I back-stepped my way to the first station where a man put the substantially impressive race medal around my neck. I lingered, still watching for Runner Susan. Next was the photo area with the medal. For a PR I thought I would at least like to have the option of having it.
Next was the heat sheet distribution. One person put the sheet over my shoulders. A man offered to tape it closed for me. I was a little baffled by the offer but was very grateful later.
I entered the food area. A bag with water, Gatorade, an apple and bagel. I held onto it and walked with the crowd to a spot where I had seen the Olympic qualifiers pass the 6 mile mark.
I stopped. The crowd was jamming up on the path to the UPS trucks and baggage claim. I could not sit or squat. I was not so hungry yet but did drink some water as I fiddled with my cell phone. It was time to try Susan.
She had just crossed the finish line. I went salmon on the crowd and worked my way back upstream to meet Susan. We hugged and congratulated each other; then worked our way into the stream and shared accounts of our time apart. I apologized for abandoning her. She apologized for being bitchy. I couldn't remember that being the case.
We were herded like cattle to the baggage claim and chip clip. A long walk and a few calls to family established the meet-up plans. Once we had our gear we headed out to Central Park West and met Amy, Linda and Marta. We got warmer clothes on, took pictures and declined Amy's cold hot dog offering.
We bid adieu and I headed back to Lolly's apartment a few blocks away and was ever so grateful to get in a warm room, have a beer, lots of salty chips and recap everyone's race experience. How crazy am I? When I got there I did not wait for the elevator. I hoofed it four flights up the stairs.
Bring on the next marathon. A flat one would be a good chance for a big PR. Chicago is on my mind for next fall. I need to decide what's next for the spring. One of three Florida races might work: Gasparilla, Run for Donna, The A1A. We'll see.
Time to go for a run.