The last time I ran a half marathon (the only time, in August 2005 -- see blog entry from 8/28/05), I staggered to the finish line with bloody ankles, distended muscles and a throbbing in my stomach and chest. It was the worst running experience of my life, through heat and rain and the kind of smutty fog that only settles over this blighted island during the worst days of summer.
With 8 months of gym time under my belt and fresh athletic socks on my feet, I attempted another half-marathon yesterday. Beloved reader, it was fantastic - one of the best running experiences of my life. Nike and a few city agencies joined forces to organize this ass-kicking course through Manhattan: a loop and change around Central Park, straight down 7th Avenue into Times Square, then a turn onto 42nd Street over to the West Side Highway, then down to Battery Park. They closed the streets for us, and we had to line up a bit earlier than usual, slogging into the Park for the 7 am start time.
Once we began, it was so packed that during the entire 8 miles in Central Park, I spent more time and energy jockeying for position than paying attention to distance or the clock. There was just this incredible sea of people you had to wade through.
But then when you turned onto 7th Avenue and started a straight shot down into the canyons of Times Square, it was simply exhilarating - bands playing on the sidewalks, cops guarding the streets, people watching and cheering - even when the heavens opened up and these huge, fat raindrops came pummeling down, I felt so good and so strong. The stretch down 42nd St, to the West Side Highway, was a bit depressing in the rain and cold, and I tried one of those carb infusion goo's (like a cross between icing and toothpaste - not cool). The stretch down the West Side Highway was surprisingly boring, and I felt my energy lag at the monotony of running on flat highway, as the buildings of lower Manhattan slowly emerged in the fog. in the last two miles I had a stitch in my side and my knees were aching, but I kept pounding away, 800 meters left, 400, and that was it. I ended up running 1 hour, 47 minutes - 8:09 per mile, 13 times over - a full 20 minutes better than my time last year, during the massacre of August 2005.
Anyways, it was a brilliant race, one of the highlights of my time as a New York Road Runner. I took James' advice and walked through each fluid station, sipping on water and Gatorade. We took this photo later that night, after we were all cleaned up (but while our legs were still twitching from the exhaustion and strain): L and I triumphant on the couch, holding our medals, as well as the "Run Like Jimmy" button L created in honor of our friend who just ran across an ocean. It was a great experience.