Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for New York City Marathon

In Praise of the Small Marathon

I’m giving some thought to a Fall marathon (or two). Oddly, my last two marathons were at opposite ends of the marathon experience. Earlier, I posted a blog on the New York City (NYC) Marathon, the largest marathon in the world. Let me tell you about a follow-up to the New York Marathon, a wonderful early March small race about 5 hours south of New York. The Lower Potomac River (LPR) Marathon isn’t the smallest marathon in the world, but it’s close.

Sunrise start during mile 1 of LPM - Photo credit: Jeanne Larrison

Sunrise start during mile 1 of LPM – Photo credit: Jeanne Larrison

I hesitate to spread the word about this small gem for fear of losing out on registration another year. I’ll take that chance and share my large/small marathon comparison:

Entry Fee (depending on registration date/details):
NYC: $255
LPM: $50

Transportion to Start:
NYC: 2.5 hours approx. Subway, ferry, then bus to Start
LPR: 5 minute drive to start/finish at Paul Hall Center from the St. George Inn

Start Time:
NYC: 10:30 a.m. – 3rd wave
LPR: 7:30 a.m.

Women and Place in F65-69 Age Group:
NYC:121 in AG, 6th Place
LPR: 3 in AG, 2nd Place

Finishers:
NYC: 53,000
LPR: 180 (Race caps registration at 200) 

About as crowded as it got on the course. Photo credit:  Crystal Rapp

About as crowded as it got on the course. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Fantastic Women Race Directors:
NYC: Mary Wittenberg
LPR: Liza Recto

Personal Finish Time:
NYC: 4:28
LPR: 4:39 (I’ll save the excuses)

Scenic:
NYC: through portions of 5 boroughs, over Hudson River
LPR: along Potomac River, past lighthouse, horse farm, riverside cottages

Weather:
NYC: High Winds, cool & crisp
LPR: Clear, crisp, minimal remaining roadside ice and snow after a tough winter

Photo Credit: Jeanne Larrison

If you enjoy hearing early morning bird calls and the wind in the pines, this race is for you. If crowd support is a must, maybe not. Photo Credit: Jeanne Larrison

Time Change on Race Date (how odd is this?):
NYC: To EST – gained an hour
LPM: To DST: – lost an hour

Race Photos:
NYC: 3-Image Download, $49.95
LPM – Courtesy images at request from on-course photo-joggers of  Chesapeake Bay Running Club.

Perks:
NYC:
    Large Expo
    Seminars
    Photo Ops with Elite Runners

LPM:
Waterside dinner with local runners at the
                  Ruddy Duck steps away from Inn
      Indoor Bathrooms at Start/Finish
      Post-race Showers available in the Spa
      Buffet luncheon (no charge for runners) during awards

How do your large and small marathons compare?

Pre-race Dinner at the Ruddy Duck with local runners. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Pre-race Dinner at the Ruddy Duck with local runners. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Does the convenience and hospitality of the small marathon trump the celebrity, expo, and crowd support of the mega-marathons – or not?

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NYC Marathon Bookend Days

Destination marathons, and even home town marathons, have a before and after. Taking on 26 miles requires your mental space. That may mean a day-before get together with friends who will patiently listen to you second guess your training plan. It may mean sitting quietly with yourself for even a short time, a moment to focus physical and mental energy. The closing bookend may be a day back at the office where the mind wanders to the previous day’s accomplishment and while your  body reminds you that, yes – you really did do that – again.IMG_0978

With New York, there was a before day to gently roll into that weekend and an after day of soaking up some post-marathon activity before a mid-day departure.

Our threesome took the ever-convient Amtrak in, with a window of time to discuss running, catching up on other miscellany, and more running talk.

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With running friends Carol and Becky. My green bib is a giveaway that they are speedier runners.

With a mid-day Friday arrival, we dropped our bags at the hotel and off to the Expo shuttle bus for the Javits Center. From the start, there is the distinct international feel to this marathon. We had ample time to pick up our registration bags, check out the running gear and with an extra day before the marathon, we dared to taste test the myriad of sample energy products on display.

There are items I know after a brief scent or a bite are not for me. Others I’m willing to try. I brought samples home to experiment with as I begin my next cycle of long training runs. I’ll let you know how they work for me.

Large selections of running gear did not tempt me. I seldom buy gear at an Expo. Well, there was the time in Boston when my luggage took another route, but aside from emergencies I’m more likely to ponder my selections until its too late. It’s a great way to save.

After a few hours of browsing time, the crowd was growing and we exited the Expo for an early dinner at Joe G’s, a Manhattan favorite for me, located below street level with a grotto feel and deliciously seasoned Italian.

Saturday started with an early shake-out run from the Da Vinci Hotel, a boutique place chosen for its proximity to the NYC Marathon finish line. The friendly, helpful staff were a bonus.

2-DSC00768 A cold rain fell and by mid afternoon the wind was picking up. It was a relaxing, do your own thing day. We could easily have fit in a show, but kept things unstructured,  rendezvousing for a few meals. I particularly liked the Bread and Honey market neaby,image where we restocked on snacks and bananas and enjoyed a hot cup of soup. A quick stop at the Westerly Natural Market (more samples in my cache), then a late lunch/early dinner was nearby at the Ivy Bar. It was time to call it a day.

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A gracious Meb signs autographs

Our closing bookend day had a great start, thanks to Terri, my running friend and fellow blogger at  See Jain Run. From her, I learned about a post-marathon day presentation and information session on a product I have yet to try (another sample I’m saving for an upcoming long training run. I’m looking forward to trying the product  – more on this later). IMG_0997There we had the opportunity to hear Olympian and winner of earlier Boston and NYC Marathons Meb Keflezighi  offer comments and insights on running  and competing and life, and some nutrition information from running coach and author Greg McMillan as well.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

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Whoever invented the rolling suitcase, thank you.

Off to catch the train with no time to spare, the bookends fold and marathon weekend is complete. Great marathon, great city, nasty weather. We’ll be back. Maybe.

 

Windy, Wild NYC Marathon

With more than 50,000 NYC Marathon finishers, there are as many stories. Here is mine. A long and tedious path from a half marathon qualifier in 2012, cancellation of NY 2012, 2013 tumble down a ski hill, defer to 2014. The wait was worth it.

Any marathon the size and reputation of NY has a before and after the main event. That will wait. Today, its the main event. The decision early on was do a tourist run, enjoy the sites and finish time be damned.

View from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Carol Varano

View from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Carol Varano

Race day we’re off – subway to Staten Island Ferry, buses to athletes villages, most runners carrying bags of throw-away clothing for warmth in the 40mph winds at the start.

Hugs and goodbye, good luck to my faster friends Carol and Becky off to their starts. I keep walking to the green village where my corral will begin the gauntlet of wind on the Verrazano Bridge, first mile uphill – second mile downhill.IMG_0988

High over the Hudson River, I tried my best to stay in the middle of a group of runners. Instead, those runners were being buffeted about while I was blown to the right into the barricades, then bouncing back into the group, hopping across layers of clothing abandoned as runners exit the wind swirls on the bridge and enter Brooklyn.

The relentless wind moves from broadside to a headwind. I search the crowd for a bigger person running my pace, fall in behind a young man clicking along at about a 9:40, slightly taller and wider than me. I give him a couple of feet of space and soon a small woman cuts in at his heels. How unfair, slipping in and stealing my windshield. Off to find a replacement.

And there he is, about 6’6″ with a wide torso, wearing either halloween devil horns or a Viking helmet, not sure which. I draft behind him for a full mile before he stops to talk to his cheerleaders. I take solace and energy in James Brown’s music blasting from the sideline.

IMG_0981I miss the sign coming into Queens (subbing a photo from the Expo, featuring Senior Runners from Queens – my kind of people).

Around Mile 20, we enter the Bronx for a mile or two. An enthusiastic group of live musicians welcomes us. IMG_0990No lip-synching here as they perform on a raw morning. The wind is again straight on as we enter Manhattan. Anything for survival, I see runners scooping down to pick up outerwear abandoned by earlier runners, protecting their chest and thighs. The city skyscrapers have caused my GPS to go wacky. As I pass the Mile 24 sign, my watch is reading Mile 25, a cruel trick. Up the last hill in Central Park and crossing the finish line into a slow, slow craziness, photo ops, bite of the apple from the finisher bag, man with a German accent attempts to chat with me but my mouth is too frozen to respond, move through the barriers to exit the park, and receive the lined marathon cloak. Thank you, NYC Marathon.

Two block walk and the warmth of the subway is welcome.

Walk of the Marathon finisher zombies. Photo credit: Rebecca Cover

Walk of the Marathon finisher zombies. Photo credit: Rebecca Cover

Time? 4:28 and change. What does it say that I do nearly as well goofing my way through a marathon as I do in all-out efforts? I’ll end with a cheer for my fellow senior women runners in F65-69 AG – 121 of us still runners and NYC Marathon finishers.

 

Farewell Joy Johnson

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Credit: Jonathan Sprague for the Wall Street Journal

Joy Johnson. As I read the news from the New York City Marathon, the name was familiar. I pulled out the basket holding treasured hard copy articles, preceding the days before I began storing links on my laptop.

There it was: Page W1 of the Weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal October 31, 2008, an article on marathon competition among runners 80 years and above. It included an interview with Johnson, then age 81. Matthew Futterman’s article contained a subtitle quote from Johnson: “I want to die running.”

I’d kept the article for its two intriguing aspects. The first was information on biological changes that occur in older runners. Futterman discussed the loss of efficiency in the circulatory system and some of the reasons senior runners are more prone to injury.

The icing on the cake in the article was a review of the training regimen Johnson adopted to lower her marathon time and place well in her age group. At age 81, she upped her running to 50-55 miles a week, ran the bleachers at the stadium, ran hills and increased her speed work.

The conjecture about her fall at mile 20 in this year’s NYC Marathon pales to me in importance. This was a woman confident in her decisions.

Twenty years younger than Johnson but older than most runners, I’ve had occasion to wonder when the need to test my ability may give way. For each of us, who knows when and if the drive for personal best and the love of running will cool, when we will be too sensible or too fragile to wait for a race start wrapped in a wind-protecting garbage bag.

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Credit: Unknown. Facebook Photo

For Joy Johnson, the determination and drive didn’t subside at age 64 when she achieved a sub 4-hour marathon, it didn’t subside at age 80 when she upped her training.  It wasn’t the 2013 NYC Marathon, her last of many. Her love of running and willingness to work to her personal best were her companions to the end.

I’m scheduled to run the NYC Marathon in 2014. When I reach mile 20, I will be thinking of Joy Johnson, her love of running and her fellow runners, the drive and determination that brought her to the start and took her to the finish line. I’ll be reminded of what can be achieved and how to live fully while achieving it.

Well done, Joy.

FFL