Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for staten island ferry

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.


Eating our Way to the 5-Boro Bike Tour


Bike New York’s TD 5-Boro Bike Tour is once again upon us, Sunday, May 4. I won’t be there this year, but am wishing good weather, a good ride and good eats to my friends who will be. Maybe I’ll consider 2015. And, maybe I can convince fellow travelers to do a repeat of some of the wonderful food stops we enjoyed last year.

A 40-mile bike ride and a 4 a.m. volunteer stint required adequate nutrition, and what better place to find some good eats than New York City.

Our culinary tour included:

Mile End Deli:   This Brooklyn eatery, walking distance from The Flea, has a walk-up carry-out window and a sit-down dining area that accommodates 20- 25 people max. Most of our group ordered smoked meat sandwiches, making comparisons with the smoked meat at Montreal’s delis.  I ordered a hot dog along with a a side order of slaw and frites, which were flavorful and plentiful.


La Silhouette An evening meal took us to a Manhattan restaurant familiar to friends Phyllis and Mike from her days of living in New York. I have since heard this restaurant closed in late 2013 and no word on it reopening. Pity, because it had a wonderful ambience, a varied menu with beautifully prepared entrees, particularly seafood dishes, and service that was flawless.

Joe G’s Following a long and chilly day for our five cyclists,P1010218three of our crew opted for comfort food and a cozy restaurant.  We chose this below-street level restaurant near our hotel.  At Joe G’s you will find dark wood, white tablecloths, pleasant staff and a selection of Italian dishes perfect for four tired senior athlete travelers.

If you give any of of our dining choices a try, please let me know if you agree.  For me, I can’t wait to return to New York for the sights, the food and the athletic events.  P1010227

And maybe next time, I will step out of the volunteer t-shirt and onto two wheels.

Before I return to NYC for the 5-Boro Bike Tour, I will be making my way through the five boros at the 2014 New York City Marathon. I’m looking for some additional dining choices and will be building my list early.  I’ve already received recommendations for Brooklyn’s Grimaldi’s pizza.  Any other suggestions out there?

What to see that you don’t see on the 5-Boro Bike Ride

New York City is a great exception to that penchant of mine for driving to races in scenic places.  For races, runs and rides in NYC, I leave personal transport behind and navigate the public transit system.  This option will be even easier when the bike share program is up and running, pending the ruckus about the appearance of the bike stands.

We are fortunate to have Amtrak service into New York City.

NY Penn Station Amtrak Terminal

The train is quick, comfy and easy, rolling into Penn Station  where we connected with the metro system and our specific destination.  With few exceptions, this group of senior cyclists/runners continued to either use public transportation or to hoof it throughout the stay.

On arrival, we found our way to the Bike Expo on South Street.  In addition to picking up packets and ogling nifty cycling products, we walked the pier area, seeing the remains of the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy as well as the progress made in rebuilding.

Having taken care of business for the Sunday ride, we had downtime to do some exploring. To ward off nerves about the upcoming ride, what to see and do?

Brooklyn Flea Market:  Our friend Janis led us through

Brooklyn Gardena tree-lined street of brown- stones to the this wonderful market referred to locally as the Flea.   It has a sizable selection of vintage products,Brooklyn Flee Market original art work,The Flee   and an eclectic blend  of food choices.IMG_0963

Battery Park area:  As I finished up my Sunday volunteer stint (5 a.m. through mid-morning) at the start of the 40-mile ride, I knew my friends would have hours to go before we would meet.  With little familiarity of Battery Park,

English: New York City skyline with Battery Pa...

English: New York City skyline with Battery Park – seen from the Staten Island Ferry Deutsch: New York City Skyline mit Battery Park – von der Staten Island Fähre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I  knew a few landmarks and stayed within easy walking distance of the Staten Island Ferry, the finish point for the 5-boro ride.

World Trade Center – Upon my release from volunteer duties on Sunday morning, I simply began walking the area and found myself around the World Trade Center.  On this cool damp morning, nothing could have prepared me for the palpable sense of loss. Frozen in place, I stood before the lengthy list of photographs and names of police and firemen lost.  A stop in a cozy coffee shop helped me warm up and sift through my thoughts.

National Museum of the American Indian  The museum was conveniently located a few blocks from the ferry, allowing me (or so I thought) several hours to browse and learn. Wandering through several exhibits, I was drawn to the sight and sound in a room showing a documentary on American Indian contributions in blues, jazz and rock music. After a 4:30 a.m. trip to my volunteer stint, I was particularly enjoying sitting down in a plush chair in a viewing room with a fantastic sound system. The filmed commentary and the music were wonderful. Then, a quick end to my comfortable lounge chair as the cell vibration alerted me.  Three of the five friends out on the course were swept and loaded on a bus somewhere past 20 miles. Details on this are in my earlier post on the 5-boro bike ride.  

Museum time was over for now. Reconnaissance and retrieval time began. 

English: New York City - Staten Island Ferry D...

English: New York City – Staten Island Ferry Deutsch: New York City – Staten Island Ferry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Five Boro (give or take a boro) Bike Ride

It all started during a leisurely November breakfast with friends. Glen mentioned he wanted to do the New York City Five Boro Bike Ride.  We impetuously agreed to train and join him.  A short six months later, six friends gathered in New York for the May 5th event – five riders and one volunteer as this was yet another event quashed by my late winter injury. 5-Boro Start I drew a 5 a.m. shift at a VIP area set up two blocks from the start. Tasked with keeping tables cleared as one set of riders replaced another, I chatted with charity riders.

This gilled, green-haired gentleman rode for Clean Water

This gilled, green-haired gentleman rode for Clean Water

Arriving bicycles included a mix of state-of-the-art road bikes, recumbents and ellipticals.

This bicycle built-for-2 model works well for a mother-daughter team riding for the Michael J. Fox Foundation

Their bicycle built-for-2 model works well for a mother-daughter team riding for the Michael J. Fox Foundation

I had a view of 32,000 cyclists off for the 40-mile ride. My team was in the first wave, departing at 7:45, but somehow I missed seeing them.

The DDL Team is there somewhere.

The DDL Team is there somewhere.

Several hours later, I received a text that three of our 5-person team had passed the 20-mile mark before they were swept from the course and loaded on a bus. I quickly made my way to the Staten Island Ferry, not knowing I would be waiting three to four hours before they arrived at the finish. My team on the bus showed a great deal of patience.  I did not. When I knew they were close, I left the terminal to locate the bike rental drop.  The rental bike staff were loading up their trucks, so I alerted them that at least three rental bikes were still out on the course. To no avail. After some vague comment about leaving one truck, they suddenly pulled away with no signs of returning.  Minutes later, I spotted my group along with several other riders approaching on their bikes. After a call to Bike ‘n Roll, they instructed that bikes now must be returned to the Battery Park location.

A cool, windy trip on the ferry.

A cool, windy trip on the ferry.

 So, rather than drop their rental bikes on Staten Island as prearranged, then warming up in the terminal, riders now had to wait in the cold to load with their bikes on the lower level of the ferry.

On the Staten Island Ferry, we were very cold, but somewhat merry.

On the Staten Island Ferry, we were very cold, but somewhat merry.

And what of the two additional friends in our group? They had a fantastic day finishing the course. Aside from a temporary holdup leaving the festival at mile 36, and the expected period of time waiting in the bike line to board the ferry, they had a smooth and scenic ride. We didn’t say a proper good-bye since they had left their hotel and were having pizza with friends in Connecticut before we returned to Manhattan.  Oh, well.

We learned so much through this experience. The 5-Boro Bike Ride raises funds for biking education. Additionally, NYC has a bike share program that is about to begin and the City has been very aggressive in expanding bike lanes.

I also concluded that large rides are likely not for me.  As a runner, I can’t imagine being swept on a distance run, then sitting on a bus for hours before arriving at a point where I could get to the finish line or another destination.  But then, I don’t run with a bike in tow.  I’ll stick with running (for now).

Since this senior runner always incorporates food and exploration in any travel,  look for more NYC in a subsequent post.