On the eve of the Keri Keri half marathon 2014 memories of my first ever full marathon have started to rush back to me. In November 2004 I completed The New York City Marathon. Just writing those words is giving me goosebumps and bringing back so many incredible memories of the city and the race.
For those of you who have been to NYC you will agree there is no other city like it, and nowhere else in the world will you see so many Starbucks! The yellow cabs sounding their horns, the constant siren of an emergency vehicle and the steam surging from the manholes. You kind of expect Spiderman to swing by right in front of your eyes, it has that “movie set” feel to it. Just an incredible place.
A great friend of mine, Gerry Helme, has a marathon PB of 2:10:12! LEGEND! In 1983 he completed the London Marathon in that time finishing in second place. I have been fortunate enough to have known Gerry for over a decade now but it was that race in 2004 which solidified our relationship. We were out and about one evening and he said he was running the NYC Marathon and would I be interested, of course I answered “yes” but never really had I contemplated running a full marathon. I had previously ran half marathon’s and other races but having a naturally competitive nature I duly agreed to run a full 26.2 miles.
The training began. A few times a week I would head out to run, run and run some more. I would increase my distance each time I ventured out. The great thing about running the NYC Marathon is that it is in November so my training was done in the summer months (in the UK) so took full advantage of bright early mornings and long bright days were the sun wouldn’t go down until around 10pm. Once my training distance was approaching the 20 mile mark it started to become a major chore for me. Running constantly, on your own, for 3 hours plus is a big ask and I wasn’t enjoying the training at all. Gerry was on hand to give me guidance and reminded me that if I didn’t put the hours in now how would I be able to do it come race day. Discipline took over and I prepared well with my final training run taking me around 3 hours 30 minutes. I was ready, I was excited, I was heading to New York City!
Marathon fever had hit Manhattan! Marathon specials on menu boards, marathon special events and the city was buzzing. It was my debut in NYC and my debut for running a marathon, what an incredible experience I was going through. At the time I didn’t know any other person (except Gerry) who had ran a marathon, this made me so proud of myself and was the beginning of a whole new level of self respect, self discipline and self awareness of just how far you can push yourself.
The race was on Sunday. On Saturday morning myself, Gerry and my Dad (who had come to support me) all went for a light jog around Central Park!!! The park that I had seen so many times on TV, the park which Kevin Mcallister ran through in Home Alone 2 was now under my feet and the atmosphere was building. There were runners everywhere and with a day to go I felt ready and prepared.
FAIL TO PREPARE AND PREPARE TO FAIL.
With a belly full of pasta I got to bed early as I had to be up at 4:30am to head to the start line. The next mooring I woke up excited and couldn’t believe what I was about to do. The oats and water went in, I grabbed my kit, banana and drinks bottle and made my way to the meeting point in the hotel lobby. This was all normal for Gerry of course and he was more interested in making sure I was OK and feeling good than he was about himself, like I said…LEGEND. The bus journey to the start was quiet, I was looking out the windows as we headed to Staten Island mesmerised by the sky scrapers surrounding this amazing place. The sun was coming up and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen, an incredible setting on a day which was going down in the history books of my life and my acheivements. As Gerry was inevitabley going to run a quicker time than me we were separated at the start line, he wished me good luck, shook my hand and away he went. The last time I would see him for at least 4 hours! I was loving every minute of my experience, soaking up the atmosphere and paying close attention to all the different people from all over the world conducting different pre-race rituals. A lot of people were covered in clothes and bin bags as it was a crisp November morning but these excess layers would soon be disposed of as the race began.
It was go time! The gun sounded and we were off, although it took about 15/20 minutes to actually cross the start line! What do you expect with 40,000 plus people all trying to get to the same place in as quick as time possible? I was on the bridge heading off Staten Island and into Brooklyn, Frank Sinatra’s famous New York, New York was playing over and over and this song will forever be with me as I captured the magnitude of this event.
The atmosphere, the New York people, the weather, the runners, the occasion…..I was running a marathon, The New York Marathon, and I was loving it.
Staten Island to Brooklyn to Queens to Manhattan to The Bronx and back into Manhattan finally finishing in Central Park and clocking a time of 4 hours and 1 minute. The feeling of acheivement was indescribable, I had set a goal and acheived it. A concept and rule I have taken with me to this day. Set goals and then achieve them.
And of course there was Gerry waiting for me at the finish line. He was more proud of me than he was of himself for completing the race, a true gentlemen, a true winner and a true friend.
There is only a small percentage of people who can claim to have run a marathon. An event which pushes your body and mind to its limits. The hard work and the discipline shown during the training was so worth it, I had the medal, I had achieved what I had set out to, I was a marathoner….