Thursday, November 09, 2006
What happened next.
Distance: 1 mile
Weather: 63º sunny
The ING NYC Marathon is an extremely well-planned event ... until you cross the finish line.
It is strongly recommended that ou walk at least 20 minutes after the race, so your blood can redistribute itself and you don't cramp up and have a heart attack and die and everything. Unfortunately, once you cross the finish line, you meet a wall of other runners, funneled into a fenced-off road, shuffling their way along as hundreds of new runners pile in behind you.
You get your medal. They hand you a bottle of water. They give you a cup of Gatorade. They hand out those thin metallic blankets (you are hot and sweaty, but now cooling rapidly on a shady thoroughfare - remember, it's fifty degrees) and a tab to close it. They clip off your chip.
Shortly after getting my blanket, I began getting very emotional, thinking of see ing my wife, my children, at the family reunion area. And then I started feeling faint. What could be the matter? Then I realized I wasn't getting enough air. I went from four and a quarter hours of heavy exertion to a near-standstill (I wanted to be briskly walking so badly) and I wasn't taking in enough air. I looked to my left and saw all of these guys - men as fit as me, or better - lying on the ground, being assisted by medical personnel holding their feet up. I did not want to pass out. I began breating as steadly, but as fully as I could. I held my hand before my eyes for something to focus on (thank you, Louis Colaianni.) I did not pass out.
The UPS van that my personal bag was in was perhaps the longest walk from the finish line. I gather my items, fished out the complimentary Tylenol 8 hour and took it. I walked out to 77 St. to the family reunion area for people with a last name beginning with "H." I walked up the street, searching for my boy, my girl. I pictured a tear-felt reunion, Z. running towards me with O. following after.
They were nowhere to be seen. I got my cellphone out of my bag. My wife said they were caught in the park, there was no way to get to where I was, not with any speed. Could I head up Columbus Ave. to 85th Street?
So I did. My dry, warm clothes were with them. I shuffled down Columbus Avenue, glassy-eyed and shivering, like some homeless guy. Except everyone I passed was saying "Congratulations!' and "Great job!" People leaned out the windows of their cars to wish me well. The homeless don't generally get that.
Before dinner, I took a nice long shower. Each foot had a large, painful blister where my corns are. And though I never believed I had any use for any kind of Body Glide or Vaseline - never having suffered any kind of chaffing when running 18 or 19 miles - I now knew what is was for, and where.
As Brooke Shields said in The Blue Lagoon, I was bleeding. Down there.
This evening I took my first recovery run. I felt I could go forever, the evening was so beautiful. But after a half-mile, I knew this was not the case. But at least I know now that I will be a runner for life.