Blaine’s NYC Marathon

13 11 2007

Written by F4 Athlete Blaine Versaw…

Thanks to all those who supported my marathon efforts.  I could not have completed my first marathon without the support of my coaches, fellow trainees and friends. It was great to receive the many e-mails offering encouragement before the race and those checking on me after the race. And of course, my friends who were out on the race course made a world of difference for me.

The good news is that I finished the marathon. My finish time was 3 hours 48 minutes. Which was slower than what I was shooting for, but I must say I still had a great experience.

In case you would like to share in the marathon experience without running 26.2 miles, here are my memories of the NYC marathon:

A Few Statistics

– 38,554 people finished the 2007 NYC Marathon

– 8,187 men between the ages of 30 and 39 ran the race

– I finished 7,991st (2,395th out of my age group for men)

– The male winner finished in 2 hours and 9 minutes

– The female winner finished in 2 hours 23 minutes

– 298 people from Colorado ran the marathon

– 7,849 people from New York ran the marathon

– 9 people from Kenya ran the marathon (all of them finished before me by at least 1 hour)

– 2,687 people from France ran the marathon

– 18,874 people from the United States ran the marathon

– Approximately 75% of the marathoners exposed themselves in public by either changing clothes or urinating out in the open (this is based on my observation)

The start

The alarm went off at 5:15 AM. I reset it to 5:20 – I needed 5 more minutes of sleep. With the time change it was the equivalent of 6:20 AM, but that was also 4:20 AM Colorado time.

I got up, drank some orange juice and water and had a small breakfast of dry mini wheats and granola bars.

I was out the door at 6:00 AM to meet my friend Shannon. We were both running our first marathon and acknowledged that everything was a little surreal at that moment. The car ride to the Staten Island Ferry was a short 10 minute drive. I managed to stay pretty come, but I definitely had nerves regarding the unknown fate of my future over the next 26.2 miles.

The first real excitement came when I went to drop off my bag before the start of the race with the UPS trucks. This was a complete zoo and border line disaster. I had to find the UPS truck with the #68 on it, so I could send my after marathon clothes to the finish line. With somewhere around an hour before the start of the race, it was mayhem trying to get to the trucks and head towards to the start line. I think this process took at least 30 or 40 minutes. From there I had to scramble and hustle to the start line. I got to my starting corral with around 10 minutes before the start of the race.   Just enough time to find my place and relax for a moment.

After the national anthem, it was time to start the race.

The red flag flies over Brooklyn

Running through Brooklyn was quite an experience.  All along the course people were screaming and cheering for the thousands of marathoners. I felt strong in Brooklyn and things were well. I felt like I was hitting my stride as passed the 11 mile mark. At this point I began to look for the “red flag”.  And there it was, waiving just were I expected it. I could see several hundred yards away.  I definitely got a shot of adrenaline as I saw Mary, Mariana and Katy waiving the red flag and cheering me on. I blew them a kiss and said good bye to their smiles – I was off to conquer the rest of the course.

nyc-marathon-2007-pic1.jpg

I must tell you that a swiffer broom handle and a red laundry bag made into a red flag is the best invention that I have ever seen. This brilliantly home made red flag was perfect. I could see the red flag from several hundred yards away. (Katie you should paten the red flag and sell them on line before next year’s marathon – you could make millions).  Of course, once I heard the gun fire that started the marathon, this simple little red flag meant much more to me. It became a motivation of mine to keep seeing it over and over. As the race progressed, I realized I had a bond and a commitment with this flag.

The Queensboro Bridge

As I ran through Brooklyn and Queens, I knew the first significant test of the marathon was going to be getting to the top of the Queensboro Bridge at mile 15. Friends who have run the NYC marathon before me have all talked about how tough it was. As I headed up the bridge I continued to feel good but I could tell this was not going to be an easy task. By the time I got to the top I could tell it had taken its toll on my body. I was beginning to feel first real signs of fatigue in my muscles. As I headed down the bridge towards Manhattan I thought for a moment my body was beginning to recover and then …  I felt my right hamstring flinch and start to cramp. This was not good!

Where is waldo (a/k/a ken)

While Ken was challenged by the New Jersey Transit Authority in catching a train that would get him into the city in time to watch me run up First Avenue, it still was helpful knowing that he could be in the crowd somewhere. This simple possibility provided me the motivation I needed. (When I say challenged I mean delayed train traffic – no he did not get 86’ed from the train. But it would have been a logical assumption).

As I ran up First Avenue towards Harlem and looked for Ken, it was the first time since in Brooklyn that I took the time to absorb the magnitude of the energy that was delivered to each runner by the thousands upon thousands of people that came out to watch those runners participate in their NYC marathon. This energy was well needed to keep me running through the rebellion of my cramping muscles.  By this point both hamstrings were cramping and the quadriceps starting to join in.

nyc-marathon-2007-pic2.jpg

Two white girls and the ghost of marry in Harlem

Running through the Bronx and back into Harlem was definitely the low point of the race. I was struggling with constant cramping in my quadriceps and hamstrings. My toes decided to join the party around this point as well, and threw in a cramp here and there just to keep it interesting. I am generally rhythmically challenged, but these muscle groups were working well to create a constant rhythm of pain.

Just as my mind was getting fuzzy from the pain, I heard two female voices screaming my name. I was not sure what to make of it at first, as I had become quite popular during the race. Lots of people were screaming my name (I think maybe having my name on the front of my shirt might have helped with my marathon popularity). However, this was a little different – more passion in the voice. Then, out of no where, I see Jen running across the street, dodging marathoners, screaming my name and over her shoulder I see Nicole. I must say, I was completely shocked and extremely happy to see them. You girls could not have picked a better place to provide me some support. I was saddened to hear that I had just missed Mary by two minutes, but her spirit was with me and appreciated. The quarter mile I shared with Jen, as she ran next to me, definitely gave me some well needed strength.

My goodbye to Jen in Harlem left me heart broken. From there I was focused on finding the red flag.  

The red flag flies over central park

As I left Harlem and headed towards central park, my time continued to slip but I was committed to keep pushing – I had more fans waiting for me that I needed to see. I was focused on finding that red flag.

I entered central park and passed mile marker 24.  It was just 2.2 more miles before I would reach the finish. I started to look for the red flag again. Once again I could spot it from several hundred yards away. More wonderful smiling faces. Katy and Mariana had made a day of it, out supporting me and others on the course.  It was their smiles that I needed in my efforts to finish strong and get to the finish line.

The finish

The last mile was a countdown of quarter miles and the last quarter mile was a countdown of a series of 100 yards. It was nice to finally be there. As I approached the finish line, the training in my marathon group came to me as I gave a true photo finish. (Megan, I cannot say that it occurred to me at the time to give the finish line camera my patented double barrel photo finish. However, I think if I had pulled out the pistols I might have fallen over.)

I crossed the finish line. While I missed my goal time (I reconciled those terms with myself somewhere on the back side of the Queensburro Bridge and running up First Avenue) – I finished! I survived my first marathon!

The delusions of a marathon

Moments after I crossed the finish line I felt a pain in my body that I had never felt in my entire life (at least that I was willing to recall at that moment). I swore that I would never ever run another marathon. I noted to myself to go home and write in my journal “Blaine – never ever run another marathon. Under no uncertain circumstances should you forget how challenging this was and how much pain you are in at this moment.” However, as write this e-mail I am not sure how much stock to put in those conclusions.  There were other events that occurred during this time frame that are very suspect. Shortly after I vowed to never run another marathon, I offered the vow of marriage to a female from Italy that only spoke Italian. She had no idea what I was talking about. In that same moment I claimed myself the messiah. I think it was this statement that caused the Italian to say no (or what ever it was that she said).

Once I settled down, I came back to my senses and refocused my entire attention on putting one foot in front of the other with the sole purpose of getting to UPS truck #68 with my bag of after marathon clothes.  To put this in perspective, I had to walk at least 1/3 of a mile from the marathon finish line to get to where the UPS trucks were located. The problem is that they were parked bumper to bumper starting with truck #1. I must also point out that it was uphill from truck #1. Do any of you know how far it is from truck #1 to truck #68?  Well – it is a long fucking way! (Sorry mom but this is the only technically accurate description of the distance. Especially, when it is not a given that my right foot will step forward in front of my left and that my left foot will return the favor. The simple task of walking was very challenging at that moment.)   

My savior

Once I stopped proposing marriage and claimed my bag, I made my way to the friends and family section to meet my savior.  All I wanted to do was find Katy so she could get me home. In fact, in that moment, I don’t think I could want to see a person more than I wanted to see Katy.  What a site for me and my failing body as I exited out of the park to Central Park West Avenue and saw the red flag waiving and Katy’s bright smile.

I must say that I am extremely lucky to have as my friends all of you that supported me. I know each of you put a lot of planning and effort into making sure that I had fans along the race course. And, what a blessing to have Katie there to meet me after the race and make sure I did not wander off into the Hudson.

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