Are you running the marathon? Did you run the marathon? How did the marathon go?
If you live within a 100-mile radius of New York City, there’s only one marathon, THE marathon. The week between what the rest of the world calls Halloween and Election Day is all about the New York City Marathon. You see it, hear it, smell it in the air.
And don’t even think of saying, “No, but I’m running the Philadelphia marathon” because … blank stare… How far is THAT marathon?
I first ran the New York City marathon in 1989, which was OMG 30 years ago!
You don’t line up for your first marathon thinking, I’m going to keep doing this for 30 years!
Some people are once and done. (I'm looking at you, Yishane!) Others’ hips, knees, backs give out. (Sorry, Dim.) Families, jobs, responsibilities demand attention. I suppose some people just lose interest after a while.
So when do you stop? This is a question that’s starting to come up among my friends who’ve been running a long time, as we get into our 50s, 60s, beyond.
Eugene Napolitano, a buddy from the local running club, ran his 26th New York City Marathon ... in a row! Wow! He's 73.
Time sneaks up on you. Your baby turns into a toddler who goes to kindergarten and loses her teeth and gets braces and wears only pink and only skirts, then only blue, then only tights and “graduates” from middle school and learns to navigate inexplicable high school hallways and the next thing you know, she’s a 10th grader scowling into her computer every night hyperfocused on homework 110%.
I swore I’d never be a mom who’d say “It all went by so fast!” Especially not during long weekend hours sitting in the Princess tent enjoying a party with guests Dog, Curious George, Bunny and Bunny.
But it is sort of stunning. I feel like I’m in the last 10K of her childhood.
There’ve been a lot of miles in between then and now, of course. Pre-kid years when I ran a lot of marathons, starting-family years when I didn’t run much at all. My running superpower—if you can call it that—is the tenacity to keep showing up with a body that’s more or less willing to come along.
How does a marathon go, 30 years later? Well, I’m sure this will come as a huge surprise … a whole lot slower.
And the thing about running slower is it takes a whole lot longer.
Joyciline Jepkosgei, the 25-year-old who won the women’s race within a few seconds of the course record, finished in 2:22:38, which is almost exactly the same time as it took me to run the second half of the race.
Mine is a familiar story to anyone who’s ever run or known someone who’s run a marathon: I felt great in the first miles at what seemed a comfortably conservative pace, then fell off steadily, surely. If I had more desire and drive to push back against the inevitability of age—that is to say, train and eat with more discipline (that is to say, more speedwork and less wine and chocolate)—it’s possible my slowdown would be less precipitous. Meh. Where’s the fun in that?
At mile 20-ish in the Bronx, I grabbed a Coke from enthusiastic spectators. No elixir has ever tasted so delicious in the history of the universe.
As I slowed down—through the bright sunny streets of First Avenue, the Bronx, Harlem and upper Fifth Avenue--I peered into the dark abyss of marathon despair and had a stern talk with myself. No whining! I know how lucky I am. Lucky to have a body that can still plod along, 30 years later, without too much complaint. Good life. Lucky to have a crew—my daughter, my BF, my BRF’s husband and daughter—willing and able to hustle on the subway to cheer and take pictures at miles 8, 17 and 24 and meet me after the finish with a grande green tea latte. Mmmm. Good people.
Good life, good people. That was the mantra that got me to the finish line.
In 30 years, I have learned a few marathon lessons, besides the inevitable slowdown.
Takes a little longer with each passing year—it took me four days to be able to rush straight downstairs like a harried mom instead of hobbling toes-pointed-out like a cowboy after a cattle drive across the dusty Plains in a drought year.
*2 The key workouts
Tempo, speedwork, long run become that much more critical if you've got any kind of time goal in mind. (I didn't have a goal OR do the workouts. It showed.)
*3 Adding 10
or 20 or 30 or more minutes to whatever time your misinformed mind still imagines you might be able to run is a smart, dignity-preserving move. (See above.)
*4 And brace yourself
for family and friends who track you on the app and say things like, “WOW! You really slowed down! Are you okay with that?”
So when does a runner quit marathoning? I guess the answer is, when your body won’t cooperate anymore or it stops being fun.
Running my 10th New York City Marathon 30 years after the first would seem like a tidy ending, right? The thing is, it was my 56th marathon, and I’ll be 60 in a few years, and I think it would be cool to do my 60th marathon in my 60th year. And THEN I’ll quit (oh, sure).
That means I’ve got four more marathons in me. Soooo… what to do?
Do you have one “dream” marathon? Forgetting cost, logistics or family—we’re just dreaming here. What would you do?