Racing Thoughts (Pt. 3)

Geez, it is so loud.

Though our music is on full-volume, we can hardly hear it over the roar of the crowd.

 

We pass from right to left, trying to collect as many high-fives as possible.

Those watching just might be having more fun than all of us.

 

As the cheers reverberate through our ears,

It breaks the wall …

 

***

All of these people… they are running their own race.

Shit, I’m running the NYC Marathon.

 

I don’t belong on the same course as Meb.

 

I wrap my headphones around my right hand.

I didn’t train for this kind of distraction.

 

Did I train enough?

 

***

 

Ahead, a stocky man weaves figure eights as he high-fives spectators. In between the slaps, he waves his arms up and down. Across his back is spread the word “IRONMAN.” 

Yeah, we get it. You’re used to this sort of exception.

 

But to the kids, he is a hero. And why shouldn’t he be? That sort of grace and humor is something we could all use right now, at least… I could.

 

***

 

Watching the times at every mile marker.

Checking my watch in between the milestones.

Starting to run out of songs to sing in my head.

 

There have been so many people.

There isn’t an empty space on the sidewalks.

 

“Here yah go baby,” a mother yells as she beckons me.

Her family holds paper towels, banana halves, pretzels, and orange slices.

She offers to put an orange slice in my mouth.

I accept.

I get a banana halve.

 

All within 5 seconds.

As I ran along, I look back with a thumbs-up.

That is the best orange slice I’ve ever eaten.

 

***

 

It’s time to get serious about hydrating.

What’d I have at the last station? Water?

Okay. I grab a Gatorade.

 

Next, water.

Next, Gatorade.

 

As I approach the hydration stations, the street is soaked.

I slosh through puddles of Gatorade.

The green punches all smile, praying I don’t squeeze the cup as I run by.

They’ll have the best shower of their lives tonight.

 

“KEVIN HART IS BEHIND ME.”

Someone screams on repeat as her fans run alongside her.

“KEVIN HART IS BEHIND ME. I PASSED KEVIN HART.”

 

I guess that means I did too.

 

***

 

“WELCOME TO THE BRONX. THE BIRTHPLACE OF HIP-HOP. THE GREATEST NEIGHBORHOOD ON EARTH!”

 

As we make our way over the bridge, we are greeted by this cheery, beanie-wearing spectator. Every few runners, she repeats the phrase.

 

There’s no time to enjoy the greeting. I’m uphill again.

My thighs are over this race.

 

Those next five miles disagree.

 

It starts to mist.

Here’s to hoping there is minimal nipple chaffing. 

 

***

 

I round the corner to 5th Ave.

Everything changes.

This race feels…. run-able.

 

Everyone is cheering, “YOU CAN DO THIS.”

And then…

“GO GARY!”

 

(Gary and I stay on pace for the rest of the race. I know this because for the next five miles, I hear variations of “GARY IS THE MAN.” Gary, you are the man.)

 

***

 

I know after this is Central Park, and then the finish line. I remind myself to enjoy the moment. To take this ALL in.

 

The skyscrapers are surrounded by clouds.

It’s grey, but there is light.

 

Come tomorrow, this city will be all business.

Today, it is nothing but thousands of 26.2-sized victories.

 

And there it is, the tree line.

 

***

I’m on the path.

At 24 miles, I don’t care how tired my legs are. It’s time to finish this.

I tap my left thigh, a signal to myself to push the pace.

***

 

“DREW.”

 

I look frantically.

Who was that?

 

On my left, my roommate, Vito.

I’ve never felt such relief. 24+ miles hit all at once. It takes everything not to run to the side. To share every mile.

 

To say, “I didn’t think I could do this.”

 

But there I was, doing it.

 

I lift my hat up.

I throw my hands towards the sky.

 

He gets the message.

 

I’m off again. Time to finish the race.

 

***

 

Pushing the pace even faster now.

I want to finish.

I want to see my dad.

 

500 meters to go.

 

There it is.

The line.

 

The bleachers are still full of spectators.

The crowd is still pulling me forward.

 

I put one foot on the line.

The world rolls away.

You’re on camera, don’t cry here.

I breathe deep as I cross over.

A finisher.

***

I didn’t run the race I thought I would. I don’t PR like I thought I would like I wanted to. I was trapped in my head for 24 miles of the race of a lifetime. I felt like I failed. I ran the race with honest effort. I ran the 26.2. But I felt like I didn’t meet my potential.

 

When I met my dad a few blocks from the finish line, I felt safe.

I was so worried about where he’d be.

Would this be another Boston?

 

When we embraced, I felt that I had won a different kind of race.

 

***

 

As we boarded the ferry, a couple stopped me.

They asked about my race.

They’d run this course seven times.

Through a thunderstorm. Through a snowfall.

 

They said how it wasn’t going to get easier.

They said how much fun every year was.

They congratulated me.

 

They reminded me of the whole reason I wanted to pound out so many emotions on the pavement - to see as much as possible. To witness all these stories as they move towards the same finish line.

 

As we said good-bye, the husband said, “You should run the Philly. Now that is a fun race.”

 

Philadelphia, here I come.