The Race of Races, Part V of V

Exit Strategy

I couldn’t control it. I found a barricade not 20 feet after the finish line, hunched over, and started sobbing. “I did it” ran through my head. IdiditIdiditIdiditIdiditIdiditIdiditIdidit.

I had just run the New York City Marathon AND I had come back to good terms with the Marathon distance (I consider The Flying Pig a misfire in Marathon execution). I never let myself enjoy this bliss immediately following the finish line, but damn it, I was going to do it this time: tears of joy mingling with drops of sweat. It was awesome.

I gathered myself up and starting moving up West Drive. There was still a long journey through the finishing chute before getting out of Central Park.

The first station was the medal. I went to the back of the group of medal volunteers and pointed to one young woman who was happy to put up with my stink and sweat and place a medal around my neck. It was heavier than I thought it would be.

Then came the finisher photo station. I understood that you have to take the picture before you load up with food and water, but the only thing I could think was “WTF, why is this here?” I took another minute to collect myself—the medal triggered another wave of emotion, that, and I couldn’t bear the thought of having to stand still for a photographer.

That’s when I got the first tap on my shoulder. A medical volunteer asked if I was ok. She had good reason to ask, I had just crossed the finish line of a Marathon and was hunched over and shaking. She insisted that I go to the medical tents. I had to stand up to show her I was in full control of myself and tell her that I was just having an emotional moment. “It’s been a hard four months,” I told her, but I really did appreciate the concern.

I waded to the back of the photographers and got on official finisher’s snapshot:

Stayin' classy.

Someone handed me a heat blanket and someone else put a sticker on my chest to keep the blanket in place. I wasn’t cold yet, but I imagined that it would set in pretty soon.

I continued to wade through the crowd. I grabbed a recovery bag and immediately busted into the water bottle in it. My stomach cringed at the thought of ingesting anythign solid.

Then I saw the first UPS truck. It was for runners with bibs numbered 60,000-59,000. Then the next truck was for runners with numbers 58,999-58,000. My bib was in the 27,000s, halfway through the menacing mob of runners before me. For the next 33 UPS trucks I shuffled with the mob for 50 feet and then rested, walked and rested, walked and rested. Each time I hunched over to rest a volunteer tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I was OK. Each time I said “thanks, I’m fine; it’s just a long walk.”

Eventually I came up on the 27,000 truck and got my bag. I was surprisingly agile and able to lower myself to the ground and change into my Crocs and pants easily—oh Jesus were my feet happy. I put on a dry t-shirt and jacket and put my heat blanket on over that (the chill was starting to get to me). The couple that was changing next to me mentioned that they had run London and Berlin and Paris and none had the ridiculous commute to the start or the long procession after the finish, but they quickly followed that by saying that hands down the New York spectators are the absolute best—and really, isn’t that what counts?

I followed the mob out of the park onto 81st Street and Central Park West (mind you the finish line was at 67th Street). The flow of runners coming down Central Park West was powerful, like the tide rushing out to the sea. I had to slowly break through the masses to continue on 81st Street to look for Wifey, Mom, and MBF in front of the Hayden Planetarium.

Sure enough, after breaking through the mob I spotted Wifey walking just 30 feet in front of me off to left. I called her name. No response. I called louder. No luck. Finally, as she sped off (or I just gave up hope on chasing her) I yelled out her full name. That got her attention (her full name is pretty unique). I gave her a big, big hug and kiss. She flooded me with everything that happened that day. She called over Mom and MBF, and they all hugged me and started texting friends and family that I had finished safely and snapped a couple pictures, including my favorite:


Jess said...

Great conclusion! Is that Wifey on your left?

The Laminator said...

Great ending to a great story!
But seriously, does the checkout line to grab your bags really have to be THIS long?

Kevin said...

Just read through all 5 parts. What an awesome report. Definitely want to do NYC at some point in the near future. Great job on the race

Biscuitman said...

Great report and congratulations again. What a fantastic experience. You should be proud of yourself. What's your next challenge?

sRod said...

Jess: from left to right it's MBF, Mom, me, and Wifey

Biscuitman: still trying to figure that out--might be Little Rock, might be Austin, might be somewhere else.

Adam said...


Do a rock and roll! I'm trying to do as many as I can to collect the bonus medals in 2010. Mardi Gras is 2/28.... I think that one of the few that I may not do is the one in Nashville.

Irish Cream said...

Okay, I have to agree. That is seriously the best finisher's photo ever! Love it! And I loved this conclusion to the fabulous journey that was your NYCM experience! Congrats again, man. You have a LOT to be proud of! :)

lifestudent said...

Congrats on the finish! Im not sure I'd like to run NYC, but I'd like to spectate it for sure :)