Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Family Run on Turkey Day
Race Report from the 2010 Garden City Turkey Trot

When asked what to do when you find yourself getting annoyed by other's inability to measure up to your expectations, a wise man once said "Just give them time. Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you." (Actually, this wasn't just some anonymous wise man, this was Randy Pausch. And this wasn't just a random quote. This is an excerpt from his famous Last Lecture. If you haven't heard it yet, you should. Just make sure you have a box of tissues handy and take careful notes...)

Since for as long as I could remember I had always been the solo runner in the family, the only one who runs, the only one who trains and the only one who's ever completed a registered race of any distance. This all changed last year when my little brother joined me on Thanksgiving for the Turkey Trot (read 2009 race report here). He ran well that day in completing his first ever road race. My parents were on the sidelines that day cheering and spectating for my brother and I. It was a bit surreal to race by my parents that day because I never imagined them there but it was extremely fun to have them see me running so well that day. (It was a PR race for me) Up until a few days ago, that remain the last time my whole family ever drove up together for the same race.

Imagine my surprise then when my brother announced a week ago that BOTH my parents would be joining my brother and I in running the Turkey Trot this year! Unbeknowedst to me, both of them have started running with my brother to get ready for this five mile race. I was skeptical at first because I had never known either of my parents to be much interesting in running, much less racing. So I contained my excitement and went about my business in the weeks and days leading up to the race. It was only after we all drove up to the start, parked, got our packets and saw my parents and brother pinning bibs to their race shirts, did I hear my inner voice go "HOLY @#$%, WE'RE ALL REALLY DOING THIS!" We took several pictures to commemorate our first family race and headed off to the start.

The conditions were a little brisky (40F) and there was a slight breeze in the air when the four of us took our respective places for this race. The preliminary race plan as my brother and I conjured up the night before was that I was going to run with my brother while my dad was going to run with mom the whole way through. Since the finish is right next to mile 3.5 of this 5 mile course, my brother and I would jump right back in with my parents after we were done so we could finish up this race together as a family.

My brother and I lined up somewhere between the 7 and 8 minute pace signs while my parents mozzied off to the back. (We projected them to run 11-12 minutes miles so we thought a finish time of an hour would be a good result for them!) After a few minutes of admiring the old, the young and everyone in between, there was a quiet "Go!" shout from up in the front, and we were off!

The plan for me was to pace my brother to a 7:30 start in mile one and then accelerate to finish every subsequent mile about 10 seconds faster. He has a tendency to be too conservative at the start when racing so my goal was to help him get off to a strong start. Unfortunately, this race was very crowded with no corrals and tight turns and despite my best intentions, we crossed mile 1 at 7:35. Mile 2 was better as the crowds thinned and we were able to make up ground gradually. I was aiming for a 7:20 for this mile, but my brother was cruising so I just ran along side and allowed him to dictate the pace. Mile 2 was passed in 6:50. After a turn into a mild ascent, his pace gradually slowed and he dragged behind me. We took some water at a water stop and I pressed him to maintain his speed. Mile 3 was done in 7:08. Mile 4 was a bit rough. There was a tough hill, we were passing by the finish and my brother was gassed. I tried some inspirational sayings but it sounded bland. I tried some power songs, but forgot the lyrics. It wasn't my best motivational moment to say the least. After it was over in 7:15, I counted down the meters from 1600 to 800 to 400 until we could see the finish up ahead. He kicked it in and blistered the last mile in 6:40 for 35:29 finish and a 10 minute PR from the race a year ago! He was absolutely spent at the finish but I think he did a fantastic job!

After we recovered a bit, we ran over to mile 3.5 and waited for mom and dad to show. We waited and waited. 40 minutes passed, than 50 minutes. We got worried. Luckily, the finish was just within footsteps of where we were, because as it turned out, mom and dad both finished their races in sub-52 minutes! They ran faster than even we gave them credit for. It was simply amazing!

The rest of Thanksgiving was spent with each of us regaling tales of the race from our individual perspectives. I was happy to run with lil bro for his massive PR. My brother was proud that we ran together as a family and is already scheming to recruit aunts, uncle and cousins to join us next year. Dad vowed he could've taken a few minutes off if he wasn't deliberately keeping it slow for Mom while Mom is already visualizing an age-group award in her next turkey trot (that is, after we found out she would've won her age group out right if she were a year older!). In fact, both my parents wore their turkey trot race shirts to Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family and for the rest of the day!

I am really proud of my entire family for their efforts in this race. Everyone ran their best. Everyone did well. Most importantly, they made me especially grateful for their health and happiness and the important role that running has played in each of our lives. Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Philadelphia Half Marathon
Race and Spectator Report

I went down to Philly this weekend and ran a half marathon today. This was the same race I ran last year so I had every reason to believe I'd do well, perhaps even PR again. Maybe it's because I was so confident I "knew" this course that I took it for granted and did not prepare adequately to run my best. I went through the motions and figured I'd just run to comfort and let things just take care of itself. I somehow convinced myself that my race wasn't all that important because my main reason for coming to Philly this weekend was to spectate and cheer my friends running the full marathon. I was running the half so I wouldn't have to stand out in the cold and wait as long for friends to finish and also so I wouldn't feel as guilty and lame watching the race from just in front of the Rocky statue at mile 26. I had no plan and that was perhaps my biggest problem.

Things for me went well for the first 4-5 miles. Although it was quite cold (~40F) at the start, I actually felt very comfortable running. I started very conservatively and was speeding up through the early going, running between 6:15-6:25 every mile, on pace for a PR, when my shoes felt loose and my laces suddenly became untied! That's when I realized I had absolutely forgotten to check my laces or double-knot them prior to this race. I cursed myself, pulled off to the side, took care of them the best I could with my cold numb fingers, and got back on the road only to find myself in that same predicament one mile later and a third time at mile 8. I figured I lost in total about 2 minutes of time because of my shoelace issues. Once I realized my race was ruined, it was hard to refocus on running fast again. Yet, I still managed to pull off a better finishing 5K time this year on my way to 1:26:54 than I did last year when I ran 2 minutes faster and set my PR there. I'm not sure there's a good takeaway from this race for me except to realize that I STILL make rookie running mistakes and I cannot just roll out of bed and run a good race even if my hotel was less than 2 blocks away from the start of the race! This is all right. I was humbled by running today. I feel you need to be that way sometimes to appreciate the training and the races where everything comes together. (One final takeaway from this race is that whoever is advertising Philly to be a flat course obviously did not run this race!)

Afterwards, I cleaned up, hiked to mile 26 and waited for the rest of the field to come through the finish. Unfortunately, my fellow compatriot who accompanied me on this trip, IronBrandon, developed G.I. issues at 11 and had to pull out at the half marathon point. (I'll let him tell you all the rest of the story...) Many others though did complete their journey and became marathoners. I even got to run a few hundred feet with my friend Madame Erica as she came through mile 26. I had so much fun cheering and spectating that I didn't even mind not running a good half earlier in the day. A couple of people even recognized and identified themselves to me as avid blog readers out on the course today, which was completely awesome!

So this trip was more about positives than negatives for me. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and watching them all become marathoners in the span of a few hours. It was a universal love fest for long distance running in Philly this weekend and I'm just so proud and happy that I got to be a part of the celebration.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homecoming: The 2010 NYC Marathon
Part IV - The Bronx, 5th Ave and The Finish

Coming to Terms with Da Bronx

Ever since my first NYCM, I've always thought of the short jaunt through the Bronx as a visit through my own personal hell. In past years, I've cramped here, I've walked here, I've even once thought about DNF'ing here. It's no wonder then why I continue to have nightmares about this place well in advance of the race. This time though, as I strode confidently into the belly of the beast, the underworld of the Bronx, shortly after the 20th mile, I was not at all worried about my legs or my pace. I was more concerned with finding my Flyer friends on the left side of the road coming off the bridge and then running back to the right sidelines to find my other group of Flyer friends right before the next bridge.

But find them I did and I was able to double-high-five both parties (of two each) prior to exiting the borough in the 21st mile. My times for both the 20th (7:33) and 21st mile (7:07) were very pedestrian at first glance but they actually represent one of the fastest times I've ever recorded running through here. My effort was helped out by a Flyer lady teammate DC who called out to me as she was running. I was a little shocked to see her there. Since her self-reported projected time was about 10 minutes slower than I'd figured I'd run today, I didn't know whether she was having an exceptional day or whether I was just running exceptionally slow. In either case, I was reminded by her presence that I should run faster in earnest just because I could.

Reaching the Madison Ave Bridge, I found myself running back into Manhattan at a faster pace than I did when I left a couple of miles ago. I was grateful that my legs held out well for the most part through the borough that had always given me such trouble in the past. Although my legs were started to grow a little weary and my hamstrings a little bit tight, I was happy to know that the finish line was just a 5 mile jog through Central Park away.

Hi Five Tally for The Bronx - 3; Total - 24.2

Running with Lil Bro on 5th Ave

The crowds were spilling onto the streets by the time I made my way back to West Harlem and back on 5th Avenue. Between pedestrians trying to cross through the marathon route and runners cramping and walking along the course, I had difficulty finding much running room on this stretch. I kept my eyes peeled to the left side for my brother who I was expecting at mile 22 to jump in and run a mile with me. As I looked around, wondering if/when he was going to show, I felt myself wondering if he'd be able to hold my speed now that I was running sub 7 minute pace again.

At mile 21.8, right before the course hits Marcus Garvey Park, I spotted my brother, gave him a high-five and he jumped in to run with me. Actually, I believe it was my cousin J who first spotted me out on the course and had the wherewithal to record this video documentation of my brother joining me in the race.

To this day, I have no idea how she managed to turn on the videocamera at the exact moment as I was coming through. (Major kudos to Cuz for the shot!)

Tackling the 5th Ave Mile with my brother was a major highlight of this race for me. Not only have I dreamt about this exact scenario on many occasions in the past, but now that it was actually happening here, in between the 22nd and 23rd miles of the NYC marathon, which in the past versions of this race have been dedicated to my brother and my sister respectively, made the entire experience very surreal for me. We ran easy, we ran fast, and we passed more people (including Minnie, a fellow teammate, and a CPTC'er!) than I ever though I could running uphill on 5th Ave. At times, it felt was as if we were rollerblading while everyone else was standing still! Yes, it felt that good. We held a strong pace until I bid him adieu at the entrance to Central Park at Engineer's Gate. Mile 22 in 6:56. Mile 23 in 7:09. It was the best two miles EVER!

Finishing Strong in Central Park

After leaving my brother in the outskirts of Central Park, I maintained a strong pace all the way through to the end. In my mind, after mile 23 was passed, it was just a 5K to the end and it was for the most part downhill. I stopped for a second or two to hi-five two twitter/DM friends Sam and Madame Erica in front of Cleopatra's Needle but otherwise it was pretty much an all out sprint to the finish. Although the objective data weren't very impressive (Mile 24 in 7:22, Mile 25 in 7:18, Mile 26 in 6:59), it was the fastest closing stretch I've ever run in my hometown marathon. Not only so, but I also managed to cross the finish line in sub-3:05, which was a loose time goal I had when I was planning this run out in my head.

Hi Five Tally for 5th Ave/Central Park - 2;
Final Count for NYC Marathon - 26.2

After The Finish
The post race festivities were awesome as many teammates and I gathered at a local bar to share a few pints, show off our medals and regale each other with our race stories. The best post-race moment for me though came immediately after the finish when I met up with my brother and cousin after the race and they asked if I had seen their sign. "What sign?" I asked. Then they hi-fived each other, laughed and showed me this.
It was the best sign I NEVER saw while running the New York City Marathon!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Homecoming: The 2010 NYC Marathon
Part III - Queens & First Ave

Finding Family in Queens

It had gotten sunnier and significantly warmer now as I made my way through mile 14. I had thrown away my gloves back at mile 5 but was still wearing my arm sleeves that I started the race with. Because I was expecting my brother in the next half-mile, I took off my sleeves here anticipating a drop-off once I saw him. As I did, I ran by DM friends Susan and Robin who I did not expect to be watching the race from out in Queens. It was nice to see them although I was too preoccupied at the time to give them a hi-five. I continued on hoping to find them later on in the course.

Less than a minutes later, right off a turn, I spotted two Flyer friends LG and DL and gave them each a quick high-five. They were good friends of mine and residents of Queens so it energized me to see them there. I wanted to stop for a chat but thought better of it since I knew many friends in Manhattan would be expecting me to keep time.

At the end of this busy block, almost right at the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge, I found my little brother, my cousin and her financee for the first time that day. This was the first time my brother has ever watched me run a marathon, so it was tremendously exciting for me to see him on the sidelines cheering. Not only so, but since he had recently picked up running earlier this year, I hoped that by experiencing the fervor of the marathon firsthand, he'd get excited about distance running and maybe attempt NYCM someday soon too.

Upon reaching my family members, I gave them each a well deserved hi-five, but didn't say too much since I knew I'd be seeing them twice more later. I dropped off my arm sleeves with my brother, said hi and continued on.

Hi Five Tally for Queens - 6; Total - 11.2

Double Dipping with Flyers and Friends on Manhattan (1st Ave)

Reaching the Queenboro Bridge felt somewhat of a bittersweet victory for me. More than half the race was already over, my knee pain which came on insidiously at mile 8 had somehow disappeared in Queens, and even as I was climbing the bridge, I was passing waves of runners and feeling as strong as I've ever felt at this stage of the marathon. Still, I couldn't help but feel as if my pace could've and should've been better had I allowed myself to race. My time became so irrelevant to me that I forgot to press lap on my Garmin and check my pace at mile 14! So all I had as I pass by 15 was a 2-mile split of 14:24 for the section of Queens. But as I began to wonder if all this fun was worth sacrificing another chance to run a great race, I saw an Achilles runner with a mangled leg slowing walking with a cane up the Queensboro Bridge. All of us runners clapped and cheered him on as he crested the hill. This inspirational effort reminded me that my race today wasn't really about me. It's about the spirit of the marathon and sharing this homecoming experience with family and friends who have supported and encouraged my passion to run. As I began my decent into Manhattan, I briefly reviewed my preconceived game plan of where I was going to run and who I was going to see and almost instantaneously became happy and emotional that I will soon be arriving at the mecca of running, 1st Avenue in the NYCM, once again.

The crowds coming off the bridge and up the first portion of First Avenue was as heavy, loud, and dense as I had remembered it in years past. Although I enjoyed the loud cheering and fed off their energy as I made my trek toward the Upper East Side, it was difficult to find friends spectating along the heavily populated route. I missed my bloggy pal Dori and another who had a sign for me. I did however find my good friend MT who was my lucky charm in Chicago and a long running friend AG who was right where he said he'd be. I registered both of their hi-fives before continuing on.

A little further north, once I'd pass by mile 16 in 7:08 and mile 17 in 7:07, I found myself at the Flyer PowerGel Station without much clue as to how i'd make it individual and fun. I originally intended just to run by the PowerGel gauntlet and hi-five everybody in line (like I did last year) and leave. However, once I reached the end of the line and realized that I had not yet seen my good Flyer friend BS, I quickly decided to run back the half block to the start of the PowerGel gauntlet line and run through again. Although I did not see BS and I gave hi fives to essentially the same people, the second time down the gauntlet was every bit as fun as the first. The look of deja' vu on people's faces were absolutely hilarious and way worth the price of admission. Despite the 15-20 Flyers who received hand slaps from me, I am tallying this escapade down the gauntlet as merely 8 since I recognized and remembered at least that many faces and names.

Needless to say, I was revitalized and reengaged with the race for a little while after that brief Powergel station interlude. Unlike me, many runners were already sagging and fighting cramps at this point. I felt a little guilty for feeling good as I passed them by, remembering back to the days when I too felt like crap fighting my body and the road the whole way up north. Mile 18 (with extra mileage added on) was passed in 7:56 while mile 19 was completed in 7:11. I received another jolt of energy when I saw my brother and cousin again just before the entrance to the Willis Avenue Bridge. They were a little further down the road than I expected them to be, but seeing them just before mile 20 was totally awesome for me. We made arrangements to meet one final time on 5th Ave before I left to face my own personal demons in the Bronx.

Hi Five Tally for First Ave - 10; Total - 21.2

Monday, November 15, 2010

Homecoming: The 2010 NYC Marathon
Part II - The Start & Brooklyn

The theme of the New York City Marathon this year was "I'M IN. WE'RE IN." I wasn't sure what it meant when I first saw this message on a subway ad on my way to work. I didn't know what it mean when I saw it on the back cover of my registration packet. It wasn't until I heard it from Mary Wittenberg in an interview for the marathon on a local news program a few days before November 7th that the simple message hit home for me. As a runner in the NYC Marathon, no one ever runs alone. Besides the 50,000+ who will be joining me in the annual exodus from Staten Island to Central Park, there will be countless thousands of volunteers, police officers, medical personnel, sanitation workers, and of course the 2,000,000+ who will be watching from the sidelines, cheering the runners on. So no matter where you are a runner, a volunteer, a officer, a spectator, or just someone watching the 5 hour marathon coverage on NBC, everyone in town is involved on some level with the race. Everyone for that one day is a part of the NYC marathon experience.

In many ways, the goal of NYRR to create an interactive communal marathon experience between runners, neighbors, friends and spectators mirrors my own objectives for this race. In each of the previous 3 years, NYCM has always been a target race for me. Whether the goal was to BQ, PR, or run sub-3, I've always been concerned with time, speed, and pace while running this marathon. Each time I ran I would see many fellow runners, especially the European contingent, purposely run along the sidelines to give everyone hi-fives. Some runners would even peel off mid-race just to have a beer or jump into a crowd of friends for a quick picture or two. They all seem to have so much fun! I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a twinge of envy every time I saw these events as I ran by. I wondered many times whether I'd ever allow myself to not race this marathon all-out but run a little slower just to enjoy the festivities and have a little fun. This year, after finally reaching my sub-3 goal in Chicago, and given that I will likely have many friends and family out cheering for me, I figured that I'd use this opportunity to interact with the crowds and run this marathon as a homecoming race. What follows then is the story of my interactive fun run through 26.2 miles (and 26.2 hi-fives) in the five boroughs of New York City.

Thoughts at The Start

Even as I huddled with a handful of others about an hour before the start in a makeshift tent at the Local Competitive Start on Fort Wadsworth, quietly reviewing the list of friends and family I was expecting to see and where they'd be out on the course that day, I felt utterly out of place and unprepared for the task at hand. For one thing, this was my first time starting off the marathon from the lower level of the Verrazano Bridge in the Green Start (I had always been Blue up at the top in years past), and second of all, I wasn't sure I belong in this elite field since I wasn't planning on racing this marathon (I was urged by my running group and NYRR friends not to sacrifice my spot since it's considered an honor to be there, even though for many reasons, I'd preferred my previously assigned Orange Start). Add to it the fact that it was bitterly cold and windy at the start and I had forgotten to pack breakfast for the hour-and-half trek over to Staten Island from Queens, I was afraid to consider the natural progression of this day that was already off to such an inauspicious start.

I felt considerably better a short while later when I began to see more friends and teammates trickling into the corral. I left my spot in the secluded tent which wasn't offering much protection from the cold anyway and went over to hang with the others members of my running club, the New York Flyers. We all complained about the wind and the cold but similarly agreed that the weather conditions were pretty ideal for a great race. After experimenting with a different assortment of clothing options the night before, I finally settled on my Saucony singlet, shorts with gloves, armsleeves and black bandana to run with for the day. I debated whether a long-sleeve tech would have been more appropriate for the frigid conditions, but given that I tend to get more hot than cold in the middle of long runs and I was unfamiliar with running with long sleeves during a marathon, I went with the "less is more" clothing option thinking I could always shed my sleeves mid-race once they are no longer needed.

Finally, the call to start came and everyone shuffled off to the on-ramp of the lower deck of the Verrazono to await the beginning of the race. Clothes and plastic bottles began flying toward the air as everyone collectively prepared for the race ahead. I tried to listen to the introduction of the elites and the festivities on the upper deck but the sounds were barely perceptible amidst the chatter around me. It barely annoyed me though. Staring at the bare road just beyond the start, in the middle of a sea of humanity all speaking in different languages, I felt as if I was at the precipice of an epic adventure about to take place. As the clock right above the start counted down the minutes and seconds to the start of the race, I couldn't have imagined a better place to be on a Sunday morning in NYC.

Touring Through Brooklyn

Having survived the wind tunnel that was the Verrazano and the solitude that was the first few miles of this race, I found myself running down the mean streets of Brooklyn trying to find friends as well as my rhythm and pace. I was loosely checking my pace at the mile markers but knew that they would lose significance the further along I ran. Still, I was surprised that my first three mile splits (7:18, 6:22, 6:48) were exactly how I'd plan them to be even if I were racing. I was running very comfortably at this point, acquiescing at every encounter to those around me who wanted to take it out hard.

At mile 4.5, I saw my first friend CD way on the left side of the course. Because I was running on the right and there was a barrier separating us, I couldn't run over to greet him like I wanted. Instead I found a younger guy, looking way too enthusiastic and yelling too vociferously for 10AM on a Sunday and slapped his hand instead. He gave me a loud cheer as I ran by.

Miles 4, 5, 6, and 7 were fun for me as I ran in and out of the side lanes, trying to find the perfect balance between keeping a good pace and finding funny/interesting people to hi-five. I gave hand slaps to a young lady who said via poster that "All Runners are Sexy", a co-worker and her friend who I found coming out of a water stop (with Gatorade pouring out of my nose) and a funny guy with 26.2 painted on his forehead who looked like someone I knew, but wasn't (oh well). My greatest find though was a little girl who couldn't have been taller than my knees clapping her hands and dancing on the side. I gave her a hand slap figuring since she's about 20% of my height, she'll count as .2 of a full high five. My pace for these miles hardly reflected the fun I was having (6:42, 6:48, 6:43, 6:48)

Having seen or passed everyone I was expected to see in Brooklyn (some were missing in action or on the wrong side of the street, Boo!), I concentrated my energy back on my own race and focused on maintaining a good rhythm and form for the rest of this borough. Unfortunately, as soon as I made the conscious decision to pay attention to me, there was a turn in the road followed by a sudden gradual uphill climb and I felt a twinge in the back of my right knee. It was not serious or debilitating, but it did concern me and made me aware that I have to temper my expectations and not push pace.

I eased my foot off the gas pedal gradually, running 6:50s for miles 8-10 (6:52, 6:54, 6:51) and 7:00s for miles 11-12 (7:01, 7:04). Although the crowds were boisterous and supportive here, I lost a little interest in my own race during these miles once I realized I had no shot at sub-3 or a course PR. I was eager to just get them done and find what awaits me in my home borough of Queens. My enthusiasm for escaping Brooklyn was reflected in my pace for mile 13 (6:56). I crossed the half in 1:29:56, more than a minute behind where I was at this point in Chicago but cautiously optimistic that the best parts of this race were still to come.

Hi-Five Tally for Brooklyn - 5.2

Monday, November 8, 2010

Homecoming: The 2010 NYC Marathon
Part I - The Race Result

Yesterday, I ran the NYCM and as promised, had the most FUN I've ever had in a marathon! For the first time, I allowed myself to enjoy the spectacle of the race in front of family and friends with no pacing strategy and no race goal in mind and had an absolute blast.

In between 26.2 miles (actually more like 27.1 miles according to Garmin), I hi-fived 26.2 people, I ran through the Flyer PowerGel Station TWICE, ran with my brother for 1.2 miles, conquered Fifth Avenue, and had enough in the end to race the last 5K.

It was a whirlwind of a race and I completely enjoyed myself. Thanks goes out to all friends, family, Flyer peeps, blog/DM/Twitter buddies, co-workers, and everyone in between who came out and spectated yesterday. I think I was about 80% successful in hi-fiving all of you on my spreadsheet (double-hi fives counts as two right?).

Of course, there will be a much longer race report to come! (Don't seven parter though). In the meantime, for those who specifically care about the digits, here are mine:

Finishing Time - 3:04:52
Average Pace - 7:03 min/mi
Overall Place - 1236
Gender Place - 1156
Age Place - 260
NY Flyer Men - 3rd

Congratulations to all who ran the NYC Marathon yesterday! Thanks for being a part of the most spectacular annual event in New York City!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting Ready for NYCM: Old Race, New Goals

"If Chicago was your VICTORY dance, then New York City should be your HOMECOMING!" A friend had suggested this a week or so ago when I was still too exhausted from 10/10/10 to think about my own motivations for running this race. After all I had already achieved my big hairy audacious goal (or BHAG) earlier this fall so I have every right to run this race with no expectations and no goals. The curious thing though is that as race day appears closer and closer and I find myself running less and less (in the spirit of the "taper"), I have begun to secretly question what NYCM means to me and what I hope to accomplish in this, my fifth version of the race. That's when I realize that I'll never be able to run a marathon with no objectives or goals. Even if times and pace are not what I'm after, I still must have a set of criteria or measurements of success to focus and chase after that is applicable and worthwhile to me. Otherwise, a marathon will be no different than just another 26.2 mile training run, with a few extra friends and spectators along the way. Not only so, but this is the NYC MARATHON, the biggest of the big city marathons. Hundreds of thousands have tried but not many actually get to run this spectacular race. Running to Central Park from the depths of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island the first Sunday of every November has become a sacred annual pilgrimage for me. As those who have run it will say and those who have not run it yet will soon find out, the NYCM is a special race unlike any other.

Towards that end, to commemorate my 5th running of this race, I'd like to present:

My 5 Goals for the 2010 NYC Marathon

1. To Have More Fun Than I've Ever Had - In each of the four previous times I've run this race, it's always been about times and goal paces and PRs and BQs. For the first time on this course, I want to run this one for FUN! Although I will not run in costume or hop off for lunch on 1st Ave, like some have suggested I do, I plan to have the most fun I've ever had regardless of time. Just how I'm planning to have my fun is for me to plan and for you to find out on race day.

2. To Acknowledge and Greet as Many Friends as I Can - Ever since Chicago I've been thinking that marathons are a lot like weddings. Although the planning and execution falls on the actual participants, the main purpose of the actual ceremony and reception is to announce and celebrate the occasion with fans, the family and friends who've supported the couple all along. Similarly, I want to share the joy of running NYCM with friends and spectators who'll be lined up in various sections of the course. I've never been the best at spotting friends or acknowledging crowds in my previous marathons. I hope to change that this time around.

3. To Run More Consistently Than I Ever Have in NYCM - By now, everyone knows that NYCM is not an easy course to run. There are massive bridges to climb, sharp turns to navigate and tough hills to conquer. However, I believe that having run the course four times before, I have somewhat of an advantage on the mean streets of NYC. So one of my goals this year will be to negotiate this course and maintain a stable consistent pace throughout. If I can keep my mile times all within a 30-second window between the fastest and slowest mile, I would consider that a victory for me.

4. To Run One Mile with My Brother...His Mile on 5th Ave - To date, none of my immediate family has ever come out to watch me run this race. However, this coming weekend, my little brother will be out there among the spectators to see my run. To commemorate this momentous occasion, I've asked him to accompany me to run just a mile, HIS mile, on 5th Ave. I'm hoping this will inspire him to run a little farther a little faster so that one day in the near future we can tackle the entire 26.2 mile distance together. I'm hoping anyway.

5. To Crush FIfth Avenue - I've always had trouble with this long slow uphill mile along the side of the venerable Central Park. From my first marathon where I had to crawl 2 city blocks here to reach the medical tent (to fix my cramped up legs), to last year's version where I was on pace for sub-3 until I fell apart and had to walk a portion of this hilly route, I have always thought of 5th Avenue as Mile 23 or the place where dreams die. However this year, I would love nothing more than to return the favor and beat Fifth Avenue with the help of my brother and friends. If I can escape the jaunt at anything faster than my slowest mile up to that point, I would claim victory over my NYCM archnemesis, the Fifth Avenue Mile.

Now that I've got my goals set, I think I'm ready for NYCM! In six days, I will be running again. It will be GAME ON! I can hardly wait.
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