Thursday, November 13, 2014

My 21st Marathon Run

My 21st Marathon Run
Martin Bodek
I had the time of my life for the umpteenth time (as a matter of fact, I won an award for it!:

During the months leading up to the NYC Marathon, friends ask me if I’m getting excited for the event. The answer, frankly, is no, because during the training months, I’m must following routine, putting in my morning and evening miles (often on the same day) because that’s just what I do on a regular basis.

The excitement begins for me once my routine changes because of the event: particularly, this happens at the NYC Marathon expo, which is the beginning of several schedule-altering routines that ratchet up the excitement level until I’m standing at the start line.

This year, the excitement began after the expo, because the expo itself was so denatured from its usual identity, so stripped down to nothingness in comparison to its previous exciting self, so burned down to a husk, that it took until the day before race day for the goosebumps to begin.

A word on that: the expo was smaller, had fewer vendors, did not have any t-shirts for kiddies, had no mugs with the date of the race on it (these latter two items are my usual purchases), had an information booth tucked into a hidden corner behind the TCS behemoth; the pace bracelets turned into a customized, glamorized, dull, corporate line-stretching nightmare; the goody bag was missing its usual goodies. It was blasé boringness. I left deflated. There was nothing left but the run itself. So be it. I wasn’t here for the expo. I was here for the run.

Shabbos itself is where the excitement level began, with my fellow congregants and friends wishing me luck on my race the next day. Then Motzei Shabbos became exciting when my wife cooked me my favorite pre-marathon dish. Then building my “golem” (the dummy I create out of my running outfit, so I don’t stress over details the morning of the race), then my inability to fall asleep, then the morning prep, then the picture-perfect pickup by Leslie and the delivery to the Meadowlands with two other neighborhood runners for company, then the bus ride, then the glittering view of the Verrazano in the morning light, then dropoff.

Then I was in it, walking towards the marathon village, and now, my excitement and energy level were through the roof.

Tempering the great vibe, like breaking the glass at a chupah, is the howling wind. More on that later. Oh yes, much more.

Another item taking a small bite into the fun morning is walking past a downed runner, surrounded by cops and EMTs. He is seated against a fence, with blood streaming out of his forehead. Oh my, he must have taken a serious fall. I leave the professionals to do their work.

I then have a peek at the marathon minyan, which is just getting warmed up (um, in a manner of speaking, because there is no warming up of any kind today), so I head to the porta-potties to answer a call of nature.

A large bank, perhaps 100 long, is mine for the taking. I’ve arrived that early. I make my choice, and then, my fun for the day really begins.

I have several layers on me. My phone is clipped to my waist on one of the inner layers. I reach for my waistband to pull the first onion layer away, and the force of the motion unclips the phone and sends it beautifully arcing in the air, and I watch as it makes a lovely parabolic motion until it lands in the deep blue abyss with just the most serene and heavenly b’dloomp! sound.

I think people would pay money to have seen the expression on my face.

I now have a choice to make. Dive in, or leave it be. I’ll give you a hint as to what I decided: I have 2,500 pictures of my kids on that phone, so really, my decision was made for me. [I wrote a sentence here comparing my heroics to Andy Dufresne’s, but I tossed it, because a) there really isn’t a comparison, and b) I think it’s too revolting for the reader, but hey, at least I was entertained.]

This paragraph serves to fast-forward through some of the most degrading and personally humiliating actions of my life. However, be not concerned. I manage to sanitize myself properly, which includes the entire emptying of a Purell dispenser, the full utilization of two whole toilet paper rolls, and enough use of water to empty whichever reservoir it came from.

It was 25 minutes of my life I’d rather soon forget - except the above paragraphs will serve to remind me, won’t they?

Anyway, let’s move on, shall we?

I hang out at the minyan the entire time with my buddies. The tent has been stripped of its plastic flap, because NYRR is nervous about it flapping in the wind and harming someone. I suppose they’d rather have people freeze to death.

At the start of the proceedings, I check my phone, and watch it go from 94% to 79% to 53% as I’m staring at it. Uh oh. I quickly send off a flurry of texts to my wife to inform her about what transpired. As I’m doing so, the phone dies. RIP. I’ll see what I can about it later. I can’t pay it any mind or worry about it. I’ve got a race to run. I borrow a phone from Chesky and make meetup plans. Hopefully everything will work out.

At the end of the proceedings, I’m frozen to death, despite the extra blanket draped around my shoulders by Eli. We all look like homeless guys. Our class photo proves it.

When it’s time to head to the corrals, we break off company from the main group and wish each other well (and a friend brands me with a name I’ve never been called before). Chaim, Yossi, Eli and I head off together to the blue (not a great association anymore) corral to stand around and crack wise while we wait to enter the starting area.

I look around. There are cameras everywhere on every possible human appendage you can think of. There are cameras at the ends of peoples’ telescoping arms, cameras on chests, cameras on top of heads, cameras on foreheads. It’s like go go Gadget camera. It’s total pixel overload. Am I jealous because I’m unable to take any pictures? I have to admit, I probably am.

We finally get into our corrals and we’re moving. We hear the cannon. The first wave is off. We’re in the second wave. We’ve lost Chaim.

We shuffle on, and lose Yossi. Just me and Eli left.

We’re not even facing the bridge yet, when our cannon fires. We’re nowhere near beginning to run. We begin stripping layers, not knowing if we’ll regret these decisions once we’re on the bridge. There’s nobody ahead who can report back the information. I drop all the layers on my torso. I’m going to keep the sweatpants and make a decision on the bridge.

It takes us six minutes to finally get to the start line, and the race is on.

Mile 1.0: No it isn’t. This race is going nowhere fast, literally. The moment I step over the start line and continue the ascent onto the bridge, I realize this day is not going to go as I had planned. This wind is not normal. Hats are blowing off people’s heads right into the Hudson. The dominating sound is that of runner’s bibs flapping furiously. I am sticking with my sweatpants for now. I usually take the time to read the messages on runner’s backs during this slow mile, but everyone is still layered up. We are all being blown sideways. This is a struggle, not a run. At the end of the mile, I motion to Eli to go on ahead. I’m not going to be able to fight the wind just to hang with him. I’ll have to go it alone (Eli would finish with a 3:48:33 10-minute PR). It’s so windy, that I hold back from expectorating – even though I need to – because it’s just gonna end up in five people’s faces.

Mile 2.0: I continue to fight the wind. I am not prepared for this. I am physically and mentally prepared for heat, cold, rain, and other adverse conditions, but not crazy wind. With the list above, one can still run a straight line, but not under these circumstances. I am running diagonally, trying to get myself into the center of the bridge, attempting to hide in the middle like a huddling penguin, but it’s impossible. My right leg keeps slamming down for proper footing, and my left leg rams in behind for stability. Every footstrike is hard, and I already know at this point, this early in the race, how my later miles will play out: my quads will rip from all the strain, and I will end up hobbling to the finish. I am actually in middle of reading a book about motion called “Zoom: How Everything Moves,” by Bob Berman. He has a chapter on wind. This stuff I’m experiencing is 45 MPH, which is classified as a gale wind on the Beaufort scale, #8 on a scale of 12. This is very serious stuff. On the descent from the bridge, a runner in front of me takes clothing right in his face, where it sticks because of the force of the wind. It actually takes him several seconds to fight it off his face, running blind the whole time. It’s like battling gravity. This is insane. Silver lining through: I’ve got some good new shades on, with full eye protection, and I’m not tearing up like I usually do in high winds, so I feel safe from that perspective.

Mile 2.1: Right at the foot of the bridge is a little girl – sayyyyy, six yeard old? - with her hand out, getting high fives from the runners. She’s the very first one to greet the runners on the course. There are approximately two million spectators out there and she’s numero uno. How cool is that? Somebody should give her an award for her effort. No seriously. She’s rarer than one in a million! You go, little girl!

Mile 2.2: Fellow JRunner Rebecca scoots past me, noticeable from her usual harlequin sleeves and confident stride. She’d go on to finish with an excellent 3:44:47.

Mile 2.3: I have my first “Now why do I do this again?” thoughts. They happen every once in a while during a big race. If this is the one that fills the quota for the day, then I’m happy to be done with it this early.

Let’s fast forward a bit.

Mile 4.7: I arrive at my first family stop. My mom, aba, and sister are waiting for me with smiles and goodies. I decide to ditch my sweatpants here, as I feel guilty about trashing them. They’re from my wife’s camp days, and I don’t have the heart. So I give them to my family, who can return it later. That’s not so easy to do though, because they want to snap some pictures first. I do manage to peel them off, but I’m keeping my warm hat on. Too cold to take them off. My mom hands me a bag with half a salt bagel and two oranges wedges. This stuff is better than Gatorade. As I’m accepting the food from her, she says, “Remember to do this for Joey Diangello. Yoel Deutsch. He would have been here today.” And she bursts into tears. What’s a son to do? I give my mother a kiss on the cheek, and I tell her I most certainly will. As I leave the stop, I’m fairly sure my family can’t see my own welling tears behind my sunglasses.

Mile 5.2: Stop #2. My dad and my mum. I’ve already swallowed the oranges, and the salt bagel is still in hand. My dad looks dapper in his porkpie hat. I pull him over and my mum takes an othery of us (what do you call a non-selfie?; our generation has forgotten to come up with a word for it.). I give my dad an affectionate pat on the cheek before parting. He looks really happy today. Good.

Mile 5.21-7.8: Having made successful family stops on time, and having established a good rhythm via making up for the six minutes to get to the start by cranking out steady 8:20s, and having blown through the water stops to make up that time, it’s time for me to settle back to the intended pace of 9:00-minute miles. Even though I’m going to be a ruin because of the wind, I still have to stick with the gameplan that I think is my best chance at success, come what may. If the situation calls for it, I’d adapt, but I feel sticking to the plan is my best shot. Now that I’m traveling at an easier pace, I can have a look around at the fun signs and give and get high fives to and from kiddies. The first thing I notice is that a) these signs are a great big pile of scatological nonsense. There are children around! b) there are lots and lots of Ryan Gosling signs. What is up with that? One of them says, “Run like Ryan Gosling is at the finish line.” I run up to the female signholderee and say, “I’m straight. Who should I pretend is waiting for me?” She bumbles, and can’t think of an answer. Gotta ad-lib faster, lady! Also along this stretch, I espy the actor Jon Glaser on the sidelines. He plays Laird on girls. I’ve actually bumped into him before, on the train, whilst en route to a Scrabble tournament (nerd alert!). Funny seeing him again. Also along this stretch, the 4:00 pace team comes up behind me, and I hang with them for a bit, but I outpace them and actually catch up to the 3:45 team, which means I’m going too fast, so I find a spot right in the middle. At various points on this straightaway, I can see the 3:45 team way in front of me, and the 4:00 team way behind me. Perfect.

Mile 7.9: We pass the ugliest piece of architecture in the universe: The Barclays Center. Ugh. You do not get to disagree with me.

Mile 8.0-9.1: The loud section of Clinton Hill. Lots of energy here, and more bathroom-level garbage signs. I’m sorry, “Don’t poop!” and “Smile if you farted.” are just not amusing to me. How about some creativity?

Mile 9.2: We turn left onto Bedford Avenue and enter Williamsburg. Immediately the noise level plummets to jack squat, just as it does every year. There’s one band on a corner a smidgen into the town, trying to keep hope alive, but it’s no use.

Mile 9.3: My Hasidic work colleague is here, waiting with his daughter, who is propped on a little chair. Aww, she’s cute. He gives me some Powerade, and I ask her if she’s a “voile maidele.” (rough translation: well-behaved little girl). She tilts her head shyly. I thank my friend for the swig, and I’m on my way.

Mile 9.35: The Nath family is on the sidelines! Hey guys!

Mile 9.4: I spot fellow JRunner Stanley, whose wife Malky is also on the course today. I fall in behind him because he’s got a good stride, but I don’t say hi because the wind will probably blow us apart, which would make things awkward.

Mile 10.7: On a select street corner in Williamsburg, it’s here where I annually try to meet up with some of my Hasidic cousins (it’s the only kind I have), with varying degrees of success due to some miscommunications. This year, I miss them again. Instead, in the spot where I would see them, I see about 432 children with about 78 strollers. These are all, presumably, my first cousins, once removeds. I cannot possibly recognize any of them. Not while moving forward during a race (after the race, I make plans to communicate better). I have to keep rolling.

Mile 10.8: Okay, we cross under the Williamsburg Bridge and the noise goes back to Clinton Hill levels. Hooboy, these yuppies are drunk and happy and loud. More Ryan Gosling signs (seriously, what is the deal?), and a guy holding a sign that says, “Husband here!” That’s one way to get your spouse’s attention. I’m still trailing Stanley. We’re nice and steady. Where’s my Twizzlers guy? He’s missing again. I need him back.

Mile 11.8: At the water stop on the street that runs through McCarren Park, the most energetic water volunteer in the world is holding a cup, pointing to it, and is screaming, “This is it! This is it!” He is a dead ringer for the actor Tyrel Jackson Williams, currently on Lab Rats (heck, maybe it’s him!). I reach for the water, and I ask him if this is it. He says, “Yeah, man! It’s it! It’s the one! Woohoo!” Good gosh, somebody harness this kid’s energy to power cities.

Mile 12.3: Greenpoint. I like this section. Very distinct. The streets have a certain sheen. Any photo of this stretch is instantly recognizable as being taken in this neighborhood. To me, it’s Brooklyn at its essence. It likes like the Bensonhurst I stomped through in my youth. This place has been time capsuled, and has a definite charm. Anyway, I hear a strange sound: barking behind me. I turn around. I don’t see any dog. Weird.

Mile 12.6: I hear the barking again, behind, to my left. No dog. What’s going on?

Mile 12.7: We make a sharp right turn onto Greenpoint Avenue. It’s here where I lose Stanley. Aw nuts, we were doing so well together, and he had no idea we were together! He goes on to finish in 3:59:35. I go on to realize where this barking is coming from. A man passes me, barking. On his t-shirt is the word “Ruff!” Ohhhhhhkeydokey then! Whatever floats your boat, man.

Mile 13.1: I hit the midpoint of the race and check my watch: 1:55:55. Precisely one minute and five seconds ahead of schedule. Despite the winds, and what’s coming up inevitably in the pain department, I’m having a perfect day. As if admonished by Yoda, I have remembered my training. I’ll continue my current rhythm, as planned, and adapt to what happens.

Mile 13.7: Chabad of Long Island City is here, but no Powerade this time. Instead, they have a live band. They’re in middle of playing “Mitzvah goreres mitzvah” real loud. In the moment that I pass them, they rock harder than any group I’ve heard out there today, who have unanimously replaced the hard stuff with lamebrain pop, which is namby pamby stuff on a day like this, in my humble opinion.

Mile 14.1: I hear a voice behind me say, “We’re 45 seconds ahead of schedule! We’re going to save it for the bridge!” I turn around and oh, it’s the leader of  the 4:00 pace team, joined by his huge throng of followers. I decide to hang with them again for a spell. 45 seconds ahead of schedule is right on schedule.

Mile 14.3: There are a lot of amazing “streaker” bibs on the course today (those who have earned the “___ Finishes and Counting” bib from NYRR). I am among them with my 15. I’ve seen 17, and 22, but I come up behind a man who’s sporting 32 on his back. Whoa. I run up to him, pat him on his back, and say, “Nice going, sir! I hope to catch up with you one day!” and point to my bib. He has a look and says, “Good for you, brother!”

Mile 14.5: Okay, here we go, just a short stretch to the make-me-or-break-me Queensboro Bridge. There’s usually a loudspeaker here with some hard driving music, Aerosmith or AC/DC or Metallica or some other good stuff that feels designed to vault the runners up the bridgeramp with maximum power, but today, it’s Ariana Grande with her man problems. Oh boo hoo. I don’t need this pop claptrap. I like that old time rock n’ roll. That kind of music just soothes the soul. But I can’t be choosy. Ariana Grande it is.

Mile 14.6-16.1: Okay, up the ramp, all of us Jonahs into the belly of the beast. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: however it goes for me on the Queensboro, so it goes for the rest of the race. It is a harbinger. The first thing that happens is that the entire pack slows allllll the way down. The second thing that happens is that runners are instantly converted into walkers and forget to move to the sidelines. The third thing that happens is the ultimate worrier/demoralizer/crusher: runner down. In middle of the bridge. Pulled off to the side and tended to by several runners and paramedics. Yikes. The fourth thing that happens is that I begin to feel the aching in my thighs that I’ve been expecting. None of the above happened to me before the bridge. Now everything conspires at the same time. One amusement though: on the opposite side of the concrete barricade is the floating head of a male runner, looking on like Tim Taylor’s neighbor with a clear-as-day halo over his head. Needing the bathroom a bit, my friend? Anyway, while on this dreadful stretch, I lose a lot of time, giving up five full minutes to my built-up lead on my intended pace. There was just no room to maneuver. Also, I develop my first ache in my quads, just slightly before schedule. Great.

Mile 16.2: At the foot of the bridge, I breathe a sigh of relief, and began to battle my developing aches on a nutritional level. I gobble a GU, some jelly beans, and a salt packet. Mentally, I do battle by telling me to get over it. That should do the trick.

Mile 16.3: Except it doesn’t. As I make the turn onto 1st Avenue past the slam-slam-slamming porta-potties under the bridge, the thigh-ache deepens, (along with my newfound distaste for mobile lavatories), and I’m forced to walk a little.

Mile 16.4-17.6: Along this stretch, I allow my nutritional intake and mind games to do battle for me. I grab water and Gatorade (kosher this year! Woohoo!), and more of the food in my utility belt, and I find myself returning to pre-bridge speed. I’m actually making back the lost time at this juncture. Attaboy.

Mile 17.7: I pass through the Poland Spring Hydration Zone, where they hand out soaked sponges. Uh uh, not this year. With this wind, it’ll turn to ice on my windblown body. I don’t think so.

Mile 17.9: My brother-in-law! Good to see him! And his little dog too! Goldy’s the name. Cute little critter. He offers me a box filled with pizza. A choice this time! Talk about service! I peel off the crust off a pretty one and begin munching. I ask him to call ahead to my wife to tell her I’m slightly behind schedule, slowing down a bit, but shouldn’t be too late to our scheduled meeting point. He tells me “Slowing down? You look great!” I believe him, because while standing there, I realize I do feel great, I do have good energy, and if not for this ripping quad problem, I’d be right on time target. I leave the stop in an excellent mood.

Mile 18.0-19.5: Along this stretch, I start and stop like a car trying to turn over. I’m nourishing, hydrating, and battling, and every time I shake the pain off, I run. Every time it sets in, I walk. I start to notice some bewildered runners with thousand-yard stares. This wind has taken a toll on many. One guy in a North Brooklyn Runners tank top turns around and walks diagonally across the course, in a total daze. He stops and stares up at the sky. Oh man, this one is in trouble. Others start falling apart around me. I cannot be one of them. I look for my favorite NYC Marathon band to cheer me up: The Squirrels From Hell. They’re a bunch of geezers who rock hard. Today though, they’ve been replaced by a doo-wop band singing “Blurred Lines.” What is this pop conspiracy on the course today? Today’s music ain’t got the same soul. I like that old time rock n’ roll.

Mile 19.6: My own private annual facilities, underneath the highway, off the beaten path, and all mine. I don’t think the NYPD is handing out tickets today for such offenses. As long I keep my business under 25 MPH, I should be okay.

Mile 19.7: It’s a fight to get over the Willis Avenue Bridge, but I try to keep moving forward, because I know I’ll have to take a walk at the end of bridge, so why waste the walking now? So I get to the foot of the bridge and walk? Why? Because this is the banana minefield, in which I’ve previously slipped like a drunken clown, and I won’t be making the same mistake again. I move so gingerly at this juncture that I start to get encouragement from runners passing by. One guy pats my back and says, “Go get that number 16, buddy!” That gets me moving.

Mile 20.9: Just one last bridge, but it’s the final one that breaks the camel’s back – or in my case, the runner’s quads. Imagine if you will, a line from the inside of your knee to the outside of your hip. That’s where the pain is for me, in both legs, and when I try to continue using these muscles as brakes as I descend the bridge, they feel like an invisible hand digs the fingers into the middle of this line I’ve described, and rips it apart. I gasp when this happens, and stumble. Still, I’m determined to battle through this. I continue nourishing in an attempt to give my body everything it needs for repair, which includes grabbing every banana and orange offered to me.

Mile 21.2: Then, like an angel sent from heaven, one of those weird, unexpected things happen that make everything right, for one psychological reason or another. I spot a woman on the sidelines, holding the Twizzlers I love so much. She’s holding a sign that says, “Twizzlers heal injuries.” Somehow that gets into my head, and I find myself running again after grabbing and devouring a handful, but suddenly I develop an intense craving for beer. Again, like the heavens showing me signs, a runner zips by with a bib on her back that says, “Run now, tequila later.” I don’t know about tequila; a beer will do. Where’s Chaim Backman and his beer-dar when you need him? And oh, look, another Ryan Gosling sign. Seriously, this is overkill.

Mile 21.8: Just past loud, loud, live-it-up Harlem and the locals dressed in their Sunday Church fineries, my left calf gives me a tug and says “hayadoin’?” Ya know, just letting me know it exists. I don’t want to know it exists. They say if you feel your leg muscles when you’re running, you’re in some kind of pain. I cannot tolerate more discomfort past what I’m already experiencing. I try to bat away the pain signals mentally. Like plantar fasciitis, pain needs to be tackled immediately before it’s allowed to settle in (afflicted runners will know what I mean). I win this battle. Good, I now just have to manage this quad business. I’m having mixed success but I’m feeling positive, especially because my family is coming up, and I cannot wait to see them, or Ryan Gosling, for that matter. My brain is addled, I’m starting to think he might actually meet me at the finish line. Maybe he’ll have a beer for me too.

Mile 22.5: My family! Woohoo! On my approach along the sideline, I nearly lose an eardrum to a squealing horn note from a band. That’s appropriate though, as this is Duke Ellington circle. My wife and three children are waiting for me with happy, smiling faces. I give out hugs and kisses all around, pose for a bunch of pics with their homemade signs, down a healthy swig of Powerade, and get a yummy fresh roll from my wife. Energized and delirious with happiness, I rejoin the runners, with what feels like a bleeding ear. That bleat was way off key.

Mile 22.6-23.9: Along this uphill stretch I start and stop again, get many pats on the back, pat others on the back who are suffering, and finally start to see some interesting signs. One gal holds one up saying, “Hit for 2x power.” Oh cool! Like a video game. I hit that, get some energy. Not 2x, but enough to get me going. This roll is delicious. I savor it. More oranges. Yum. As I’m walking, I come away with the same assessment from miles before: I have an unbelievable amount of energy, and I’m in great spirits, but my thighs, ugh, are keeping me from accelerating.

Mile 24.1: After we enter the park, I spot a man ambling along the side in a yellow t-shirt. I pat him on the back and say, “We’ll both get there.” He says, “Mmmffghbl.” Oh man, not his day.

Mile 24.5: More creative signs. The people are hipper here. One interesting one says, “If Britney Spears can survive 2007, you can make it through this.” Okay, now that’s different. Also, finally, I’m addressed as SuperJew, instead of Superman. I’m wearing my usual outfit, which doesn’t need description at this point. It plays out in a hilarious way:

Hollerer #1:     “Go Superman! Um, wait, Jewish Superman!”
Hollerer #2:     “SuperJew! He’s SuperJew, bro!”
Hollerer #1:     “Oh yeah, SuperJew! Go SuperJew!”
Hollerer #2:     “That’s better.”

Mile 25.2: There’s always a point in the marathon, at least for me, when, no matter how much pain I’m in, something happens with the happy natural drugs in my system that makes all pain go away, and allows me to run full bore. I don’t know if it’s adrenaline, or serotonin, or dopamine, or what have you, I just know it happens. I never know when it will kick in, but I wait for it, because it’s inevitable. This time, as we turn the corner after exiting the park and head West on Central Park South, it happens, earlier than usual. Suddenly there is no pain, my quads are fine. All there is for me is the finish line, and I have one good mile ahead of me to enjoy the joy of the approach. I feel unshackled and free, bounding with enthusiasm. My legs pump higher, and, like Forrest Gump, I! Wuz! Run! In!

Mile 25.7: Half mile to go. Zoom!

Mile 25.9: We turn the corner into the park. Whee!

Mile 26.1: Oh baby, here it comes. Wheeeeee-oooooooooh!

Mile 26.19: Hands up!

Mile 26.2: Yeah!!! Woohoo! 4:22:26. My 5th fastest lifetime. I’ll take it. I fought for it.

Mile 26.20001: The moment I cross the finish line, I feel a sudden weight on me. If you have a look at, you’ll note that I don’t seem very happy. That’s because, as soon as my foot hit the line, thoughts of Joey Diangello course through me. I put my hand on my heart and whisper his Hebrew name. Yoel ben Reuven Shimon. My race is dedicated to him and everyone like him. May they find peace and justice. The weight lifts, and I return to my joy and my tradition to hug a bunch of random strangers.

Mile 26.223: I meet my man Joe, who’s volunteering at medical today. I tell him the wind was nuts. He says the elites were colliding with each other. Good to see a friend at the finish line. Thanks for your work, Joe!

Mile 26.229: Ah, a medal around my neck.

Mile 26.3: A runner feels well enough to hoist his wife onto his shoulders as we walk towards the exit: I say, “Dude, that’s like the biggest kid ever!” He says, “Yeah, I make tall ones.” Heh.

Mile 38.9: They finally let us out of the park, I get my no-baggage poncho, and borrow a phone from a stranger so I can communicate with my wife about pickup. She happens to be a half a block away. Perfect!

Coda: We then manage to get our big boy to a birthday party on time. Then I get my usual heaping multi-burger meal (with soda! Oooooh!), and we throw a little birthday party for our little boy, born five days before the marathon, just four years ago. Finally - of course you’re wondering, so I won’t keep you in suspense – let’s put it this way: I began the day with an iPhone4, and ended it with an iPhone6. Turns out I properly backed up everything in the cloud, but couldn’t confirm at the time of the event. A father’s got to do what he has to do.