Monday, May 18, 2015

My 40th Birthday 40-Mile Run

My epic adventure was several years in the making. After turning 36, I looked ahead at the 40 staring at me on the horizon, and resolved that I wanted to do something grandiose. Maybe 40 suddenly seemed so glaring because 36 rounded off to that. I don’t know. I do know that I wanted to do something big, nay, colossal.

It took about four seconds of contemplation to come up with the idea, and another two seconds to resolve to do it.

Intercalating the earth’s position in the firmament, I determined that my 40th birthday would fall out on a Sunday, which was perfect if I wanted to run 40 miles, and perfecter because I could have friends join me.

I would ramp up the mileage over the years until I would be strong enough to withstand the distance. Now mind you, just because one runs a 50k one year doesn’t mean one’s body is ready for 55k the next year. Friends cautioned me about this, but to them I said, sure, that makes sense, physically. But mentally? What better preparation could there be? I made up my mind. I was doing 40 on my 40th, but first, I had to run more, a lot more.

First, I added another marathon (Brooklyn) to my annual schedule.

Then, I added a self-designed ultra to my annual schedule. I did a 50k three years ago, a 55k two years ago, a 60k last year.

All the while, I kept breaking personal records for mileage: weekly, monthly, annually, what have you.

I changed my footwear; I lost weight; I got a treadmill; I got faster; I got stronger; In the 4-year span, I reset PRs at every race distance in which I’d ever participated; I became the machine I had wanted to be.

The pièce de résistance was my participation in the 2015 Jerusalem Marathon (which required miracles to occur for me to attend in the first place), scheduled five weeks before my 40th birthday. Perfect. If I could survive the rigors of my training and the hills of the race, then 26.2 in Jerusalem would be the equivalent of 40 in Brooklyn, right? Well, again, physically, not really, but mentally? Oh yes, very much yes.

I drew up the course. I invited my friends. We stayed at my mom for Shabbos for ease of logistics. Motzei Shabbos, my wife and I headed to my dad’s for a little birthday party (our birthdays are one day apart!). My friends began rolling in one by one, and…

Mile 0, 12:00 AM, Midwood, East 27th/Ave. I: …at the stroke of midnight, I wave goodbye to my family and head out with Elik, Yossi, Scott, and Moishie. We have 40 miles to go, and the mind games – needed to compartmentalize the effort to make it mentally doable – begin: no big deal, it’s just a marathon, another half marathon, and less than a mile after that. It’s nothing, really. It should be worth noting that I’m wearing a birthday hat.

Mile .3, ~12:03 AM, Flatlands, New York Ave./Ave. I: Our first turn of what are going to be many, but don’t worry, it’s all in my head. Nearly every inch of the route I’ve mapped out is ground I trod when I lived here back in the day.

Mile .5, ~12:05 AM, New York Ave./Ave. J: Our first mid-race pickup! Matt is here to join us! Alright! Welcome aboard! And then there were six!

Mile 1.06, ~12:11 AM, New York Ave./Kings Hwy: We make a right onto Kings, and in the distance, I seem to hear what sounds like cheering. What’s this? As we get closer, we realize what’s going on.

Mile 1.13, ~12:12 AM, East 32nd/Kings Hwy: Beneath a hospital facility awning are my friends David and Faigie, who are holding up signs and hollering (at just past midnight!). Lovely! Thank you! With them are their sons, Shimon and Yossi, who are ready to join the pack for a short jaunt. As soon as we roll past, the boys jump into the mix, and their folks jump into their car, and will trail us until it’s bedtime for their kids. Very cool. Delighted they can join us for some good wholesome fun. And then there were eight!

Mile 1.2, ~12:13 AM, East 31st/Kings Hwy: Four more fellas jump in with the group: Michael, Michael, Yisroel, and Shlomo. Yisroel starts telling jokes and will not stop until he’s done running, 10 miles later. And then there were twelve!

Mile 2.3, ~12:23 AM, Midwood, East 13th/Kings Hwy: We pass Sunflower Café, where my wife and I had lovely breakfasts when we lived nearby during our first year of marriage. Michael jokes, asking if we can stop in for breakfast now. Uh, no, not for at least another quarter of a day. Just under another half marathon to go, plus another marathon. No big whoop.

Mile 2.4, ~12:24 AM, Coney Island Ave./Kings Hwy: We make a left turn onto Coney, having gotten lots of stinkeye on the Kings Highway stretch from lots of people. What, never seen a group of 12 running in middle of the night, all lit up, with the man in front wearing a birthday hat? Hm? Across the corner is a Walgreens, which used to be the Kingsway move theater, where I saw lots of movies as a kid, including the first one I was ever turned away from because it was rated R (Graveyard Shift) and the first one I ever saw alone (Crazy People). Let the “This is Your Life” tour begin!

Mile 2.45, ~12:25 AM, Kings Hwy bet. Coney Island Ave./Ave. R: Midway up the block, we encounter a man on a cellphone, who, as if gravity has pulled him into the nexus of our rolling party, begins running with us. His name is Alex, and he takes a clip of the birthday boy while he’s running (and I suppose I’m on his Facebook page somewhere or Instavid, or whatever the kids are using nowadays). He leaves off just after we turn the corner onto Avenue R and hit East 12th, which is the corner where I once found a credit card and managed to return it to its rightful owner. Okay, I won’t bore you with a dull detail like that again.

Mile 2.6: ~12:27 AM, East 13th/Ave. R: Michael, apparently feeling the vibe of the event, asks me to point out places relevant to my previous life, as we pass the shul I used to daven in during Shana Rishona (First Year) before we skidaddled to Jersey. It’s funny though, I grew up in Boro Park but spent most of my teenage years/early 20s in Midwood. Our run will review my upbringing in reverse.

Mile 2.8, ~12:29 AM, East 16th/Ave. R: Prospect Park Yeshiva! My twin sisters graduated from here as co-valedictorians! Proud of them!

Mile 2.9, ~12:31 AM, Ave. R bet. East 18/19th: Nachi! Old friend! Oh, he’s Alan now. Okay, Alan! Old friend! Good to see you. My good man has come out to offer water to the runners. He also takes a picture of us (we are now 11, Shimon having dropped off after a mile, with brother Yossi still with us) that would get a billion likes on Facebook. He also shows me where he’ll leave more water for when we return to this spot around two hours later. Great to see you, man! Thank you!

Mile 3.1, ~12:33 AM, East 23rd/Ave. R: Chaim joins the group! Welcome, Chaim! This brings us back to 12.  My wife texts me that I have only 37 miles to go. She must have a stealth drone trained on me or something.

Mile 3.9, ~12:40 AM, Marine Park, Marine Pkwy/Ave. R: A funny thing happens on this corner. Per the course I’ve drawn up, we have to go two more blocks before we loop around to Marine Park. However, something about the wide street is very inviting, and everyone turns the corner without my say so. I’m not going to fight it, I’ll just have to recalculate the distance in my head, and make it up elsewhere. I know the course like the back of my hand, and I’ll find a spot.

Mile 4.1, ~12:42 AM, Fillmore Ave./Playground 278: We enter Marine Park, where I played many a baseball game as a child, and where I admired many an Italian gentleman playing bocce. I mention to the group that I haven’t set foot in this place in more than two decades. Yossi jokes that he hasn’t passed through in what must be, ohhhh, seven hours. I notice the bathroom and ask if they’re open. Yossi mentions that the building was actually part of a $15 million renovation. The bathrooms are closed, which means the renovation is worth $0 to me. The bocce courts have survived, however, which is wonderful!

Mile 4.5, ~12:45 AM, Parking Lot on Marine Park oval: We lose three runners in one fell swoop: Yossi rejoins his cheering family, having completed 3.5 miles with us. Chaim steps out after a 1-mile quickie, and Shlomo doubles back after joining us for 3. Thanks for hanging out, guys! Joining us, mute, on the sidelines, are yeshiva guys smoking cigarettes, which breaks my heart every time I see it. Running is better, dangit.

Mile 4.8, ~12:48 AM, Ave. U/Stuart St.: Moishie bows out here. Thanks for joining, Moishie!

Mile 4.9, ~12:50 AM, Ave. U/Gerritsen Ave.: I get the birthday present to end all birthday presents: a member of our troop – suddenly very animated and super-happy – begins to pull ahead of me and announces while passing that now that the young boys are no longer with us, I can be treated to my gift. Without breaking stride, he drops trou and gives me a full moon. He must have practiced this, because a) he manages to keep running quite a long way without his shorts riding back up, and b) that thing looks expertly waxed. I’ve been mooned before, but never gift-wrapped like this. I laugh my, um, head off. This could be my most meaningful, sincere, personalized, and cheeky birthday present ever.

Mile 5.0, ~12:51 AM, Sheepshead Bay, Knapp St. bet. Gerritsen/Ave. V: Adam joins us! We are now nine. He intends to go the full 40, but he’s jumped in with 35 miles to go. He’s parked in the area, and has been waiting for us, running circles around the neighborhood so he can get as close to five miles in as possible. I low-five him and he merges in seamlessly, ready to roll.

Mile 5.55, ~12:57 AM, Knapp St./Ave. Y: Elik notices, and is offended by, an awfully rank odor. Oh, that’s no big deal – the response from all Brooklynites seems to come in unison – it’s just the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, and it’s practically roses compared to what it’s like on bad days.

Mile 6, ~1:00 AM, Knapp St./Harkness Ave.: The UA! Option #2 for all the movies I saw when I was a teen.

Mile 6.15, ~1:02 AM, Knapp St./Emmons Ave.: We hit the water and the eastern entrance of the Shore Parkway Greenway Trail. I mention to the guys that I was thinking to include a stretch of this on the course, but thought better of it because it’s spooky at night. Good idea, says Elik, because the TGNY100 that he ran includes this portion and it is uncomfortable indeed. Good, we’ll skirt right past it and move in the opposite direction.

Mile 6.2, ~1:03 AM, Brigham St./Emmons Ave.: Speaking of skirts, they’re not very much in abundance here. This is where the young Russian clubgoers hang out (do they also have to smoke their brains out? We’re trying to run here. Cough cough.).

Mile 7, ~1:10 AM, East 21st/Emmons Ave.: Sheneneh Jenkins herself – I swear it’s her – is standing on the dock and posing for a picture. She’s got What Her Momma Gave Her swung so far out and up that it appears to be above her waist. Impressive. Girl’s got style and confidence. Moon-man says, “Hey beautiful!” She responds with an enthusiastic, “Heyyyy-ayyyyyyy!” Too funny.

Mile 7.13, ~1:11 AM, East 19th/Emmons Ave.: Problem. We are supposed to transverse the pretty blue Ocean Parkway Pedestrian Bridge over the bay part of Sheepshead Bay, but it’s closed. Okay, no problem, we’ll go around, but I’m going to have to do some math now. By not traveling over the bridge, we lose mileage. By traveling around the “throat” of the bay, we gain mileage. When we’ll get back to the foot of the bridge after our workaround, I’ll have no idea how many much of Manhattan Beach I should shave off to get back to the mileage I’m supposed to have at this point. I also still have to gain back the mileage lost at Marine Park. The calculations are impossible. I’ll have to wing it. As we pass the closed bridge, someone says I now have to recalculate like a GPS. Har har.

Mile 7.2, ~1:12 AM, Sheepshead Bay Rd/Emmons Ave.: We come across some 20-something Friends-esque characters, out of their element in this neighborhood and clearly not sober. One of the girls starts running with us (again, as if compelled to do so; we’ve got an interesting gravitational pull vibe going on). Matt says she can only run with us if she’s drunk, to which she responds, “Guess I’m running with you!” before huffing and puffing and turning beet red as she immediately runs out of steam – and presumably empties the contents of her stomach – as we pull away. That gal was not in good enough shape to run with us for 10 feet, and we are not breaking any speed records.

Mile 7.73, ~1:18 AM, Manhattan Beach, Shore Blvd/Exeter St.: We make it around the bay to the foot of the bridge. The added trip was .6 miles. However, the bridge itself is .1 miles. Now we’re supposed to go to the first non-Dead End street before making a right at Kingsborough College, but uch, my brain blows. I can’t do this. I’ll figure it out down the line and make up for any shortfall. Moving along.

Mile 7.8, ~1:18 AM, Shore Blvd/Ocean Ave.: We turn right, about a half mile earlier than we would have, had the bridge been open. Nice houses.

Mile 8, ~1:20 AM, Oriental Blvd/Ocean Ave.: We hit the water again and turn right. All the houses here are also nice, and new, and recently renovated. This area had the stuffing kicked out of it by Hurricane Sandy. Nice to see it recovered, at least on the surface.

Mile 8.55, ~1:25 AM, Brighton Beach, Brighton 15th/Brighton Beach Ave.: I turn left onto the street where the boardwalk begins/ends. Nobody seems to want to follow me. For the first time in the run, someone asks “Do you know where you’re going?” I’m almost insulted! Yes, I know where I’m going! It isn’t my fault the city put up no signage whatsoever indicating the boardwalk starts here! Follow me!

Mile 8.7, ~1:27 AM, Brighton 15th/Boardwalk: Gah! The ramp is sealed off! Construction! Now I have to figure out another way in, and I have to do more recalculations. Grrr. I turn the group around, and notice that Adam is busy running circles (actually, triangles) around a small traffic island. He’s still trying to build up the mileage so it’s equivalent to what the rest of the group has. Interesting.

Mile 9.25, ~1:32 AM, Coney Island Ave./Boardwalk: After rerouting back up to Brighton Beach Ave., I figure Coney will get us back to the Boardwalk. I’m right. Awesome. As a matter of fact, the construction ends right here. Perfect. But now I have more of a mileage deficit, or less. I don’t know. Whatevs. Having fun.

Mile 9.25-10.75, ~1:32 AM-1:47 AM, Coney Island, The Boardwalk: We spend 1.5 miles on the Boardwalk and we have many adventures, from the most mundane, to the most interesting:

1)      The water fountains are in working order. Excellent. Most of us get nicely refilled.
2)      The wood slats are as rickety-rackety as ever. Still, concrete facsimiles are sturdier, sure, but boring. Give me a nice storm-ravaged mold-infested termite-chewed nail-poking piece of wood with holes in it. Now that’s living.
3)      Before we turn off from the boardwalk, a lone runner emerges in the distance in front of us and approaching. We wonder aloud if he’s one of us, an unscheduled joinee. He’s got a good pace going, and he’s very robotic. Overly so, as he cuts right through us, ignoring the multitude of hellos that we give him. Can’t stop, won’t stop, I guess.
4)      On several of the benches along the way, couples are necking (did I just date myself with that term?). In almost every instance, the neckers are startled when they see us. I think that’s a strange reaction. This is the boardwalk, people, populated at all times (though Tatiana’s is closed. I figured they never are). Neck away. As you were. Enjoy.
5)      We come across another wonderful group of drunks. One of them spots my birthday hat, and slurs (literally and literally), “Heyyyy, KKK, man.” Yisroel defends me by saying, “Yeah, we’re the Jewish Ku Klux Klan Runners.” That might even be a funnier concept than Clayton Bigsby (you’ll have to google that if you don’t know who that is).

Mile 11.5, ~1:54 AM, West 8th/Surf Ave.: We lose three whole people again. After putting in a bit over 10 miles with us, Michael, Michael, and Yisroel Uber it back home. Thanks for coming along, guys! And then there were six. We’re going to lose some more, but we’re going to pick up some more too.

Mile 11.95, ~1:59 AM, Sea Breeze Ave./Ocean Pkwy: We hit the top of OP, and I realize we’re definitely ahead of schedule, because of the involuntary route cuts. We’re scheduled to hit Yoni’s house at 2:45 AM, but we’ll be there much earlier; not that we’ll interrupt his beauty sleep or anything.

Mile 11.95-14, ~1:59 AM-2:24 AM, Gravesend, Ocean Pkwy: We go wee wee wee all the way down OP to Avenue R and make a right. Along the 2-mile way, we pass several of the inebriated and doped citizenry of Brooklyn. They don’t make me nervous, as I’m surrounded by so many friends. If any of them start up, we’ll just play Red Rover, and win every time.

Mile 14.6, ~2:28 AM, Ave. R bet. East 18/19th: We re-arrive at Alan’s house. The bottled water is on top of his car. He’s probably fast asleep. Elik and I opt to refill ourselves and our gear, while the rest of the group runs ahead a bit. As we pull out of the waterstop and rejoin the group, Elik points out that we have less than a marathon to go. So we do! Awesome!

Mile 15, ~2:31 AM, Bedford Ave./Ave. R: Yossi steps out, having enjoyed our company, and we his.
Mile 15.1, ~2:32 AM, East 27th/Ave. R: Matt steps out to honor some AM family commitments. He will run 1.1 miles home, and would go on to wrap up his day with a 10-mile run at 10 AM, giving him 26.2 for the day. Awesome.

Mile 15.9, 2:38 AM, Marine Park, East 34th bet. Ave R/Quentin Rd: We arrive at Yoni’s house, our first full-service stop. You’ll notice I didn’t put the tilde in front of the time at the beginning of this paragraph. That’s because we did arrive (seven minutes) early, interrupting Yoni’s nap, and I noticed the precise time as a result. We use the facilities, gorge and refill on water, and devour the pizza that Yoni serves up, because no run of marathon distance or longer is complete without it. We exit 10-12 minutes later, now a bit behind on time. We hit the ground walking, but something has changed. I don’t have the same energy I had before, and I think the others don’t either. Our break was too long? Filled our tummies too hardily? Anything to do with the fact that it’s 3 AM? In either case, I say “Are we playing chicken?,” and the response is in the affirmative! Okay, I’ll bite. I get us rolling again and off we go. (Incidentally, Quentin Rd is named after Theodore Roosevelt’s son. Look at this gem I found:

Mile 15.9-17.7, ~2:50 AM-3:10 AM, Midwood, Ave. P: At the end of the 1.8-mile P stretch, we turn right, and begin the assault on the remainder of Ocean Parkway, for a 2.5-mile stretch. I’m tired.

Mile 18.1, ~3:15 AM, Ocean Pkwy/Ave. N: We pick up Shmuly! Hi Shmuly! Come on along! After some drop-offs and pickups, we are now six in the middle of the night: me, Elik, Adam, Scott, Yoni, and Shmuly. I’m fatigued.

Mile 18.1-20.2, ~3:15 AM-3:45 AM, Kensington, Ocean Pkwy: I spend the remainder of the stretch down OP in sputtering fashion. I stop, I start, I conk, I rev it up. It’s not working so well. I feel bad for Shmuly, who just joined us. I apologize to the group, but everyone takes it in stride, for which I’m very grateful. They would tow that line of support for the rest of the way. I’m surrounded by a great group of people. Elik is quite vocal about how it’s my birthday and he’s happy to be along. Adam actually takes advantage by running back and forth in a continued effort to catch up to our current mileage. Along this stretch, we pass the apartment I lived in when I was a bachelor, and the apartment my father lived in when he was a bachelor, and the apartment my aba lived in when he was a bachelor, and the corner where I got into a car accident on the way to a Yankee game. Three of these things belong together…

Mile 20.55, ~3:50 AM, Windsor Terrace, Ocean Pkwy/Fort Hamilton Pkwy: We cross over the junction of OP/PPE at Church Ave. and mosey/lurch to the foot of Fort Hamilton. Here we begin our longest uninterrupted stretch of the course: 4.1 miles as the crow flies. For my long runs and self-designed races, I like to put in at least one such long stretch. It allows me to zone out, not worry about directions, and for tonight especially, to stop yelling “Right!” and “Left!” to the group ahead of me every time there’s an upcoming turn. I turn over the engine, and we’re running again, but I need to be in bed right now.

Mile 20.55-24.6, ~3:50 AM-4:50 AM, Borough Park/Dyker Heights, Fort Hamilton Pkwy: Many places worth noting, and several hilarious and/or interesting things happen along this way, which I present in the order of their occurrence:

1)      At McDonald Ave. we hit the corner of Green-Wood (pronounced “Greenwood”) Cemetery, final residence of many a New York luminary. I’ve always found it fascinating that half of New York’s non-numbered street names and various sites of renown are derived from those resting here: Schermerhorn, Bergen, Riker, Hamilton, Ebbets, Schwarz, Steinway, and many others (yes, I cross-referenced a list of famous people buried there with a list of eponymous New York areas, and researched the histories. I’m like that.)
2)      At 48th st. we pass Maimonides Hospital, where I was born, and hospitalized 1.8 years later with, what is so far, the worse injury of my life: 2nd degree burns from an overturned hot water urn. The scars are all gone now.
3)      At 60th st. as we cross, a car pulls up to the red light. A fine, honorable, representative citizen of the immediate area – that is to say, a veritable extra from The Sopranos – leans out of the driver’s side window, honks, and hollers, “Check out the *&^%ing hat! I love that *&^%ing hat! I’ll have a beer with you right now because of that *&^%ing hat!” I wave my appreciation, but scurry along quickly. If this guy is drunk, I want us to be far away.
4)      At 65th st. as I point out the best-named store in the neighborhood – Three Guys from Brooklyn, a favorite of my mom’s – a commotion gets our attention. We see fire ahead, and lights; lots of both. As we get closer, we see what’s going on: a police cruiser is smashed up on a streetcorner. A nearby truck is mashed up as well. Fellow officers are aiding a hurt female officer out of the damaged vehicle. NYPD is swarming. One of them is putting out the car fire with an extinguisher No FDNY anywhere. Some of the group loiters a bit to see what’s going on. I don’t stop, and eventually the group catches up to me. Then choppers appear overhead, which we presume doesn’t look good from the sky when six bodies can be seen on the ground escaping from the scene of an accident. Next day, this item makes the news:

5 injured in Brooklyn after NYPD car hits van, catches fire: officials
BY Ryan Sit
Published: Sunday, April 19, 2015, 6:00 AM
Five people were injured, including two cops, after an NYPD patrol car slammed into a passenger van and caught fire in Brooklyn early Sunday, police and fire officials said.
The cops were pursuing a robbery suspect in their squad car when they smashed into a 15-passenger Mercedes van on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 66th St. in Dyker Heights about 4:15 a.m., police said. Three people in the van were hurt.
The collision sparked a fire in the patrol car but the officers managed put it out using a fire extinguisher stored in their vehicle, police said. 
All five of the injured were taken to Lutheran Medical Center with one person in critical condition, two people in serious but stable condition, and two more with minor injuries, according to officials.
Police later arrested a robbery suspect near the scene of the collision.

I assure you, the robbery suspect was none of us.
5)      At Bay Ridge Pkwy, across from McKinley Park, a bus-stop ad for the Five Boro Bike Tour gets my attention, because of what it says:
40 Miles
5 Boros
1 Day
0 Cars
Which is exactly what we’re doing! Um, minus four boros!
6)      At 78th st. it looks we have to cross over the Gowanus Expy to stay on Fort Hamilton, but it isn’t clear. Shmuly whips out his phone, checks a map app, and confirms that’s what we’re supposed to do. Signs are either scant in this area, or woefully faded. It takes us a few blocks until we’re secure (as I’m writing this up, I’m looking at a map. Fort Hamilton Pkwy, and also 7th Ave., actually criss-cross each other and continue. The roads form an X over the Gowanus. That’s confusing when first encountered on foot!)
7)      At 95th st. we hit John J. Carty Park, filled with playgrounds and stuff, entirely situated under the Verrazano off-ramp. I need the bathroom. I actually spot one! I make my way towards it when suddenly everyone says that would be a bad idea. That’s what they think. It’s closed anyway. Grrr.
8)      At 101st st. we reach the end of our Fort Hamilton run at John Paul Jones Park. Scott is at the end of his run too, having put in 40k with us. He’ll grab a train on 4th avenue, just a block away, and head on home. Thanks for coming along, Scott!

Mile 24.6-27.35, ~4:50-5:35 AM, Dyker Heights/Bath Beach, Shore Pkwy: Again, many places worth noting, and again, several hilarious and/or interesting things happen along this way, which I again present in some kind of order. We’ll go with random this time:

1)      I need the bathroom.
2)      Once again, the layout of the immediate area is much easier to navigate from above than from on the ground. Exiting the park, we can’t seem to navigate our way to the water. We make some missteps but Shmuly again shows us the way. The entrance isn’t really spottable unless you’re right on top of it. There’s some frustration, but we get there.
3)      Along this stretch, in a few hours, will be staged the NYCRUNS Verrazano 5k and 10k. Shmuly will actually be participating with his niece, and will go on to break his PR for daily miles by six!
4)      Yoni is closing in on his daily mileage PR as well, and is very interested in staying with us, holding up because of the calm pace. He’s “hondling” with his folks, when his phone dies, which is very convenient for his ambitions.
5)      The weather, the wind, and the water are unbelievably pleasant. I had thought it might be windy, and at 52 degrees, a bit chilly with wind factored in, but no. It’s nice and quiet and peaceful and relaxing.
6)      Elik points out another TGNY100 arrow, which he’s been delighted to point out every time he finds one.
7)      Adam keeps running ahead, running behind, running ovals, but he still can’t catch up to our present mileage, which becomes a, ahem, literal running joke. He’s always .12 behind no matter what he does.
8)      One of us learns the hard lesson that when one urinates in public, it is best to turn one’s caplight off.
9)      At 5:25 AM, we look to the east and we see daybreak. Its beauty arrests me, and this is really the first point during our entire run where I realize how long we’ve been out here. We have gone until the rising of the sun, and there’s much more to go. The day unfolds for us gently and beautifully. No Modeh Ani (“I give thanks,” the first daily morning prayer) though. This is like Shvuous (Pentecost, which is traditionally honored by engaging in Torah study, and forgoing sleep, from dusk till dawn).
10)  We hit the 26.2 mark unceremoniously. Usually, it’s the triumphant point of the longest run most laymen experience or imagine, followed by euphoria and rest. For today, it’s not even a stopping point; it’s just another of the many footsteps along the way.
11)  I really need the bathroom.

Mile 27.35, ~5:35 AM, Shore Pkwy/Bay Pkwy: We spot one! We run over! It’s padlocked! Arrrgh! We have about three miles to our next full-service stop, and that is just too far away. While we’re making calculations, we also collectively realize that, at the current pace, we are not going to make our 8:00 AM breakfast reservation. This latter item will be okay, but the former item? Not so okay. We’ll have to find something.

Mile 27.65, ~5:40 AM, Cropsey Ave./Bay Pkwy: We get an infusion of new blood, in the visage of my good man Michael Appel, whose appearance is needed by the group. I’m aching, Adam is pushing, Yoni is nearing his limit, Shmuly is conserving, and we could use some cheering up. Elik? He’s fresh as a daisy. Adam has been in touch with Michael about where we are on the course, and I’ve been in touch with Shai. Everything is working out nicely. Michael has come bearing gifts! He hands a Coke to Elik, who seems to enjoy the magical bubbly stuff during a race the way I enjoy pizza during a race. He also teases me into running by dangling a salted cameral GU in front of my face. Ooooh, clever, because that stuff is just the best on earth. He then suddenly vanishes. He has to re-park his car more strategically.

Mile 28.9, ~5:55 AM, Bensonhurst, 68th/Bay Pkwy: We pass what was once the Marboro Theater, option # Who Knows What for movies back in the day. It’s been long ago demolished. They didn’t even leave the marquee like so many other places do kitschily when converting into a clothing store or what have you. They just leveled it. For shame. Good memories. Michael rejoins us along this stretch. .1 miles later, Yoni reaches the furthest distance he’s ever run (half marathon), but he’s staying with us. He’s looking good (his fingers look puffy though; I’ll keep an eye on that) and the pace is working for him.

Mile 29.35, ~6:00 AM, Mapleton, 60th/Bay Pkwy: Ahhhh, Bishop Kearney High School, where, in front of its gates a score and a half years ago, I turned the tables on a would-be mugger by turning the mace intended for me into my attacker’s face, before unleashing a fussilade that dropped him to the ground before I escaped. Mugging was not an uncommon occurrence for me in my teens. These Brooklyn streets are not kind, after all. I remember having turned 13 a few months prior, but the day I achieved this upper hand made me feel like a man. Today, this streetcorner gives back to me again: There’s a Rite Aid right across, and as I’ve mentioned, I need the bathroom. Rite Aids have bathrooms. Shmuly has a bathroom in his nearby house, but I’m not going to make it. I ask the group to pause for a few minutes while I sweet-talk my way in. I put on my best puppy-dog face and ask the guy behind the counter if could avail myself. He doesn’t even hesitate before pointing me in the right direction. Maybe it’s my hat. Between the time I part company with my friends and the time I rejoin them, I take time to reflect: I’m having the time of my life, and this is shaping up to be the best birthday ever. I’m back in my hometown, exploring, reliving, and enjoying. I emerge with a smile on my face. It’s not that I just disemburdened myself. I’m happy. Michael takes a picture of my grin. Someone jokes that I look like a Rite Aid garden gnome. Shmuly heads home, and we wish him well. Let’s restart this party, shall we?

Mile 29.65, ~6:20 AM, 60th/20th Ave.: Shai! Hayadoin’! Welcome to our little run! Er, walk/run. Okay, fine, mostly walk. Anyway, welcome aboard! Hope you don’t mind the slow pace. We’re just hanging out while moving forward mostly, at this point, to be honest.

Mile 30.3, ~6:30 AM, Borough Park, Momma’s House: I spent Shabbos here, to make the logistics easier. I also spent most of my teen years here, and my 20-something years. For right now, it’s a full-service stop for the crew, including refreshments and ice refills. Nobody’s awake yet, but we’ll be back.

Mile 30.4, ~6:45 AM, 18th Ave./Bet. 52/53rd: We do not exit my mom’s house in the same rah-rah fashion as we did when exiting Yoni’s house. There’s a lot of walking going on. While nursing my Tasty Kake 360-calorie bomb, we notice a set of crutches leaning against a wall. Photo op, and we shuffle on a little from there, an improvement over walking.

Mile 30.6, ~6:48 AM, 18th Ave./Bet. 56/58th: We hit Gravesend Park, which I called “Kiddush Hachameh Park” when I was a kid, because my yeshivah (which will be named as we run past it shortly; no cheating!) brought us here for the once-every-28-years Blessing of the Sun (tradition has it that this cycle brings the sun back to its spot in the heavens where it was created). I called it that, and the name stuck for me (I enjoyed the blessing again in 2009, rising early and taking advantage before the day became cloudy and many missed the experience; may I partake in this a few more times in my life, amen!).

Mile 30.9, ~6:53 AM, 17th Ave./60th: Ahhhh, the Mapleton Library, where I spent my youth waiting for the new Encyclopedia Brown or Baseball Digest or Choose Your Own Adventure or Stephen King/Clive Barker/Dean Koontz/Robert R. McCammon (notice a trend?) book to arrive, so I could scoop them up, and finish reading them before I even hit the exit. It’s still there. Across the corner now is the Borough Park Pomegranate, AKA Breadberry, and across the avenue is yet another new gigantor yeshiva that stretches across an entire city block: Novominsk (some etymology fun: “novo” means “new” in many languages; “Minsk” is derived from the Polish river Mienia, derived from mienić, which means “shine.” So Novominsk means “new shine.”).

Mile 31.0686 ~6:55 AM, 6th Ave./60th: Adam announces that we’ve hit the 50k mark, which is the furthest he’s ever run (ooh, that was with me!). Very cool, though he does look worse for wear. I look over at Yoni. Puffy fingers. Hmmm, in a good mood though. I think we all need some targeted nutrients.

Mile 31.6, ~7:00 AM, 65th/12th Ave.: After a left on 13th, and a right on 65th, we encounter Intermediate School 187, or The Christa Mcauliffe School. Don’t know who she was? Shame on you.

Mile 31.9, ~7:05 AM, 65th/Fort Hamilton Pkwy: We pass the corner from where we looked up to notice the accident that occurred at 66th. Looks like it’s all cleaned up. Know what’s not cleaned up? The puddles of vomit we keep encountering. What goes on in Brooklyn overnight? Never mind; don’t answer; rhetorical.

Mile 32.9, ~7:15 AM, Sunset Park, 60th/4th Ave.: We get a bit of a run going. At 7th Ave we make a right, then a left onto 60th, then we look up, and the brief run is over. Whoa, I did not anticipate this hill that carries us into Sunset Park. I wonder if this might be the tallest hump in Brooklyn. We turn onto 4th, for a 1-mile jaunt along what is part of the NYC Marathon route. Three items of note happen along the way:

1)      As soon as we turn the corner, a (drunk) girl spots us and slurs/says (translated from the incomprehensible), “Ooooh! Alright! Heading out for a run! Yeah!” Uh, mmhm, we’ve been heading out since midnight, and hey, is this your hangover, or do you start your day by drinking?
2)      At about the midpoint of this little stretch is the corner where my family has waited/hollered for me during the NYC Marathon for the past 16 years, showering me with amenities and love. I’ll see them again in November, and I’ll see them again in the future. May we continue this tradition in good health, amen!
3)      Just before we turn the corner, we hear that familiar ice cream truck music, and three thoughts flit through my brain concurrently:
  1. Ooh! Ice cream!
  2. What the heck kind of ice cream truck comes out at what the heck AM is it?
  3. I could use some to get me going, as could Adam to perk him up, and definitely Yoni, who could stand to reduce some swelling.
But we don’t see any truck. We hear it, but we don’t see it. It’s blaring. Where’s the noise coming from? Then we realize! It’s coming from a cop car! What? What is that all about? Some kind of entrapment technique? Anybody have any idea? ‘Cause we sure as hell don’t!

Mile 33.9, ~7:30 AM, 39th/4th Ave.: Just before we turn the corner onto 39th, we get a shuffle going on, that sustains only for so long as I keep my head down. Once I pick my head up, though, I encounter that 5th Ave bump again, and return to walking. Arrrrgh, next time I do this (Oh? Am I?), I’m cutting out this part of the course. Once over the hump, we actually accomplish some skitter-stepping. Good enough.

Mile 34.9, ~7:44 AM, Fort Hamilton Pkwy/12th Ave.: Adam spots a bodega and decides to jump in for refreshments. He grabs half the group; I continue walking with the other half. As my half pulls away, Adam asks if I want anything. Iced coffee is the first thing that comes to mind.

Mile 35.0, ~7:45 AM, 12th Ave./39th: We turn right onto 12th, and I take advantage of the slow pace – and desire to be united with my iced coffee quickly – to check my phone. I find a text from my buddy Mordechai, which says, “How goes it?” I respond: “5 miles to go, tired, but happy.” He responds, “I’ll probably have to leave to my 5k before you’re done.” I text: “No problem.” He would go on to place 2nd. Nice. Also, nice of him to check in.

Mile 35.45, ~7:51 AM 12th Ave./48th: We arrive at, and run up, the block where I spent my entire childhood. This is where I drove my bicycle; this is where I gallivanted about with my big wheel (I miss that thing so much!); this is where I buried my beloved parakeet; this is where I had my first catch ever with my dad; this is where, one Purim, I stared dejectedly out my window, because I was dressed up as Superman, but I couldn’t fly anywhere because my version of kryptonite was the chickenpox. I turn that frown upside down today, however, because I notice that despite nearly every house being turned over on the block, my old house remains. It’s still there. Wow. It’s good to see it, and it’s fun to reflect.

Mile 35.65, ~7:54 AM, 13th Ave./47th: We make a left on 13th and head down. At the corner of 47th is Candyman, where I spent the first nickel I ever called my own. My purchase was a Bazooka Joe gum. I pulled that out of the first wallet I ever owned. It had a dolphin on the cover. I still have it.

Mile 35.75, ~7:56 AM, 13th Ave./46th: Just after we pass one of the several Kosher Delight carcasses, Adam and the other half of our crew rejoin us. Adam hands me the iced coffee I ordered, and he seems chipper, probably having filled up his belly good. I’m chipperer, because I have an iced coffee in my hand! 3.7 seconds later, the entire contents are in my stomach, and man, that felt soooooo good going down.

Mile 35.85, ~7:58 AM, 13th Ave./43rd: Ahhh, the Borough Park branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, where I got the goods I needed when my usual supplier didn’t have the stuff.

Mile 36.0, ~8:00 AM, 13th Ave./39th: I get a text from my wife, who asks me how I’m doing. I reply, “4 miles to go, tired, but happy.” I’m nothing if not consistent. She texts back a world of encouragement, which puts some pep in my step. I’ll continue texting her my location, because I’d like to see her.

Mile 36.55, 8:06 AM, 14th Ave./46th: We make a right onto 13th and continue marching through the stomping grounds of my youth. At 46th, across the corner is the house where I spent my toddler days. I remember severe snowstorms, our sukkah getting blown off our porch, and that MBD visited all the time, because the “D” was our landlord. I got information about that, if you want to hear it. The house is now clapboarded, and it seems that the next time I happen by, it probably won’t be there.

Mile 36.65, ~8:08 AM, 14th Ave./48th: At 47th, we pass Munkatch (after the town of Munkacs – translation: “worker” – in Hungary), where I spent many a summer morning davening shacharis (morning prayer) at 12:30 PM before heading off to my grandparents for my toast and chocolate milk brunch. At 48th, we arrive at the first corner I ever crossed by myself. I seem to remember my parents not signing off on that yet. Well, the cat’s out of that bag! We then turn up 48th, roll past Sandy Koufax’s childhood house (since demolished), and arrive at…

Mile 36.8, ~8:10 AM, 15th Ave./48th: …Bobov (after the town of Bobowa – translation: “bean” – in Poland) Promenade. You want memories? I got memories. This is the corner where I saw human blood on the ground for the first, in the aftermath of a car accident that claimed a pedestrian’s life. This is actually the first recalled and most dominant memory, because I was a kid, and it had a lasting impact on me; very much a “Stand By Me” moment. Now on to happier things: This is where I was in attendance for the actual naming of the street, presided over by Mayor Ed Koch. I split my pants that day and had my sweater around my waist. My rebbe thought it was dishonorable, and demanded I wear the sweater properly. This is where I received Chanukah coins from Rav Shlomo Halberstam, who, to my young eyes, seemed to project horns of light (and who, I just learned, is my 8th cousin). This is where I returned to be present for his funeral. This is where I played tag, punchball, tap-tap-trio (anybody remember this?), and off-the-wall (I hear this is nearing extinction). This is where I was bullied, but it is also where my mother came down to avenge me, and showed me how to stand up for myself. How fitting to conclude with that, because she’s my next stop.

Mile 37.46, ~8:20 AM, Momma’s House: After coordinating perfectly with my wife concerning the peloton’s arrival, I find her standing outside with a fresh batch of French toast, cooked up by my mom, and served to my buddies while they were still piping (the toast, not my friends). Oh my gosh, these things are delicious. My mom comes out to get her deserved props, and offer up another fresh heap. One of the guys asks her for the recipe, which flatters her to no end. We take some great photos of the mass enjoyment of this awesome tide-us-over-till-breakfast interlude. I head in for a quick ice refill, and bump into our little one, who is groggy and adorable. I tell him I’ll see him a bit later, then I exit, thank my mom and wife again, and proceed for the final stretch, laid out over the 1.9-mile walk I made daily to get to my beis medrash (house of study). Looks like when we get to our destination, we’ll still have .6 miles to go, so we’ll have to overrun a bit, and return. That isn’t bad, considering all our forced recalculations.

Mile 37.8, ~8:30 AM, Dahill Rd/Ave J: We arrive at the beginning of Avenue J. From here to where we’re going, it’s 1.6 miles, dead ahead, no turns. We pass so many points of personal nostalgia, it would take forever to list them all with their location details. There’s no time for that. We’re trying to get to the end of this run and eat breakfast. So, in order of where all this life happened along the route, this is: the house where I used to pit-stop to read the morning paper, the street where I once saw a man hit golf balls into the window of a store, the bar where I had my first drink on the day I turned 21, the stretch where I ran my fastest mile ever (5:44) -

Mile 38.3, ~8:40 AM, Midwood, East 9th/Ave. J: Yaakov bikes over to us! He, his twin brother Moshe and a bunch of their Kosher Cyclists compatriots have just concluded their inaugural ride of the season, and have come out to pump us up and escort us to the finish! How nice! Yaakov leans into us with the pep, and it’s a good pep, and we all find ourselves running in earnest. What a good feeling this is, to shake off the fatigue in response to some great injected energy. But wait! Where was I? I was waxing nostalgic. Ah yes, this is: where my wife and I had our Purim sheva brachos, where I met Christopher Walken, another Kosher Delight cadaver, the store where I used to show off my Mrs. Pac-Man skills, where I had my first ever full-time paying job, my beis medrash, and finally…

Mile 39.4, ~8:55 AM, Nostrand Ave./Ave. J: …Spoons, where I’ve scheduled today’s breakfast, which will be on me. Lots of Kosher Cyclists are here. Moshe has his camera ready, and hey, my dad! Hi Tati! Great photos are snapped, but we’ve got some more to go. Those of us trying to complete the 40 (me, Elik, Adam) keep on going. The others head in to the restaurant for their meal. We travel .3 miles to Flatbush Ave., turn left, hit a signpost, and return…

Mile 40.07, ~9:03 AM, Nostrand Ave./Ave. J: …to our finish line. Elik wanted a little extra, so we did that. Ohmigosh, we did it. 40 miles through Brooklyn. Nine hours on our feet. I need breakfast, and I need it now.

Breakfast was excellent, and filling, and it was a treat for me to treat my friends. Many joined in, and there was lots of rotation. Some dropped by just to say happy birthday before continuing with their day. Yoni got me a “bell” (AKA “Magic Mountains”) from the bakery next door, and the fellas surprised me with birthday cake.

My wife fetched me and brought me back to my mom’s house, where we had yet another birthday party. So in the space of half a day, I had three of ‘em. I couldn’t ask for more.

I can summarize my day with the Facebook post I put up after a night of good rest, which got a jazillion likes:

“Yesterday may have been the happiest birthday of my life. I spent it running for 9 hours with 17 friends who ran variable distances, which was followed by breakfast which included the runners and more rotating friends, which was preceded and followed by birthday parties with (and for) my immediate family, who, along with my children, showered me with wonderful sentimentality (and I, them), which all took place while dozens and dozens of friends wished me well on social media (I hope I acknowledged every instance!), which ended, when all the happy dust settled, with an incredible gift from my wife: a work of art commissioned specifically for me, comprised of the colors, theme, and (current!) mood my eye most appreciates. I want everyone, who put in various forms of time and effort on my behalf, to know - from those who took a few seconds out of their day to give me good wishes, to those who spent 3/4ths of 1/2 a day running with me - that I love you all, I appreciate your presence in my life, and I thank you for contributing to the fullness of my day.”

Finally, a small series of appendices, for your amusement:

Miscellaneous Interesting and Curious Observations
  • At breakfast, one of the crowd addressed my dad as “Mr. Bodie,” for probably the first time in his life.
  • Yoni and I are teammates on a 2,015 in 2015 initiative, in which solo runners or teams are encouraged to run 2,015 miles during this calendar year. We combined for 64.5 miles, which means we satisfied, in a single day, 3.2% of our quota.
  • Brooklyn is drunk and stoned. We encountered at least 20 certified inebriated individuals, at least four puddles of vomit, and at least six whiffs of weed along the way.
  • My wife, concerned for my safety, requested that I have at least two friends running with me at all times. At no point did I have less than four. As she wished, and doubled it!
  • By my calculations, I burned approximately 7,500 calories over the course of the day, but I estimate that I consumed a heckuva lot more, with a full breakfast, a birthday party lunch (with cake, of course) in the afternoon, masses of junk food, and a big, gorging dinner. Know what? I had no problem with that.
Total Mileage of Run Participants, with Some Notes

Martin             40
Elik                  40
Adam              40
Scott                24.9     Or 40k
Yoni                24.5     Nearly doubled his previous longest ever run
Matt                16        Then ran 10 at AM for a total of 26.2
Yossi               15
Shmuly            12.4     Then he...see above
Michael           10
Shai                 10
Yisroel             10
Michael           10
Michael           10
Moishie           6
Yossi               3.5
Shlomo            3
Shimon            1
Chaim              1

Elik’s Writeup

My good man Elik wrote up a recap of his own. It is absolutely fascinating to see this adventure through the eyes of another person who had the same vantage point that I did from beginning to end. Please enjoy: