After a typical restless night of pre-race sleep, I finally get up 3 minutes before my 5:00 am alarm and my first thought is crystal clear: “this is the morning of the New York Marathon.”
No foggy mind; no stumbling to the bathroom. Instead I pop out of bed and my legs feel straight as steel beams, feet anchored to the floor with railroad spikes. My heart is pounding and I look down at Jesse, still in bed.
“Jesse,” I whisper. “Its time to get ready to race.”
With my race-day bag packed and slung over my shoulder, Jesse and I ride the elevator with Jere Longman, reporter from the New York Times. “Did you get any sleep?” he asks.
I can’t remember. My mind is blank. “Enough,” I reply.
The lights are bright and the decorations sparse as the three of us walk into the Hilton conference room for catered breakfast. Round tables are half filled with focused athletes and their partners or coaches. The hum of voices is barely loud enough to cover the farting sound of my ladle dipping into the vat of gooey oatmeal before plopping it into a mug-sized bowl. As I scan the porridge toppings, all I can think about is which things won’t make me have to poop in the race. Raisins are definitely not safe. Milk is risky. Brown sugar it is.
The butterflies in my stomach make me feel full after three bites but I power through. I spot Kim Smith at the next table and take the seat next to her.
“Kim, how do I know if I’ve eaten enough for a marathon? How much did you eat?”
“I usually ask other people the same thing,” she jokes. “I had two bowls of oatmeal and a banana.”
“Shit. I only had one small bowl and I’m stuffed.”
“You should eat some more if you can,” she warns.
Being that Kim just ran the fastest half marathon ever on American soil, I plop another wad of gruel in the bowl, but I still can’t manage more than one slimy bite.
Last Minute Details
Its 6:00 and we’re passing through the unbelievably crowded lobby to pick up a coffee and get on the bus. One final bag check and I realize I forgot to cut the lining out of my race top so it wouldn’t squeeze my ribcage too much (big ribs). We decide to divide and conquer: Jesse gets the coffee and I track down a pair of blunt scissors from the bellman and start hacking away. A stick would have been equally useful. I realize I’m not breathing.
The Bus Ride
As I walk toward the buses, orange cloaked people are running toward me in a panic, “Where have you been?” they exclaim. I look at my watch and its 6:22. The buses are set to depart at 6:30 but I’m the last one on. If this were a track meet, I’d be early! Whoopsie.
Walking down the center isle past all my settled competitors I spot my OTC Teammate “Skip” sitting alone. As soon as I plop down next to her skinny frame, she Dumbledore’s me and strikes the nervousness out with one bewitching smile. For an hour we watch the sun pink the sky and silver the water as New York City’s collective pulse gravitates toward Staten Island.