2015 Staten Island Half Marathon - October 11, 2015
Goal was a sub 1:35:00, which would be a PR (Brooklyn half was 1:35:45). Felt pretty confident barring some kind of injury or bizarre x-factor. I've been feeling really strong lately. Fall weather has me pumped to run. I'd consulted the map and elevation chart and my plan was to go out with the 1:35 pacer and take off after the ridiculous looking hill at mile 9.
Staten Island, a borough that I'd driven through and whose ferry terminal I had used to return to Manhattan but whose soil I had actually never set foot on. ("It's amazing," said a friend who was in a similar situation until running the half last year, "It always seemed like this mystery world but they have a Duane Reade and a Subway and everything!"). Also: my apartment, the Times Square subway station, Southbound R, and the terminal on the Manhattan side.
The first real clue that something was very wrong was having to answer in the negative when someone asked me directly if I could move. That's no good, I thought, kind of far away. A while later, on my way back in, I stumbled when someone asked me the day. July? No... June. I'm not at work... so it's Saturday. The... 10th? No. Father's Day. The 20th! I finally say, proudly. “Sunday the 21st. Close enough.” the EMT laughed. I was less satisfied. But feeling good enough to not be worried. But it wasn't until I was close to leaving the tent, when one of the NYRR staff asked if I was here with anyone, or if there was anyone I was going to call, and I started mentally bringing up names and dismissing them one by one, due to my own personal insecurities and anxieties, that I knew I was all the way back to being myself.
On the way home, fresh off my spectacular defeat, I couldn't stop thinking about one thing in particular people asked when I started running. “Well what are you running FROM?” har har har. Everyone had a small laugh at that, but I always knew exactly what I was running from. And I held out for a good while. But it had finally caught me.
"Joe, how do YOU keep focus during a long run?"
The question came naturally out of a conversation two runners across from me were having. We were sitting on the Coney Island boardwalk eating pizza after finishing the Brooklyn Half Marathon. The question didn't catch me off guard as much as the fact that I had no idea how to answer it. I felt myself starting to do that thing where I will diagram the question to myself, in my head, without actually speaking, even though the question is essentially an invitation to speak. I'm hyper aware of this tendency for a few reasons, so I finally said the thing that seemed most appropriate, the sentence I'd been thinking over and over as I ran down the long, flat stretch of Ocean Parkway: "There is no tomorrow".
He kind of scoffed, and I thought that was fair. It is technically untrue, and not really a sustainable philosophy. Also, It didn't really answer the question. It was the thing I happened to have been hanging on to during the last stretch of the race. I'd given him no context for it. And it wasn't necessarily the right truth. How DID I keep focus? What does keeping focus look like? "There is no tomorrow" is just this thing I was repeating over and over.
It felt nice to say it out loud, though.
From the first pen, I go out fast. I'm tight, but I'm OK. First mile is 6:30. Second mile, passing the reservoir, is a little harder, but I'm cool. Also 6:30. Keeping this pace is too difficult. I slow down, but running down Harlem Hill pulls me forward. At the base we turn east and head towards the long, snaky incline that takes Harlem Hill's place as the mid-loop killer when you're running clockwise, as the participants in NYRR's 10K Scotland Run were on April 4, 2015. Third mile was 6:29. This could not go on. I turned, and started the climb.
I hate 10Ks. Absolutely hate them. They're fast. They're longer than you think. They hurt. They're the speed of a 5K but twice the pain for twice the distance. Marathons, half marathons, have some clout, some presence; these are impressive distances. But ANYONE can run 6 miles. RIght? There's no glory in a 10K. We all know how hard they are to do well. The necessary combination of a stout mental game and the physical base of all those miles underneath is both compelling, and unique. But really, all in all they're just annoying as fuck.
What a long strange trip it's been! Coach plays its Farewell Show at Sidewalk Cafe.
Holy shit. I ran a half marathon. (on 1/25/2015) That was amazing. Even going into it fully trained and prepared, it was probably the most physically demanding thing I've ever done. I'm racking my brain to think of something that even comes close. Even having put in all the requisite work, the long runs, the speedwork, the mental prep, nothing really prepared me for the hustle or the distance. A long flat run of 11 miles and a hilly, crowded, adrenalin fueled 13.1 don't seem like they would be too far apart, but they are.
My day started waking up at 6:30 and doing some light stretching and pushups to get the blood going. Nothing crazy, just moving around a bit. After eating a Clif Bar I strolled through a dead empty Times Square at 7am to catch the train up to Central Park. When I got to 59th street there were a bunch of other runners lingering underground... I wish I had a picture of that because it was really funny. Everyone was checking each other out, making playlists, checking their phone. I didn't hang too long because I was anxious to find a bathroom for one last pee and get to the park.
Many thanks to long time Dogs friend Jon Savoy for capturing a few songs from our show at Sidewalk Cafe on Feb 7th. Shown are The Wrecking Crew, Nyack, and Shoulda Coulda Woulda.