As the New York marathon approaches once again, my mind drifts back. I run in the cold fall rain along the Hudson and remember 2007. With one miserable failure of a marathon behind me I thought I could just do New York City – despite a banged-up knee, regardless of insufficient training and focus. Later I realized I had not respected the distance or the course. ‘The run that I had bragged about on two continents before it started turned out to be a fiasco,’ I write in my book. ‘The score in Van Hoogstraten v. Marathon: 0-2.’
The marathon is a way of testing your outer limits while exposing your inner fears and dreams, relying only on your self, your own strength and will power. No wonder the sense of failure can go deep. ‘Again, the desire to dissolve into nothing’, I write about the moment after the 2007 finish. ‘Away with the disappointment, away with myself, like magic.’
The promise to myself –never again– was broken two years later. And 2009 is a much better memory. I did prepare and show respect. New friends pushed and helped me. On First Avenue, in the Bronx and on Fifth Avenue I overcame insecurities and battled through to finish well. Boston followed, then Amsterdam. Sweet memories; the marathon stopped intimidating me.
With that in mind I will run Sunday, for the first time starting with the local elite. Politicians tend to avoid the word like the plague, but not me. I’m with the ELITE, baby! Look for me (number 849) running next to the superb Chris as we respect, then take New York.
(In case you missed it: a good story on the New York debut of the great Haile Gebrselassie. And one about Mary Wittenberg of the New York Road Runners pursuing Geb. I wish I could watch him battle the great Americans Keflezighi and Ritzenheim and the others on Sunday. And here, a fun story about superstition, including some quotes from fellow Flyer Dave Kleckner. Admission: I absolutely need to run in the same light blue singlet lately, since I achieved so many PRs in it. Like the story says: ‘The marathon brings out the quirks, the rituals and especially the obsessions in every runner.’ Finally, the Times reports on the new iPhone NYC Marathon app. I’m going to try it myself.)