My good friend Phil, who turned 75 years old last year also completed the New York Marathon, a lifetime dream of his. Phil is an awesome individual, who supports other athletes and runners (such as myself) throughout their achievements.
In his story below, he has the opportunity to become the supported instead of the supporter as he made his way through the streets of New York. Phil is an inspiration to all and I wanted to share his New York Marathon experience with you. Courtesy of the “Power Pioneers – BC Hydro”.
“The experience of a lifetime”; that’s what the brochure said on my notice of acceptance from the New York City Marathon. A little scary as it had been 25 years since my last marathon.
2010 was a banner year for me. I carried the Torch in the run-up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary and my seventy-fifth birthday. What better time to fulfill an ambition that has been on my “Bucket List” and also create some more memories that would complete an already memorable year? This was an ideal opportunity to run in the biggest and most popular marathon in the world, but also to run it with some people who were important to me, my running buds.
I have been running for years, a product of the “mid-life crisis” that happened around the running boom of the ‘70s and ‘80s. For years I ran every day, and did the usual 10 km, half-marathon and marathon progression. After retirement I pursued other forms of fitness, which diminished the quality and quantity of running to about 3x a week, usually including a Sunday long run. New York meant that, due to my age, proper training was critical. John Stanton, of the Running Room, supplied me with a bare minimum 18-week program that incorporated endurance, strength, speed and recovery with running only four days a week. That allowed for a gentle progression each week. I promised myself that at the start line I would be in the best shape I could be.
Our original group of three had now grown to five runners, all associated with BC Hydro, the company that I was retired from. Staying pumped was not difficult as I had no end of support from the group. Our running together was limited to the Sunday long run. As the long runs got longer my concern, of course, was injury and recovery. Recovery is as important as the “work” part. I listened to my body. There is a proverb that I have learned over the years that says, “if you don’t think you can, you won’t”. I had to remind myself of that often.
New York, even without the marathon, is still New York, but during the marathon week it is crazy in an exciting way. As you can imagine, the logistics of handling forty-five thousand runners before and after the race, plus the thousands and thousands of spectators on race day, is mind boggling. This race has been run in some form or other since the early ‘70s. The organizers know exactly what to do. Getting us to the start line on Staten Island was speedy and seamless and, being the slower runners, we would be the last to go. While waiting I assured myself that, yes, I was ready and, yes, I was standing at the start line in the best shape I could be.
The start of the marathon is like no other. After the gun you are faced with the daunting tasks of running 2 miles up and over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, thousands of runners on two levels, hovering helicopters, the pent-up atmosphere, fire boats spraying red, white and blue water, and your own emotions. In my case, I was already a wreck from no sleep the night before and having to wait at the start line for three hours. I must admit I had grave doubts of actually being able to complete the 26.2 miles that lay ahead of me.
I had read a number of articles before the marathon to try and familiarize myself with the city itself. After all, this wasn’t just the marathon, this was New York. One of the articles said not to consider the race just a line item on a “Bucket List” but to enjoy 26 miles of sightseeing. As we wound our way through the streets and over the bridges of New York’s five boroughs, we passed many milestones on our way to the finish line in Central Park that makes such an iconic race.
We had been told to make sure we had our name and country on our shirts. We all had shirts, sponsored by BC Hydro and with Canada on them, and some of us had poppies pinned to our caps. What a feeling to hear “Let’s go, Phil from Canada”. The crowds were into it, the police and firemen were into it, that bands and choirs (over 100 of them) were into it. I was told the crowd was worth about 10 km which I would probably need nearer the end.
As I entered Central Park with only about three miles to go, I knew the crowds, six deep at this point, were pushing me along. My legs were cramping, but my mind was positive! All I could see was marathoners, just like me, bordered by the massive cheering crowd and suddenly, there it was; the finish line clock! I may have looked awful a few yards back, but I put on a smile, held back the tears and crossed the finish line.
I had just conquered another marathon. This was a serious accomplishment, and this was special – this was the New York Marathon, and it was indeed the experience of a lifetime.
Some New York Marathon Facts:
$250 million – economic impact of the Marathon
$30 million – raised for 191 charities
16,000 lbs. – clothing collected for charities
1,700 – portable toilets at the start line
500,000 – on-course participant photos
$800,000 – in prize purse
130 – bands and other entertainment acts
2.5 – million paper cups
52,000 – finisher medals
47,000 – aspirin tablets
106 – official clocks