Friday, November 15, 2013

NYC Marathon ~ The Flight & Plight of # 542

I remember it like it was just yesterday. I opened the email from NYRR with my race number assignment. Remember thinking as I was opening that the date was getting closer and closer. Remember the excitement building. Remember that gut wrenching feeling when I saw that my assigned number was 542. Remember the cold sweat pouring down my face when I read: Wave 1.

Almost immediately, I jumped and retrieved last years number, the one that had been assigned to me before the race was canceled. Last years number would have been 65201. This year's number, did I tell you? would be 542.

I'm going to assume (but you know what happens when we do that), that if you're following this blog, you know a thing or two about "corral" and "wave" assignments. But just in case any of you don't know what I'm talking about, the lower the numbers, the earlier waves and corrals are usually reserved for those faster than fast runners. Obviously that's not me. Obviously someone made a big mistake.

I tried to justify this by thinking that maybe, just maybe the NYRR had assigned a special starting place to those of us who were to run last year and returned this year.

Nah, that couldn't be it.

As time passed I looked for the positives in this. There had to be some, right? The first one, and only one I really embraced was the fact that I would start earlier and that the wait in the cold would not be as long. But even that came with a hard realization that if I wasn't really careful, I would get trampled. There went my positive!

So how did this happen, I kept asking myself. There had to be only one logical explanation. The person or persons in charge of making bib assignments for the NYRR must have thought that "Mauricio" in Kenyan meant "With Gazelle-like Speed" and therefore gave me that number. In reality, they should have known that "Mauricio" was Spanish for "So slow he's moving backwards".

Come race day, I attached my number to my race belt and off I went. Didn't think about it any longer.

Well, that is until I arrived at the staging area.

There's something to be said about a mature, slim looking gentleman, sporting white hair and wearing a number 542. He must know a thing or two about running and racing.

As I sat patiently waiting for us to be called, a gentleman from Dublin sat next to me. He must have noticed my number, my HOKAs, my "experienced" look and promptly asked me: "what's your time goal?"

I told him sub 5.

Immediately, I saw the puzzled, bewildered look on his face. I asked for his and he said 4:00 hours. He was wearing a number in the 30-000 range.

He proceed to ask about my number. I told him not to ask. He insisted. I shrugged.

I moved to a warmer place. Found a spot inside a runners tent. The temperature here was about 10 degrees warmer. I thought I would just wait here.

But then someone said..."You best get moving. Start finding your way to the start. You're off with the fast runners, and they take of in about 40 minutes."

And so I did. I navigated my way through the maze to the corral to find my spot with Wave 1.

Once there the conversation was pretty much the same. Everyone was comparing notes. "What pace will you be running?", "What's your expected time?", so on and so forth.  I was trying as hard as I could not to make eye contact with anyone so as to prevent anyone from asking that or a similar question of me.

But then something hit me and hit me hard. Real hard. A pace sign went up a few people in front of me. I was standing smack, dab in the middle of this pace group. Said sign read: "3:10". Okay, that's not going to happen today.

Very carefully I moved as far back of the corral as I could. I figured back there, I would not get trampled upon. This worked out good, I survived the start.

And so concludes the flight and plight of bib no. 542. Or does it?

I did discover the humongous benefit of having this number, one I had not thought of before the race. I was not blocked by any runner. I found my way to the middle of the road and ran the race without having to weave through slower runners. This made it a whole lot easier to run a steady, controlled pace.  However, it was demoralizing for a moment or two, when I realized that I had passed no one and that everyone was passing me. Oh, well. I got over that real quick!

As I made my way through the Boroughs of New York City, I never gave the number a second thought. That is until I saw pictures of me at the finish line. Alongside runners sporting bib numbers in the 39-000!

Read the entire recap by following these links:

NYC Marathon Part I ~ The Training Process. Click here
NYC Marathon Part II ~ The Middle Half. Click here
NYC Marathon Part III ~ Why I Love My HOKAs. Click here
NYC Marathon Part IV ~ Race Day. Click here