On a cold Sunday morning in November, 300 people gathered in Central Park, wrapped in several layers of clothing.
(So y’all looked like the world’s best dressed collection of homeless people?)
We stood around, just waiting for one thing...the opening bell.
(Don’t they use a horn?)
True but, bell sounds better.
(An opening bell refers to Wall Street.)
Yes, I know.
(At least you weren’t’ saved by the bell.)
You mean the TV show?
(No, I meant you weren’t almost buried alive.)
Did that really happen?
(Oh yeah, during the Black Plague in Europe. They used to attach a bell to the coffin.)
With 37 miles to run, I was hoping no one was going to attach a bell or a toe tag to me. It was the start time for the NYC 60K or as I had been referring to it, “THE NYC ULTRA MARATHON.”
As we gathered at the starting line I noticed the distance from the first runner to the last was about 50 feet long. With half marathons and marathons, those of us not in the front row actually have to walk up to the start before there is enough room in the crowd to run.
Not here. Once the horn sounded, everyone began to run. Nine loops sounded better than 37 miles, so I focused on that.
This race consisted of a five mile loop, followed by eight, four mile loops.
The five miler felt long, but once I finished that first loop, the first four mile loop didn’t sound so terrible.
Armed with my phone for tunes and my pink gloves for warmth, I jogged along.
When you run at all hours of the night you want to be as visible as possible.
(Oh, I’m sure you were quite visible to others on that day.)
The buildings on Central Park West peeked through the leafless trees as I ran south on Central Park’s West Drive. I was six miles into the race and I was feeling good.
(Enjoy that. You have 31 more miles to go.)
At West 71, I ran past Strawberry Fields. It was hidden behind the barren trees on my right, but I knew the marble memorial to John Lennon was there. I am a lifelong Beatles fan, but I wasn’t about to get sentimental about his music or his murder. I had a race to run and I had to focus.
(You? The ADHD poster child?)
That is the beauty of running. It has this magical ability to refocus you.
(Yeah, look where you’re going or you will face plant on the curb.)
I turned left and the run course took me east past The Lake. By the time Central Park opened in 1858, the park creators had converted a swamp into a place for boating in the summer and ice skating in winter. It was too cold to boat and too warm to skate, so I kept moving.
I turned a sharp left where Terrace Drive met East Drive and headed north. I passed a table of volunteers serving water and Gatorade on my right, knowing that the Metropolitan Museum of Art would be greeting me in moments on my left. Running uphill is no fun, but by the time I passed the Guggenheim Museum on East 88, the path had flattened out.
At East 90, I passed the entrance to the Jackie O. Reservoir and a pack of cheering spectators.
(You were crazy to do this race in shorts and they were crazy to stand around watching you.)
Everytime I run around the billion gallon reservoir, I look for Holden Caufield’s ducks. Actually, those ducks are in the Central Park Lagoon. The lagoon is...
(Enough with the distractions, keep moving.)
I kept moving, one foot in front of the other, never stopping, I continued north. Then it was a left turn at the 102 Street crossing. This took me past the starting line, more volunteers and a table of food and drinks. I was hi-fiving the volunteers and feeling great, until I noticed the lap counter.
David Roher is a USAT certified marathon and triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at: [email protected]