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Yesterday I paced a buddy of mine to his first NYCM finish – we started strong, got knocked down around 18, but got up and finished strong.  Way to go brother!

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There was so much more that I didn’t document while I was out there running my unofficial New York City Marathon…hopefully I will get around to it sometime soon, but in the meantime, this was my iPhone’s experience today!

all photos (except for Staten Island shots – which were downloaded), videos, notes and editing done on the iPhone – thank you Steve Jobs.

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So after yesterday’s post, which I wrote hours before the Mayor cancelled the marathon, many of you commented both here, on Facebook and on Twitter that I would have a whole year now to get Katy Perry’s attention for a donation of wigs.  I have to be honest with you, because I didn’t want to put anyone in an uncomfortable situation, I didn’t tell you the whole truth yesterday.  My struggle with deferment was much greater than a “should I or shouldn’t I run”.

I went to bed on Thursday night pretty much having decided that in the morning I would write to Lara, our amazing Team Up with Autism Speaks coordinator, and let her know I was deferring until 2013.  What I had seen on TV and heard from friends was simply horrifying and I could not see myself running when so many needed assistance.

I woke up at 5AM and instinctively reached for my phone.  I still had another half hour to sleep, but I notice the email alert said I had several emails that had arrived around 3AM.  This is what one of them (from one of Katy’s assistants) said:

Katy would be happy to make a donation of 25 wigs.

My new friend Andrew (Katy’s friend who I had been working with) sent this email:

Just got this email from one of the peeps at Katy’s management!

Which was followed by an email from Gene over at Charity Miles (he knows Andrew and is in the loop):

HOLY COW! THIS IS AMAZING!

I was ecstatic!  It had worked.

Katy Perry was donating 25 wigs!!!

As Gene said, how amazing was that???

Suddenly, I was back in it.  I was going to run New York!

But then reality started to hit me.  The fact that Katy Perry was generously donating 25 wigs to the cause did not change the fact that people in the City and surrounding areas were suffering.  I went back and forth all day, finally coming to the decision that I did.  Fortunately, the mayor finally called the event, taking a huge weight off of my shoulders.  I didn’t mention the wigs in yesterday’s post because I wanted to make sure that it was okay that I did – after all that they did, Katy and Andrew deserved the option of deciding whether or not to be mentioned.

I want to thank Katy and Andrew publicly.  Although the marathon was cancelled, at the very least, the wigs will be waiting for us for the 2013 New York City Marathon – all of you who volunteered to wear one this year have my gratitude and the right of first refusal for next year.

Thank you Andrew.

Thank you Katy.

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I finally pulled the trigger last week – I officially signed up to run the New York City Marathon for the third year in a row.

And for the third year in a row, I will be running as a charity runner – raising funds for the organization that is particularly close to my heart – Autism Speaks.  I had held off signing up for so long this year because I was busy recruiting many of you to run Boston 13.1 on September 16th (also for Autism Speaks – If you haven’t signed up to run, there are still spaces available.  Sign up —HERE—).

I could go on and on about why I am running and why I need your help, but it really comes down to this:  Autistic people like Brooke face a wide range of challenges both as children and as adults.  Autism Speaks tries to take these challenges on from several different angles – funds raised go to scientific research, social services, development of employment opportunities, and raising awareness.

They work tirelessly to make the world a better place for my Brooke and all autistics who are both like and not like her – that’s how wide the spectrum is.

So I come to you, hat in hand, asking for your help.  I have agreed to raise $3000 by November 4th (that’s on top of the $500+ I’ve already raised for Boston 13.1).  Whether it’s $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 or even the whole darned $3000, I’m asking for your help.

Every dollar counts.

Last year, because you put Jess & I over $10,000 for the Boston Autism Walk, I dyed my hair blue for the marathon.  I figured it would be pretty boring if I did the same thing again, so I’m going to mix it up a little while maintaining the theme.  This year, if you get me to my goal of $3000 by October 15th, I will run in this:

It should make me easy to spot along the way.

Now, if you all really go crazy and get me to my goal of $3000 before September 15th (that’s only a few weeks away), I might just be convinced to run in this:

Come on…you know you want me to do it!  And the truth is, I do owe Katy Perry something for nudging me in the direction I find myself (free training session for you Katy should you ever find yourself in the Boston area).  If it does come to this one though, I may reserve the right to put it up in a ponytail if it gets too hot.

Speaking of Ms. Perry, you may know I am currently working toward a CSCS certification that will allow me to officially work as a personal/team trainer.  My plan is to be certified by the end of March 2013.  How is this significant?  For every $25 donated, I will put the donator’s name into a hat (so $100 would be 4 entries).  On November 1st, I will have Brooke draw out a name.  The winner will receive (after I am certified) 3 training sessions that will include on top of that a full nutritional and physical intake evaluation and a long term program to get you where you want to be.  Hopefully, after three sessions, you will still want to work with me!

If you live outside of New England, I could use some credit card miles to fly to you for a weekend or we could do something via Skype – we can work out those details later.

Okay, so here’s the link to my donation page – http://events.autismspeaks.org/nycmarathon/runluaurun – donate early and often, and remember, every $25 buys you one raffle ticket ($200= 8 tickets!).

You know you want to see me running through the streets of New York with a Katy Perry wig!

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[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

As a blogger (did I just call myself that?  Really?  I’m a blogger?), ahem, as a blogger, I often find myself writing posts in my head long before I can get to my laptop.  Sometimes it is right after an event, sometimes it’s even during an event; heck, sometimes, in anticipation of how things might go, I start to write a post about something before it even happens.

A couple of Sunday mornings ago, as I got myself ready to catch the bus to Staten Island for the start of the 2011 New York City Marathon, I tried to imagine what this post would look like.  It is part of my typical pre-race routine.  For every other marathon that I’ve run, there have been two possible outcomes in my imagined posts – either a.) I would achieve my goal in some sort of  dramatic fashion or b.) I would NOT achieve my goal, still in some sort of dramatic fashion.  The dramatic part was (is?) important to me.  It’s what makes something worthy of YOUR time.  Who wants to read boring, technical details?  Without fail, good (Smuttynose) or bad (Around the Lake), there has always been some sort of dramatic moment in my marathons.

And that was my problem as I made my way to the bus that Sunday morning.  What possible drama could I expect from a race I was planning on simply having fun at?  True, my plan was similar at the Vermont 50 and that was filled with drama – but on that day I was going 24 miles farther that I had ever gone before.  There was the drama of the unknown.  There was really no unknown in New Yorkk.  Even taking into account that I would be running 26.2 miles, running back to mile 23 and then running my friend Jersey in for a total of 32.6 miles, I didn’t foresee any surprises…

***

The ride to the start was nice and easy.  A young kid named Robert, running his first marathon, sat down next to me and we spent the whole time chatting.  We talked about the how’s and the why’s we were for running with Autism Speaks.  He was nervous, I was not.  I reminded him that on this day, his job was simply to finish and enjoy.  He would struggle late in the race but finished with a respectable 5:13 first marathon.

***

Once in the Village I found the two friends I most wanted to find – Jersey, whom I would go back and run in from 23, and Maddy, whom I once thought I was an equal runner to (she would finish the day with a 3:12 marathon – this just one week after pacing her sister to a 3:32 in the Marine Corp Marathon in DC.  Yeah, she’s a superstar, no question.).  After some love and hugs, it was time to head to my corral.  Jersey and I peeled off toward our respective waiting areas, but before I left her, I reminded her that today, her first marathon, was about finishing and enjoying the day.

Robert, Jersey and me

Jersey, Maddy and me

***

Checking into my corral, I ran into a runner I had met on the walk to the Expo the day before.  Tim was running his first marathon.  He was a bundle of nervous energy.  In his own words he described himself as a guy who simply liked to go full throttle.  Knowing himself didn’t seem to ease his nervousness however, so I spent the 20 – 30 minutes we waited in the corral just talking.  I gave him a few pointers, and as I did with Robert and Jersey, reminded him to just finish and enjoy.  He would pass me somewhere on First Avenue around mile 18 and finish with a very impressive first marathon of 3:56.  He later thanked me via text for keeping him calm in the corral.

Maybe I have a new calling at marathons? Pre-Marathon Whisperer…

***

Somewhere around 9 miles my twitter friend Robin tracked me down – the advantage of having blue hair I guess.  I got to try out my on the run interviewing skill.

At that point I was still full of energy and probably running way too fast for someone who hadn’t trained a lick for the marathon.  I was on pace for a 3:30-ish marathon, but, like Boston this year, as I passed the 17-mile mark, my lungs began to squeeze.  My first thought was “not again” but that was quickly followed by the realization that I wasn’t running for time.  It didn’t matter how fast or slow I went.  Even if I had a complete physical breakdown, I could simply stop at mile 23 and wait for my friend Jersey.  That thought put a little pep back in my step and I was able to maintain a pace that was in the mid-9’s pretty much for the rest of the way.

***

The fact that I was running just for fun allowed me to really focus on the crowds.  In 2010 I was so focused on trying to hit 3:15 that I completely tuned out the City, the spectators, the experience.  This time around, with no pressure to even finish, I soaked in everything.  Going into my first big turn on the course, I realized that there were whole swatches of fans who were completely getting ignored.  Runners learn early to take the inside track on a turn and keep it tight.  Even with 47,000 running on marathon day, every single one of them was trying to follow the shortest lines possible.  Starting with my next turn, I decided that I would make the widest turns possible and high five the ignored spectators.  The reactions ranged from total surprise to unbridled enthusiasm.  It was probably the second best decision I made all day.

***

So what was the best decision I made?  That’s easy.  As we made our way back into Manhattan after a brief detour through the Bronx, I saw a guy holding out a bottle of beer.  The Willis Avenue Bridge had just about killed me and I was physically struggling – more and more I was entertaining the thought of simply waiting for my girl Jersey at 23.  Running a marathon on no training is hard.

Dumb and hard.

But then there was this guy, holding out a Corona.  It glistened in the sunlight like an oasis in the desert.  I thought to myself, why the heck not??? So I stopped and took the beer.

BEER!!!

His friend laughed and insisted on taking a picture.  The beer went down quite nicely.  Halfway through, I realized I should probably get back to running.  I didn’t want my legs stiffening up.  As I turned to get back to it, the guy reached for my half-full bottle.  I looked at him and told him thank you but there was no way he was getting it back.  He laughed and sent me on my way.  It was a lot of fun to see the reaction of spectators as I ran down Fifth Avenue with a beer in hand.

And believe it or not, that beer re-energized me and carried me into the Park.  Adult-carbs – who knew?

***

The last three miles of the marathon take you through and around Central Park.  From about 23.5 to 25.5 it’s rolling hills that simply beat up on already tired legs.  I caught a fellow Autism Speaks runner around 24.  We gave each other words of encouragement and then carried on.  In the end, I quietly crossed the finish line in 4:02 –

– by far my slowest marathon ever, but quite honestly, aside from my BQ at Smuttynose, my most enjoyable.  I looked at my watch.  I had what I thought was maybe an hour to an hour and a half to get back to mile 23.  That wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that, for as great as the New York City Marathon is, the bag pick up/exit process has got to be the absolutely worst designed set up I have ever seen.  It took nearly 45 minutes to get out to a street so that I could “race” back to 23.  As I jogged as fast as my tired legs would take me, I tweeted to Jersey’s followers asking for updates.  As it turned out, I had a little more time than I had expected, but I hustled nonetheless.

***

I eventually found the Autism Speaks cheering section near 23 and waited patiently, trying to keep my legs loose.  I saw Tara,  a fellow blue haired Autism Speaks runner but did not have the foresight to snap a picture.  Not too long and Jersey showed up.  She was struggling, which is to be expected during this final stretch.  We took a quick picture –

– and we were off.  We alternately chatted and ran in silence.  I let her set the pace.

Finally, as we crossed mile 24, I pulled out my phone and shot a quick video.  It was well timed as we found Jersey’s family seconds later.

A few hugs and kisses and we were off again.

She was on a mission.  With less than a 1/2 mile to the finish, Jersey found one last gear and kicked it to the finish.  She would tell me later that she just wanted to get it done.  As she crossed the finish line just ahead of me, I could not hide my joy in seeing my friend finish her first marathon and join one of the more exclusive clubs in the world.

Don’t be fooled by the clock.  She started in the 3rd Wave, so her time was a sub-6:00 marathon!  So proud of you Jersey!

***

So what did I learn in this race that was just for fun?  Beer is good!  No, seriously, the lesson I took from New York is that whether you are running for fun or for time, training is important.  I was wrecked between 17 and 19, seriously wrecked.  Were it not for the fact that I knew I needed to get to at least 23, I might have dropped out.  That knowledge and the beer at 20 saved my day.  But, I walked away knowing that I would prefer not to run another marathon without at least some lip service toward training.

***

Thank you Lara for allowing me to join the team so late.

Lara and me in Brooklyn - she coordinates the Team Up with Autism Speaks runners and is awesome. If you are interested in running for the team, let me know and I will forward you her contact information.

I had a total blast and I plan to be back next year.  Though I probably won’t be gunning for a PR, I may well look to beat my course record of 3:27…of course, after having so much fun taking pictures and videos on the course, I may just look to just have fun again!

Thank you New York City!

Now…who’s gonna have a beer waiting for me at mile 20 next year?

Beer me!

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No, no, no, no, no, no, NOOOooooo!!!

-Somewhere near mile 22

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

I ran my very first marathon (the Manchester City Marathon) a little over a year ago. I went into it not really knowing just what I was getting myself into. Over the course of the next fifty two weeks I ran three more marathons (Boston, Providence and Smuttynose). In each of those I learned a little bit more about the 26.2 mile distance.

One full year after running the Manchester City Marathon, and with one week to go until New York, I thought I had the knowledge, determination and discipline to conquer the five boroughs. Unlike Meatloaf, I only got one out of three right.

I would love to go into detail of my whole weekend experience, but in the interest of time and space I will just say that on Friday and Saturday I got to catch up with the always inspiring Sarah Stanley, had the honor and pleasure of meeting my buddy Michelle, running with both her and TK, and having a fabulous brunch with a roomful of runners (too many to list here) and attended the Team Up with Autism Speaks Pasta Dinner.

Me and Sarah Stanley at the Expo

Me and "Miss Joy" Michelle meeting for the first time at the expo...we later attended a wedding together!

At the dailymile/Twitter Brunch where I got to sit with THE Running Laminator!

At the Autism Speaks pasta dinner with my sister and Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr

Got to sit and eat with fellow autism parent and twitter friend Rhonda aka @train2tri

Let’s get right to the race.

As I stood, shivering in the starting area, I tried to visualize my journey before me.  Much like Smuttynose, I had a plan – I was going to break the race into 5 mile segments.  I knew in my head that no matter how I felt, I could run 5 miles.  In my head I told myself the moment I take that first step in each 5 mile segment, I was now down to 4+ miles.  It worked to perfection at Smuttynose.  I was sure it would work in New York.  If could replicate my Boston Qualifying race, New York was going to be a breeze.  Part of the plan also called for taking a Honey Stinger at the beginning of each of those 5-mile segments.  Easy enough.  I had run Smuttynose in 38-minute 5 mile segments.  My plan for New York was to attempt 37 minute splits.

Although I had never run New York, I tried to imagine myself taking a Stinger and a swig of my homemade Honey Water at the designated spots.  I saw myself crossing the finish line in Central Park.  The clock read 3:16, which was fine, because I was about a minute back from the starting line.

After the introductions of the elite runners, the gun went off, and we were OFF! waited for the wave to make it’s way back to corral 12.  I took one last look around for DP_Turtle, hoping to find a running partner, but to no avail.  The sea of people began to surge forward and as we crossed the starting line, I hit my watch and we broke into a jog and then a run.  My New York City Marathon had officially started.

People had warned me about the mass of humanity that I would be part of.  I thought having run Boston from the very back that I already had a grasp of what that meant.  As I began to climb the Varranzano-Narrows Bridge, I realized just how wrong I was.

The view of people ahead of me and behind me was almost overwhelming.  Reaching the peak of the bridge, I looked out over the water at Manhattan.  Having lived there in the late 90’s, I felt a tinge of sadness.  Even today, almost a decade after 9/11, I still expect to see the Twin Towers standing there.  I said a quiet prayer for those who lost their lives and loved ones that day and moved on.

As I passed the first mile marker, I took a look at my watch – 8:14.  A nice, slow start.  Unfortunately the second mile was downhill and gravity did it’s thing.  Coming off the bridge I hit mile 2 in a too fast 6:43.

Too fast! I thought. But then I reconsidered, thinking that I was now on target for sub-7:30 miles.  It had worked at Smuttynose.  It was going to work in New York, right?

Shortly thereafter we got our first dose of the crowds.  The cheering was absolutely amazing.  The next 3 miles went quite smoothly.  I hit the 5 mile marker at 36:02…a little ahead of schedule, but I felt good.  Real good!  Too good.

I pulled out a Stinger.

***

Now here’s the thing.  I am a huge fan of NRG’s Honey Stingers.  I am convinced that they helped propel me to my BQ at Smuttynose.  Before traveling down to New York, I decided to defer picking up my Stingers until I got to New York.  I assumed the local running shop would carry my brand.  They did…just not in the original flavor I was looking for.  My choice was banana and chocolate.  I settled on a mix.  But what could go wrong, right?  They were Honey Stingers!

***

As I passed mile 5, I pulled out my Stinger, tore off the top, sucked the the honey and washed it down with Honey Water.

It.

Was.

Awful.

I grimaced and washed it down with another swig of Honey Water.

Much better.

That is until a mile later.  At mile 6, it started mildly.  Small tiny waves brushing on the shore.  But with every passing minute, the waves of nausea became bigger and bigger.  They were soon crashing down on me.  I tried to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other, but I could feel myself starting to fade.  Somewhere in the next mile or so I had to stop at a port-a-potty.  I didn’t feel good.

44 seconds later, I was back on the road.

At mile 8 the three starting groups (for the uninitiated, the New York City Marathon starts in three waves, each wave broken down into three separate starting areas that run their own routes for the first 8 miles) came together.  The crowds and runners became more congested.

Mile 10 was coming.  The nausea wasn’t going away, but I knew I needed to take a Stinger.  I tried to psych myself up for taking in sugar, but the closer I got to 10, the sicker I felt.  Mile 10 came and went, and I decided to push the Stinger off until mile 15.  I took a swig of my Honey Water, but even that was now making me sick.  At the next garbage can, I chucked my bottle.  I looked at mile split – 73:35 – that was a 37:33 split.  Despite the urge to hurl for the last 4 miles, I was still on target.

I slowed down a touch, trying to give my body the opportunity to re-group.  After about 10 minutes I started to feel somewhat normal.  No longer feeling green, I pressed a little to make up for lost time.  As we crossed the half-way mark I looked at my watch.  1:37:19.  Sub-3:15 pace!!!

Ok!  I can do this!

Just after the half, I spotted my friend TK.  I ran over, gave her a hug.

Looming in the distance was the Queensboro Bridge.  I took a deep breath.  I was going to take the ascent slowly and let gravity do it’s thing on the back side.  Passing mile 15, I realized that I needed to take in some nutrition.  The very thought of taking a Stinger brought back a wave of nausea.  I decided to wait just a little longer.

I took a look at my watch – 1:52:20 – a 38:45 split.  Still within striking range and ahead of my Smuttynose pace.

As we began to climb the bridge, I was surprised to hear music.  Led Zepplin’s Kashmir began pounding through my earbuds.  I had forgotten that I was listening to music.  The bands and crowds are so loud along the course that unless you have your music pumped up all the way (something I do NOT advocate), it is completely drowned out.

But on the bridge there were no fans, no bands, no sounds save the quiet pounding of running shoes on the asphalt.  Robert Plant wailed away in my ears.  I couldn’t help but smile.  For some reason, it felt like the perfect song for the moment.  Reaching the peak of the bridge, I forced myself to take another Stinger.  The thick honey was so unappetizing to me that after forcing half of it down, I spit out the rest.  My level of nausea kicked right back up.

I had been told that I would hear the cheering in Manhattan long before I came off of the bridge, and I did.  Momentarily I was uplifted.  Coming off of the bridge, I race over to the crowd and high-fived a number of kids.

The high was good enough to keep me going for a couple of miles, but I knew I was starting to pay for the lack of carbs I was putting in.  At this point I realized I needed to put some kind of sugar into my body, so I decided to start drinking Gatorade at each water station.

I never drink Gatorade.  Ever.

Through 18 miles I had manage to keep my mile splits under 7:50.  I was still averaging under 7:30 per mile.  Mile 19 came in at 7:57.  I wouldn’t see another 7-handle the rest of the way.  As I entered the Boogie Down Bronx, almost on the nose at mile 20 I nearly doubled over from pain in my stomach.

Stomach cramps?  Really? My lack of drinking Gatorade while training was coming back to haunt me.

I had never suffered from stomach cramps before in a race.  These were sharp and painful.  I knew that my game plan had to change.  Even as I had approached mile 20, I had been thinking that a PR was still a possibility despite the ongoing nausea.  I had fought through it for 19 miles.  I knew I could fight through it for another 7.

But this was different.  I went into survival mode.  I just needed to keep moving.  Time was no longer the goal – finishing was.

We weren’t in the Bronx long, quickly returning to Manhattan and Fifth Avenue.  I’m not sure how it is physically possible, but it felt like both going up First Avenue and going down Fifth Avenue were both uphill.  Is that possible?  It sure felt that way.  The stomach cramps weren’t going away, but I felt like I could make it through to the finish…that is until somewhere before mile 22 when I felt a twinge in my quads.

Deja vu!

My mind flashed to mile 20 of the Manchester City Marathon when my quads froze, leaving me with my legs planted to the ground like tree trunks for 10 minutes, unable to move.

The twinge became more intense.  I could feel both quads tightening up.  This is NOT good! As I passed mile 22 I thought about quitting.  I was in official death-march-mode. 

Is it worth trying to get to the end?  I’m nauseous, my stomach has sharp pain and now my quads are seizing up.  Maybe I should walk.  Maybe I should stop.

But something kicked in.  I knew that the Team Up with Autism Speaks cheering section was just a mile away.  Autism Speaks, the families that battle autism every day and all those who had helped me raise nearly $3,500 had brought me to New York.  I couldn’t let them down.  I looked down at my singlet.  “Run Luau Run” it said right above the Team Up with Autism Speaks logo.  I thought of Brooke.  I thought of my friend Greg and his son.  I thought of my friend Sheila and her son.  I thought of Jersey Jenn and her family….and Judith…and Drama…and Gaby…so many families…

No.  Walking was not a choice.  Stopping was not an option.  I wasn’t running for me.

Each stride brought a shot of pain in each leg.  I looked up to see a sign: Pain is temporary. Pride is forever! followed by Your Feet Hurt Because You’re Kickin’ Ass!!! Two better placed signs I could not have asked for.

I caught the Autism Speaks cheering section by surprise (they were still setting up) and soldiered on into Central Park.

Now, I love a good set of rolling hills as much as the next guy, BUT after 23+ miles?  Oh my frakking God!!!  The uphills simply brought a more intense pain to my quads, and the moment I began going down the hills, my hamstrings decided to join the party.

Gee! Thanks Hammies!  I’m glad you could make it to the Pain Party!

Up and down.  Up and down.  But as intense as the pain was, I knew I had less than 5K to go.

Somewhere around 24, something made me look left.  There was my sister!  A sight for sore eyes!  I ran over to her and gave her a hug.  A big part of me wanted to stop right there and call it quits, but I knew I couldn’t.

A hundred yards later, I spotted my mother-in-law (Grammy) and her husband (Grandpa DD).  I tried to put on a brave face.

"Gotta keep moving...I think the finish line is this way" (photo courtesy of Grandpa DD)

"Maybe if I flap my arms, my legs won't have to work so hard!" -courtesy of Grandpa DD

I had nothing left.  My body was working on sheer muscle memory.  At this point, my hair could’ve been on fire, and it wouldn’t have mattered.

We exited the Park and ran along Central Park South.  I knew that we needed to go back into the Park at some point, but it felt like it was taking forever.  Finally, as we approached Central Park West, we cut into the Park for the last 400 or so meters.  This was the final test of the New York City Marathon, because this very last portion was painfully uphill. Really!?!

Usually I have a kick at the end of these races.  Heck, I even had one at Manchester for the last few hundred yards, but on this day I would have to be satisfied with just keeping a steady pace.  There would be no passing people at the very end.  No triumphant sprint across the finish line.

I looked at my watch – 3:26:31.

I mustered a smile.  Despite everything, I had managed my second best marathon time.

I didn’t hit 3:15.

I didn’t PR.

But I have to say, that in many ways, I am more proud of what I did on that day than of my BQ time at Smuttynose.  New York pushed me past what I thought was my limit.  I could have quit.  Heck, maybe I even should have quit, but I didn’t.

Yes, pain is temporary and pride is forever (at least I hope the pain is temporary – my legs and shoulders are still hurting as I write this!).

I wandered out through the bag pick up section, briefly checking into medical, probably leaving before I should have, woozy but proud.

How I felt through much of the race

I found my family, thanked them for coming.

Me and my sister (who took care of me after the race!)

Me and my Mother-in-Law

We made our way back across the park to cheer in other Autism Speaks runners.

Hanging out at the Autism Speaks cheering section, cheering other runners in

I got to see Edison the mining runner.  Talk about a story of perseverance.

So what did I learn in New York? At least four things (though I’m sure others will reveal themselves):

1. Don’t mess with your nutrition.  Last minute changes to what you put in your body can really mess you up.

2. Train for the terrain.  Truth is, I spent the summer training on very flat roads in anticipation of Smuttynose, which is billed as the flattest marathon in New England.  That was great for Smuttynose as I cruised to a BQ, but not so much for New York with it’s bridges, slow, long climbs and rolling hills in Central Park.

3. Running with someone makes a huge difference.  At Smuttynose I was blessed to be able to run with my friend Brendan for nearly 15 miles and then with some strangers for another 7 or 8 or so.  I ran New York without a partner and I’m pretty sure it didn’t help.

4.  No matter how good you feel, if you’ve been targeting averaging 7:24 per mile, it’s not wise to run a 6:43 in the second mile.

As beat up as I am though, I’m already strategizing for Boston.  Just this past Wednesday, I received my Confirmation Notice in the mail.  Mentally I am ready to start running again!  I am ready to start training for Heartbreak Hill!  I plan on kicking it’s ass!  The only problem is that my legs haven’t got the memo yet.

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Why do you run?

Some other photos from the race:

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Today I have my very first guest-blogger.  She is none other than my lovely wife, Jess.  I hesitate to let you read further only because she is a much better writer than I am.

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[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

All right, so you can pick your jaws up off the floor now. Seriously, it’s impolite to stare.

I know how implausible it is to find me here. Me – of “I only run when being chased” fame. Me – who once announced to the world that I was going to run a half-marathon, got three weeks into Dante’s third ring of Hell training, decided for the millionth time that I DESPISED running, then spent the next six months trying to hide from anyone that had been within earshot when I’d made the declaration. Me – who would sooner chew glass than run, no less spend my time reading a blog about running (Sorry, honey, you know I love you, right?).

And yet, here I am. And I have a story to tell. And it’s about running. I know, what are the odds?

Here goes.

In another lifetime, when I was thinner and taller er, um, younger and richer oh, Hell, let’s just go with just out of college, I lived in Manhattan. Long before Luau and I met, and a good many years before I would become a running widow, I would periodically head over to the finish line of the New York City Marathon. Friends and I would go to share in the revelry of the day. We’d whoop it up and cheer in the runners as they ran along Central Park South. We made it our personal mission to help push them over the last hump as they neared the finish line in the park.

I loved being there and I always found that the energy and inspiration lingered long after I’d walked away.

One year, after cheering in God knows how many runners, I headed over to the West Side for dinner with a friend. We tucked into a window seat at a favorite restaurant and ordered a bottle of wine. We talked about everything under the sun. We chatted and laughed and watched the people go by. We ordered slowly and ate even more slowly. Why not? We were living in the days of nowhere to be. It was long after nine o’clock when we finally paid the check.

I headed out into the night, amazed at how dark it was. I walked across town, making my through the park and back down to Central Park South. I was changed by what I saw along the way.

A lone runner was making his way along the same path that had been lined with bodies hours earlier. Where there had been rows of fans five and six deep. there was now nothing but a few stray barricades still waiting to be collected. There was no fanfare now – no one screaming or urging him on – no one there waiting to hand him a banana or a mylar blanket. There was no one to put a medal around his neck, offer him a massage or even give him a handshake. There was nothing at all but him and the place where the finish line had been. It was nearly ten o’clock at night.

I stood in the dark watching him with tears streaming down my face.

One at a time, he pulled his forearm crutches around his body. At awkward angles, they kept time with his feet until he finally stopped to raise them above his head.

I felt like a voyeur. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t move. I just stood back in awe of the human will.

Finishing that race was for no one but him.

Running is intensely personal. Whether you’re obsessed with running a qualifying time for a marathon (ahem), looking to beat a personal record (ahem again), or just hoping to make it in before the course closes, unless you’re an elite runner, it’s for no one but you. Running for a cause or running against the clock; running two miles or running twenty six miles, if you’re really going to do it, it’s got to be for YOU.

If you’re running New York this weekend, I wish you luck and I wish you strength.

And while you’re there, if you start to falter, keep your feet moving toward the park. Because there, you might just find the spirit of the man who finished HIS race long after the spectators had gone home.

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Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom where she writes about our life, our beautiful daughters – nine and-a-half year-old Katie and seven and-a-half year-old, Brooke, and our up and down journey with autism.

She also runs the Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a warm and supportive community of parents, friends, adults on the autism spectrum and some random people in her life who cared enough to hit ‘Like’ and probably now wonder what they got themselves into.

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