Speaker by Various Artists

Crossing the finish line

by Justine

It’s the week before the marathon. Weather reports at this stage are predicting a very unseasonable 74 degrees (23 C) for Marathon Day. My midweek visualization run over the last few miles of the marathon course is done in teeming rain, so I end up looking more drowned rat than I do Allison Roe. By this stage of proceedings, as well as the NSAIDs, I’m quaffing the little blue sleeping pills big time.

On Wednesday afternoon, I negotiate with the landlord, who thankfully lets me stay above the pizza shop construction zone until after the marathon rather than having to go live under a bridge that weekend. I call the moving company, the superintendent for my new building, my insurance company and all the utility companies to change my move date for what feels like the seventeenth time.

Saturday morning, the day before M-Day: I go on the International Friendship Run. Meet some Kiwis – including John, a dairy farmer from Warkworth who has come to New York, for the first time, to run the marathon. (“I guess I’ll see a bit of New York tomorrow” he says, and, in response to my enquiries about the definitely-not-for-wusses Rotorua marathon that circumnavigates Lake Rotorua, acknowledges in classic Kiwi understatement “I guess there were one or two hills.”) I later check the statistics in the marathon handbook – more than 1000 attorneys plan to run, but there’s no figure for dairy farmers, or even just “farmers.”

As Saturday wears on, my foot gets more and more sore, and I start to feel a bit sick to boot. Go to see my Russian hairdresser – who has spent the morning cutting the hair of marathoners wanting to keep cool in the balmy predicted temperatures - who tells me as I’m leaving: “In my country we have a saying: the slower you go, the further you go.” Consider writing this on my pace band. (Definition for non-marathoners: the piece of paper you wear round your wrist with your projected time at each mile marker if you run your goal pace. Like, yeah right.)

Marathon Day dawns bright and clear - runners prefer overcast - and a sunny 68 degrees (20 C) with high humidity. But, by then, well frankly my dears I didn’t give a damn. To prevent this account becoming War and Peace and War and Peace: The Sequel double pack DVD edition, let me mention just a few selected highlights:

  • As we head towards the start line, they play “New York, New York” over the loudspeakers. Everyone sings like crazy.

  • People decorate their running shirts. The best slogan I saw (while heading up the Verrazano bridge on mile 1): “Is this a 5K?”

  • Brooklyn residents turn their speakers out onto the street and play the Rocky theme.

  • Kiwi spectators along the way yell like there’s no tomorrow when they see a silver fern singlet approaching.

  • Several friends are out to watch. Including Busytot and Busytot’s Dad at 1st and 96th at about the 18.5 mile mark. (I didn’t see Busytot. Must have been running too fast… OK, let me humor myself here. Please.) Another Kiwi I know, but didn’t know would be watching, comes tearing out of the crowd at 5th and 97th (about mile 23.5) screaming out my name and almost rugby tackles me.

  • The first race official I see on crossing the finish line is my physiotherapist. Several seconds of stunned silence and dropped jaws on both our parts, followed by (from her) “How DID you do this?” After I fill her in a bit on the last couple of weeks, she states quite matter-of-factly “Well, we all know by now that if anything is going to happen, it’s going to happen to you.”

All in all, the marathon itself was a fantastic experience. Well, OK, the weather - and most of the race between about miles 20 and

24 - really sucked. I ran it some 15 minutes slower than the time my coach had told me I should be shooting for, but All Things Considered I am happy with that.

Later I learn that I was 27 seconds slower than rapper Puff Daddy who had run a much-hyped publicity-stunt-marathon-thinly-disguised-as-charity-fundraiser, with The New York Post giving a blow-by-blow description of his supposed four week training schedule – including his lament about forsaking partying and sex for the duration. (Why all this hoopla surrounding a sporting event? I really don’t have to tell you, do I?)


So I’ve run the New York City Marathon. And survived. In the days afterwards, I reach a détente with the noisy pizza shop downstairs and even buy some pasta from them, trying not to think too hard about the cockroaches that scuttle between my floor and theirs. Anyway, it’ll be “ciao, cockroaches” in a few days. And sure enough, the following Thursday - almost five months after first seeing the apartment I ended up buying - the other M-day (moving day!) dawns.

It’s overcast and rainy. Nonetheless, things go relatively well. Except for the part where my moving truck begins the drive from the old hacienda on First Avenue at 77th/78th to the new hacienda at Third Avenue and 83rd. (For the non-New Yorkers, this is about 7 minutes walking time, 3 minutes driving time.) Up First Avenue: so far, so good. Turns into 83rd St., finds itself immediately behind New York City’s slowest moving garbage collection truck.

I’m in a taxi following the moving truck, so the taxi driver backs out and gets me to the new place. Where I go upstairs, spend considerable time inspecting the latest work and kvetching with the contractors about the building rules (the painter’s Brazilian, so has as much tolerance for the building rules as I do), come downstairs to discover that my moving truck hasn’t even made Second Avenue yet, sit in the foyer and talk to the doorman at length, watch the garbage truck speed by (now it must be full), discover that my moving truck has disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle of Moving Trucks at some point around Second Avenue, and finally greet the moving truck some half hour after it embarked on the three minute drive. And I’m paying these guys by the hour. But when your apartment renovations are already some $15,000 over budget and several weeks behind and you haven’t even moved in, what’s another half hour and hundred dollars?

Soon enough all my gear is safely stowed in the new apartment. Having taken the day off work, and thinking that I feel up to the task of dealing to some of the carboload-induced extra pounds, I don’t miss the opportunity for a midweek afternoon run - my first post-marathon attempt, and my historic first run from the new apartment. Within three blocks, it starts to rain, my radio batteries go, and my legs feel like utter crap. I struggle round Central Park’s 4 mile loop as daylight turns to darkness. Where are my little voices when I need them?

Postscript: I’m now ensconced in the new apartment. It’s still being painted, still a bit of a construction zone, but it’s mine (well, mine and the bank’s, really). Have gone for another run. (Legs still feel like crap.) I love New York. Despite everything. Buying an apartment here is an adventure. Running the New York City Marathon is an adventure. Would I do them together again? Ha bloody ha indeed.