Speaker by Various Artists

You can run but you can't hide (Part 1)

by Justine

Visiting the Empire State Building. Riding the Staten Island ferry. Catching a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. These are all quintessential New York experiences. When you’ve lived here a while you can add yet more adventures to life’s rich tapestry. Like buying an apartment in Manhattan. Or training for and running the New York City Marathon. Or both. At The Same Time. I did it, and lived to tell the tale. This is my story...

Sunday November 3, 2002. I’m on First Avenue not far from my rental apartment doing what I always do on Marathon Day: watching the runners go by, and reflecting on how crazy you would have to be to do this. Never in my lifetime. (So far, so good: normal, sane thinking patterns.) Then, out of the blue, a little voice: “Hmm, maybe it would be kinda cool to be running down First Avenue to the cheers of the crowd.” (Be careful when not only do you hear a little voice, but it uses phrases like “kinda cool.”)

Some context: at this stage, I am a very casual runner who manages a twice-weekly five mile excursion from aforementioned apartment to Central Park, twice round the reservoir, then home again at an 11 minute/mile pace. But finds it hard going.

January 2003. Start training, with a view to a 2004 (not 2003) marathon, on a sub-freezing point Tuesday morning some 36 hours after flying back from Australia and having had a late night Monday visiting Busytot’s parents. Somewhere towards Park Avenue, find myself splayed on the sidewalk with no memory of falling. Hurt knee, can’t run for a couple of weeks. Didn’t recognize this Obvious Sign from God. Instead, I become a card-carrying member of the New York Road Runners Club, doing road races in the snow and/or rain.

Fast forward to April 2003. Running going well, so maybe it’s the one year marathon plan. Submitted entry for 2003 marathon lottery (yes, that’s right, there are more people who want to run than the roughly 30,000 they can accommodate). Looking forward to half marathon season starting May. Then disaster strikes: partial dislocation of right kneecap. Can’t run for several weeks this time. Again, miss the O. S. from G. Only the start of a litany of injuries that goes on for months – including achilles tendonitis, sprained calf, multiple aggravations of old foot injury, more knee problems. Despite getting the engaged signal, God keeps trying, but I’m not listening. Get to know my physiotherapist very well (who spends a lot of time trying to persuade me to cut back on running and tells me I’ll never make it to November 2). Consider asking my podiatrist for a multi-trip card like you get at the movies.

June 2003. My number comes up in the marathon lottery. And one of my roommates says she’s leaving. I had intended to renew my lease yet again, especially as it expires two days before Marathon Day, and that would be a stupid time to move, wouldn’t it? But this is the catalyst for deciding that I am fed up with the hassle of looking for roommates, having to make multiple calls to the landlord to get even simple repairs done, chasing not only my but everyone else’s cockroaches, and calling the pizza shop downstairs every night to ask them to turn down their stereo so I can sleep. Epiphany: I will buy an apartment this year. (Gotta watch out for those epiphany thingamajigs as well as the little voices.)

I don’t mess about. Within a week, I have a real estate broker (Why a broker? This is New York) and am looking at apartments. I really like the first one I see and, having a mathematical background, conclude that the law of statistics means that I am likely to see several more I like. Wrong. A week and some twenty apartment viewings later, realize that apartment #1 was The One. Through my broker, submit an offer, thinking that things are looking good as it’s been on the market since April with one price reduction already. Wrong. That morning, an all-cash buyer has beaten me to it with an offer very close to the asking price. Much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Again, I miss the O. S. from G. I keep on looking.

Ten days (and another ten apartment viewings) or so later, I get a call from aforementioned broker: the deal with the all-cash buyer might be falling through, am I still interested? You betcha. By now it’s 4th of July weekend, which means that it’s harder to negotiate a real estate deal in New York than to buy a gelato in Rome in the middle of August. So nothing happens – except to my blood pressure – for several days. After that follows a tense couple of weeks of offers, counteroffers, making discreet inquiries of the co-op board whether my immigration status will ultimately be a showstopper to obtaining board approval, negotiating the sale contract and (as this is New York) engaging a firm to search public records to see if the view will be built out any time soon. By this stage, I’m running fast each morning to tucker myself out so that at least for the first couple of hours at work I’m too tired to be Stressbunny.

The contract is signed. Yippee! However – as this is New York – the complications have only just begun...