Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One for the Ages

I thought - upon completing the 2015 New York City Marathon in my first time participating in the event - that I could never enjoy a marathon experience as much I enjoyed that one.   I was wrong.  And not merely by a little.  I was wrong by a lot.

On Sunday, under sun-splashed but somewhat chilly November skies, I completed the 2016 New York City Marathon.  I spent the late morning, the afternoon, and the early evening in the company of two tough-as-nails women - my running companera, Gidg, and my older sister, Kara (a/k/a Stella).  Thanks to them, I had a singularly exceptional experience. 

Gidg and I took the 8:00 o'clock Staten Island Ferry from Whitehall Terminal at Manhattan's southern end, which should have left us plenty of time to make it to Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island well in advance of Wave 4's 11:00 gun time.  Except it did not.  And since it did not, it turned my plan (borne out of necessity due to "intestinal distress" I had experienced often while attempting to sleep on Saturday night) to grab a little bit of food at Fort Wadsworth to settle my stomach - and to fuel my trip - on its head.  We arrived on site approximately ten minutes prior to the closing of the Wave 4 corrals, which happened at 10:45 A.M.  Most marathon trainers/experts advise you not to run a marathon on an empty stomach.  However, every once in a while, as my great grandpa Phineas used to say, "Shit happens."  Sunday was such a day. 

All was not lost at Fort Wadsworth, however.  Gidg and I made it to Stel's corral just before it closed and the three of us decided to traverse the course together.  My role on Team Gidg was to serve as her wing man/pacer and as it turned out she and Stel had a very similar, hoped-for finishing time.  We set off from Staten Island intending to make the finish line in Central Park prior to sundown, which meant we had roughly five and-one half hours to complete our journey.  We were quite a confident trio, a fact to which our pre-race photograph most certainly attests. 

We were not quite two miles into our journey when trouble struck.  Stel injured her right foot, an injury that she believed to be a cramp and that she described as feeling as if she was "stepping down on broken glass every time she landed" on her right foot.  Good thing that between Mile Two and the finish line 24.2 miles away, she only had to land on her fight foot tens of thousand of times.  The pain in her right foot never subsided.  Not even for a little bit.  Yet, in spite of the suggestions/pleas of her two running companions, she neither stopped moving forward nor sought medical attention.  She simply kept on keeping on.  

Gidg and I charted a course that appeared to bewilder a significant portion of the spectators who devoted any part of their attention to us because after running ahead of Stel, we would circle back and ensure that her already precarious situation had, at least, not gotten any worse.  Being a Kenny, she is a stone-cold liar when it comes to all things health-related and every time we checked in with her, she gamely reported that while things were bad, they had not worsened.  Inasmuch as it is bad form to shout, "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" at one's own sister in the middle of the New York City Marathon, I kept my skepticism to myself.  Gidg did likewise and onward we soldiered. 

Along the way we were truly blessed by the support we received from family and friends.  Jeff, who is Gidg's tag-team partner, led a four-member recon team (Jeff, Brooke, Mike, and Janet) into Brooklyn where the quartet cheered for us and held up the posters they had created in our honor in two separate locations.  We saw them again on First Avenue, immediately after we had exited the Queensboro Bridge and passed the 16-Mile marker.  

Jeff had coordinated positions with Rob, which ensured that when we made the turn onto First Avenue in Manhattan - where we passed Jeff's Gang of Four - Jeff alerted us to where Rob and Margaret were positioned.  My personal cheering section was a bit further on up the road - and on the other side of the avenue, manning a post.  Last year, my favorite part of my marathon experience was seeing Margaret on First Avenue.  It was even sweeter this year, seeing her and seeing Rob, standing together at the fence line, cheering.  It only took a moment for me to remember just what a lucky man I am. 

Not terribly long after Stel, Gidg, and I passed the spot where Margaret and Rob were standing on First Avenue, and as I was running north down the far left side of First Avenue, I happened to look over to my right - across to the fence line - and saw my cousin, Kathy, holding up a sign for Kara.  I know not what the likelihood is of a runner looking over by chance and seeing someone he knows and who he did not know would be at the race.  Stel made it over to where Kathy was standing and all three of us got to share an entirely unexpected moment together. 

Finally, approximately six and one-half hours after our journey started, I accompanied these two incredibly tough broads to the finish line in Central Park.  Our cheering section constituted the majority of the fans then and there in the grandstand when we arrived and they made their presence known. The two photographs below are courtesy of Rob's keen eye and quick reflexes. 

"Thank you" does not even begin to cover the debt owed to Margaret, Rob, the whole Kizis Clan, the Hoagland Longo Crew, my brother-in-law Russ (who hung around to cheer Stel, Gidg, and me on after running a blistering 3:20 out of Wave 1 (a/k/a "The Elites/Professionals Wave") at 9:50 A.M.), Kara's boys, Randy and Jordan, and the great folks from Stomp The Monster, whose team Gidg and I were part of on Sunday.  It was an incredible day.  It shall remain indelibly imprinted upon my memory from this date forward for as long as I have the ability to remember.  

One for the ages.  Indeed, it was. 


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