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My whole marathon experience – by Hunter Dare

My whole marathon experience really started on Friday when I joined the NYC marathon contingent at the V-team in Midtown. I met some great people, talked running, travel and had a few laughs. Relaxed and had one beer. Saturday was rest and super-hydration. Bought Salt Bagels at H&H and had my fill of those and ice water throughout the day (I gained three pounds from Saturday AM to Sunday AM- (not sure if I will do that again). I did go to a sports bar to catch the Texas Longhorns beat Nebraska, but stuck to water and a couple of Buffalo wings. Tried to sleep, but was pretty wound up, so I think I got 7 1/2 hours of horizontal time including about 4 hours of sleep.

In the morning in was about 40 degrees. I slept in and skipped the bus in favor of the 8:30 Staten Island Ferry and an 8 minute train ride that took me within one mile of

Hunter Dare

Hunter Dare

Wadsworth. A good guy named Harrison gave me a ride for the last mile and brought me to the back side where there were a bevy of Porta-Johns with 2 minute lines just before entering the official staging area.

Inside Wadsworth, relieved, and warm, I found the baggage drop-off; reapplied Vaseline checked one layer and accessories. By then it was 10AM. Lisa Garone had told us on Friday to head to the corrals by 10, even though they hadn’t called for people to line up, so I did. With number 1637, I was in the first green coral, which wasn’t a corral at all, but just a place under a sign with a fence at the very front. There were runners at the front of the green coral from all three starts with numbers ranging from 200 to 46,000, but because I was early, I was able to walk close to the front and found a piece of grass to huddle on. However, when they called for people to line up around 10:20, runners immediately packed in like Sardines, and I never would have been able to get close to the front had I not already been there.

We remained packed together for the next 50 minutes as a human wall of police and volunteers allowed us to slowly approach the start, one step every 10 seconds. I hope the male elites (who started in the blue corrals) had a better system, because staying loose during those 50 minutes was a real challenge. As we approached the start, I found enough room to pull off my $5 disposable ‘tyvek’ pants and planned to start the race with shorts, moisture wicking , gloves, hat and a disposable ‘tyvek’ shirt.

The horn blew right on time and I shuffle stepped to the start, but it only took me 10 seconds to get there. I was able to start jogging a couple seconds after crossing the start but was careful with pace because I didn’t want to go out too fast. I stayed with the crowd for the most part of the first mile up the Verrazano Bridge. With all the energy I had built during my taper and all the adrenalin running through my body, I had a hard time judging pace, but figured that the crowd at the front of the corral must be going out at a decent clip. When I got to the mile marker, my watch said 7:34 which was about 45 seconds slower than I wanted to start. That worried me and I picked up pace as we descended the Verazano Bridge. The crowd had thinned a little and I was able to choose my pace, but still was unsure how fast I was running. I ditched the ‘tyvek’ shirt on the bridge and came to the mile marker – 6:07. That worried me even more than the 7:34, but put me back on pace.

We had entered Brooklyn and I slowed down a little, still trying to find my pace and get into a rhythm. I ditched the hat and was feeling great as I passed mile 3 at 7:00. While I had to slow down a little for the turn onto Fourth Avenue and the merger with the blue starters, I got a big boost having some new runners to pace with and having a wide-open road as I think I am a little claustrophobic. I could look to the other side of the street and see the women in the red start and there were only a few groups of runners very scattered which gave me a little extra confidence knowing that I was running alongside some very fast women. It took me until mile 6 before I really figured out my pace, but it didn’t seem to matter much because I was feeling great and crossed the 10K point at 42:15, which was within seconds of where I wanted to be. My family had come in for the race and was supposed to waiting for me a little after mile 8, so I was looking forward to seeing them. They were right where we planned a got a picture of me approaching. Also, the red group merged with the blue/green so we got some more runners to pace with which was another boost.

Miles 9 through 13 through the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn was fantastic. The streets are lined with people, sometimes 3 or 4 deep, the pre-industrial architecture is beautiful and I chatted with some other runners, so I was really able to enjoy the whole experience.

BANG! Then come the bridge into Queens and it is steep. The half marker is on the way up the bridge and I kept pace going up to cross it at 1:29 flat knowing that I have a small time cushion built up and can just stride out the rest of the marathon. I was a little confused, not having really known about this bridge or run the course and thought I might be going into Manhattan, but coming off the bridge, soon I realized it was not Manhattan and I still had to cross the Queensboro bridge. The bridge into queens took a lot out of me. It pushed my HR close to my AT and I came off it somewhat drained. But running through Queens was not that bad other than the six sharp turns we had to make in a one and one-half miles. Until… the QUEENSBORO BRIDGE. I have ridden in a taxi across this monstrosity and never given it much thought, but have never had occasion to navigate it by foot. It is not as steep as the bridge into queens, but it is high and LONG, LONG, LONG, LONG. Mile 15 includes the first part of the ascent and I clock a 7:08 and mile 16 is about 3/4 ascent and 1/4 descent and I clock a 7:33. The ascent, really wipes out my energy stores. I give up my entire time cushion, and my HR is 173, right on my AT.

It’s off the bridge on 59th Street and First Avenue Arrives — Wow! What an experience. I come down the bridge completely exhausted, but the crowds are as packed as the runners were back in Staten Island. Bands are playing and I can’t believe that more than 30 minutes after the front-runners have gone by, the crowd is still insane. ‘How many people must have lost their voices yesterday to cheer us on?’ I am really hurting, but am pushed by the crowds to get back on pace and clock a 6:55 for mile 17 at 72nd street.

The adrenalin doesn’t last, but the crowds do. They are in energizer- bunny mode and keep going and going and going. I start having problems with blurred vision. I have never experienced this before, and it kind of scares me. I am somewhat worried about over hydration as I drank 48 oz of water waiting for the start, took water at every mile plus Gatorade at three of the stations. So I decide to start skipping every other station. Fortunately my Alumni group is cheering for me at 87th street, and thinking about seeing familiar faces keeps me going and I clock a 7:08 for mile 18.

New York – what a runThe crowds start to thin out around 93rd street, but I stay pretty pumped because my family has moved over to 97th street to catch me for a second time. Mile 19 was a decent 7:12, but I am now about 35 seconds behind my goal pace, my vision is still blurred and the crowds are getting thinner. That said, much thanks to all the fans that did come out in Harlem and the Bronx, especially the bands and drill teams, which were a boost every time I passed one. I lost another 35 seconds in mile 20 and crossing the Willis Ave bridge which shouldn’t have been bad at all, but still brought my HR up to AT.

At that point I set out a plan. If could get back up to pace for the next five miles, I have a history of strong finishes and I could go anaerobic for the last 1.2 and try to finish at a six minute pace and still get my first goal. I pushed it through the Bronx and mile 21, but could not manage better than a 7:18. That was confidence shattering. My heart really sank. All that training for one goal and I had to give it up in mile 22. But I couldn’t let that thinking last. I came to the Marathon with a backup goal and that was to qualify for Boston.

At this point I had a significant cushion built up for my BQ goal, all I had to do was finish. I dropped the pace down and walked for the first time at the water station at mile 22 in Harlem. My vision cleared during that walk and I decided to take those walk breaks at each mile/water station from there on. My heart rate soon dropped to around 162 as I cruised down 5th avenue. The crowds grew thick again as we approached the 90th street entrance to central park and I really enjoyed the feeling as I hit the familiar east drive of Central Park that I had trained on so many times. I new every hill and turn and I knew there was nothing that could stop me at that point. That said I was either completely dazed or completely focused through the final two miles as a big crowd of friends, unbeknownst to me, were at mile 25 cheering me on with signs, and I didn’t see or hear one of them.

I ‘strided’ out of park onto the east end of Central Park South which is maybe a half mile long, but staring down through the crowds to Columbus Circle on the west end in my fatigued state I feel like I am looking all the way down the Champs d’ Elysee on Bastille day. But by this time I am on autopilot. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and felt like I could have keep running forever, not for a while, but forever. Then the entrance back to the park, the small hill means nothing, I know the finish is just ahead. I can see the clock. It says 3:08 and something. I pick up the place; I want to cross before it turns to 3:09. Not that it makes any difference, I missed one goal, but I got the BQ; I care more about my net time than my clock time, but the Marathon is about personal goals. Sure there are 50 or so people trying to win a race, but for most of us the marathon is about pushing ourselves, about achieving things we are not naturally capable of achieving, and I wanted one more challenge, one more goal, to chase before this marathon was over. As I approach, I know it is going to be close. There is not a runner ahead to catch or one close enough behind to catch me. It is just the clock and I. My head is up; I fix on the time. I step on the sensor mat and hear its tone 3:08:58. I look up and smile for the Camera. I am now batting .750 for this marathon. Net time 3:08:49, a 16 minute PR and my first BQ.

— hunter dare, November 4, 2002

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