5:00 I wake up from a dream where instead of a bus taking me and a bunch of other runners to the start of a race, we are taken by plane. Only thing is, the plane is driving not flying. (Sadly, this is the fastest I will go all day.) I guess I am nervous.
5:25 About to head out the door, I eat two bananas and a pack of Sports (Jelly) Beans. Breakfast of Champions.
5:35 I pick up my friend who has chosen to run the race on the spur of the moment. He has not run a step in almost three months. I urged him to reconsider. I told him that I thought he would get injured. I am really afraid that he will beat me without any training.
6:15 I arrive in the parking lot, where 15 guys have gathered two hours early for a sunrise prayer service. As I am in the year of mourning for my mom, and need to lead prayers, I literally would not be there without their help. I am thankful beyond words.
7:02 The sun rises over the Manhattan skyline right as we get to the main part of the prayers. It is at moments like this where all seems right in the world.
7:15 An old man, who has been running for about 200 years, comes over and describes the course for me. Jewish tradition describes Elijah the Prophet showing up at moments of desperation to help those in need. Could it be?
Clark Kent time. I change from my prayer clothes into my running clothes.
7:45 I figure out the best porta-potty line. Best advice of running advice ever? Get on line right away. When you get back out, get back on line.
8:25 I go over my plan. I hope to run at 8:45-9:00 per mile pace. If I am feeling well, I pick it up at the end. I hope to finish in less than 2 hours. 1:55 if I am feeling great. I:53 if things go perfectly.
8:30 We are off. Adrenaline courses through my veins, or wherever it is that adrenaline courses. I try and slow down.
8:55 I keep on running too fast. I am averaging 8:35 per mile for the first three miles. Up ahead is the Verrazano Bridge, the starting point for the NYC. My heart skips a beat at the thought that despite my knee injury, I might actually make it to the marathon.
9:20 We hit a B-I-G downhill. What goes down must come up, at least on an out and back course. I am not worried. Elijah told me about this hill.
9:35 I spot one of the founders of JRunners, the group that is trying to get the Jewish community into running. I tell him how good he should feel knowing that the group has 20 runners at this race, many of whom would not be running without him. Throughout the race, we shout words of encouragement to each other. Maybe we should be known as the People of the Foot.
9:50 Back up THE hill. I take it nice and easy. I spot three runners helping a wheelchair racer up the hill. I offer my help, although they make it without me.
10:00 We enter Fort Wadsworth. In four weeks, this will be the area where 40,000 plus racers wait to start the marathon. It will feel more like a city than a fort. I think of my brother who ran the marathon with me last year. I wish he could do it again. I guess we’ll have to wait for Boston.
Mile 10 I am feeling good and pick up the pace.
10:05 Less than 2 miles to go. Time to throw caution to the wind. I cover the next mile in 7:20. I see him again. He is wearing all orange, including a huge floppy hat and giving passing runners high-fives. Elijah would never be caught dead in a get-up like that.
10:15 I start trying to pick off runners ahead of me. Hey guy in the all green, you are toast. Hey lady who passed me earlier in the race, it’s pay back time. I even pass the guy who won the race. Of course, he is walking in the opposite direction heading for his car, having finished over a ½ hour before.
10:20 I cross the finish line having run the last 1/3 mile at 6:40 pace. My lungs hurt, but I do not. 1:50:44. It is more than 9 minutes slower than my best, but so much more than I had hoped for.
10:30 I see my untrained friend. He finished in 1:42. It is his first half marathon. Did I mention that he did not train? I think I hate him. At least he is limping. After much inner debate and struggle I decide not to leave him stranded in Staten Island.
I am tired, sore and elated. When I hurt my knee this summer, I never thought I’d be running this soon. The marathon seems like a realistic goal. I wonder what Elijah will be wearing that day.