2:00AM I wake up… three hours early. I guess those two alarms I set were not necessary.
5:35 I leave for the bus with my wife and youngest son. I am glad to have the company
6:15 After getting on the bus, I am greeted by a friend and fellow runner, Martin. Apparently I am his good luck charm as he has run two races with me and set PRs in both. Maybe I should start charging him money to race with him?
7:20 We get to Staten Island. Instead of helping us stop, the volunteer at the bus drop-off waves us on thinking we are an empty bus. Amazingly, the driver gets back on the highway. After a mutiny by the 40 plus runners, she agrees to drop us by the side of the road rather than going around to the next exit.
7:25 I find a port-o-potty. This will be a common theme throughout the day.
7:30 I make it to the minyan (prayers) area 30 minutes late. Certainly not the best prayers ever. My mind is everywhere but where it should be.
8:15 Having checked my bags, I hang out with some of the runners. It is cold. We stand around the few warmer areas trying to stay warm.
8:55 We head to the starting area, although the race will not beginfor 45 minutes. What do I do while I wait? Put it this way. When I passed the starting area yesterday on my way to work, I looked fondly at the bushes on the side of the road.
9:40 The cannon goes off. Sinatra is singing New York New York. Everyone is cheering. Fighting the adrenaline, I start out slowly as planned.
I knew I would be thinking of my mom, but not his soon. I fight back the tears and run on.
Someone calls out “Go Team Lifeline”. It is Ralph, a guy I know who is running for Team Ohel. I cheer for him and say hi.
Mile 2- We get off the Verrazano Bridge and the good folks of Brooklyn are waiting and cheering.
We pass the “Marathon Bank”. I can not understand how they are not outside running some sort of promotion.
We pass all sorts of doctors offices including orthopedic surgeons and psychiatrists. I can not understand how they are not outside running some sort of promotion.
Mile 3- My bladder is getting bladder-er.
The crowd support is amazing, but no one is cheering for me. Desperate for some love, I call out the name of my charity to some Orthodox Jewish women. Scared, they ignore me.
Mile 4- The lines at the porto-potties are insane. There are no lines at the Dominican restaurant. I dash inside.
I hear someone cheering with a strong New York accent and think of my dad. I know he would be out here today cheering for me if he was still with us.
Mile 5- I see someone in a Red Sox hat. I call out “Go Red Sox”. I will do this four more times during the race.
I hear my friend Aharon calling me. Like me, he is running his second NYC Marathon. Seeing him gives me a boost.
Mile 6- The signs are great. Some of the funniest are rated R however, so what happened in New York stays in New York.
Desperate for cheers, I look for signs that are similar to my English name “Marc”. The closer the better, but I'll take anything with an "M". I smile when I see Mark, feel good when I see people rooting for Marco, am buoyed by signs for Madeline and am encourage by people cheering on Madeline. Hey, whatever helps.
Mile 7- It is getting warmer and I ditch my favorite ski cap.
I see students cheering for their teacher. My students are home in bed. I hope the students who were out there cheering get better grades than the ones my students will be getting.
Mile 10- I am looking for my friend Arie with whom I have reconnected through Facebook. I haven’t seen him in 25 years. He and his fiancé are out there, along
with a million other New Yorkers. No luck, although he sees me.
I pass a sign that says “Run like a faucet”. I call out “more like a leaky toilet”. I have no idea what that means but desperate for oxygen, it seems awfully funny.
My bladder is now at its bladder-est. I stop again. Perhaps it is sacrilegious to say this, but I seem to be having my own modern day Chanuka “miracle”; every time I empty my bladder it immediately refills. I doubt they will make a holiday for my miracle.
Mile 11- I am in Williamsburg, home of one of the biggest Hasidic enclaves in the world. I recognize that that calling out “shalom” will mark me as a dweeb. Recognizing that it is the beginning of the new month, I start calling out one of the three possible phrases that might mean “happy new month” in Yiddish. This ensures that 2/3 of them still think I am a dweeb. Apparently some of the remaining 1/3 does as well. I do get a few smiles and waves.
13.1- 2:01 I am hoping to finish in less than 4 hours and will now have to push on.
I am now in Queens, the borough in which I was raised.
Chabad, a ubiquitous Jewish group used to give out Powerade because Gatorade was not kosher. Now that Gatorade is certified, Chabad’s sign says “free Glatt kosher snack”.Glatt kosher means the snack is some sort of meat. I am really curious as to whether they are giving out cholent or corned beef sandwhiches.
Mile 15- I reach the 59th street Bridge. I have no energy. Even when I hit 1st avenue, with its cheering throngs I struggle to pick up the pace. I start looking for signs that are blue and yellow, as those are Team Lifeline’s colors. Fortunately, those are the colors of some cheese company that is sponsoring the race. I pretend their signs are for me.
Mile 17- Someone cheers for me. It is my friend Steve. It really helps. I look up and see that I am by Lenox Hill hospital, the place where I was born. Apparently, good things happen to me there every 39 years or so. More frequent, if you include the birth of my sister four years after mine, which I sometimes do.
Mile 19- I am battling on. I see a guy with a yarmulke and say “shalom’. Yes, I am that desperate.
Mile 20- Somehow, I have gotten my second wind. I head off into the Bronx.
I pass runners who are wearing shirts that say Team Gimelstob. Justin Gimelstob is a former professional tennis player who has a bet with Andy Roddick for $10,000 to charity, as to whether he can finish the race is under 4:45. I am rooting for him. I like runners. Besides, his name sounds vaguely Jewish and when you are looking for Jewish sports heroes, you’ll take whatever you can get. I ask one of the runners, “Where’s Justin?” and he points to his right. I wish him good luck and I pass him.
I am in the Bronx and think of my dad, who grew up in the area.
While I am running, I hear the sound of someone spitting and then, you guessed it, I feel it hit me. I am grossed out. My first thought is” I hope he is not running for Team Dangerous Communicative Disease”. My second thought is “Hey, that’s warm”. It’s a cold day, what do you want from me?
Mile 22- I pass the point where my wife and kids cheered for me last year. This year, my wife is at a Bas Mitzvah. I miss them.
Mile 24- I enter Central Park. I am hoping to see two friends who are watching the race. Ehud, a new running friend, is one of the nicest guys I know. Despite being much faster than I am, he always offers kind encouragement. Melanie, works for Chai Lifeline and has offered kind words and deep thoughts since we met on the plane to Miami four years ago. I don’t see either of them, but I am glad to think of them.
I am pushing it as I realize I have an outside chance at 4 hours.
Mile 25- I pass the last water stop where a fellow Team Lifeline member is giving out water. I never stop that late in the race. I call out a quick hello.
I see a runner with an Israeli flag guiding a blind runner. Despite my desperation to get to the finish line, I go over and say “Am Yisroel Chai”. He smiles and I run on.
Mile 26- I am almost there and I am sprinting. I am going faster than 8 miles an hour. Moshe Turk, who does an amazing job running Team Lifeline cheers for me. I wonder if he thinks I have been running this fast the whole time.
4:01:10. I just missed my goal. My bladder did me in. Usually I would feel disappointed, but I am not. Four months ago, I had a knee injury that I thought would keep me out of the race. Three months ago I had surgery. Two months ago I started training. I only ran more than 15 miles once. I feel good. I feel proud. I am back. I will aim to qualify for Boston in the spring. For now I am happy. Happy that I am a runner. Happy to blessed with a great family and wonderful friends. Happy to be alive. Happy.
PLEASE donate in my mom’s memory to help children with cancer: