My earliest memory of the New York City Marathon revolves around a chocolate donut.
Of course it does. All of my memories are linked to food.
I was eight years old, standing on the corner (of First Avenue?) with my mom waiting to see my dad pass by as he ran the Marathon…but we missed him.
Because I needed a chocolate donut from the coffee shop.
It was worth it, I swear – a chocolate frosted donut with the vanilla cake inside, you know, like a classic Entenmann’s donut?
I may never run the New York City Marathon (or any 26.2 for that matter) but lucky for us, my dad ran this marathon three times.
Since the marathon is this Sunday and the hoopla has already begun, I thought it would be fun to have my dad share some of his experiences with us.
What I like about sharing his stories with you is that he was far from an elite runner.
In fact, I call him the caboose.
He finished last in plenty of races and we always joke that he barely beat the ambulances at the end of the pack.
I also really like how detailed his memories are which fascinates me since sometimes I find races to be a blur.
Today I am going to share his thoughts from his first ever New York City Marathon, and as you will see, his recap sounds as though he ran this race yesterday…
I decided to take up running in the 1980’s in addition to the other sports that I played, figuring it would just be an occasional thing, mainly for exercise.
I slowly started signing up and running 5K races, followed by 10k races and even half marathons. My friends started running with me too.
I was never one to train properly, but I set my sights on the NYC Marathon in 1986.
I was always a heavier runner. I guess we can say that I was classified, as Runner’s World would call it, a Clydesdale.
When I was accepted for the 1986 NYC Marathon I was filled with joy, pride and fear.
What had I gotten myself into?
I had talked about this for so long and promoted myself to the point that I knew I had to do it.
On November 2, 1986, I was ready for the biggest challenge of my life.
There I was, at Fort Hamilton in Staten Island, freezing, at 7:00 in the morning, along with thousands of other runners.
I chose to start all the way in the back. The starting time counted down and the fear inside of me was building. Then the cannon was shot and the 1986 NYC Marathon was a reality.
I slowly made my way towards the true starting line and eventually crossed it. I was on my way to Brooklyn.
It was quite an experience crossing the Verrazano Bridge and feeling it sway underneath me.
There were helicopters flying above and fire boats spraying water below.
I felt pretty good, but knew there was a long, long way to go.
I made my way through the Brooklyn streets with cheering spectators and all kinds of entertainment provided for the runners.
I felt tired, at times, but more than that, I was cold. I just couldn’t warm up.
Dressing in layers is the right way to run. My problem? I was in shorts and a t-shirt. I left my layers at the start line.
He could have used my advice on cold weather workout essentials. Too bad I was only eight years old and my life revolved around donuts and Barbie dolls, not to mention there was no internet for blog writing anyway.
I slowed down during water stops but kept plugging along and finally crossed the 59th Street Bridge, the gateway to Manhattan, the fourth borough of the five I would need to run through before reaching the finish line.
As I made my way over the bridge, I was so cold and exhausted, I didn’t know if I’d be able to continue.
I kept thinking, this race can’t end on a bus ride to the finish line.
I finally stopped at the first-aid station, right before the end of the bridge.
Someone looked me over and gave me some kind of lemon drink.
All of a sudden, I had a burst of energy. I was moving my legs, easily, and felt great. I wasn’t going to set any records, but I felt I had a shot to finish. I don’t know what they gave me at the aid station, but I wanted more.
Hello, this is why runners are supposed to carry fuel! You can’t run a marathon without fuel!
Around 96th street I saw two of my friends, part of my Bellmore Bozo running team. They had come to the city to cheer me on from the sidelines and that gave me a boost.
This is the part where I was in the coffee shop eating a donut!
After some laughs and encouragement, I was now alone again, running towards the Bronx, the fifth borough.
I was really alone, as there weren’t a lot of runners remaining.
I kept moving, realizing that there was no stopping now. It was getting darker and colder, but I wasn’t going to give up.
I had my Walkman radio headphones tuned to the radio station covering the Marathon which kept me motivated.
I just couldn’t give up.
As I wound my way into Central Park, the crowds were getting larger and noisier. It was nice that they stayed around for the late finishers.
The winding roads and hills in the park were presenting a late race challenge. I heard loud music and loudspeakers blaring.
My shirt had my name on it and I heard someone yell,
“Come on Murray, you can do it.”
As I crossed the finish line, sprinting, at 6:15:02, I couldn’t believe it. I had actually run and finished the New York City Marathon.
My time was terrible, but I didn’t care. I was just too happy and exhausted to care about anything.
There were no cell phones back then so my mom and I were waiting at my aunt’s apartment (eating chicken, of course I remember what I ate) wondering where the heck my dad was already.
It was dark outside, who could still be running in the dark when the race started in the morning?!
My thoughts as a child obviously. I mean, who knows how long it would take me to run a marathon.
As a kid I didn’t get it, I didn’t understand why my father spoke so often about the Marathon or why he whipped out his wallet-sized finish line photo to anyone who would look.
It’s a major accomplishment and I am in awe of all of you, including my father, who run the 26.2.
Favorite type of donut?
Are you running the NYCM this weekend?!
Do you remember all of your thoughts during races or are they mostly a blur?