In honor of the Marathon on Sunday, I thought it would be fun to share my dad’s memories again from his first New York City Marathon experience back in 1986.
You know my dad ran the New York City Marathon three times right?
So you may have read his post a couple of years ago or maybe you just recall me telling you about my earliest experience with the New York City Marathon as my memory of the race revolves more around getting a chocolate donut than about my dad running.
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 didn’t see him because I tugged on my mom’s jacket to say I really want a chocolate donut from that coffee shop right here on the corner.
It was worth it, I swear – a chocolate frosted donut with the vanilla cake inside, you know, like a classic Entenmann’s donut?
I grew up around this marathon yet I really, truly, do not have the marathon desire in me to run this race distance. I’ve applied once or twice in the last couple of years, thinking just maybe I would want to but thankfully, I didn’t get in.
People assume that if you are a runner, you have run or want to run a marathon. And if you live in New York, the automatic question is, have you run the marathon? Are you running on Sunday?
The answer is no. I just don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like it.
Maybe one day this feeling will change for me, but maybe it won’t. And that’s okay. You can be a runner and NOT care to run 26.2 miles. You can be a runner who likes the half marathon, and decide that 13.1 miles is your max. You can be a runner who just runs for fun, doesn’t count weekly mileage, and doesn’t think about races.
Do what you want to do! Not what everyone else does or thinks you should be doing. 🙂
Anyway, here’s my dad’s first New York City Marathon story. It’s actually amazing to see how many details he can remember from 1986 as if the race was yesterday!
I decided to take up running in the 1980’s in addition to the other sports that I played, figuring that running would just be an occasional form of exercise.
Slowly I started signing up to run 5K races, followed by 10k races and even half marathons. My friends started running with me too.
Although I was never one to train properly, 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 and 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 that I had a really long way to go.
As I made my way through the Brooklyn streets, there were tons of 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 probably the right way to run but I was in shorts and t-shirt since I left my layers at the start line.
I slowed down during water stops but kept plugging along and finally crossed the 59th Street Bridge, the gateway to Manhattan, and the fourth borough of the five that 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 and someone was there to look me over before giving me some sort 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.
Meredith here to interject –> 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 which gave me a huge boost.
Meredith here again – > This is the part when I was in the coffee shop with my mom eating a chocolate donut!
After some laughs and encouragement, I was now alone again, running towards the Bronx.
There weren’t a lot of runners still running but I kept moving, realizing that there was no stopping now.
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 to see 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.
Obviously back in 1986 there were no cell phones so my mom and I were waiting at my aunt’s apartment (eating chicken for dinner, of course I remember what I ate) wondering where the heck my dad was already.
It was dark outside and I am eating dinner, 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. Good luck to all of the runners on Sunday!
Anyone running on Sunday?!
Have you run the NYC marathon in the past?
Do you feel like training for a marathon? What’s your favorite race distance?