My Journey to The New York Marathon
“If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.” – Emil Zatopek, Czech long distance runner.
Fitness had been a long, dark, downward spiral atop a spinning office chair since leaving university. So, a couple of years ago, in the cold, damp, November gloom I started shuffling up and down empty football pitches, 3 to 4 times a week, probably never clocking more than a mile. After a few weeks I was running loops. Two miles became three, three became four …
I always wanted to be a regular runner. I wanted to be that guy jogging along the river on a warm summer evening as the sun sets, headphones on, bouncing along.
I remember entering the ballot for a place in the London Marathon when I was still in school, back when fitness was never a concern. I didn’t get a place and my running days ended right there, before they had began. I needed that motivation. Something to reach for.
The same ambition resurfaced a couple of years ago–nothing to do with turning 30 and a ticking clock–and I tried again, not through the ballot this time but through a charity where I would be guaranteed a place. I secured a spot in the April 2011 London Marathon through Survival International.
Any runner will tell you–it’s not the act of running that’s hard, it’s forming a habit and staying injury-free, that presents the biggest challenge. Whether it’s boredom, commitment, injury, life, something always seems to get in the way.
Throughout November I gradually increased my weekly mileage, ran more and ran further. I completed a nine mile run in December and I peaked. Overuse injuries kicked in. After that it became extremely painful to even bend my left leg, the side of my knee throbbed and ached with every step, running was impossible–even standing hurt.
Google helped me to figure out I was suffering from Iliotibial Band (ITB) syndrome, common amongst people who run too much too quickly. So much for progress and forming a habit! I took December off. Running sucks!
I knew I needed to get some experience running in a race environment before the London Marathon in April so in February, after a long break over Christmas and New Year, I ran 8 miles in the Kingston Breakfast Run. I still wasn’t ready. I struggled with the same familiar knee pain, I needed more rest. The London Marathon passed me by. I deferred my place. I was devastated.
It was a year before I really got back into running again. This time I was in the wrong country for the London Marathon, in the middle of immigrating to the U.S., unable to return to the UK until my papers had been processed–London 2012 passed me by. I deferred my place a second time.
I’ve spent much of this year running. Living close to the Washington D.C. monuments and Potomac river trails provided the renewed inspiration I needed. I competed (with myself) regularly in the many races that happen every year around the city. A 5K, an 8K, a 10k, a 10-miler, a triathlon, a half marathon. It felt like I was doing a much better job of preparing for a marathon.
In April this year I threw a whimsical entry into the New York Marathon lottery (a 4.5hr drive up the road). Next weekend, 2 years after I first started running up and down those empty football pitches back in the UK, I’ll be running my marathon.
If you’re in New York on Sunday, November 4, and want someone to look out for amongst the 50,000 runners, I welcome any support and have included some rough time markers below. You can also track me on the web for free on race day. The course map is available online.
I still have a deferred place in the 2013 London Marathon and still plan on running it in 2013.
My race info
- Race Number: 35513
- Start time (Staten Island): 10:05am
- Wave: Green Wave 2
Rough Estimate Time Markers
- 4th Ave & 45th St (Brooklyn): 10:55am (Mile 5)
- Flatbush Ave & LaFayette Ave (Brooklyn): 11:25am (Mile 8)
- Bedford Ave & I-278 (Brooklyn): 11:45am (Mile 10)
- Pulaski Bridge: 12:10pm (Mile 13.1)
- Queens Blvd. approaching Queensboro Bridge: 12:30pm (Mile 15)
- E. 135th St (Bronx): 13:20pm (Mile 20)
- Central Park & E. 66th St (Manhattan): 14:10pm (Mile 25)