When after all this; the Limerick tunnel, the quarrels, the wrong turns, the roundabouts, we finally found our accommodation in Clonakilty, it felt like a brilliant stroke of luck. We had made it. All that was left to do was eat and get to the start of the race in the morning.Read More
I didn't get into the New York City marathon in 2014. I was running the most I had ever run in my life that fall. I just moved to the city and I hardly knew what to do with myself. I ran home from work when the daylight was long enough. I ran to from Battery Park to Central Park once I found the way. I ran to the Fairway in Harlem one time (16 miles from my apartment) just to shop for gummy worms and coconut water in a salty daze. With all my running, people asked the perfectly natural question, "Are you training for the Marathon?".
Like when people say "the City", the "New York" in "the Marathon" is implied. It's the biggest event in the local running circuit by far, the only one that really breaks into the greater sports event calendar. Even small races in a big city are well-attended and energizing. I only ran one marathon event in college (The Spinx Half in Greenville, SC). In my first season in New York I ran three. Yet, I always thought of a full marathon as a faraway dream. I was familiar with the 13.1 mile race. I just couldn't imagine, though, what it would feel like to end a half-marathon just to be at the start of another.
The hype around the NYC marathon was enough to make me want to give it a shot anyway. I became a member of NYRR (the organization that has put on the marathon since the 1970s) and I wanted to be a part of all of it. I learned in just a few clicks, however, that there were only 3 ways to gain entry: luck, speed or money. The lottery, my best hope, had already ended by the time I was keen to give it a try. The qualifying time for entry would require lobbing 20 minutes off my best ever half-marathon. The charity option, still open into the fall, offered a brief glimmer until one of the porters in the building where I live set me straight. The $2,600 fundraising goal for NYRR youth programs, he said, was $2,600 of funds that I would have to cough up myself (it's a New York thing). I shied.
It was a mild disappointment, but fortunately, I had other things to look forward to at the end of 2014. I just replaced my passport! I had friends who lived in the city and did exciting things. One of them encouraged me to buy into a road trip, flight B&B package for Ireland. Two weeks before my birthday we would be on our way. I had no imagination for Ireland, no Celtic ancestry, and I had never been across the Atlantic before. But I had a latent desire to see any and every new part of the world and needed no other reason to jump at the chance.
I had never been a true tourist before and the planning phase bewildered me. I didn't think of taking pretty pictures as an activity and brainstormed ways to maximize the experience. Some thoughts were truly misguided, like seeing the group Foxes in Dublin (although I only knew one EDM remix of their one massively popular song). Another thought, "What if I ran the only marathon in taking place in Ireland that week?" was, by some estimates, equally harebrained. The difference between this idea and all others, though, was that I already possessed a huge motivation to see it through.
My birthday and the end of the year were looming, and I wanted to definitively accomplish another one of the goals I set in the previous year. The disappointment of shaking my head when anyone asked me about November 2nd was there. But then, I was running in New York almost everyday. When would I have the chance to pound pavement in the southwest corner of Ireland?
When setting an alarm, the one silver lining for me is the option to choose a song from my music library instead of a preloaded jingle. It saves me the trouble of listening to 6-10 generically named original music compositions (what does Hillside sound like?) and imagining myself startled awake by them. Not only that, but songs I know evoke memories and emotions that can set the tone for a day.Read More
In November 2015, I ran my third marathon in San Sebastian, Spain, in 4hrs and 20 minutes. I ate a very unconventional meal the night before, this is my memory of how it happened.
Once I saw the ocean, a second sense of urgency overtook. The race exhibition was my only opportunity to pick up my number (DORSAL). It was closing soon. The good people of San Sebastian's tourist office directed me to Anoeta Stadium. The permanent home of Real Sociedad soccer team was transformed to the marathon's temporary runner's carnival. I followed the blue swag bags around the stadium and after a few false starts had my pack. The goods included my chip, number, bag, commemorative poster, powerade shots and my favorite inclusion to the race pack: a juicebox of broth (CALDO).
By this time I was legitimately starving to death. Accidentally taking the local train meant no cafeteria car. I didn't think to pack a lunch. I was looking forward to eating in San Sebastian, home to some of the best food in the world. I hadn't eaten a thing, however. As I passed the little sandwiches on the concession stand counter (PINTXOs) I wondered if they too were out there for the runners. Then I learned everywhere food was laid out like this.
When I left the stadium, I tortured my twisting stomach a bit longer by looking for some NYTimes-endorsed type of cafe to appeal to my kitschy sentiments. Giving up, I settled on a bar right by the stadium with food. I could tell by the dead pigs hanging from the ceiling (JAMON IBERICO). The man working behind the counter must have been some sort of Catholic saint. Sensing my desperation, he skipped all charades and spoke to me in a universal Spanish; "You're hungry", he said "eat this".
It was a delicious combination of fish, egg, and mayonnaise on a baguette that had been sitting on the bar counter indefinitely (PINTXOS). I went back for more. I wasn't sure when I would pay for anything but I was happy just to take my backpack off and eat finally. I asked to use the phone to call my Airbnb host and my friend pointed to a posted WiFi (pronounced WEE-FEE) password. This place was truly alright. I took a receipt for my six-euro feast and stashed it. I wanted to remember the name in case I came back.
I realized my pipe dream was about to turn from a negative space in my bank account to a real, life-changing experience if I let it. I had an entry to the San Sebastian marathon. I just needed to find a way to get there.Read More