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Running New York

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Route 16 Running and Walking
6745 Kimball Drive, Gig Harbor

 

                     Running New York


                             By Dennis Zaborac and Sandra Madden

                                          New York – 10/13/16

                                      He Thought, She Thought

Where do you start a marathon story? Do you begin with the history of the race, the training, the start line, or maybe you work the article backward from the finish line? In this story, we begin at the Expo. For that is where the Strider team of Sandy and Dennis met up to run the New York Marathon. They were both back in town to rerun the largest and perhaps the greatest marathon in the world. This is their team story. A very short story of a long race.

Staying at hotels in two different parts of Queens, they agreed to meet in front of the Expo doors 15 minutes after opening. It was the perfect time to get in. Those runners who had waited outside the Javits Center before opening had already been ushered in, while the full wave of runners trying to beat the crowds had not yet arrived.

Once inside, the two Striders found what you see in every Expo; endless booths of energy bars, running shoes, wearing apparel, fanny packs, medical advice, race promotions, condos in Hawaii, time sharing funeral plans and transit maps to get you out of town. Despite the similarities of all Expos, there is fun in spending a few hours searching for something new.

In their journey down the aisles, Dennis and Sandy made a few stops along the way. Their first stop was in front of the Expo’s graffiti wall where they left a mark for the Striders.

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They then moved on to do a little shopping. Dennis bought only one thing. Thinking that his slowing times in races may have more to do with a malfunctioning watch than with the extra 5 pounds he is carrying or the two months of tapering he takes before each race, he bought a new Tom Tom watch.

Sandy, on the other hand, viewed the Expo as a chance to enhance her running wardrobe. For her, racing is all about fashion. It doesn’t matter how poorly you run if you look beautiful doing it.

After shopping, the Strider duo stumbled onto a rather well-known person in the running world; Bart Yasso. Bart is a great runner and writer who is associated with the Runner’s World magazine. Sandy and Dennis kindly agreed to let Bart take a picture with them.

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Dennis, Bart Yasso, and Sandra

After giving Bart a few pointers on how to improve his running, the two went around the corner and discovered the World Marathon Majors exhibit.

The World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. The top athletes in the world compete for up to $1,000,000 in those events. The exhibit at the Expo displayed the silver platters that the winners of those events receive.

Also on the walls of the exhibit were listed the names of the six hundred runners in the world who have run all six races. Hanging alongside those names was the medal that each athlete receives when completing all of the races. The Silver Striders were well represented, having two names on the wall: Huong Delabar and Dennis Zaborac.

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Huong Delabar

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Dennis Zaborac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dennis is not on his knees praying for a good run. He is pointing out the consequences of having a last name beginning with a “Z.” Your name is always at the bottom of any list.

Sandy and Dennis completed their Expo by stuffing brochures of the most exotic international marathons into their check-in bags. With Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Great Wall of China, Venice, and the Antartica, they took their bag of dreams and left the Expo to prepare for the next day’s trip to the start line.

 

 

                                                      Getting to the Start
Last year when running the New York City Marathon, Sandy stayed in Manhattan. It was a hop, skip and a jump away from the subway that took her to the Staten Island Ferries. She remembers the station being brim full of runners. This year, nesting in Queens, the distance was longer to the ferries and there were not quite as many runners at the subway station.

Dennis was staying further out in Queens but agreed to meet her at her station so they could both travel and start the race together.

Getting to the ferries was no problem. With every stop the train filled with more high-spirited runners. Upon disembarking at the terminal, the runners were greeted by a couple gals who were handing out those shiny silver blankets in anticipation of a chilly morning. The sun was bright and the weather mellow.

The wait inside the terminal was initially fun. Everyone was talking to each other and the energy was palpable. Sandy met a couple Marathon Maniacs from the Windy City and the three babbled on with their distinct south side Chicago accent. But the clock was ticking and nothing was happening. The terminal was rapidly filling with runners from all directions. It didn’t matter what ferry the runners were scheduled to take, everyone got there at the same time!

When the ship finally arrived, the two Striders, along with a few thousand of their new friends, motored on to Staten Island. For security, the ferry was accompanied by a New York Police Department boat. To Sandy, the police boat was a mother hen, guiding the runners safely to their destination. To Dennis, an old Navy guy, it was more like a destroyer escort, protecting the aircraft carrier.

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Upon reaching Staten Island, exiting the ferry was easy. Waiting to leave the terminal to catch the buses to the Athletes Village was more of a challenge. Hundreds of runners were tightly packed together, wanting to get out but having no way to move. Like all the other runners, Dennis and Sandy could see a wall of people ahead of them standing on steps.

Beyond that was an uphill trajectory leading outside to freedom. People could literally close their eyes, fall asleep upright and not fall over. A young man, looking panicked, blurted, “My wife won’t believe I’m here. I’m afraid of crowds!” Others appeared equally as uneasy and trapped.

With the clock ticking faster, the Striders were beginning to harbor doubts about getting to the start line on time. Fortunately, the gates suddenly opened and a mass exodus began.

The bus ride to the runner’s village was the last mode of transportation. It should have been the most relaxing. But the bus had the misfortune to hit every red light in town. And there were a lot of red lights. The trip became a caravan of buses with no locomotion.

Sandy began to focus anxiously on her Garmin. The mood inside the bus was becoming frantic and everyone was fidgeting. One runner nervously asked Dennis, “Do you think I’ll make the second wave?” Dennis nonchalantly replied, “Yeah, you have plenty of time.” Sandy was wondering what planet Dennis was from.

Upon arriving at the athlete’s village, the Striders believed they still had approximately 10 minutes left to hit the porta potty and gear check before heading out to their corral. They considered the rapid scurrying to accomplish all this a pre-race warm-up. It was less than ten minutes when they heard a booming voice announce that Wave 3 had officially closed.

Sandy was in disbelief, as something similar had occurred last year. She muttered to Dennis, “No need to hurry now!” Dennis struggled a little with the new situation. He didn’t mind giving up his Wave 2 spot to step back and perhaps help pace Sandy to a PR from Wave 3. But starting at the back of Wave 4 was not the plan he had signed on for. In his mind, 12,000 runners had just passed him.

In addition to the late start, the lack of pre-race food was equally frustrating. The food tables were glaringly empty. Dennis grabbed one of the last three bananas left and the last bottle of water. His biggest disappointment, however, was missing out on the cool, pink Dunkin Donut hats that are only given out at the New York Marathon. Sandy wisely stayed out of Dennis’s way as they trotted over to join the runners in the last wave.

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                                                                 The Start
Once you get to the start line, there are no teams. You may run side by side. You may see the same things and wear the same shirt. You may hear the same cheers and feel the same weather. But like witnesses to a crime describing what they saw in four different ways, your race will be as unique as your thoughts. And in a race of 50,000, everyone will think in a different way.

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This is insane!

 

                                          He Thought She Thought

                                               Start to Mile 1
Here we go! Not quite the same start as in Wave 1 years ago.Then it was the sunny upper deck of the Verrazano Bridge with two Air Force jets flying over. Sinatra’s“New York, New York” was playing loudly over the speakers, and everyone started out at a fast pace. It is a different world here in the back of the pack. In the shade of the lower deck, it is just a wall of walkers crawling out at the start. I hope that rumor about the yellow rain from the upper deck isn’t true.

                                                   Mile 2
(Dodging the Charities)— Seriously, why is everyone walking? Oh! Now I remember. We’re in the last wave. And in the back of that wave. Déjà vu from last year! I don’t belong here!

                                                  Mile 3
Rolling down into Brooklyn rather nicely. Even the walkers can pick up speed on a downhill. Great crowd support here. I’m ready to rock this town!

                                                  Mile 4
Grooving into a sweet and stable 10-minute pace, kissing goodbye to the walkers, ready to own this race! Getting warm out here and I see people shedding clothing. I hope Dennis doesn’t see all those discarded Dunkin Donut hats with the footprints all over them. I now know why they say “America Runs On Dunkin.”

                                                  Mile 5
What is this? A charity run or a Presidential race? Lots of signs and shirts for both. “If Trump can run so can you.” “Nasty woman.” “Run fast, so Trump can’t grab you!” With so many anti-Trump signs out here, he can’t possibly win the election.

                                                 Mile 6
Exuberant crowds, lots of political signage, “Trump this Race!” I’m dreaming of a PR. Then my Garmin fails. Lost the time and mileage features. Only the pace remains. No matter. I’m running like a Nasty Woman!

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                                                  Mile 7
Feeling great. Sandy is moving with the precision of a Swiss watch. Ten-minute miles exactly. How does she do that mile after mile? We are passing runners by the hundreds. Never considered a ten minute pace to be this fast. I can run this pace all day.

                                                  Mile 8
Merging with the earlier waves, very cool! Back to dodging again. This time not walkers, but water cups. I can feel my shoes sticking to the spilled Gatorade.

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                                                   Mile 9
Shouldn’t have had that last bottle of water at the start. Where are those porta potties? Suppose to be 1370 of them here somewhere.

                                                   Mile 10
I’m still feeling confident, heading toward the half strong, loving the bands and the music. But wishing that runners would quit coming to a dead stop in front of me to take a selfie. Looks like I’m going to lose my running partner to the porta potties. I’ll stay in the left lane so as to be visible for Dennis when he catches up with me.

                                                  Mile 11
I found one with no line!

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A little hard to get into, butt I only lost 2 minutes on that pit stop. Now where is Sandy? I should be able to kick the pace up 30 seconds and catch her in 4 miles.

                                                  Mile 12
Pulaski Bridge looming ahead! I’m still running solo. Where is Dennis? Must have been a long potty line. I’m now unable to maintain the left side of the road. Can’t wait to crest the bridge hill. What goes up must come down.

                                                 Mile 13.1
Halfway at 2:13:30. Sandy is probably ahead of me by just 2 minutes now. That will put her on pace to a PR with 4:22:00. Go Sandy! What’s that ahead? A bridge?

                                                 Mile 14
I’m over the halfway mark. Another bridge descending upon me. Almost in Queens and the bridges seem unbelievably long. I’m clearly on my own with all the other slow runners surrounding me. Dennis has disappeared into the madness behind me. My 10-minute pace is creeping away with each bridge. I’m anticipating mile 18, which is a marathon milestone for me being almost out of the “teens,” then mile 20, with only 10K remaining.

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                                                  Mile 15
Where did these bridges come from? I don’t remember any of them from years past.That Pulaski Bridge going into Queens took a lot out of me. And that Queensboro bridge had to be at least a mile and a half long. Don’t they make bridges without hills here? Where did my speed go?

                                                  Mile 16
Walkers are becoming more dominant. Pedestrians are crossing the streets, dashing between runners, either independently or with police assistance. I feel as though there’s two races being run, one bib-less! As I pass medical tents, I’m hoping Dennis isn’t in one them. He should have been here by now.

                                                  Mile 17
“ Welcome to Manhattan!”
Does this crowd ever shut up? One more “Finish strong,” and I will throw up. Sandy is on her own now. I’ve got my own problems. Just want to finish and get this over with.

                                                  Mile 18
I’m definitely feeling my calves talking to me, and I need a walk break. I’m feeling humbled, pride goeth before a fall, recalling my arrogant attitude in Staten Island towards the walkers in my way. No PR today. I made a decision to just have fun and finish.

                                                 Mile 19
Slower and slower. The porta potty lines are moving faster than me. And what’s with this watch? The battery is dead! Apparently, like me, it never trained to go over four hours. Doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t need a watch to finish. I need a calendar.

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                                                  Mile 20
Bucking up for yet another bridge with visions of Central Park like fireflies swarming in my head. Are the walkers outnumbering the runners?? Crowds are getting louder. I’m now counting on them and my waning energy to propel me along the last few 6 miles. I’m dreaming of a warm, sunny spot, with no one around, to debrief and revive. An oasis. Can this be in my future?

                                                  Mile 21
Yikes! Two more bridges. The Willis Avenue Bridge to get me into the Bronx and the Madison Avenue Bridge to get me out. I should check myself into a mental ward. Do I really need to beat my body up at this age? I should text Sandy that I am going to be late. Real late. She should be getting close to her PR by now.

                                                 Mile 22
I have no clue about my time (dead Garmin), and my pace has been embarrassingly demoted. The Mile 24 banner waving high above the runners will soon be visible. The entrance into Central Park has dramatically reduced the course width. I’m swerving elbows, receiving and probably giving some unintended jabs. The crowds are now roaring with support. I can do this!

                                                Mile 23
Who is that old guy up ahead? I am walking faster than he is running. How slow can you go? We are in Harlem. Nobody walks in Harlem. Play a little basketball maybe. If this were the Comrades, the “Bus of Shame” would have grabbed me a long time ago. Not going to happen here because I think the sweepers are way ahead of me. I want this so over!

                                               Mile 24
I can faintly hear the finish line announcer. I can almost feel the solar blanket hugging my body. I know the recovery pack has pretzels. My needs have diminished to finish, food, and fuel.

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                                                  Mile 25
A Savior! My new running buddy Satish is going to help me finish. I like his pace. Walks for about one minute and then runs for about 30 seconds.This guy is totally trashed. He looks 100 years old, but he is in my age group and started fifty minutes before me from Wave 2. Nothing better than finding someone doing worse than yourself to perk you up.

                                                Mile 26.2
I’m over the line. I finished! Me and 50,000 runners from 132 countries. I know fatigue will set in soon but right now, I’m utterly elated.

                                               Mile 26.2 (38 minutes later)

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Where is everybody?

Great finish. Came in 38,390th place. Only 13,232 runners behind Sandy and still 222nd in my age group. Life doesn’t get any better than this. Just missed re-qualifying by an hour and 23 minutes. I love this race. Can’t wait to come back.

                                                Mile 26.7
At the gear check trucks. I’m cold and starting to shiver. And where’s Dennis? He should have been here by now. He texted me over 30 minutes ago from mile 24! Thankfully, not from a medic tent. I need to get my warm clothes on. Look at all those runners straggling in. Some appear in need of imminent CPR. I sure hope I don’t look that broken down.

“OMG! Here comes Dennis wearing a big grin and a Dunkin Donut hat with a footprint on it!”  The Silver Strider duo has reunited. 

After congratulatory goodbyes, the Strider team broke up and the two went off in different directions. Who knows what they were thinking then?

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Dennis was last seen heading back to the hood to admire the artwork and the architectural wonders that encircled his bargain priced hotel. He explained away his 38,390th place in the results as an alphabetical listing.

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Sandy made her dream from mile 20 happen. She hopped a train to Coney Island and found a deserted sunny beach with a plastic palm tree to lie under.

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