Let’s play a little game of “Would You Rather.”
Would you rather:
1. Run a half marathon on an injury?
2. Run a half marathon in horrible humidity and heat in the middle of Queens?
I didn’t say this is a fun or amusing game of “Would You Rather.” Nevertheless, both options suck, and I’m lucky enough to say that I have accomplished both.
The weeks leading up to the Queens Half, I thought to myself, ‘You’ve got this, Lewis, no sweat. You’ll easily PR by at least 10 minutes.’ Although I would be running the Queens Half at 7:00 (or so I thought), I did not account for the heat that would be settling into the five boroughs early that morning.
Let’s back up a bit.
The day before the race, my managing editor asked me what the course was like. “Oh crap” I replied, and I ran over to my desk to pull up the NYRR page to discover what exactly would lay ahead of me the next morning. Looking at the course map, I became instantly confused to see a series of winding turns, and lots of different colored arrows to point me it the direction I would be going. “Umm…it’s in the park. Like a lot of it…” is all I could muster up after trying to understand what I was getting myself into. I honestly didn’t care, because I knew I was going to PR.
Like most runners, I’m a huge advocate in fueling up before a race, usually with some kind of sandwich at lunch and some sort of pasta concoction for dinner. I set out to lunch with my colleague Steve, where I quickly decided that we desperately needed to go to Guy & Gallard for lunch. “I’ll take the tuna salad panini,” I said. Steve, being Italian, got some kind of sandwich with a handful of cold cuts, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella. I would find out just a half hour after eating this sandwich that this was possibly the worst idea ever and that I would get mild food poisoning from said sandwich. Leaving work that day, I set off with a tummy ache to the gym to loosen my legs on the bike. I felt okay afterward.
That night, Chris met me at my apartment before dinner. My dear friend Laci was in town and Friday night was probably the only chance I would get to hang out with her. So Chris and I met up with her and six high school dance students (Laci is a dance teacher – and an amazing one at that!) for an Italian dinner in Murray Hill. I ordered the orrechiette with vegetables and mozzarella in a light garlic/olive oil sauce. Wrong again. I may as well have been taking a bottle of extra virgin olive oil to the dome along with rubbing cloves of garlic all over my skin. This also did not sit well. I would like to thank the patrons of Fagiolini for this incredible experience.
Race Day. Five AM wake up call, Cafe Bustelo dripping in my coffee pot, and toast with peanut butter while watching the local news and catching up on email. Chris soon got up, followed my lead and we set off for Queens.
We arrived at Flushing Meadows Park (“Oh! Where the World’s Fair was!,” my Dad proclaimed with great excitement) and I settled in my corral to wait…and wait and wait… Why were we waiting? To clear the puddles from the storm the night before (which we still ran through or around, whichever you chose). Finally, the gun went off and we started.
I was pretty excited at the start, especially since we were making our way towards the giant globe where I saw his Lordship watching and taking photos. Everything was going smoothly. I set into my pace, was hydrated and fueled, and thought of the great advice my coach gave me which was to have fun and enjoy myself.
Then it hit. Mile 5.5 struck me like a ton of bricks would soon be shooting out of my bowels. Frantic, I stopped running and texted Chris.
“I don’t think I can do this.”
“You’re right where you need to be. I’ll be here at mile 10 to pace you.”
I didn’t go into details about why I thought I couldn’t do it. He had no idea what was wrong with me, and I was on the opposite side of the course from mile 10. I walked for a bit and contemplated. Finally, I stated the words, “Screw it” and set back into my pace. Only this time I was cruising. Miles 6-8.5 were brilliant.
Then it got hot. Really hot. I felt like I was in the middle of the Serengeti waiting to be poached like a wild animal. Many people were walking, taking their time, drinking water, eating gu’s and the like. I wanted to be done. I did a bit more walking.
Finally got to Mile 10 and saw a familiar face. “Come on, let’s go!” And Chris paced me until mile 12. What a stud!
Hot, tired, and completely sick to my stomach, I walked a bit more. I’ve never walked this much in a race. Ever. Thinking that, I sped up again and pushed myself around the giant globe once more and through the finish.
Queens was sweltering hot and I was in no shape to run a half marathon with my tummy tumbles. But guess what? I PR’d by 24 seconds. It’s not fantastic, but I’ll take it. So I guess that answers the question of ‘would you rather?’
I treated myself to my iced coffee and carrot muffin, got changed and went straight to Brother Jimmy’s. Since I missed Nurse Susan in Queens (she had a STELLAR race!), she met up with us for some post-race beers.
Queens, I don’t know if I’ll race you again. But at least I can say that I conquered.