Beep, beep, beep….the sound of the alarm at 4:50AM on Sunday hits harder than a punch from Mike Tyson. Comfortable sheets and my girlfriend by my side tempted me to lay down for ‘5 more minutes’, but I resisted. I snapped out of bed, slid on my shoes, pulled up my short shorts and mixed up a pre run cocktail of caffeine and amino acids as I thought about my run. My mind raced with anxiousness for the 18 miles ahead of me. Goosebumps spread over my skin in fear of not keeping up with teammates and soreness crept into my awareness from the 42 miles clocked over the previous six days.
I stepped outside to the sound of stillness as the sun has yet to awaken the masses of tourists to congest the sidewalks, subway and parks to disrupt my morning routine. It was just me and my run. I jogged to the Brooklyn Bridge station. The sweltering heat from inside the station while waiting for the subway had sweat dripping down my arms, and elevated my body temperature. This pre-run ‘heat chamber’ I managed to reframe as a part of my warm up. I boarded the 4 train. Four stops and forty minutes pass to arrive at Central Park at 90th and 5th (Engineers Gate).
Twelve of my teammates arrived. I got paired to run with Yao an 8X NYC marathoner and ‘Swoops’ a ‘sub 3′ marathon runner. The beep of my Garmin watch triggered a deep exhale as my legs started moving. The lush green foliage, and fresh air serve as inspiration that motivated my run. For the first few miles we run as a team–a leisure 7:30 minute mile pace. But once the reality of the 18 miles ahead sunk in, paces adjusted, and the differences between runners become apparent. The team of twelve fell into three pacing groups like worker bees clinging to their queen bee.
The first 6 miles flew by and felt great with a steady increase in my pace. Instead of just running 18 miles, in my mind I broke the run down into three chunks of 6 miles, which made it easier. With two chunks left, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and picked up my pace. I avoided looking at my watch to not get distracted by numbers and pacing. But without headphones, music, or conversation to keep me ‘busy’ running long distance becomes less about ‘physical’ conditioning and more about ‘mental’ conditioning. What started as thinking about crossing the finish line, hitting my pace and seeing my girlfriend after shifted to questions like, why am I breathing so heavy?, Is my pace too fast, too slow? Will I finish? After shutting down negative thoughts and questions, it cleared my mind. I consciously focused on feeding my mind positive images of my brother, the hard work put in so far, and my marathon goal time which served like hit adrenaline that kept me moving, faster.
Leaving Central Park after completed 18 miles felt like crossing the finish line. Being my first marathon, every long run has been my ‘new longest distance’. I am excited to see my pace down from 8min/male to 7 min/mile, but remain humbled by my teammates who left me in the dust that day which kept me coming back for more. My excitement quickly got contained when I realized I have to get back up and do this all again next week.