How to prepare not to run the NYC Marathon

There are many articles written about strategies on how to run the NYC Marathon.  Being a seven-time participant who chose not to run it this year due to extreme laziness and complete disinterest, I thought it would be beneficial to those who are also not running it to get some good advice on the dos and don’ts of non-participation of this life-changing event.  Just like for the runners who are running it, there is a specific timeframe to adhere to that will help those who don’t plan on running it.

For those who are serious about training for the NYC Marathon, their self-inflicted torture traditionally begins in July.  These wannabe marathoners spend almost every single day of the month running.  Their weekly training regimen may include a track workout, speed drills, a tempo run, and a long run, even on the hottest and most humid of days.  With a full-time job to go to and many with families to take care of, these runners will be both physically and mentally exhausted due to their relentless training.  Since you are not running the marathon this year, you will not be physically or mentally exhausted and your life will go on as usual.  When you get home from work, you can just relax, eat dinner, watch TV, and look forward to another day of not running.

In August, the weather gets even hotter and more humid.  But hey, you’ve already trained for a month and there’s no stopping you now. Plus you forked over a non-refundable $300 registration fee in June to run this costly race, so you’re pretty much screwed.  Those who are not running it did not have to cough up big money to endure a few hours of abuse come November.  They will be sitting comfortably in their air-conditioned living rooms looking out the window at the sweaty losers who are marathon training outside in an environment that should only be fit for the devil.

Finally, it’s September.  The weather has cooled off, but now if you have kids, they have to go back to school which will require a large outlay of parenting energy.  Doesn’t anybody in the family understand that mom and dad have a race to prepare for?!  During this time, you may want to consider giving up your kids for adoption.  Those who are not running the marathon may wake up on a Saturday morning to go on a nice family trip upstate to go see the Fall colors.  Apple-picking is also another great option, but definitely not running.

For those who are not running the NYC Marathon, October is the perfect month to check in on your hopeless friends who are now in their fourth month of marathon training.  You have that one friend who had to cancel a major family event so that they could get in their 23-mile-long training run.  Their spouse is already threatening divorce and can’t wait until it’s all over so that the family can get back to a normal life again.  Since you are not running it, you completely savor the lovely Fall weather.  You wake up late on the weekends and enjoy going out with your family for a wonderful Sunday brunch.  While brunching with your family, you notice an empty table next to yours.  That table would have been for your marathoning friend who is now too tired from their long run this morning and is sleeping in at 1:00 pm on a wasted Sunday afternoon.

It is now the second Sunday in November and it’s time to run the NYC Marathon!  Those running it cannot possibly sleep the night before, yet they have to leave their homes at an ungodly hour the morning of to get to the race start.  Then they have to wait two hours to actually begin running in their wave.  It’s torture to have to wait for so long, and you’re freezing your butt off on a cold November morning.  While your marathoning friend sits and waits to run a distance that guarantees serious post-race leg trauma over the next few days, you finally wake up, turn on the TV, and watch the NYC Marathon in the comfort of your own home.  You sit back in your recliner and reflect on all the months that you didn’t have to train for this year’s marathon.

By choosing to enjoy life and not running this year’s NYC Marathon, you will have achieved something that will make many marathoners envious.  The memories of not running this year’s NYC Marathon will last a lifetime.

2016 – A Year In Review

For many people I know, 2016 has been looked upon as a year of sadness.  Many singers and celebrities that I grew up with in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s died this past year.  And with Donald Trump winning the Presidential election, many of my family and friends including myself were devastated.  We now have to worry about the future of our country in the hands of somebody who seems very ill-prepared to be the leader of our country.  On the surface, this year could easily be looked upon as one that many of us would like to forget.  However, in reflecting upon my own personal life, a lot of good and interesting things did in fact happen to me.  Some of these things involved personal growth in new endeavors in my life and some involved friends and family who did great things this year.

In January, I visited my brother Aaron and sisters Sarah and Rachel at my father’s house.  They are actually my half-sisters, but that really doesn’t matter to me.  I remember when they were both just born and how my family and I helped bring them up.  I am proud that they have grown up to become intelligent, responsible, and caring women who both have interesting careers.


From left: Aaron, Sarah, Me, and Rachel

My brother Aaron got a job working with mentally challenged adults in Brooklyn.  He helps them live as independently as possible and has really excelled at his job within a short period of time.  With one of them who was severally autistic, Aaron was able to help bring him out of his shell by dancing and singing with him.


Aaron with Ronnie, one the clients he worked with at his job.

My brother was in a live comedy sketch show in February.  He enjoyed the experience working with other actors.  You can see highlights of her performance here.

I am proud of my brother is that he recently came out in public as bisexual, something that took a lot of strength and soul-searching for him to do.

Doing stand-up comedy has been on my bucket list for at least a dozen years.  In April, I finally did it.  With the help of my friend Darin Magras who was my role model, I went out on stage during an open mic at the Looney Bin Comedy Club in Staten Island.  It wasn’t a pretty sight, but I was very relieved to finally get it done, kind of like taking a pee after having it stored in your bladder for 15 years.  You can see all the carnage of my comedy act here.


I made comedy look easy.  Of course it was all an act.

The following month, my friend Will Sanchez contacted me about being a “very special guest” on his Manhattan public access cable show, Gotta Run With Will.  This show features people who are fixtures throughout the New York City running community.  At first I wondered why Will would want me to be a guest on his show being that I’m not the greatest runner and I wondered what could I possibly say that would interest his viewers. Will saw through my Facebook posts that I do have a life full of interesting things that could translate well on his show.  After all, I am a teacher, background actor, filmmaker, comedian, and the publicity director of the Staten Island Athletic Club.  But of all these things, Will was most interested in the fact that I played a naked dead guy on an episode of Law & Order: SVU.  If you’d like to see how my interview may have “cracked” some people up, you can view it here.


On the set of Gotta Run With Will discussing something that seems to be captivating Will.

Two years ago, my friend Michael Ring contracted this very rare muscle disease called CIDP.  It incapacitated him for a long time.  Last year his range of motion was very limited and he was often confined to a motorized wheelchair.  Since then, has made amazing progress and attempted to walk the entire 13.1-mile length of the 2016 Brooklyn Half Marathon. I was asked to be one of his guides during his attempt.  Because we were walking the entire length, I decided it would be a good idea to film him during the whole event.  Here is a 6-minute documentary that I made using that footage to showcase his fantastic achievement: F*ck CIDP …One Year Later.


My daughter Emma loves art and was offered by her high school a fantastic opportunity to work as an art intern for a professional artist.  From January to May, I had to leave my job 40 minutes early in order to pick her up from school, then drop her off at Smack Mellon, the place where her internship was held.  Every Wednesday, I went on an Indiana Jones adventure with my car throughout the streets of Brooklyn in order to make sure she arrived at her internship by 4:00pm.  It was difficult for me, but I knew that this opportunity was important for her future career in art.

My daughter’s friend had passed away and she was devastated by his death.  To help her and his family deal with it, she used art therapy to heal.  She drew a portrait of him made to look like his favorite anime character.  She had this artwork displayed at a public art exhibition as part of the culminating event of her internship at Smack Mellon.  After the exhibition was over, she presented it to his family as a gift and they were very pleased and grateful for receiving it.


To draw her friend dressed as his favorite anime character, Emma used the composite photo to the right to create her drawing on the left.

This year, my friend George had been getting sick due to a failing kidney.  He is a great guy with a great family including two beautiful little girls.  His kidney was rapidly failing and he could not find a donor whose blood type was compatible with his.  After many of his friends and family members including myself were unsuccessful blood matches for him, George finally got lucky with Darren Corona.  Darren selflessly went through the whole medical procedure that essentially saved George’s life.  Darren has served as a role model for me and I’m sure many other people as well.  Soon after the surgery was a success, Darren and George were both featured in a news article which you can read here.


Darren and George: so happy together.

In November, I elected not to run the NYC Marathon.  I ran the last three marathons as a pacer for the New York Road Runners Club and this time around I wanted to give it a rest.  However, several of my friends including Jacky, Catherine, and Danielle were first-time marathoners and I would like to acknowledge their achievement here.  One of them was Lisa Swan who probably worked harder than any of my friends to get to this point in her life.  Lisa was a self-described couch potato and very overweight at the time.  Just a few years ago she decided to get off of the couch and make a major change in her health and fitness for the better.  She started running road races and shed a ton of pounds while dropping down a few dress sizes.  Her stalwart determination to do what had to be done for her marathon training was unparalleled.  She serves as a role model in determination for many runners in our running club.  You can read all about Lisa’s amazing marathon story here.

My children continue to grow in many ways.  My daughter continues to pursue her artwork and creativity and enjoys listening to rock and heavy metal while my son continues to improve in his piano playing.  He has completed yet another year as a boy scout and loves playing Minecraft on the computer.  His growth has shot up this year by several inches and he is now taller than my daughter.  My daughter is happier at school and is surrounding herself with good friends more.  And yes, my son doesn’t smile too much for photos; it could be because he has uncomfortable braces in his mouth.  They will be coming out in 2017.





Our shirts matched that day.


The den leader and his boy scout son.



Posing at one of the most photographed streets in Brooklyn.

The Rock Star Life of a Marathon Pacer


The rock star and his groupies about to begin their 26.2-mile party through the streets of New York City.  Photo courtesy of Kenneth Tom.

Back in November 2013, I was hanging out with my friend Michael Ring about an hour before the start of the NYC Marathon.  We were both about to begin our gig as official marathon pacers, something we both had never done before and were anxiously waiting for the big moment.  It was there that Michael told me how being a pacer was basically the same thing as being a rock star.  In my mind I was thinking, “Is he delusional?!  Real rock stars get it on in their trailers with a bunch of groupies.  How the hell can he equate being a marathon pacer with that?!”

Two years later, It took me two more marathons and about a half dozen more gigs as a half marathon pacer to fully understand what Michael meant by that phrase.  Each time that I waited in the corral before the race start wearing my pacer shirt with pacer stick in hand, I noticed the same pattern; runners were congregating around me with a look of reverence and awe.  It was as if they were thinking, “This guy knows his shit; he will be running at a very specific pace and he is here to help me.  He is my hero!”. 

Yes it’s all true; I have had many hot women and cool dudes follow me in these races as my officially unofficial entourage and most stick with me throughout.  My pacer shirt is my rock and roll wardrobe and my pacer stick is my guitar.  But I’m not strumming it; I’m using it to lead the way so my running groupies can follow me as I “perform” for them using my pacer skills.  And throughout the whole Josh Pesin Experience is our drug of choice: pure adrenaline.  Yes, that’s how we get our runner’s high as we get through the race.

For the New York Road Runners Club, there are about 70 of us pacers, each and every one of us a rock star to the throngs of our adoring runner fans.  The guy who handles us is Steve Mura.  He’s our roadie and manages all of our events.  In preparation for an upcoming event, he checks our availability, then books us for a “show”.

Once booked for an upcoming NYC Marathon, us rock stars have to show up at the Jacob Javits Center to volunteer our time at the Marathon Expo.  It’s the place that all the registered marathoners come to pick up their race bib, check out all the new running products and visit the pacer booth.  That’s where they first get to meet us pacers up close as we share with them our award-winning pacing strategies.

On marathon morning, we check into the pacer tent at the staging area of the NYC Marathon.  It’s a place that treats us like the rock stars that we are.  A heated tent, bottled water, hot coffee, bagels and fresh fruit are just some of the amenities that are offered to us.  This is also a place for us to unwind, chill and keep us a safe distance from the masses of admiring fans that will eventually have a chance to gawk at and interact with us up close once we enter the corrals before the race starts.

As each wave is called for the runners to enter the corrals, about a dozen pacers leave the confines of the pacer tent to present themselves to the multitudes of admiring runners waiting in the wings.  It’s showtime!  As we enter our prospective corrals, we carry two signs with us.  One is a huge wooden sign with our pace goal on it, the other is a small paper sign with the same pace goal, but stapled to a lightweight wooden stick.    Once the pacer is positioned in the prescribed corral, the wooden sign serves as a beacon to all the runners both near and far.  It invites them to come close to the pacer if the stated pace is their goal.  Once the corral is closed and packed with runners, the pacer dumps the large wooden sign to the side and pops up the light-weight paper sign on a wooden stick.

Runners who come from far-away places and from every corner of the world are now standing next to me all wide-eyed and excited.  They want me to pace them to marathon glory.  They spent a lot of money to get here and ran a lot of miles for this moment.  It is now up to me to serve and deliver.  A potent combination of butterflies and electricity brew inside my belly.  But this nervousness quickly dissipates as I pledge to myself that above all, I will have fun with this race.  And I’ll provide my groupies with the necessary entertainment and motivation along the way to get them through an experience that is both life-changing and harrowing.

After the marathon starts and we’re all chugging along together through the dozens of neighborhoods that make New York the greatest city on earth, a camaraderie between the runners and the pacer develops.  They know that the pacer will bring them home and cross the finish line keeping their pace goal in mind all along.  This is the challenge of the pacer; to run an even, consistent race throughout while finishing within 30-60 seconds of their pace goal.  This is no easy feat.  Sometimes we even mess up as what happened to me here.

Pacer Fun

Philippe, Lisa and Jurgen getting ready for the 26.2-mile party.

If you shed away their rock star image, pacers are actually a fun, talented and caring bunch of individuals.  They like to give back to others by sacrificing their own chances for a personal record in favor of keeping to a prescribed pace goal to help those who need it.  They come from near and far; one even takes a plane ride from Canada every year just so she could help pace others in the NYC Marathon.  By profession, pacers are doctors, lawyers, a horse trainer, teachers and physical therapists, just to name a few.  And as you can imagine, pacers are people who love to run.  Many “normal” people will run the marathon once, then check it off of their bucket list thinking, “Been there, done that!”.  Many pacers are so addicted to running that they just can’t wait until they run their next marathon.  They’ve run many marathons and even ultra marathons.  One pacer in our group, Julie Khvasechko Garling, has run at least 155 marathons and shows no sign of letting up.

This blog goes out to Jo, Dave, Jurgen, Philippe, Elaine, Julie, Lisa, Vince, Sarah and the dozens of other rock star pacers who run these marathons not just for their own enjoyment, but for the people that they’re here to serve: the runners.


Group photo taken right before the start of the 2015 NYC Marathon.

The New York City Marathon

NYC Marathon

6:00 AM – Waking Up

I wake up feeling well-rested for the first time in my life.  And that’s a good thing since I will be running 26.2 miles in the next three hours.  I made sure I loaded myself up with lots of pasta the night before.  It’s something us runners call ‘carbo-loading’, for carbohydrate-laden foods like pasta burns slowly in the body, which is the kind of gas us runners need to go the distance.  I do the Bathroom Thing, have breakfast then go through my race-day checklist making sure I have everything I need for a great race-day experience.  Everything seems to be in check.  My friend Bob comes to pick me up in his car.  And we’re off!

7:55 AM – Arrival

We arrive at Fort Wadsworth to a literal City of Runners.  As soon as we enter this city through the portal at Bay Street and School Road, I immediately have to pee.  This will be the theme of my visit to this Runners City for the next 60 minutes, for I will have to visit the throne several more times due to equal doses of over-hydration and race-day jitters.  I am not alone; there are hundreds of portable urinals scattered throughout this Runners City and every single runner of the 42,000+ runners who will run this race today are experiencing the same thing as me.  In fact, the NYC Marathon is touted as having the longest urinal in the World, which is at least 100 yards long (see  Now that’s a lot of pee!

8:30 AM – Corral Time (aka The Long Wait)

In other situations in one’s life, it would be okay to arrive late.  However, being that this is the NYC Marathon, everything at this event is done in a very methodical, organized and planned way.  Nobody wants any hitches to happen on this day; it is the Wedding Day for us Marathoners.  Part of this planning is having all the runners line up in their respective corrals WAY in advance of the actual start time of our race.  This entails each of us to enter these special fenced-in holding areas that correspond to the colors of our race numbers.  There are three race starts: the Orange Group, The Blue Group, and the Green Group.  Each group MUST stay in their respective corrals; it is THE LAW!  There are security people to remind you of this.

Additionally, to safely cater to a start of over 42,000 runners and stagger the start times, there are three separate waves: 9:40 AM, 10:00 AM, and 10:20 AM.  Each start time consists of roughly 1/3 the runners, or 14,000 runners.  Luckily, I am in Wave 1, so my start time is 9:40 AM.  Better to get this race over with sooner rather than later, I thought.

8:40 AM – Avoiding FMAO (Freezing My Ass Off)

While waiting in my fenced-in corral, my sole goal at this time was to avoid freezing my ass off.  There was still another hour until the race start and at this time, the temperature was in the low 40s.  This is where listening to someone’s good advice really came into play.  My friend Bob used his previous marathon experience to suggest that I bring a big plastic leaf bag to keep myself warm and dry in.  Thank God I listened to him!  I had my precious leaf bag with me to use and use it I did!  I enveloped much of my body in this Plastic Palace, which prevented FMAO big time.  I ripped a hole in the top of this bag and every once in a while, I’d pop my head out like a prairie dog just to see what was going on around me.

9:15 AM – Escape Artists

Access to my corral was now closed and we started to slowly move towards the start line.  A number of runners who did not heed the incessant warnings blaring out from all the loudspeakers to enter their corrals early were now denied entry and were desperately watching us from the other side of the fence.  Many tried and succeeded to escape from No-Man’s Land by dangerously scaling the fence onto our side.  There wasn’t enough security and the one security guy who was in charge tried in vain to deny their tumultuous leaps.  Hey, this race cost each of us $149 and many runners came here from thousands of miles away with Marathon Dreams.  Nothing was going to stop them from achieving their dream.

9:25 AM – Adrenaline Time

To illustrate how one feels at this moment, think about the most important event you had in your life such as getting married or having a baby.  Now go back in time by about 15 minutes; this is how I felt.  We all were now lined up behind the start line with one of the biggest bridges in the World with its arms stretched out ready to welcome us across.  However, there were still 15 minutes to go.  The waiting.  The thinking.  The nervousness.  The excitement.  You want to start already and focus on running your race, but those 15 minutes…. damn!

There was a young runner next to me dressed from head-to-toe in military clothing, boots and all.  I’m sure he’s a military guy; maybe a veteran of the Iraqi War.  On his back was a military backpack loaded with 50 pounds of stuff.  I thought to myself, “If this guy can go this distance dressed like that, then boy, I have no excuse”.

9:46 AM – Crossing The Start Line

Finally the cannon goes off and the race has officially started.  I am somewhere in the back with a few thousand runners in front of me.  Waiting for all these runners to leave, It will take about another six minutes before I actually cross the start line.  Finally, runners around me are beginning to pump their legs up and down the way you see pistons in a car engine start moving.  I am now moving!  Six minutes later, I run across the start line sensor.  The D-Tag antenna tied to my sneaker laces immediately triggers my personal start time with this sensor.  My race has officially started and I just began my participation of the 40th running of the New York City Marathon!

9:46:05 AM – The Watch Situation (aka: WTF?!)

As soon as I cross the start line, I start my pacer watch.  This watch is intended to pace me throughout the course, for pacing is everything when running a marathon.  If you go out too fast, you are doomed to burn out during the second half because a Marathon literally drains the energy out of you.  Keeping a steady pace that your body is accustomed to will ensure that you will finish strong without burning out.

Three seconds after starting my pacer watch, I notice that the pacer screen is reading “00:00”… I forgot to calibrate the damn watch with the satellites in the sky!  I had to make a split decision: to run blindly the entire race without knowing my pace, or to stop for a minute and calibrate the watch.  Luckily my logical mind took over and I decided to calibrate.  This required me to stop running entirely, pull over to the concrete median of the Bridge, place my watch on the median, and reboot the watch while it calibrated itself.  Unfortunately, this requires the watch to be PERFECTLY STILL, so that is why I couldn’t do this while running.  While it was calibrating, I briefly glanced at the 500+ runners passing me by while the Bridge was shaking from their collective weight.  Some of them were probably thinking, “What’s wrong with this guy just standing there after the start line?”

As soon as pacer screen turned back on, I knew that the watch was now ready for business.  While I probably lost about 1 minute from my race time, I knew that this was a worthy sacrifice for I now can see my pace for the remainder of the race.

Mile 2 – Disrespecting the Great Italian Explorer Giovanni da Verrazano

After passing Mile 1 in the middle of the Verrazano Bridge, which is THE highest point in the entire Marathon, I felt like I was on top of the World.  Thank God that I made that decision about my pacer watch early on because I ended up consulting my watch 1,000 more times throughout the race.

After I pass Mile 1, which is the top of the bridge parabola, I start experiencing the downhill, which is a great feeling.  After passing the second span of the Bridge, I notice a whole bunch of runners peeing off the side of the roadway.  I’m saying to myself this derogatory thought, “Look at those guys just peeing in front of everyone!  What’s their problem?!”.  With all apologies to the great Italian explorer with whom this great bridge is named for, Giovanni da Verrazano, I feel the urge myself and end up participating in this pee-fest.  Luckily, that will be the first and last time that I pee DURING the Marathon.  After that, I will  learn that my body needs every drop of liquid that it can get.

Going across the Bridge, it is very quiet; only a few thousand runners all focused on their pace.  As soon as I enter the off ramp onto 92nd Street, there’s a sea of humanity just looking at all the runners in awe.  Passing this humanity, I suddenly hear loud cheering combined with hand clapping.  There are many runners around me, but I feel that everyone is cheering only for me and I’m sure every runner feels the same way.  The excitement gets overwhelming for me; my pace just dropped down from a 9:00 to 8:20.  I must keep to my pace, which is 9:00.  I quickly put the brakes on and slow myself down closer to a 9:00 pace.  This will happen to me dozens of more times until Mile 21.

Miles 3 – 7 High Five Time

After making a few twists and turns after leaving the Verrazano, I finally find myself on 4th Avenue staring at thousands of cheering spectators on both sides of the street.  “Boy, they certainly make it hard for a serious runner to focus on this race”, I said to myself.  It was impossible for me to entirely focus, so I did what a number of other runners were doing: which is to have fun.  Once in Sunset Park, the streets were lined with miles of little Hispanic kids with their hands up in the air waiting for runners to “high five” them.  There was a German runner near me slapping every single little hand, so I decided to join in.  Every time I high-fived a kid, it was as if some super hero touched them with their powers.  This was a great feeling, but I realized that if I continued doing this, I would be wasting my energy, so no more high-fiving for me!

Mile 8 – Angels from Above

After running on the straightaway of 4th Avenue for several miles, I started to get a little bored and lonely, which is ironic since I was running amongst thousands of runners.  As soon as I reached Mile 8, the point where runners from the Orange, Blue and Green Groups merge in front of the famous Williamsburg Saving Bank building in Fort Greene, I heard people screaming out my name from behind.  I turn around to see my running pals Alan and Jerry frantically jumping up and down shouting out my name.  They were spectators and they were doing a very good job motivating me.  This was just the boost I needed to help me get through the rest of Brooklyn and Queens.

Mile 9 – A Gorilla in my Mist

While running through Fort Greene, a gorilla passes me.  No, not a real gorilla, but a runner dressed from head to toes in a gorilla costume.  Besides this gorilla, there will be a series of runners dressed as clowns, an eiffel tower, a waiter carrying a bottle of wine on a tray, and other interesting assortment of characters.  Hey, we’re in New York, what do you expect?

Mile 15 – The 59th Street Bridge

After running in Brooklyn up Bedford Avenue, Greenpoint Avenue, then crossing the halfway point across a little bridge into Queens, it was only a matter of time before I entered the 59th Street Bridge (aka: The Queensboro Bridge).  If there’s any other part of the NYC Marathon that tests one’s mettle, THIS IS IT!  Boys enter this bridge on one end and get spat out as men on the other.   The bridge is only a mile long, but that 1/2 mile incline on the Queens side tests you.  Runners all around me were desperately trying to scale that incline while keeping their pace intact, a feat that became obviously unreachable to the majority of runners around me since they were slowing down or just walking it.  Don’t forget, we already have 15 miles under our belts and now we are forced to deal with this cruel and relentless man-made mountain called the 59th Street Bridge.

Mile 19 – It’s Bob!

After the 59th Street Bridge, the next major challenge was 1st Avenue.  This is now Mile 16 and with some fatigue starting to set in, this avenue seems to go on forever!  The one redeeming quality of this part of the race are the hundreds of thousands of exhilarated race fans lining the entire length of this 4-mile corridor and the non-stop cheering one hears throughout.

At Mile 19, I pass by a runner who I think I know.  It’s Bob!  He’s the guy I trained with this whole year.  We were supposed to run this race together from the start and pace each other, but since we started this race in separate groups, that wasn’t going to be possible.  I now wanted to run the remainder of this race with Bob, but he told me to go ahead of him.  I found out later that he was injured with a stress fracture in his foot, but he still valiantly pushed on to the end of the race.  You go Bob!

Mile 20 – The South Bronx

I run across a small bridge into the South Bronx.  As I cross the bridge, I see bagpipe players playing traditional Irish music.  Yes, only in New York would you hear live bagpipe music playing in the South Bronx!

Mile 21 – Kicking it up a Notch

I am now at Mile 21.  I’ve been a good boy so far and listened to advice given to me by my Jedi Master Mario who stressed that I do “9-Minute Miles”.  Now that I am finished running 75% of this race with a lot of energy still in me, I decide to kick it up a notch and pick up my speed.  My pacer watch drops down to an 8:35 pace and I plan on making this my new pace for the remainder of the race.

Mile 22 – The Return of the Angels

As I pass Mile 22 and approach Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, I see my friends Alan and Jerry again.  This time it seems that they are screaming my name even louder than before.  I take a few seconds out of my run to give them each a big hearty high-five as I excitedly shout out to them in the most manly way possible.  This refuels my emotional battery and I possess this attitude, “Nothing can stop me now!”

2009 NYC Marathon

Miles 23 – 26 – Cramping my Style

I’m at Mile 23 and I’m running parallel to Central Park.  Soon I’ll be entering the Park itself.  I’m maintaining that 8:35 pace as I had started two miles earlier.  The prospect of me finishing this endeavor in three more miles at such a fast pace excites me to no end.  Many runners burn out by now.  This has so far been a textbook race for me.  The runners have thinned out, the street is narrower and the fans seem to be even more fervent than before.  What could go wrong?

I spoke too soon.  Like a race car blowing its tire during the final stretch of the Indianapolis 500, I blew my own tire.  More specifically, I developed an excruciatingly painful cramp in my lower right calf, so painful that I had to stop my running entirely.  I remained frozen like a statue for a few seconds and waited for the pain to subside.  As I did this, I tried to start running again while shaking out the pain.  I so desperately wanted to maintain my great pace, but this cramp thing got in the way.

For the next three miles, this cramp routine repeated itself several more times and of course without warning.  I was now at Mile 26.  I just entered the Southwest corner of Central Park with only 2/10 of a mile to go.  The finish line is only moments away…

Mile 26.1 – God Help Me

I’m at my 8:35 pace again for the eighth time and I can actually see the precious finish line only 100-some-odd yards away.  Just when I’m savoring the thought of completing my Marathon Destiny, one more leg cramp rears its ugly head.  I’m limping again and holding my hand on the bad leg while reaching out towards the finish line with my other hand.  I quickly shake out the cramp and pick up my speed determined to cross the finish with a newly-found fury.

Mile 26.2 – The Finish Line

I was so excited at the prospect of breaking my goal of four hours that as I passed the finish line, I held my hands up high with an animalistic look in my face, the look of a hungry carnivore that had just eaten a 26.2-mile race.

I found out later that day that I had achieved my goal of finishing in under four hours by completing it in 3:56:58.  A personal best!

Mile 26.2+ – The Death March

After passing the finish line and catching my breath from running for four hours, a finisher’s medal was immediately placed around my neck, then a silver mylar blanket was wrapped around my body to keep whatever body heat was left from escaping.  A post-race photo was taken of me, then a goody bag full of fruit, nuts, snacks and water was placed in my hand.

Just when I thought that the Marathon was over, it wasn’t.  For the next mile or so, temporary fences were placed after the finish line that forced all of the finishers to continue walking another mile or so.  This walk is known as the Death March, for immediately after finishing the Marathon, all finishers are required to walk that extra mile in order to escape the confines of the fences.  Just looking at the hundreds of runners slowly limping along this route all wrapped up in their heat-saving mylar blankets, you can see the word ‘pain’ etched on their faces.

5:15 PM – Ice Bath Time

As soon as I got home, there was just one more torturous activity that I needed my body to undergo: It was ice bath time!  No, I wasn’t filling my bathtub full of ice to keep cans of Budweiser cold for a party; I was doing it to keep my legs cold.  Submerging one’s legs under ice cold water and ice cubes for 20 minutes helps lessen the effects of post-race swelling.  As soon as I submerged my legs under this ice-cold water, a shock of pain bolted up through my body.  From talking to my friend Gus, I knew that this ice bath was a necessary evil that would help with a good post-race recovery.

It took me an entire week for me to fully recuperate and run again.  While I was running with my friends from the Staten Island Athletic Club (SIAC), I talked about the idea of someday doing this Marathon Thing again.

Special Thanks to Mario and Gus for giving me the right advice for my Marathon training.

Thanks to…

Bob for picking me up in the morning.

Alan and Jerry for cheering me on at Miles 8 and 22.

Uncle Richard for taking my picture at Mile 7.

Maria for holding onto the sweatshirt I threw at her at Mile 5.