Monday, November 3, 2014

Run for Life

The simple New York Road Runners motto "Run for life" may have captured my exercise motivation and approach better than I ever have. As I arrived into one of the coolest cities in the world, it was not difficult to appreciate and try to get into an Empire State of mind. This included everything from capturing as much of the city as I could in a brief time to running the biggest and most spectated marathon I've ever had a chance to do.

Luckily I had a partner in crime join me for a fair share of the adventure, Alanna, a Livestrong friend from San Francisco. While we'd met in California, were now meeting up in the Big Apple on Halloween so taking the relationship from coast to coast. Our costume that night was me pretending to be classy enough to take in a musical, Jersey Boys. One of their songs would make the marathon playlist and if you can figure out which one maybe we should go see a musical together.

The next day the Today show which had had featured Kiana (and me) was kind enough to give us a
tour and let us watch it being broadcast ( Afterwards Alana and I did our best Ron Burgundy impression in front of the today show but I still couldn't talk Lester Holt into running the marathon with me. Remembering the story they did and watching them do other stories I couldn't help but wonder and be amazed at how good they were at capturing humanity. Somehow, in that famed building, 30 Rockefeller center, that gave them a birds eye view of the city, they were able to capture and share both big angles and intimate perspectives side by side.

The lunch after was with the organization I was running with, Voices Against Brain Cancer ( Sitting there, everyone at a couple of tables shared why they were running the marathon with this organization. The three people to my left each were there for the same reason, their fathers had passed  away from brain cancer. They shared stories about their dads in general and then started sharing the difficult part that joined them. . One had done multiple races over the better part of
a decade with the Voices. He had passed a few years ago and yet much too soon but she had not forgotten doing race after race with the voices. One was doing what they intended to be their only marathon ever for their dad the next day. He shared a story of their last holiday together, Thanksgiving. It was one of genuine and heartbreaking story about some funny family and that while dad was not really able to talk, dad seemed to come alert at that meal and smiled with laughter before passing a few days later. I think that smile was echoed clearly there by his son. The third was someone who had done many marathons but when her dad had gotten diagnosed not even a year before. decided to do New York with Voices Against Brain Cancer. I think she hoped he could cheering her on. Her dad had passed about a month before the race but she was clearly going to run with him in her heart. I was the only person there this year who was both running and had brain cancer, not someone who was doing it in honor of or memory of someone. That fact was not lost on me during a single moment of that meal. 

Trying to catch a bit more of the greatest city in the world, I couldn't pass up a chance to see Van Gogh starry night in the museum of modern art. Perhaps like Van Gogh, the muses that inspire won't stay forever but like the other Voices I hope doing something of beauty, Van Gogh was painting is how we deal with damaged brains who somehow painted his dreams into reality. And he gave perspective which even small points of light in a dark sky were brighter and the sky less dark.

Unable to resist an hour of extra night time due to the time change last night, Times Square was taken in before laying the gear out and calling it a night. The next morning I got up feeling the same as I do before every marathon, nervous, excited, intimidated. It was in the low 40's so it took some ridiculous gear on to stay warm. My pre race routine was impossible since the
start was near the time I usually finished. There would be taxis, ferries, buses and separate corrals to the beginning. During the ferry I saw this very classy lady but she was too far away to have any chance of getting her number, probably out of my league anyway ;). Security checks were a new experience in a marathon for me but I understood why. Because of the size, it was longer standing times than I'd ever done before a race start would feed the excitment and build the nervous energy. There were bags to drop off to UPS who reminded me of what Brown can do for you.  I've never seen so much clothing discarded before the first mile of a race than that day.

But finally it was time to start the New York City marathon! I started in the lower level of the bridge with a cold wind you could feel in your bones. My GPS watch couldn't be getting accurate readings because it was saying I was doing 9:39 pace for the first couple of miles and corrected later. Still, I was smiling with broadway songs in my ears, a bigger crowd around me than I've ever had during a marathon. Except when we were on the bridges there were never any lonely desolate roads without packed spectators on both sides. There were some typical marathon signage but some incredibly New York appropriate/inappropriate signs and more flags than I've ever seen some which in simple honesty, I didn't even know what country they were from and wished I'd had a camera to look them up later.

The miles like in any marathon kept piling up and there would be friends from New York, from Austin, strangers that cheered with so much conviction to me the "shirtless guy," that they felt like friends. One of my favorite moments of the marathon was at mile 17 where the producer from the today show was out there with a handmade "Go Iram" sign. In that second alone I realized why she was so good at capturing humanity, it's because she was so good at being human.

I was on PR pace till about mile 22.5 but the system couldn't handle the speed anymore but the finish
line is never negotiable. I started high fiving if nothing else to warm up the hands. With about a mile to go I saw the run for life logo and smiled running with that in mind. No one I know gets life always exactly right or life in the right direction but my favorites go the finish line of your commitments, your goals as best as you can as long as you can. I ended up in about 3:10 and was grateful to receive the medal and the warm up wrap (not necessarily in that order).

There would be a couple of happy hours with friends from Austin, high school, Spartans but another cool meeting this weekend was with Dave. He and his girl Lisa were people I was supposed to meet up with. Lisa also has brain cancer... She was supposed to be running the marathon and they were supposed to be having a wedding not far down the road. Her health was such that the marathon wasn't possible and they just got married at home with it webcast to the right people. Since I don't know New York that well and he lived further out, he was kind enough to meet
me to pick up their wedding present.

The marathon was an incredible experience and it reminded me I run for the same reason the New York Road Runners do, for something elegant and simple, for life. Running gets my lungs in better shape for singing musicals letting me be a louder voice against brain cancer. It gets me legs better for dancing and walking around NYC (though apparently with daylight savings time hotel, subway and airport stairs gets steeper.) And it gets my heart in better shape for love even if it's as tough as Dave who has to recognize that it's better to have loved even under those circumstances. So I'll keep running for life and hey I made it in New York so I can make it anywhere.


  1. Glad you had fun brother! We should actually run a race together sometime :)

  2. Wow, sounds like an amazing once in a lifetime experience! Loved reading your recap!

  3. Your posts are much like you,"Always Good."