2013 ING NYC Marathon : Reflections on the Day

Yep - I finished...

Yep – I finished…

Thank you to so many people who have reminded me the past two weeks that I have not posted the final update on my NYC marathon experience – and I apologize! I have just been crazy busy the last couple of weeks and, to be honest, I was still incubating the experience.

I also promise to those who are bored of reading about this topic, that this will be my last post on the matter…

Firstly, I am pleased to announce I did finish. You can see a video of my victory here (at about 5:29 – actual time 5:05 for wave 2). I also pulled up fine the next day with nothing more required in the pain relief department than a bit of ibuprofen to ease my throbbing quads. I am happy that there does not seem to be any lasting damage at all and I started running again this week. My knees felt fine during the run (to my amazement) and my back was completely pain free. I should note from the outset that this would not have been possible whatsoever without the training and advice I received from the fabulous, lovely and very supportive Tarryn Bennett. When I started training back in January, I couldn’t run for more than 2kms without severe back pain – Taz, you’re a miracle worker!

Of course, I hardly pounded the course – I finished in 5:05. Fast enough to say that I “ran” the course (i.e. there was no walking) but slow enough to take it easy and not injure myself. Personally, I thought it was a great effort and I was particularly chuffed with my negative 11min/mile splits the last 5-6 miles (maybe 10kms), where I really got a burst of energy as I could feel the end in sight. No records were hit – but at least I beat Pamela Anderson (which is just as well because apparently she didn’t even train for it).

My times...

My times…

The day itself started off a bit cold. We had to catch a 6am bus to get across the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island before the bridge was closed out to traffic (at 7am). I didn’t run until ~10:30am (second wave) and so I spent 3+ hours trying to say warm and positive. As you will know from my prior blogs, I was jetlagged (only arrived the night before due to transit delays in LA due to the shootings), and had a wicked head cold and sinus infection. I was massively dosed on Sudafed – not an ideal pharmacologic state for a marathon.

At Staten Island with the Verrazano Bridge in the background.

At Staten Island with the Verrazano Bridge in the background.

To be honest, the day before, I really lacked the mojo for the run and felt very deflated. Even after eating two plates of pasta at 4pm and 8pm, I still felt less than cheery – so I stopped by a barber to shave my head and make myself feel a bit tougher. I know – a bit juvenile – but it was something I used to do before endurance events in my younger days and it definitely perked me up. I’m not sure it worked on the day, but at least I didn’t have any sweaty cowlicks flopping around in my face the next day.

(Left) A face only a mother could love (middle) a skype call with Max after the race - he couldn't work out where the hair was!? and (right) Max blowing Daddy a kiss... awww.

(Left) A face only a mother could love (middle) a skype call with Max after the race – he couldn’t work out where the hair was!? and (right) Max blowing Daddy a kiss… awww.

I also made several very amateur mistakes during the race:

1) Too much adrenaline at the start of the race – by the time I got to the top of Verrazano Bridge (where you can already see the skyscapers of Manhattan in the distance) my legs were already tired. I think this is a common rookie mistake and one that I will not make again. But it’s tough because the crowd is really surging along and it’s a buzz!

2) I ate too much beforehand – too many bananas and energy foods while I was trying to keep warm. As such, I lost almost 15 minutes queuing for a mid-race poop. Never been so grateful to see a porta-loo in my entire life (ironically, on the corner of “Flushing Ave” in Brooklyn) and I can completely understand why sometimes runners crap themselves. Too much info, I know…

3) I took a running belt and rehydration with me. Not necessary. Something I will avoid next time as it was a bit of a hassle. A few energy gels in the pocket are enough. In fact, because of the constant adjusting of my running belt I accidently popped my iPod shuffle off my waistband it ended up in a sewer system somewhere in Queens. Now somewhere in the Hudson.

4) Leave the music at home. Great for training, don’t need it on run day. It’s so much more fun to hear people shouting out and encouraging you. There was a band – literally on every street corner, especially through Brooklyn. Plenty of music! “Eye of the Tiger” on tap. Actually losing my iPod was a small gift from the universe and made me tune in, be present.

All you really need...

All you really need…

But I have to tell you, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. New York positively oozed with love. There was not a single metre of the race where there wasn’t someone cheering on and sometimes the crowds were 20 people deep, kids waving flags and rattling cowbells, hilarious signs galore. It was pure entertainment but also just incredibly motivating.

Is that George Mutai???

Is that George Mutai???

The other thing that was truly touching was the range of causes that people were carrying with them while they ran. There were the usual charities and foundations – everything from cancer and heart disease to autism and HIV. There were the war veterans and victims of family violence. There were those who lost people to natural disasters – or people raising money for post-hurricane Sandy rebuilding. There was a lot of “Boston Strong”, which was great to see.

There were also a lot of Aussies in the race. I saw several of my fellow Heart Foundation runners, but was also really proud to see the team from the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP). They looked in great form, but also I really loved their running outfits and the way they represented their cause. I was incredibly touched to see so many Aussie and NZ runners stop to take photos with them. I am pretty sure I saw Charmaine Patrick (who is a little tiny thing…) zipping past me at one point.

Putting me in my place…

Many people just ran for those that they loved. A simple message pinned to their shirt, perhaps in memory of someone that was supposed to run with them. I saw one woman running with an epitaph of her husband who was killed in Iraq – “My love, you were supposed to run with me, but now I run for both of us.” With the emotion of the whole experience, the crowd, the physical pain, seeing something like that raised tears on more than one occasion. It was really 5 hours of pure emotion.

… And to have it offset by all the crazy signs:

Pure motivation... and entertainment!

Pure motivation… and entertainment!

I felt amazing at the end of the run. I could hardly believe I had made it and the sense of accomplishment was something so rare for me (I have previously written about how I struggle to enjoy success). I felt cleansed and pure, and free. My endorphins were going crazy and I could hardly stop smiling. You wanted to reach out and touch people and hug someone. As I wandered out of central park, I felt dazed and overwhelmed by what had happened.

Amazing crowd and atmosphere. Sinatra's "New York, New York" is playing while this photo was taken...

Amazing crowd and atmosphere. Sinatra’s “New York, New York” is playing while this photo was taken…

The marathon is mostly staffed by volunteers – literally thousands of people. The kindness and gentleness of these volunteers was truly humbling. When you finish running, you are given a kind of foil thermal poncho to keep your body heat in, and some food/water. Every single one of those 51,000 runners had their poncho put on them by a volunteer. Later as you leave central park, you get an additional layer of a kind of wearable blanket. I remember when this guy put my blanket around my shoulders, he did so with such kindness and deliberation. I felt he wanted me to feel warmth, not just stay warm.

Anyhow, I don’t have much more to say except that it was an incredible experience – and probably one of the top 5 things I have ever done in my life (ignoring events like wedding days or childbirth). I also feel that between the jetlag/’flu and first-timer errors, I can do better. I’d like to run a marathon more like around 4:20 or 4:30. I’ll never do a 2:08 like Geoffrey Mutai did, but that’s ok. I learnt that I probably don’t need to train as hard as I did but I liked having a training goal as a way of trying to improve my health.

Watching Daddy run real-time on the 'net!

Watching Daddy run real-time on the ‘net!

I’m definitely signing up for another one next year. Next time closer to home so that Zhenya and Max can be there at the end, though they ran with me every step of the way in my mind, and helped me to make it to the end. I kept thinking about how if I didn’t finish, one day Max would find out and think I was a wimp. That’s pretty motivating.

Heart Foundation... this is for you...

Heart Foundation… this is for you…

Lastly, I just want to thank the Heart Foundation for the opportunity to be part of the team. Through your generosity and support, I raised just over $14,000 for this very worthwhile cause. My fundraising page is still open and if you haven’t yet dropped a few bucks into the tin, it’s not too late! I know a couple of people were going to wait to see if I actually finished (gee… thanks for the vote of confidence) and a couple promised to double-donate if I did (you know who you are). Also a special thanks to Sarah Hytner at the Heart Foundation who really kept her running team motivated, informed and enthusiastic about being part of the event. As a team we raised about $210,000!

B r a v o!

Yep - a lot of brain chemicals going on here...

Yep – a lot of brain chemicals going on here…

Protection of Native Culture is a Human Right

This post is about a confluence of things I believe are important – but I only just connected the dots and realized that they are part of the same bigger picture. So now I am writing about it…

A couple of weeks ago I was pleased to have sponsored a Global Dignity Day event at the NSW Parliament. It was a perfect situation because I got to feel nice about doing something good without having to do much at all (yes, sometimes I am lazy). Instead the fabulous Jane McAdam and the Hon Michael Kirby did the heavy lifting and invited a couple of hundred school kids to think about social dignity and human rights.

You can find an extract of Kirby’s speech on the Kaldor Centre web site.

I took a course on human rights law in law school once upon a time… I thought it was interesting enough but despite the fascinatingly horiffic case studies that tend to make up the body of law in the area (Kosovo, African war crime tribunals, Khmer Rouge, Nazi Germany… the list goes on) it never really resonated with me as being anything more than just “important” and the domain of deep-thinking, slightly nerdy and bespectacled law students.

Perhaps I am just too superficial…

In Kirby’s speech, he mentions Aboriginal rights – that we have not respected their culture and ways. It’s true – when Australia was first settled by the British, it was conveniently deemed Terra Nullius so that the colonial masters could take what they wished. It was only in last 25 years or so that we have been able to marginally reconcile our imperial view of “ownership” of land with the accordance of Native Rights. In Australia (and I guess some other countries – though not New Zealand because the Maoris actually got their act together, ganged up and negotiated with the British) native title to land is extinguished when the people who inhabited those lands can no longer demonstrate that they have a cultural connection to the land.

So what happens if the modern world takes over, people forget their language and customs, and then “lose” their native culture?  Well, it’s simple. They lose their title and rights to their homeland… they lose the right to their heritage.

Another cause I occasionally support is the Yubulyawan Dreaming Project (YDP). Paul Taylor, who along with Yidumduma Bill Harney is trying to use technology and multimedia to create a digital respository of language, music and folklore of the Wardaman People in the Victoria River area of the Nothern Territories. Paul is a beautiful and exceptional human being who passionately believes in the importance of preserving the culture of the Yubulyawan Clan for future generations.

But it’s only by intersecting these two clusters of events in my life, that I realize the hypocrisy of Indigenous Rights. You see, if we our allow our culture to dominate and erode – as it inevitably will – the culture of our Aboriginal peoples, then we simply take their rights away indirectly and eventually over time. Sure it may take a bit longer but the effect is essentially the same – to extinguish those rights that are so tenuously “granted.” If we make no effort to preserve the culture, then we are simply not serious about Indigenous Rights in the first place.

Paul and YDP is running an Indiegogo campaign – it’s worth checking out. All Australians, if you care about indigenous heritage, you should support it.



An Extraordinary Day : The LAX Shootings

Being rapidly escorted by an LAPD crisis response unit in small groups underneath the terminal at LAX

Being rapidly escorted by an LAPD crisis response unit in small groups underneath the terminal at LAX

Well, that was a day I will not forget soon.

As I arrived into Los Angeles airport (LAX) this morning from Australia, standing in the customs hall, the airport all of a sudden went into lockdown. Heavily armed officers informed us that the immigration area was now a secured area, that there was a gunman on the loose in terminal and we would only be escorted out in small groups. They told us that if we hear the words “get down” that we should… er… get down and hit the floor.

Welcome to America.

LAX strangely eerie during lock-down. Not a single car inor out.

LAX strangely eerie during lock-down. Not a single car inor out.

The following 6 hours was total chaos. Airport had no idea what was going on. The Transport Security Administration (TSA) basically shut down. No traffic allowed in or out of LAX. Century Boulevard (when I finally got out – almost a two hour exercise in its own right) a strange quasi-apocalptic scene of mass exodus, log jammed shuttle services trying to get into the terminal area and streams of sweaty and irritated travellers hauling their luggage out, police and emergency crew everywhere. It was an absolute field day…

I had originally planned 4-5 hours in the office before flying to NYC for the marathon but it was not to be. At about 5pm I decided that the probability of getting on a flight out was slim and even if I did get on a plane, I would get into NYC so late that I would be wiped out. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Even at almost 8pm (10+ hours later) roads in and out of LAX are a disaster - this Imperial Hwy flyover is plugged.

Even at almost 8pm (10+ hours later) roads in and out of LAX are a disaster – this Imperial Hwy flyover is plugged.

So much for hydrating, relaxing, focusing before the run… though I suppose others had a worse day than me?

Notwithstanding the tragedy of the airport security officer who was gunned down, the day was an ardent demonstration of the lack of coordination between elements of airport security (TSA, police), airlines and passengers. We literally got more information about what was going on from Twitter feeds, Facebook and CNN, than what was going in the airport. Today was a relatively small crisis – I don’t ever want to find myself in LAX when something major goes down.

… like a 7.0+ earthquake.

Carb loading... LA style. In a desperate attempt to cheer myself up.

Carb loading… LA style. In a desperate attempt to cheer myself up.