When I started this blog about my Steamtown marathon experience, in March 2004, blogging was very well-established already (I had Blogger to use and didn’t have to hand-code all the links!), but not so ubiquitous that every possible niche was overfull. I found the original Running Blog Family, or they found me, that summer, and wow, mine is one of the few on that list of 35 founders that still exists (not continuously because the Blogger –> WordPress multisite -> regular WordPress migration resulted in years of outages)—but I can’t imagine how many running blogs there must be now. Even “marathon blog” in quotes gets 43K+ results. Back in 2004 I didn’t expect many readers and my expectations were confirmed. Why on earth blog now? In order of likelihood:
- Primarily for me, as a journal. The platform gives me links and search and cloud storage and images and legibility, all missing from my (still-extant) handwritten journal, so that I can refer back to how my training went etc. As an Obliger (Gretchen Rubin’s classification which I personally find very helpful), the public-even-if-nobody-reads aspect is enough of an external obligation to get me to finish and somewhat-polish the writing, which is really tough for me otherwise. The Rochester marathon is a blur in comparison with Steamtown—partly because it wasn’t the first time around, but I think mainly because the exercise of writing and the ability to re-read cemented the memories in a way non-documented recall just doesn’t. It even feels more recent in time, in a weird way! And finally because the discipline of writing is inherently good for me. I’ve finished one book (unpublished, natch) and have two more projects in the works; the act of describing anything in words, whether it’s a real or imagined scene, uses the same muscles.
- A distant second (because everyone is so busy): for friends and family who might be interested.
- Even more unlikely: for web searchers who might find something useful (I’ll design my own training schedule, and post about using dates instead of energy drink, minimal shoes, etc.). My concentration grid game actually gets a few thousand visits a month so it’s not impossible, but it was up continuously since 2004, and the search stats for any of my blogs are quite pathetic.
- Finally and least likely: I will always remember how much Hollie’s 2003 marathon blog (long long gone) helped and inspired me, and maybe there’s one person out there who needs something like that and will find this. I loved her level of detail and her frankness, and it convinced me I could do it. Really, truly, if you can run at all you can complete a marathon—although I always follow that up by saying you shouldn’t force yourself if you don’t like running!
I ran my first marathon, Steamtown in 2004, to see if I could do it once. It was a great experience, but I was happy to wait a decade to do another—the training is so time-consuming! I quickly reverted to my weekly long run being 5 miles and my typical race being a 5K. At 50, in 2015, I ran the Rochester Marathon with my sister-in-law. It was fun but I didn’t take the time to blog about it, and it’s so much less vivid to me now! Somewhere along the line, when I realized that New York wasn’t one you could be sure of getting into, I started entering the lottery almost every year (more consistently now that it’s free), figuring if I got in, it would be totally worth it. Despite the time and effort. Despite the cost (this is by far the most expensive race I’ve ever entered). Why? A bunch of reasons, in the order they come to me:
- The biggest marathon in the world! I can’t really imagine what that’s like. The largest field I’ve been a part of is probably the Hot Chocolate Run, with 6,000 runners and walkers. NYCM is more than 50,000! The size alone is fascinating to me.
- My home town! I was born and grew up in Manhattan and my mother and step-father still live there.
- All five boroughs! Someday I want to do the Five Boro Bike Tour but I haven’t made it yet. I love the idea of seeing the whole city and crossing so many bridges.
- Bedford Avenue! It’s the longest street in Brooklyn. My brother lived in Williamsburg for a long time and founded Nada Surf there; he’s the one who told me how cool it was to watch it go by.
- The race director greets the last finishers! And now the elite racers join him. I’m slow enough that that really means a lot to me. At Steamtown I felt the pressure of “the course closes in 6 hours” (even though I ultimately broke 5 hours). I hated the one time I had the pace car right behind me in the Montrose 4th of July 10K (tiny field, pouring rain) and I now pick races so they’re big enough that I won’t be dead last, but I really sympathize with people who are and know they work as hard as anyone. A slow runner spends as much time on a marathon as an ultra! Races that treats slow finishers with dignity are special.
- The crowd support! A million spectators? Wow. I love the description of the roar on 1st Avenue coming off the Queensboro Bridge. I really fed off the crowd energy for Steamtown, not that the smaller scale in Rochester was a negative—in fact, I enjoyed the peaceful stretches, and it was just a different experience—but I’m excited to feel it on a completely different scale.
- The expo! I’ve enjoyed all the ones I’ve been to, but again they’ve been tiny compared to the Javits Center. 100+ exhibitors!
- It’s an international destination event! I’ve yet to run a race that had participants much beyond the US. This draws people from 100+ countries!
- The swag! The bigger the race the more there must be, and the poncho looks fantastic. I am prepared that there might not be much variety for food… hard to beat the beer/cider donuts/veggie dogs type of spreads I get in the Valley.
All in all, a mass participation spectacle—I’m there!
I am incredibly excited to be running the TCS New York City Marathon on November 4th! I got in through the lottery, which I’ve been entering for years. This will be my third marathon; I didn’t blog the second and I sort of regret it, because it’s so valuable for me to do so. But it would be silly to start a whole new blog, so I’ll revamp this one from Steamtown/”a record of my 2004 adventure” to New York, keeping the old posts. If you want to read the original, it starts with About Me in March 2004 and ends with many long posts about the marathon and the aftermath in October 2004. I’ll probably follow a similar format. More to come!