I kept waking up long before my alarm went off at 5:30am, which I think is a result of my Sarah Bernhardt-like tendencies as of late that allow me to wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off. However, Daylight Savings Time has altered my perception, so I kept waking up around 4:30am instead of the 5:30am I wanted. Finally, 5:30am arrived and I got up for good.
While I was wearing a cute t-shirt and jacket that Justin had provided for me and the other members of the team, they both had logos on the back and not the front – meaning I had room to put my name on the front to garner applause from the crowds. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought of this beforehand, so I hadn’t asked my mom to bring some broadcloth for me to write on (as I had in Minneapolis). I didn’t want to ruin the beautiful shirt, but in the box of clothing I had planned for donation, I found an old white tank top that would do nicely to cut up. My mom helped me with making the sign while I got the rest of me ready, and in the end, I was thrilled with the result. In big letters, “LAURA,” and then below it in smaller letters, “60th Marathon.” I had learned from last year to keep it simple, to give the spectators a chance at reading it.
I dashed out the door to catch a cab to the Waldorf – this was where I would meet Justin and the team for the VIP bus to the start. Fancy schmancy! Our bus was being generously provided by Bill Rudin, whose family is one of the major sponsors of the marathon. As it turned out, Edwin Pena, the Chilean miner, was also on our bus, which was pretty cool. But not as cool as the fact that in making the welcoming announcements, Bill Rudin called ME out as one of the celebrities riding the bus! I was very flattered, even if more than a few people on the bus told me I was crazy to be running my 60th marathon :)
Our bus was escorted by a cavalcade of police cars, and we got to go right over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (over which we would eventually run), stopping right next to the starting line. How’s that for VIP service? As we deboarded, we were immediately escorted into a heated VIP tent set up next to the start – anyone who watched on TV probably saw it. But what you didn’t see were all the amenities waiting for us inside!
The first section of the tent had all the heaters and was pretty toasty – I was running around in just my skirt and t-shirt, and I was pretty comfortable. Good thing I had left my old warmup clothes at home! No need to sit on a plastic bag to keep my butt dry from the ground this year :) Instead, we had restaurant-style table seating with white tablecloths adding an extra aura of elegance.
Drawn by some delicious smells, I moved on to the second area of the tent, which housed a buffet line. White jacketed chefs were ready to whip up custom-made omelettes for everyone, and they also had homefries, pancakes, stuffed pancakes, and French toast at the ready, as well as a massive spread of pastries, bagels, lox, and cream cheese.
I wanted to eat it all, but I knew I had a big race coming up for which I couldn’t afford any stomach troubles, so I stuck with a mushroom omelette (no cheese), a small scoop of homefries, and half a piece of French toast (with no syrup). Despite my recent avoidance of coffee (trying to break my addiction), I also couldn’t resist a cup of decaf, served in a pretty china demitasse. A lot nicer than cold bagels and a paper cup of coffee served out of one of those coffee boxes!
Finally, the second tent was connected to a trailer that housed two bathrooms (with real toilets, not porta potties!) and a massive viewing deck that looked out over the starting line just two feet away.
This was where I ended up spending most of my time at the start – watching all the elite athletes as they lined up and really got ready to go. The only downside was that it was pretty chilly out, and if I wanted to be out on the wraparound deck to watch the festivities, I was losing out on the warmth of the tent and trailer. I compromised by going back and forth between the two – and met plenty of celebrities inside in the meantime!
First up on the celebrity watch was, of course, Justin Gimelstob himself. We took a lot of team pictures together as we waited, and a few reporters came back to snap our photos too.
Next was Mayor Bloomberg, who always gives a speech at the start of the race. He had been wandering around the tent chatting with various individuals, and I decided it wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate to introduce myself and ask for a picutre. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who thought that! When I approached, he turned to me and said, “oh, you want a picture?” and motioned to a photographer standing nearby. After taking it, I was just about to hold out my cameraphone and ask if the photographer would mind taking one there so I’d have a copy as well (instead of the pic just going to whatever media abyss it might get lost in) – when Mayor Bloomberg said “just get his card; he’ll send it to you.” The photographer handed me a business card (title: “Mayor’s Photographer”) and told me that I would be picture #107. I thought that was too funny :)
Finally, right near the table where I was chowing down on the delicious cinnamon-flavored French toast, I saw a beautiful woman who looked very familiar and had a race bib that said “Veronica.” Gorgeous as she was, she didn’t look like one of the elite women (she had on far too much clothing to be one of those sports-bra-and-underwear-wearing pros who start off the races. Turned out it was Veronica Webb, actress and Victoria’s Secret supermodel! She was very friendly, and I ended up chatting with her a bit about her expectations for the race – she had run it the year before with a goal of breaking 5 hours, and this year hoped to do 4:30. Next year, she told me, she wanted to try to break 4. I told her to let me know if she wanted a pacer!
And of course, in between all these celebrity sightings, I was running back and forth to the deck to watch the wheelchair athletes and then the elite women start the race.
Jealous yet?? :) Sure beat sitting on a trash bag wearing layers of old clothes and trying not to freeze my butt off for several hours, like all my friends in the regular pre-start area! Only downside is that I’m now spoiled by the VIP treatment – will need to find another celeb to do this with next year :)
At 9:20am, it was time for us to brave the cold and head out to the start. While we had originally been told that we’d be starting right behind the male elites, there was no one escorting us to the start, so we just relied on Justin’s imposing height and confidence to get us through the restricted areas and over to the starting line. As we walked along the line of buses, looking for an opening where we could squeeze into the start, I was looking through the 12 inch gaps in between the buses just to check out the scene at the start… until I came face to face with a guy who started laughing at me. Confused, my eyes gradually wandered down… and then I saw that his pants were down and he was peeing in between the buses, pointed right at me. Oops! Nothing left for me to do but laugh as well – I guess that’s what happens when you start on a concrete bridge instead of on a tree-lined road :)
We finally found a spot to squeeze through the buses (where no one was peeing) and join the crowd. As we prepped for the start, I warned the team that we were in line with a lot of really fast runners, so we ought to stay to the side, let them pass us, and try not to get caught up in their fast pace. After hearing all this, Justin sat down on the ground (amidst the standing runners all around us), and turned on his video iPod – he had an editor put together clips from inspirational movies like Miracle to get him all pumped up. Pretty neat – I’ll see if I can get my hands on a copy to share with all of you.