Lena – I need something to take my mind off this now and again and a clear goal, so will you join me for the New York Marathon ?
Those were the words my cousin Jens said to me in February. His teenage daughter (and my goddaughter) having just been diagnosed with cancerous brain tumor had just “checked in” at floor 5 at the main hospital in Copenhagen – Rigshospitalet – and ahead of him, my cousin was looking at a 6 month stretch full of uncertainty, heart ache and of course the awfully dreaded chemotherapy for his daughter. A time period where most of his time was spent in small hospital room with a very sick girl beside him.
I of course answered a clear yes without thinking (partly because the circumstances were a bit overwhelming) – and before I knew of it, the trip was booked and we were signed up for the NY marathon. In addition to Jens and myself, was his business partner at Riskpoint, Kenneth Nielsen, who has also been a pillar for Jens all through the course of the cancer treatment. Jens got his running routine going, where he would pop out of the hospital when his girl had visitors or spent his few days at home clearing his mind with the long runs. I was lucky to have a busy high season, so my marathon training was a heap of city tours. Our training went well and except for minor injuries leading up the to the event, the preparations have been OK.
Then yesterday was the big day and we got on the bus to Staten Island at 6 am. The marathon passes through all 5 boroughs of New York (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Bronx) and the start is at Staten Island. I am sure Staten Island is a very nice location but in my mind this place represents a cold brisk wind, that was causing thousands of runners to freeze their **** off. IT WAS COLD (despite wearing several layers of clothes, that was given to the homeless people after we disposed them – great initiative!). Then at 9.40 the canon went and off ran the first wave of runners. Imagine thousands of runners crossing on a bridge while they are being cheered on by even more runners below them. The party had begun and to be honest it did not stop until the finish line.
The crowd at the ING New York Marathon is second to none. I have never in my life been cheered on so much. It was so much that one could worry that our egos would not fit under the finish line arch. If any New Yorkers are reading this, then here is a genuine “thank you” and “you guys rock” from me to you. It was simply amazing and in addition to the crowd it felt like there was a band on each street corner. We listened to rock, a lonely girl with a big speaker, a man with a cowbell and a speaker, a country western band, a soul-like boy band and even something as random as the “Harlem Japanese Gospel Choir”. So basically a bunch of Japanese people singing gospel in Harlem. So random yet so cool!
Jens and I started the race together and I was determined to run with him the entire race, so that we could enjoy the race together. We set off at a pace the would bring us in at just below 4 hours, and we ended up using a group of Catalonian runners as pacers. It went well until the 24 km and then Jens unfortunately hit the “wall” and from then on it was pretty much survival. We set down the pace, took time to drink and walk at every mile and I did my best to keep a positive mood, and a steady pace going up the many bridges where my only thought was: “Is it really necessary to have a full 5 bridges on the route ? “
From 24 km to the marathon finish line, Jens kept going on pure persistency and determination. I would like to think that it was my pacing and encouraging words, but let’s be honest, you need more than your cousins words to keep going 18 km on empty tanks :-). Between 24 and 26 kilometers, we were still hoping to make the sub 4 hours, but after it was clear that the 4 hour train had left, then we simply decided to get through the race as smoothly as possible and at the same time enjoy the race and the amazing crowd as much as possible.
So that is what we did and finished in 4.13. Kenneth finished not long after us in 4.21, which is pretty good going for a guy of 110 kg and luckily with an even greater amount of determination.
For me personally, the race was a great experience. I was unsure, how much a bunch of city tours at a 6 min/km pace with loads of stop, would count for , when we passed the 30 kms. To my surprise I felt really good all through the race and had the extra “air” to thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere all along the route and cheer back at the crowd.
Having returned to Copenhagen with pretty heavy legs and sore Achilles, I am for the first time since the start of Running Copenhagen happy that we have a couple of weeks with only a few bookings on our tours. It was a great experience running the ING New York Marathon and much recommended. Diverse and interesting course, beautiful views, outstanding logistics and an incredible crowd.
As a post script to the somewhat disheartening beginning to this race report, I can reveal that Jens’ daughter fought like a super woman through 6 chemotherapy sessions and is now living the teenage life that she is supposed to. Can I get a whoop whoop!
Keep running everyone.