I was talking today on my buddy Jason’s blog about Staten Island and the New York City marathon, and I figured, what the hell–why not tell the story here on MY home turf?

So it’s 1997. We’re in Memphis. Annie had just finished law school and was working at a pretty low-stress job clerking for a Tennessee judge. Me, I was just getting the whole writing gig going after grad school. Kids were two years in the future. So we decided to spend the summer training for the New York City marathon. I’d run it before, when I was young (15) and stupid, and it was one of the singular experiences of my life–even if I was spending most of that trip with my parents. (That’s a tale for another time.)

Annie and I train our asses off, and by the time late October rolls around, we’re ready to run–well, 26 freaking miles. We fly up to NYC on Halloween–which is really not that big a deal when you’re not a parent, aren’t where kids come visit, and aren’t in need of a party where you’re trying to hook up with the hot chick in the Princess Leia outfit. We fly into JFK and take a cab into midtown. In one of those strange little coincidences, my dad’s in town as well, and he takes us out to an unbelievably good steak dinner at Maloney & Porcelli’s. The meal costs roughly as much as a month’s rent for us, so we don’t put up much of a fight when Dad picks up the check. We bid him farewell then head back to the hotel for the night.

The next day is quite possibly the lamest one can ever spend in New York. We have to go over to some convention center near Columbus Circle–can’t remember the name; one of my NYC mates can help me out–where we spend literally all day waiting to pick up our numbers and race packets, standing in a cold mist that wraps all the way around a city block. On the small-world side, we spend plenty of time standing across the street from the pizza joint where I whiled away the hours during Annie’s post-engagement stay in St. Luke’s/Roosevelt. (And THAT’s a hell of a story.) All the standing in miserable weather really screws with my knee, though, and by the time we’ve got our numbers, it’s damn near locked up. It’s the runner’s great horror–spending months training for a race, only to get injured twelve hours before the starting gun.

I stop by a Duane Reed and grab a knee brace–the idea of running with a brace for the first time ever in the big race itself makes me more than a little nervous, but I’ve got no choice–and we head to Central Park for the big pre-race pasta dinner. It’s under a huge tent near Tavern on the Green, where we had our engagement dinner a few years before. In line–as we’ll find out, this marathon is NOTHING but waiting in lines–I’m surprised to run into an old college friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen since graduation.

At dinner, Annie and I shovel pasta and Gatorade down our throats. It’s not exactly fine Manhattan dining, but it’s necessary carbo-loading. We walk out to the finish line in Central Park, imagine what it will be like to cross that tomorrow, and head back to the hotel.

Tomorrow–then and now–the race, where Annie whips the ass of the 59th Street Bridge, and I end up on the national news.


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