At Eastbay, our obsession with sports goes beyond the hours we spend in the office. We live to make athletes better, because we are athletes. We understand the effort and struggle of trying to improve and the joy that comes with finally reaching your goals. This weekend, Luke Karban, our Running Marketing Manager, accomplished one of his goals — completing the New York City Marathon. In between carbo-loading and recovering, we got him to tell us about his marathon experience.
Wake up call. Thank God for daylight saving time! The extra hour of sleep came at the perfect time. Before I went to bed I made sure to do two things: have all my clothes ready to go and queue up a NYC-themed playlist to wake up to.
We have a half-mile walk to the New York Public Library where we will catch a bus to Staten Island. My plan is to stop at the bodega next to the hotel for a couple eggs. Unfortunately, a handwritten ‘closed’ sign hangs on the door of the 24-hour establishment. Time to improvise: I walk past several street chimneys and a group of guys huddled together rapping, headed to the nearest McDonald’s for a bowl of hot oatmeal. I justify this decision knowing that Usain Bolt won three gold medals in Beijing on a McDonald’s diet.
I try to get some rest on the bus, knowing this is the most comfortable I will be for the next 10+ hours. We are among the first to arrive at Fort Wadsworth. The United States Coast Guard base on Staten Island serves as the starting village for the 50,000+ marathon participants. Security is on point. Armed guards. Police patrol. Metal detectors abound. It is akin to walking through an airport. We find an open tent and grab a spot to lie down, knowing that as more people arrive, the covered space will be at a premium. I eat my oatmeal and lie down to rest.
Noise: chaotic clutter. Voices from all over the world, tents flapping in wind, and a DJ all somehow become ambient noise.
Dunkin’ Donuts supplies hot coffee and tea. They’re also distributing stocking hats. The village seems to be overrun by thousands of Dunkin’ Donut elves. I drink some tea and honey and eat a stroopwafel. I was introduced to these by Lance Armstrong — and while you may disagree with the man’s morals, he has great taste in snacks. Back to lying down.
Walking around to explore the village — there are runners everywhere. Gatorade, coffee, bagels, power bars. Announcements in multiple different languages. No other event brings people together in this way. While in line, I meet runners from Israel, France, Germany, Denmark, and Norway. Upon hearing I was from Wisconsin, the Norwegian was all too interested to hear about the American Birkebeiner.
While I may not have prepared for this race as I should (I’ve actually done everything wrong), instinct is starting to take over. At some point, you just need to be the athlete that you are. I won’t start running until 10:15, but I slowly start to activate my leg muscles. Lacking the definition of years past, they will be my vehicle and best and worst friends for 26.2 miles.
I overhear a conversation next to me. A gentleman just started running in 2014 for fitness. Bib 26388’s friends all knew he would be a marathoner. Only two years later, he’s a little shocked to find they were right. Blessed with the confidence that he will finish the race with a PR.
The tent begins clearing out. Wave 1 corrals close in 10, and the warm sun is drawing anxious runners out to explore the village. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge looms just to the right. A helicopter buzzes overhead. Concerned about my phone battery dying — I don’t think Frank Shorter ever had this type of pre-race stress.
I enter the corral and toss my sweats in the donation bin. Nothing to do now but sit and wait.
I walk up the bridge to the start. GPS is synced. Music BLASTING from the speakers. A live rendition of “America The Beautiful” is followed by the official start signal: the firing of a howitzer cannon.
The day could not be more perfect for a late-fall race. The leaves have not yet fallen here in NYC, providing a beautiful scenic backdrop. New York is known for its energy, and it is out in full force. There is no better way to see the city than winding 26.2 miles through its neighborhoods, each borough trying to outdo the others.
Top 3 Moments
1) Finishing through Central Park.
2) Seeing the NUXC squad in Brooklyn — somehow in the midst of streets lined with fans (an estimated 2 million!). While running through one of the most energetic sections in Brooklyn, I came across several of the athletes I used to coach at Northwestern. After a quick stop to say hello and gain some inspiration, I was back on my way.
3) Running with my dad. My parents could not have supported my athletic and life endeavors more graciously. Running the entire race with my dad is an experience that can only be described as special and something I will forever cherish.
My hips, lower back, and calves hate me. While I used to line up on a start line with the mentality to win the race, I have come to enjoy this experience as a whole.
Security closes off many of the streets, forcing us on a five-mile walk back to the hotel that is less than a mile away from the finish. Walking through the streets with my marathon poncho and medal, I am congratulated by hundreds of other runners, fans and commuters.
Beer cracked. Medal collected. Goal accomplished.