Not a race report

This should be about the marathon. I should have an entry where I recap it, or race report it the way they do on Reddit. Here’s what I wanted, what I expected, what I tried for. Here’s what happened. Here’s where I noticed the people lining the streets, and here’s where my tunnel vision blocked out the sounds and the sights.

Like Rachel Cusk wrote in Arlingotn Park I think, people should write more about what they expect. Or think about it.

And that is apropo, because I really came here to write about Rachel Cusk. Because I keep coming back to her and keep finding out that she is not what I thought. That is good, because she is in fact a real person, and she is not me, nor the part of me I thought she validated. Though I would like to revisit the glory of the Outline trilogy.

I hardly remember passing most of Fifth Avenue. I remember the landmarks I know well, the park, 116th Street, I missed my old apartment, suddenly finding myself across 110th Street, across the circle I used to see every day, after the entrance to the park, waiting for the hill to kill me.

It happened to me before, the tunnel vision. On the 20-mile training run, the last two miles, I was running behind Tien in his orange singlet and I thought nothing. I was just movement. I was not even fighting myself to continue the way I did at the end of the 16 and 18 milers, counting tenths of a mile. I was gone. Something else had taken over.

That’s what happened in the marathon, but I didn’t even focus that much on a single person to block out everything else. I tried a few times to zero in on someone but they were either moving too slow or too fast and were soon out of my vision. One guy, with a yellow Team for Kids singlet, I tried to stay behind him. I was judging him for being slower than me, as he was tall, young and male. But then, maybe he just did it for charity and had not obsessively focused on preparing the way I had. Mostly it didn’t matter. I passed him.

About halfway up the Fifth Avenue hill, I remember looking at the street sign, seeing 98th Street, and wishing it would end, but I’ve wished much harder for hills to end on training runs. I was amazed my legs were still working. I had no idea why they were.

When I got into the park, it was narrow, and I started to speed up. I saw the crowds in the continually warped way one sees scenery from a car. There was some comfort in so many people being so close, in being protected perhaps, or less anonymous.

When I turned back into the park for the last few hundred meters, I felt relief more than triumph. The finish line seemed farther and farther away. I had wanted to cross it in triumph, expected to cross it in pain. I’m not sure I was prepared for the feeling of vulnerability it evoked instead.

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