On The NYC Marathon: Life —The Continuous Flow Of The Present— Is The Journey

About twenty years ago, I set my mind to run a full marathon during the course of my life at age 50; I did it just after turning 51. I thought of it as the present to myself and selected the NYC Marathon as the one. As a photographer, I set myself as well the challenge to run it camera on hand for the whole race to capture my experience (later on shown as photo journal with my favorite 42 photos set, one per km)!

Almost nothing left to reach the finish line. ING NYC Marathon 2013, Central Park.

Before the NYC marathon 2013, I had run numerous 10K and a few half marathons (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Montevideo, Uruguay), though I started running late, when I was 30, completing my first 10K only a few years afterwards.

In all honesty, now that I decided to write about it, I don't think I can add much value in terms of any original training tips of my own, as most have been already written (and I'm not a competitive runner; I've only run one full marathon and I do not even plan to run a second one). There are numerous books about running and about how to train and run for a marathon. As for myself, I trained alone and just followed: The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer book and some outstanding advices from my great friends AllenIgnacio and from my wife Alicia.

From the Non-Runner's book, there are a few good sentences that do inspire:

"Peak experiences are positive happenings that have a profound and lasting impact. They are life-changing, and in retrospect are often considered the finest moments of our lives."

"You can either choose to experience life, or you can choose to sit back and let life happen to you."

"Running a marathon is not easy. It’s not supposed to be. Things that are worthwhile usually aren’t."

"The only thing I know that compares to the marathon is life itself. The marathon is a little metaphor for life..."

"Distance is also relative — a marathon is short compared to the journey of life. So, the answer to the question, “What now?” is “Anything you want!” "

After crossing under the Queensboro Bridge and entering the Upper East Side, we are now on First Avenue.
From my friend Allen, my marathon mentor, not only he guided me week upon week, but he shared some great insights on long distance running:

"If anyone can run within themselves and without ego it's you. You don't care about the relative clock. Only about your own conditioning.

The answer is; if it feels good its good. But the 'feel good' is determined by the question: how are the muscles, how are the joints, how are the lungs... Not the question, how high is your energy level or your happiness level.

Having said that perhaps the real answer is this; feel happy and energetic and channel that energy into healthy runs. You should have the feeling of an engine purring and ready for more. Even the Africans who run 5 minutes per mile for the marathon, jog at 12 min miles to warm up. Your stride should feel so nice and easy that you could run at that speed forever. Because 26.2 miles is longer than you are used to.

Practice running free of thoughts. Bring your mind to your step and the environment around you. And this is all done in the mind. Construct the vision of how you will run it, and go there.

Your inner self knows exactly how to get you to the finish line. And I can tell from talking with you that you are well on your way. It's sacred in a way. Like the Native American sun dancers, a first time marathoner is pure. It's very exciting to embark on this journey beyond the self. It's not for money or any real purpose. It's your Mount Everest. Photography is a talent and a passion for you. A journey to the outside world. The marathon is something else. It's a grand meditation and journey within your inner world. First you run the marathon and then you become a world famous photographer.

That's the plan. Enjoy the ride."

25 miles, almost there! Central Park, New York City.
From Ignacio I got some of the science: Gu Energy Gels every 45' or hour of run (got a caffeine free version); BCAA amino acids to help  muscle recovery, prevent muscle breakdown and provide immediate muscular fuel (during training I had it only after a long run; during marathon day, at the start and twice during the race; and just once after the race ); Elixir, anti-cramp electrolyte capsules (taken twice during the marathon race). Moreover, he pushed me to run at least 20 miles a few weeks before the race (I did a 33K run), so as to have some body memory on how I would feel starting the last 10K during marathon day.

Drink stop on 330 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249
My wife kept me and keeps me sane. It's sort of too easy to fall into fanaticism and get carried away by the challenge. Feeling like it's never enough, and going again further with the result of keeping going for more and then again for more; forgetting what is important: long term overall health. After the race, no more Gu, BCAA or Elixir; no more marathons and no thought of an ultra marathon. Today, after one year of my only marathon, I do feel more healthy and even more fit than ever in my life. Thanks Alicia!

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn 279 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
I cannot say if I've enjoyed the NYC marathon more or less than others, but what I could assure anyone  and I didn't expect it before the race is that I didn't want it to finish. (By the way, I never had one single doubt before or during the race that I wouldn't finish it)! I enjoyed every single second of it so much even while my feet were hurting all the way after mile 15 that right when it was over, strangely enough, I didn't feel anything special above what I felt during the rest of the journey (contrary to most anyone else from what I heard and read, so it seems). I did expect to feel something truly special on the finish line, but I did not. I guess that was proof of how special the whole NYC marathon was for me! I was my unexpected ingredient.

I must say that hand holding my Ricoh GR camera during all the race had a big influence on my NYC marathon experience. Quite often I run zig-zag, as unforgettable scenes unfolded once right there and then left there. Each and every street that we had to cover was a spectacle, a constantly changing scenery of surprises.  I know most people focus on their running, on their timing, on how the feel, and that as a result they might not look too much around; I definitely advise not to over do it. Don't forget each piece of the journey could mean more than the final objective of finishing under certain time. Life, the continuous flow of the present, is the real journey.

I did stop a few times, like when the view of Manhattan was breathtaking:
A photo posted by Jimmy Baikovicius (@jikatu) on
Or when I saw my wife, and later on and surprisingly, just 500 meters before the finish line:  my parents! These are some of the most unforgettable moments, as we feel complete when we can share a piece of our experience with our love ones!

To further share what this marathon meant and felt to me is to tell my story though a selection of 42 black and white photos, one per km. They directly represent my eyes, soul and feelings, Each photo has an anecdote behind, some quite touching, like that of Avonte Oquendo story; the missing kid, whose search was happening at the time of the race. I googled for the story after the run, inquiring for further content of what I was seeing in my photo, and I could not hold my tears when I bumped into the story and read of Avonte's mom tale about his son "...whenever he went, she sees him running, running without stopping". This was what we all did during marathon's day! We did not know that we were all Avonte on November 3, 2013!

Or when I saw Roberto Bruce Pruzzo's photo behind a very peculiar runner. Bruce, a man I did not know personally, but that I was linked to when he died in a plane accident in the Juan Fernández Archipelago of Chile. I happened to be in Chile at that time. I will never forget that day. I was inside a supermarket and I remember how everybody around me was paralyzed. The country's in shocked by the news, as he was a famous reporter from the local TV program: Buenos Días a Todos.

Behind the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, NYC.
I do feel the need of a whole book to tell the stories behind each photos I took during the marathon. Maybe on day, but now and so far, I made a slideshow with one photo representing each of the 42K landmarks,  adding at times a short sentence for each:

(Of course I took more than 42 photos, and you are welcome to see them all on flickr if you're interested).
Yes, the medal, proof of accomplishment, of job done, of the journey completed successfully. The medal is a symbol and I'm sure it means something different for each of the  50,266 runners that ended with one medal over the neck. What I enjoyed most about it, was wearing the Monday after the marathon while walking with it around the Big Apple. Like most marathoners, I could hardly walk that day; but the city, literally everybody in Manhattan  made us all feel so proud, that that was an amazing and unexpected touching gift! The made us feel the city's heroes for one day!

Yes, I love NYC! One if not the best city on earth!
On 30 Lafayette Ave, New York, NY 11217

Thanks New York City for giving us so much!