I arrived at the start of the 1987 New York City Marathon wearing what was then considered stylish and sensible warm up apparel for runners:
A large, plastic trash can liner with holes cut out for the arms and legs.
Thirty years later, my pre-race outfit was less rustic. But after running 26.2 miles through the five boroughs last Sunday, I was still trashed. I did, however, achieve a rather unusual personal goal:
My finish time on Sunday was 3 hours, 31 minutes — 25 minutes faster than it took me to complete the same race 30 years ago.
That may sound more impressive than it really is. At age 62, I am not really faster than my 32-year-old self. Although I may be older and creakier, there is an important difference between me now and then: In 1987, I was an idiot — at least when it came to marathon running. The marathon is a thinking person’s game. And in 1987, I didn’t think much about it.
For example, this time around I carefully studied the NYC Marathon course maps. The week before the race, I even took a trip into the city just to run the last part of the marathon course in Central Park, so I could visualize it and know what to expect in those grueling final miles.
In 1987, I knew the race started on Staten Island, finished somewhere in Central Park and . . . uh, we ran around the other boroughs for a while.
Returning to this race this year was especially poignant: Race director Peter Ciaccia talked at the start about New York’s resiliency, just six days after the terrorist attack in lower Manhattan, and about the strength in its diversity. And when the loudspeakers blared “New York, New York,” 50,000 runners — many of them foreigners — sang along, almost solemnly, to the chorus. As a New Yorker, it gave me chills.
The marathon as a symbol of defiance in the face of terrorism was not something anyone thought about 30 years ago.
As I wound my way through the streets last Sunday, I thought about how the two New York City marathons bookended my life. In 1987, I was a young man. In 2017, I’m paying close attention to ads about retirement communities and annuities.
In 1987, one of the highlights of the race was seeing a college buddy of mine at mile 24 in Central Park. He and I had enjoyed many a wild night as 20-somethings in Boston.
In 2017, another important person in my life was cheering me on at almost the exact same spot: My accountant.
The differences in my life then and now seem most evident in what I did after the marathon. In 1987, that college friend and his wife invited me to shower at the apartment they were staying at for the weekend. My then-girlfriend and a work colleague met up with us, and I took everyone out to dinner, paying with my new American Express card. The bill for five people at a midtown restaurant (with drinks . . . lots of drinks) came to more than $100 — the largest tab I’d ever seen.
After last Sunday’s race, I went directly from the finish line to Penn Station, caught a train home and, that night, enjoyed a couple of overpriced craft beers and take-in sushi while watching “Masterpiece Theatre” with my wife, Donna — the girlfriend in 1987 (we got married the following year).
Like a good husband, I took out the trash that night — and resisted the temptation to don a trash can liner for old times’ sake.