Back from the five boroughs

It's been two Sundays since one of the most unforgettable days of my life, running in the NYC Marathon. I'm still at a loss as to how to account for the experience here, but here are some photos - see if you can spot me on the left among the thousands running up Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. I'll just bullet point some highlights and reflections --

- First off, I beat most of my goals, which were a) to finish; b) to finish ahead of Diddy's 4:14 finish time from 2003, as well as my friend Eric's time of 4:04 from 2003, and the big mark of 4 hours. My final finish time was 3:56:26, not bad for a first timer. My roommate Ed made an even more impressive debut - 3:28, which beat his original goal of 3:30 (though he was aiming for the 3:10 which would have landed him an automatic entry in the Boston Marathon).

This photo was clearly taken towards the end of my run - at least I'd like to think that I didn't look this grim throughout the entire run. On my left wrist are my iPod, which indeed proved an invaluable motivation throughout the race, recent ban on iPods in marathons be damned. Highlights include "Baba O'Reilly" in Brooklyn and "Run Like Hell" in Greenpoint. And I wasn't so tuned in to my music that I was tuned out to what was around me - I heard plenty of cheering throughout and high-fived a dozen or so kids along the way. There really is nothing quite like the spectacle of running with a sea of thousands of heads bobbing in front of you in one massive flow of humanity, and there were moments when I felt truly connected to a force much greater than myself moving me forward with everyone else. Those were definitely the best parts of my run.

Otherwise I, being a marathon novice, probably spent too much time in the first half of the race fighting my way past the sardine-packed field. I did go slow at first, taking the advice of many running sites and runners, but I still felt the impulse to run past people. At mile 9 I was feeling so good that I started running alongside the 3:40 pace team, and kept up with them for about 3 miles. I think that proved to be a mistake as I peaked by midway in the race and gradually dissipated my stamina, especially when I got to the grueling uphill stretches going both up and down Manhattan. Here is a chart from the Nike+ website of my pace throughout the race (it shows 27 miles as my Nike+iPod kit was slightly miscalibrated, but you still get the general idea of how the race went for me).

You can also go to to view a simulation of my run and compare results from other runners from 2001-2007. (Try looking up "Sean Combs" from 2003 to see me match up with Diddy).

At mile 21 I started my way up the most dreaded stretch of the race, 2 miles of steady incline along Fifth Ave leading to Central Park. Fortunately Cindi and my buddy Eric were waiting for me at the start of this brutal stretch, and Eric (shown to my left here) actually joined me at this point wearing the NYC Marathon jersey and a name tag to blend in with the pack. Eric was a real ham, waving at the crowd and egging them on to yell and cheer along the way. Best of all he was wearing a name tag with my name on it so people were cheering my name for the last five miles. This wasn't as motivating as one would expect though, a) because at this point I was so mentally numb that not much was registering with me -- that look in my eyes says it all. The music I was listening to at this point (Ramones live and Kanye West's "Stronger" - may he and his mother find peace after her tragic death this past week) was the best I had going for me but I couldn't seem to run any faster no matter how much I tried. Secondly, having strangers yell your name isn't as powerful as seeing or hearing your friends -- as was proven when I spotted my friends Will and Joyce in my old neighborhood of Boerum Hill, leading to my fastest five mile stretch of the race.

There was a bit of comedy near the finish as Eric and I turned the corner at Columbus Circle and entered the Park for the final 500 meters. People on the sidelines started pointing at Eric and yelling that he didn't have an official number. Finally a volunteer ran out and grabbed him by the arm to pull him off the course. I was slightly distracted by the incident but at this point I had to finish the race, and pushed through the longest 400 meters of my life to cross the final marker. I was happily reunited with Cindi and Eric an hour later outside the park and hobbled home victorious.

That evening I watched the marathon highlights with Cindi and roommates Ed and Sal, checking if we might spot ourselves in any of the coverage - no luck but it was amazing to see Paula Radcliffe run a brilliant race after two years away from the sport to have her child. Later I tried to leverage my victory into a free meal at the Park Avenue Grill near my apartment - but all I got was a couple glasses of ice to put on my knees as I ate my one pound burger, the most indulgent thing I've had to eat over the past several weeks of pasta dishes.

I haven't been on a run since November 4; I'm enjoying sleeping a little bit longer in the mornings, drinking beer and tending to other parts of my life. I thought I'd be back to blogging regularly but I've had to focus on getting the seventh draft of my script done. I have three video essays and reviews for the Shooting project on tap, one involving a special guest. I'm hoping Turkey day will afford some time to get me up and shooting again. In the meantime I'm still basking in the victory of November 4. I'm not sure if I'll do it again - it's a matter of having time to do it. If I do it again I will probably bring a camera along to capture as many sights and sounds of this amazing event as I can.

Lastly I'm very happy to report that as of now I've raised over $3,600 for Team Continuum, a charity that aids cancer patients with their daily living needs as they fight illness. That's over $1,000 more than my goal of $2620. Thanks to all of you who pledged and donated. (btw for anyone who took me up on the Diddy Double, pay up! I am Diddy's daddy). You can still donate by going to my page on Team Continuum. Alternatively, my roommate and Slant Magazine editor Ed Gonzalez is still about $300 shy of reaching his fundraising goal for Team Continuum, and he finished a half hour faster than I did, so he deserves support for his tremendous effort. Please go to his page on Team Continuum and donate if you please.

Thanks everyone. Looking forward to posting about movies again...