Marathon: Introduction Monday, October 30, 2006

I blame it all on the Guinness.

Many years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, living and working in the city, hunched over my keyboard for long hours every day and drinking uncountable pints of stout in smoky bars every night, when I was full of myself and knew no limits and conquered all obstacles, when irrational exuberance was the phrase of the day and Survivor was cutting-edge television entertainment, I rashly made a promise to myself: someday, I would complete the New York City Marathon.

Yes, that was many years ago. Before I blew out my knee and began showing grey in my beard, before I got married and moved to Jersey, before I gained 30 pounds and started eating too much cheese, this seemed like a really good idea. I'm not kidding. Sounds crazy, right? Like I said, I've chosen to blame it on the Guinness.

At some point, I realized that the probability of running the marathon was approaching zero unless I started some serious training. I hadn't done any prolonged physical exercise in years. Sure, there are lots of reasons to get healthy, mostly related to, um, not dying. But even that's tough to rationalize at 5am or at the end of a long day spent hunched over your keyboard. If only there was some way to get encouragement and support from someone going through the same thing ...

Then it hit me, like a ton of Fight Club soap: A support group! Super idea. I enlisted my friends in the effort immediately.

Or, at least I tried to. My buddy Jordan swore he would run it with me. Of course, that was back when he was in his mid-twenties, so he can't really be held accountable for that decision.

(Jordan was also drinking Guinness at the time. If I had paid attention to that detail, you might be reading posts about the 2006 NYC Marathon, instead of the 2008 version. More on this later.)

Instead, I got older and rounder. But I remembered what I looked like, and felt like, in my younger days. Periodically I would resurrect the idea of running the Marathon with some of my friends. I was met with kind indulgence -- like I was the beauty queen on a reality adventure show: adorable, precocious, and no way in hell going to make it very far. It looked as if the Marathon might never happen.

And then, in a textbook case of serendipity, I stumbled upon the answer (which should have been obvious from the day Jordan made his drunken oath): I talked up the idea with my friends again, but this time I did it while we were on a pub crawl.

Ah, the wonders of a pub crawl. In particular, we were at Swift's Hibernian Lounge on the lower east side of Manhattan. I brought up the race, expecting to be dismissed again. But Lo and Behold! a small group agreed to take part. I was skeptical. But all my friends are thirty-something and therefore take responsibility for even their stupid decisions.

(Yes, I'll grant you: a pub crawl seems like a boorish and immature way to spend an afternoon. But we're polite, responsible people, I swear. I'll discuss the pub crawl in a later post, but for now, let's agree that it's no more or less boorish and immature than your video games, dwarf warrior, and we'll move on.)

Within three days, all five of us had joined the New York Road Runners' Club with a goal of running the 2008 New York City Marathon. This was such an unbelievable chain of events, that I decided the two-year run-up to the run-down must be recorded for posterity. Otherwise, who would believe it?