Day 70 - West Orange to New York - 35.2 miles

Dear 4am, we need to talk. I have tried not to let it bother me for the last few weeks but now I must say something. It’s not working out. It felt quite exhilarating and refreshing at the start but now after more than two months I think the magic has ended. It’s not you, it’s me. You have always been there for me over these past 70 days and I appreciate that but I don’t think we are right for each other. It is with a heavy heart that I say today I think we should go our separate ways. I have changed so much this summer and I think I need a change. I know you will be able to make someone else very happy someday and really hope you find that special someone, but it is not me. I hope we can still be friends and perhaps one day we will meet again and I hope that moment will not be too difficult for both of us, but for now it is goodbye. I will never forget you.

Day 70. I have had visions of how this would look for about 69 days and in reality it was much different. I though the night of day 69 would be a great relaxing evening of eating and drinking and celebrating a job almost done before a glory canter into New York. Instead it was a stressful long night of trying to figure out what we would do if New York shut down. One of the scenarios was that we would not get to cross Washington Bridge and hence not actually get into New York. It was only 8 miles from the finish line but imagine doing the Los Angeles to New York race and then having to live with the fact that you never actually made it to New York.

This made me feel a little down today. In the morning we discovered that it was very unlikely that the bridge would be closed but that did not change my mood. I have felt a bloating in my stomach for 3 days now which I thought might be a stomach problem but it wasn’t. I think it was nerves. And now at the beginning of the last stage of the race that has been consuming everything I have for the past 69 days I just felt so empty. There was no excitement or anticipation anymore, very little emotion.

I have been warned by a few veterans of this kind of think to expect a 2 week funk after the event while I try to adjust back to normal life and wake up to the reality that the incredible thing you are doing is now done and in the past. I have experienced this in some of the races I have done before but in each case I have had another race to think about in the future which normally helps. Now I have nothing. Could it be that I have started suffering the post race depression before the race has actually finished?

The first few miles were through the busier and busier rolling roads of New Jersey. It was a staggered start today with Myself, the Japanese, Serge, a slightly more mobile Patrick and Phillippe starting off with the “Slow” runners at 5am. Alex, Markus, Jenni, Anneke and Girard were to start at 6 and Rainer, Italo and Peter at 7. It was perfect conditions for running, cloudy and cool like it has been for a few days.

The day slipped by quickly, soon I was at half way and at this point Rainer passed me running so fast I could not believe it. Italo as soon after trying to get the 3.18 hours he needs on Patrick to get second place. He got 2 hours of that in the first half of today and soon after Italo passed me Patrick did too, realising that his 2nd was now very much under threat.

I just plodded along at my usual pace expecting at some point the significance of the day to catch up with me but it was not happening. I thought “just wait for the bridge, it will get better when I get to the bridge”. When I did get to the bridge it started pouring with rain. I was impressed with the structure but in the cloud I still could not really see New York. It was quite exhilarating passing the bridge with the noise of the cars rattling it. Once I got off I was in New York and only about 7 miles from Times Square where the finish was.

Most of the last few miles were on the riverside path which was pleasant as New York (the city that never sleeps) had been tranquilised with weather channel scaremongering. There were a few people out for a run but very little traffic and not so many people wandering around.

Laurie and Bennett were supporting too while Gemma was sometimes running with me. Whenever I stopped for a drink every 3 miles I did not really know what to ask for or what to say. I wanted this to be the perfect day for over a year now and it was not living up to that. Gemma ran along the river section with me while we talked about what hurricane Irene (later downgraded to “tropical storm” Irene and by the time I post this blog with will be downgraded to dog fart Irene) had done to this city.

2 miles left I left the river to head onto Broadway towards Times Square. It got a bit better. I have run for nearly 800 hours and I have about 20 minutes left.  I had to look intensely at the turn sheet though so that these confusing roads did not mean I ended up somewhere else. I was trying to then find 57th Street where the hotel was and then heard the incredibly loud sound of a horn and Rene running towards me. The finish line was outside (I was expecting it to be inside) and without really thinking about it too much I found myself on the other side of the finish line.

It was a great atmosphere at the finish with some of the runners and all the support crews there. Laure had wanted this to be a low key race which is why there was no media coverage or fanfare in the places we went. Every now and again someone would find out about the race and make a noise but on the whole we crossed the USA unnoticed. I was fine with this and she said about lack of media at the finish that they would make it look like it’s all about one moment, crossing the line. It’s not, it’s about 70 days of unique experience at only the 16 of us would really understand. I still feel a bit down about it now but I know that it will sink in soon and I will realise the magnitude of what I have done.

I have so much more to say about this race and will be doing so in the next few weeks. Right now my brain is just an empty space, unable to really think about anything. Gemma is a bit worried about my silence but she needs not to be. It will pass.

I have just run across the United States of America. I just need to say that to myself a few more times and then perhaps I will believe it. And then my emotions should come back.