One week on.
It was almost exactly a week ago that I was running through the streets of New York for the first time. I remember vividly splashing through the fairly empty streets of Broadway towards 52nd street when a makeshift finish line was constructed. Now I am at JFK airport, in the posh Virgin lounge no less (Thanks Jill for sorting this, beats going to Costa for a stale sandwich) trying to make sense of all of this. I still haven’t, perhaps I never will. I think some time on my own and being reunited with my home and my friends might help all that.
So, a summary of what I have been doing and feeling in the past week. I have felt a little overwhelmed by the big city to be honest. More so that I felt when I arrived in LA and if I came here straight from London I would probably not let it bother me too much but everything just feels too busy and fast right now. Having spent so much time running along roads with nothing but the occasional dead animal I feel a bit overstimulated here.
The first few days were hard. The desire to explore New York was restricted by aching feet, waves of tiredness and perhaps most upsettingly disabled by a feeling of indifference. I am in New York, so what? What is so great about this place? Why would anyone run for two months to get here? This made it quite frustrating (particularly for Gemma) for me seeing the sights. We went up Rockefeller tower (a bloody great big building) in order to get a view of other bloody great big buildings. I did not take any photos, there was no need to, there are photos already on Wikipedia.
The second day we met up with Rainer and two of his friends Matthaus and Dani to do a walk of the city. We probably walked in total for about 8 miles, stopped in a few pubs along the way. Many times I just thought “why am I doing this? My feet hurt I could just get a cab home if I want”. Now that I don’t have to be on my feet then why should I? I managed to brave it out though and complete the 8 miles of walking.
It got a bit better later in the week. I am really enjoying the food and the task of replacing some of the 12kg I lost during the race.
Yesterday we went to Fire Island, a sort of holiday beach island that I think New Yorkers use as a holiday place, not so touristy. One of the things that I wanted to do on finishing this race was to go to watch the Atlantic Ocean. About 75 days ago I dipped my feet into the Pacific for the first time and at points during the race I just thought about the sound of the sea. I thought about the sound of waves gently crashing against the land when I was sitting on a chair under a parasol on day 18 trying to avoid a disaster. I thought about that sound many more times during the race where I felt I needed to relax and take myself away. It worked usually and now I was just indulging myself with that sound.
And funnily enough when I was listening to the waves I was taken back into the race. The anchor I used to get me out of the stressful situation can now be used to get me back there. I like this. I still am having problems processing this adventure but re-living it in this way might help. While I was lying on the beach in perfect safety and comfort my mind drifted to when I was sat in that chair, very ill, 23 more miles to stagger while not being able to eat and letting my body chew itself up and with the very real prospect of getting pulled out of the race, ending my dream.
There are other anchors I used to get me out of the race, imagining what it will be like when I see various friends for the first time when I get back, what the first Wednesday night run will be like, looking at my map in the clubroom and being able to say “that’s done”. I might have to go to the clubroom early so I can do that one on my own, it could get emotional.
I have been away from the UK for 80 days now, more than I have ever been away before. I am just really looking forward to getting back home. I feel like I am still just hanging around at the finish line which is perhaps why I have not switched off from the race yet. 2 nights so far this week I have had a dream where I knew I have finished the race but for some reason I am running around in New York looking for the end and I cannot find it. It never comes.