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'Amazing, painful' 26.2-mile experience

Horch, Bates take memorable marathon trip around Big Apple

Midcoast friends among 53,000 runners in popular Nov. 3 event
By Ken Waltz | Nov 15, 2019
Courtesy of: Peter Horch Skip Bates, left, and Peter Horch after the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3.

New York City — "We set a goal, we set a target, we set the bar; and damn it, we did it. We finished … Although the days of rest and recovery are painful; the pain is so worth it."

Thus are the words of Peter Horch, 41, of Warren, who, with friend, Skip Bates, 50, of Camden, participate in the New York City Marathon, sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services, on Sunday, Nov. 3.

It was an epic adventure for the two Midcoast men, who embraced the long months of training and then the sometimes painful 26.2-mile journey around the Big Apple.

The event attracted 53,518 runners from about 130 countries and raised about $40 million for charity. There also were 51 in the wheelchair division and 69 in the handcycle category.

Bates, wearing bib number 29,676, finished in 4:07:49 for 18,571st and Horch, wearing bib number 29,870, finished in 4:11:34 for 19,911th. They ran as members of the Team For Kids group.

But, ultimately, for the friends, the journey — and the overall experience — was much more important than their times, places, or even their ultimate destination, although, certainly, that finish line sure looked mighty sweet to the Midcoast runners after they pushed their bodies and minds to sheer exhaustion.

"We had an amazing experience," Horch said of participating in the world's most popular marathon.

The 50th annual event will be in 2020.

According to the official event website, the New York City Marathon began in 1970 and was held entirely in Central Park for its first six years. In 1976, the first five-borough New York City Marathon took place from Staten Island to Central Park with about 2,000 runners.

It obviously has grown exponentially since.

One of the most iconic portions of the race is near the start in Staten Island when the mass of runners cross the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and then at 13.1 miles when runners cross the Pulaski Bridge, which marks the halfway point of the race and the entrance into Long Island City, Queens. After about 2.5 miles in Queens, runners cross the East River via the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge into Manhattan.

For this year's race, Geoffrey Kamworor, 26, of Kenya finished first overall in 2:08:13, while the first woman was Joyciline Jepkosgei, 25, also of Kenya, in 2:22:38 (31st overall)

Horch had only completed one other 26.2-mile race, that being the Mount Desert Island Marathon in 2018. Bates had four previous marathons to his credit, including MDI Marathon in 2018, Maine Marathon in 2017, Las Vegas Marathon in 2016 and Philadelphia, Pa. in 1997.

Horch said after "two completely different training regiments" to prepare for their journeys across the city, he and Bates headed to New York to tackle the world's most popular marathon.

The following is the duo's experience, in Horch's words:

"We left the hotel at 5:45 a.m. for a 10:20 a.m. race start time. We took a taxi to the Pier at 34th and FDR in Manhattan. We boarded a ferry headed to Staten Island. The ride was about 30 minutes where we had an opportunity to meet and connect with other race runners. When we got off the ferry we then got in line for the buses to take us to Fort Wadsworth. We rode through beautiful Staten Island to arrive at the race start location.

"We then sat in the Team for Kids tent for about an hour and a half. We both were happy to be part of Team for Kids that raise over $7 million for youth running and athletics in NYC. We change shoes, drank water, eat carbs, and connected with more runners. The energy in the tent was inspiring.

"When each wave of runners was called to start, there was a roar and cheer from everyone to cheer them on. It was then our turn; we exited the tent to head to our starting area with the wave we were assigned to. Keep in mind there are about the same amount of people trying to run through the starting line as in Gillette Stadium on game day. We made it to our color coordinated, lettered corral and had to wait about 45 minutes to start moving again. We then started shuffling towards the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and all of a sudden we were off.

"Running in beautiful sunny weather across the bridge, already in one borough heading across into Brooklyn. The runners are everywhere; thousands of people, all in stride, running with purpose, running with determination, running to finish. As we crossed the bridge, we started to see thousands of people lining the streets. I heard the first live band just as I arrived in Brooklyn.

"Although Skip and I were running at the same pace, the amount of runners were difficult to navigate. We snaked our way through Brooklyn to arrive in Queens. The incredible crowds are overwhelming. Both Skip and I wrote our names on our shirt. At the start of the race we saw other people writing their names on their shirts and we joined in.

"All of a sudden through Brooklyn and Queens I understood why you put your name on your shirt. Thousands of people cheer for you, in fact, millions of people cheer for you. If you have never run by someone screaming your name and cheering you on, you are missing out. It was emotionally distracting to have a person, that I had never met, scream out my name in excitement. Thousands if not millions of people screamed people's names for six hours. Family members hugged, friends connected, runners ran to the sides of the street where they knew their loved ones would be waiting; it was art in motion.

"Skip and I hit mile eight where Kate [Skip's wife] and Bettina [Horch's best friend] were waiting for us. We turned the corner, saw our people and we were off again. Running through unrecognizable streets, through millions of spectators and through images that will forever be burned in our memory. We made it to the Queensboro Bridge only to have to run uphill for a half a mile until turning the corner onto Manhattan. Our people were there for us again … Bettina and Kate made it through the NYC subway system to maneuver themselves from Manhattan to Brooklyn back to Manhattan.

"My close family from Danbury, Conn. made the trek to the city to cheer me on. My family screaming and cheering for me gives me more motivation. Skip and I have now separated and I have no idea what is going on because my legs are telling me to stop. My body is saying, 'Please, please, why are you doing this?' My muscles start to burn and fail, however, I am stopping at every water station and drinking as much as my body can handle. People around me are walking, they are failing and I refuse to stop running.

"Running up First Avenue I know that I am nearing the end of the race. Another bridge ahead as we make our way in to the last of the five boroughs. We weave our way through a few short streets in the Bronx and back onto the last bridge to push us back into Manhattan to head south down Fifth Avenue. The crowds are thickening and the cheers are getting louder. We are just a few short miles away from the finish line.

"Finally, the mob of runners veers right into Central Park and we are on the home stretch. My body is telling me to walk, stop, rest, relax … my mind refuses to give in. I have to start chanting in my head, "Keep going, don't stop. Keep going, don't stop." Runners all around have a fatigued gait about them, we are all exhausted, spent, empty. The chants and cheering of the crowds are deafening.

"My family made it to mile 23 and started screaming my name, I was so exhausted I only caught a glimpse of them. Skip's brother and friend jumped into the race to assist in the last few miles. They were cheering him on and encouraging him, but there is so little gas in the tank. Both of us are running on empty, every bit of fuel in our bodies used up over four hours.

"More crowds, more cheering, more support as we turn the last corner of the race and see the finish line. Grandstands of thousands of people, runners with smiles on their faces, hands above head; the images are unforgettable. Crossing the line was epic. There was so much support from friends, family and especially Bettina and Kate. We couldn't have finished without so much support. We both stumbled to get our medals.

"Finally, what we had worked for was in our hands. The months of training, the travel planning, the waiting in corrals with thousands of runners, the 40-minute wait time for a porta potty, and the 10s of thousands of running mates all concluded with a medal around our neck. We did it. 2019 NYC marathon finishers.

"The rest of the story is painful to hear. Limping, stumbling, aspirin, ibuprofen, rum, whiskey, steak, limping, stumbling, aspirin, ibuprofen, rum, whiskey, steak … repeat. Although the days of rest and recovery are painful; the pain is so worth it. The pain and joy wouldn't have been possible without the support from friends and family by text, email, Facebook and presence … we won. We set a goal, we set a target, we set the bar; and damn it, we did it. We finished."

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Robert M Rosenberg | Nov 17, 2019 08:12


Posted by: Ellen Spring | Nov 16, 2019 09:56

Congratulations!  That must have been an epic experience.  I loved reading the blow-by-blow description.  There is nothing like the pride one feels after having completed such a long distance.  Great job and great finishing times.

Posted by: Deborah Clarisse Morrison | Nov 16, 2019 06:18

$40 for charity?   Here's two twenty's, I stay on the couch and eat Halloween candy.  sm

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