There were nearly 50,000 participants in the 2014 New York City Marathon, November 2, but only one of them was from South Dundas, Ontario. Seaway District High School principal, Don Lewis, finished the gruelling race, which takes in five boroughs of the Big Apple, in a time of 3:36.09.
From start to finish, Lewis found the marathon challenging and exhilarating: he has nothing but praise for the race organizers, the police who lined the route and for the ordinary people of New York City who turned out in their thousands to support the international runners, many of whom had travelled thousands of miles to take part.
“The crowds were huge; at places like 1st Avenue, five or six people deep,” Lewis said. “I was wearing a red shirt with Canada written across it, and I could often hear people shouting “Go Canada!” when I ran by. It meant a lot.”
Lewis dedicated his run to raising awareness about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) which has affected a member of his family.
Lewis has taken part in six previous marathons, including the run in Ottawa (now a gold standard meet) four times. He has been training six days a week since June to prepare for the world class NYC event.
On Sunday, November 2, all the runners were bussed to the start point of the race, on Staten Island, around 6 a.m., although the event did not begin until after 9 a.m.
“It was a little chilly waiting,” Lewis said, “although later in the day it was ideal running weather (except for the wind which got gusty at times), around 8-9 degrees Celsius. The organizers are really efficient. There are four different start times, and within each of the start times there are six different corrals.”
“Wheelchair athletes start first, then the elite women, then the elite men. The elite runners are all in serious contention so they can’t get caught up with the masses. Everyone runs at his own pace. I noticed,” he laughed, “that the guy running next to me was actually in his bare feet.”
Lewis said that he felt really good for the first 30 kilometres. “Then, around the Queensboro Bridge, I thought oh boy, my quads are shot. Gusts of 60 kph wind in some places really slowed the race, and cross breezes on the bridges made it tough. My hat blew off. Everyone’s racing bibs were flapping up and down like sails: you can’t lose your bib, so you end up holding on to it as you run. There are also slight upgrades on 5th Avenue, and I remember thinking are these hills ever going to be done?”
Then he saw the 800 metre sign in Central Park, “and I got that adrenalin rush. I’m going to finish this race.”
Lewis crossed the finish line a little over three and a half hours after he started. There are medical tents at the end of the race because some runners experience cramping and some distress, but Lewis said that he was all right. He was given a poncho to wear until he could back to where he had left his outer clothes at the start of the race. He was also given his precious medal of participation, which he was able to get engraved the next day.
Principal Lewis is very encouraging to Seaway students who want to get involved in running.
“I try to suggest that kids try a 2, 5, 10 or half marathon, or a full marathon in Ottawa. We have a lot of kids in our local schools who have been attempting the Kids Marathon, a local event, and there is technology for young runners to track their progress. We’ve got some students now who are seriously working on distance running.”
There was a time when the four minute mile was “the Holy Grail of running. But now it’s the two hour marathon.” There was only seven seconds between the first and second place women marathoners, three seconds between the men. A two hour marathon may one day be reality.
Would he compete in the New York City Marathon again?
Don Lewis says a resounding yes. “It was my toughest marathon so far. And next time I’ll factor in the hills and wind, and adjust my pace a little slower at the beginning, but yes, I want to go again. This was my fastest marathon since I took up running again last spring.”