My NYCM Report


Why No One Should Run More Than 20 Miles


Jane Cates

Now the New York City Marathon always has its surprises, sometimes good, sometimes

not so good. This year brought hot and humid weather, a breath-taking last minute

sprint for the men’s first place and “The Shoe Incident.”

Things happen at twenty miles: some runners hit the wall (or not), while I descend

into what has been described best as the “extreme bite me zone.” I had made a good

start, had a strong first half, a trip over the 59th Street Bridge (not as groovy

as we have been led to expect) and a cruise up 1st Avenue, which brings me the

Willis Avenue Bridge, into the Bronx and mile twenty.

I’m running along, unaware that my brain is as fried as my body is tired, when a

gentleman coming from behind steps on the back of my sneaker. My heel comes out

past the point where I can just jam it back into the shoe. He is very solicitous.

“Are you okay?”

“Well, my shoe has come off.”

“But are you okay?”

“My shoe is off, isn’t it!”

“Yes, but are you okay?”

“Well, I’ll have to do something about my shoe, won’t I?”

At this point, he realized that “okay” wasn’t going to be in my vocabulary

and took off.

So there I was, in the middle of the Bronx, in the middle of the road, looking at

my shoe. A few steps led me to the conclusion that running the next six miles

with my shoe half off was not going to work.


I make my living finding the optimal solution to complex problems, but what is the

optimal solution, here? I thought about kicking the shoe off. Now running six miles

in a shoe and sock is a possible solution, maybe even a satisfying solution, but

did not seem to me, to be the optimal solution. So I stood in the middle of the Bronx,

in the middle of the road, looking at my shoe.

Then I had the following thought: “What you need to do, is to take the shoe off,

untie the knot, put the shoe back on and retie it.” I felt much better having

worked out a strategy. So I went to the side of the road, pulled the shoe off,

pondered the knot, got it undone, opened the shoe, dropped it to the ground and

slipped my foot in. So far the plan was working very smoothly.

It was too good to last. The next step of the plan was to retie the shoe.

As I attempted to lean over I realized every muscle in my legs and back had

tightened up. There was no way I could bend over and retie the shoe. So there I was,

in the middle of the Bronx, at the side of the road, looking at my shoe.
Inspiration came in the form of a fire hydrant about half a block away.

I went to the hydrant, put my foot up and retied the shoe.

You would think that this success would have carried me the next six miles in a

cloud of euphoria. Not so! But I ran them anyway. The autumn colors of Central Park

were as lovely as they have ever been. There was a young lady holding a sign

which said “You’re sooo sexy – I want to have your babies,” which I found sweet

if somewhat perplexing as I have always considered my babies to be keepers.

And then there was the finish line. Suddenly I’m surrounded by people
congratulating me and handing me water and a space blanket. A man in a poncho with

a red cross asks, “Are you okay?” I wonder if he's related to my friend in the Bronx.

And someone hands me a medal. So there I am, in the middle of Central Park,

in the middle of the road, wrapped in tin foil and looking at my finisher’s medal.

And planning next year’s strategy.

Velcro sneakers.