NYC Marathon 2013- The Story of My First Marathon By Gerry Anderson

I would like to thank Gerry Anderson for writing this guest post.  If it wasn’t for Gerry I would have never met my husband, so thank you for that too Gerry! (That is a whole other story)  Most of us probably heard about Pamela Anderson running the NYC Marathon and raising money for Sean Penn’s charity, but did you know that her brother Gerry ran his first marathon with her in that race?  Here is Gerry Anderson’s recap of the 2013 NYC Marathon.

2013 NYC Marathon – The story of my first Marathon

by Gerry Anderson

SHUT UP!  Mile 25 and I’m barely moving.  The knee I was concerned about was holding up nicely, but near the finish line the ‘good’ knee went bad.  My hip was screaming bloody murder and both of my hamstrings were seizing up in a way I’ve never experienced in all my 42 years.  SHUT UP!  I pushed on…

I’m running with my sister, Pam Anderson, who got me into this by turning to me one day out of the blue and claimed she was going to run the NYC marathon for JP/HRO without having trained on the road a day in her life.  JP/HRO is a relief operation founded by her friend Sean Penn.  I had traveled there with Pam 8 months earlier to film the progress, and lack of, since a massive earthquake turned most of Haiti’s cities to rubble.  Having seen the devastation first hand I immediately asked if I could join her.  I had no idea what I was getting into.

Pam called me a few days later and said, “You’re in!”  I felt a rush of adrenaline.  This was real.  I was going to get to run in a race that most runners can only dream about.  What a feeling.  After I was confirmed to be in the race I started to ramp up my training.  I added a couple miles to my daily run.  Then it happened.  3 weeks before the race my left knee popped running gently down a hill by my home.  I stopped, felt around my kneecap and winced at a tender spot on the inside of the joint.  Hobbling home all I could think was, “I can’t miss this experience.”  I fell on the couch feeling a little dejected, but kept a hopeful attitude as my beautiful fiance, Erika, iced my swelling knee.  She’s a supportive woman in every way, but as I winced at the ice bag being lightly shifted on my inner knee she gave me a look that said more, “Really?” than “You got this baby!”. Injuries over years of having fun on dirt bikes and surfboards have caught up to me in the form of a loose left knee as well as other creaks and groans.  Probably fixable with surgery, but I’ll wait until it’s absolutely necessary.  Rehab sucks.

Two weeks later I could run again.  Carefully.  I had one week until we left for New York.  I was feeling serious nerves for the first time.  I wasn’t sure my knee could cover the distance.  The short runs felt okay, but I decided not to push it and stopped running until the race.  When I needed to train the most I was sidelined.   Now the race loomed like a book report I had a month to complete and hadn’t started the day before it was due.  Pam had been running the single mile I had measured for her to time herself as she was training.  And improving.  She could do the mile loop many times comfortably now.  Damn.  I was going to have to keep up no matter what.  Damn.  Pam’s a natural athlete who rises to any challenge she sets for herself.  Damn.

Between the two of us, I’m the runner.  I had run for many years and normally I wouldn’t be anxious running distances.  But when Pam showed up to pick me up for the airport and I had a slight limp as I pulled my suitcase to the towncar, I was freaking out.  She couldn’t tell as we joked on the way to the plane but I was nervous.  The flight was four and a half hours of wondering what this experience was going to be like.  What I knew for sure was I was going to give it all I had.  What else can you do?

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The night before the race Pam, Sean, me, some race organizers and a couple of Sean’s Haitian Foundation friends went to an amazing restaurant.  I ordered a steak because I had heard it’s one of the best in New York.  Half way through the succulent cut of meat Sean leans over and yells, “Put that down!”  I dropped my fork and smiled, a little confused.  Everyone laughed, knowing heavy meat was the most ridiculous thing a person could eat before running 26.2 miles.  Sean just laughed shook his head.  I ended up leaving half a steak on my plate, a very difficult thing to do.  We all walked back to the Houston and disappeared into our rooms.  I stared at the roof thinking, “Well knee…it was nice knowing you.”  I fell asleep.  I dreamt of running.   I actually dreamt I was running.

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My phone alarm went off right when Pam called.  I swore I hadn’t slept at all, but I had.  Everything was happening so quickly.   I dressed and mounted my chest Go Pro through my black Sea Shepherd t-shirt I wore over my long sleeve Body Armor, making the camera seem to float in front of me.  Cool.  We met in the lobby.  We got on the bus.  We drove through the darkened city as the sun began to crest over the most famous skyline on the planet.  The few celebs on the bus were mostly quiet after some initial hellos.  We pinned our GPS enabled number sheets to the front of our shirts along the way.  Wow.  People can track us in real time?  I grabbed my phone out of the clear plastic bag the race people gave us and emailed my daughter Kylie the info to track dad during the race.  This is when it all got real.  Really, really real.

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The bus stopped at an entrance used for cops, celebrities and what seemed like 4 BILLION people.   We kept warm with our heads down in hoodies to avoid having to stop in this sea of people to take a picture.  Pam is very accommodating to her fans but this wasn’t the time or place.  She was lost in her iPod, bobbing her head to something high energy.  I looked around and took it all in.  It was a surreal place to be.  I’ve dreamt of running a marathon like most recreational runners do.  This was a dream come true.  Literally.

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We were brought to a large white tent with running drinks, food and snacks lining the wall.  We were the first group so it was pretty empty.  We sat close to the heaters as the cold wind buffeted the tent doors, throwing them open every minute or so to remind us it’s grey and cold outside.  I overheard conversations as the tent filled over the next hour.  “It’s gonna be 40 miles per hour on the bridge…”, “Did u bring your running gummies?”, “My friend lost 4 toenails from the Boston Marathon…”  Lost toenails?!  What?!  Damn.

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They came and got us after the real runners took off to set some superhuman time and records and all that cool stuff that had nothing to do with us.  I was concentrating on when we were going to go.  As we stood by the start line Pam took a few pics with some appreciative marathoners, smiling a nervous smile right before one of the biggest challenges she’s ever set for herself.  I’m always proud of what she’s accomplished and all the good things she’s done in her life but this was a little different. This was personal.  It was doing good for sure, she raised well over $100,000 for JP/HRO in the brief time she had before the race, but the difference was this was an extreme physical test.  And she was up to it.  She had the look.  She was determined.  Not gonna lie, I was worried.

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Suddenly our group began to surge toward the start line.  Everyone was making sure they didn’t step on the feet of the people around them, a big no-no when you’re about to run this distance.  The event hosts finished their on-stage address to our large group sardined near the start towers.  I looked around at all the news cameras, the massive throng of people lining the bleachers, ahead at the bridge that seemed to span in front of me forever.  There was no welcoming warmth of the sun.  No birds chirping playfully as they darted around to the backdrop of puffy white clouds.  It was grey.  It was cold.  I was scared but I was going.  I started the video on my chest.
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I don’t remember exactly what sound made everyone start to run but when the group all ran, we ran.  We nearly got trampled.  I had no idea everyone was going to run so fast at the start.  We tried to stay close so we wouldn’t get bumped and knocked around but it still happened.  We were running at a nice normal pace for normal people.  It felt good.  My knee felt good and I felt relieved that I was able to run relatively pain-free.  As we exited the first bridge we saw everyone was throwing off the sweaters they brought just for that reason.  We did the same.  The cold was now welcoming as we approached our first marker.  I began to notice we were keeping pace with some of the people who rushed past us at the start.  We kept our pace for half the race.

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We talked a bit as we began the long journey but soon talking wasn’t an option.  Around mile 5 we began to concentrate on the right things…breathing…pacing.  We were deep into the course.  I’ve never seen New York like this before.  It was up close and very personal.  The crowd lining the route was the biggest surprise for me.  The warmth and genuine caring was overwhelming.  I felt energy surge when they yelled for us to, “Keep going!” or “You can do this!” It’s all you heard.  I loved it.  I loved them.  By mile 12 the voices were inspirational.  And a lot of them were directed at Pam so it seemed more personal.  “Go Pam!”  “You can do it!” “We love you!” came from the massive crowd every step of the way.  Even though they had no idea who was running with her, I felt it was for me too.  I felt like a guest in these New Yorker’s homes.  It felt great.  We hit the halfway point in around 2 ½ hours.  We we’re doing great.
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Around mile 18 my right hamstring felt…off.  It was like it wanted to cramp up but wouldn’t quite do it.  Mile 20.  Pam’s hurting bad.  Her hip was bothering her from mile 2 but she’s tough.  It was half way before she even mentioned it.  Now at mile 24 and my hamstring decided to seize up.  I almost fall when it happens.  I’ve never felt this in my life.  I’m beginning to regret passing the banana table without eating some of that magic fruit.

–       Sidenote…I almost hit the ground 10 times running passed the banana table.   Thousands of peels line the floor like a cruel joke played by a very large group of pranksters.  Be careful at the banana table.  I said it.  Hopefully I can save a few lives.  End sidenote…

Mile 25.  We have to walk.  We’re a couple miles from the end but I have no choice.  Pam needs a few steps to let her pain subside as well so we walk at a brisk pace for a few moments then run again.  The pain’s intense at this point.  Mile 25.5 and my hip feels like it’s been hit with a ballpeen hammer and both of my hamstrings want to go home.  They’re beginning to cramp at an alarming rate now.  We push as hard as we can, only slowing or walking when we absolutely need to.  Pam is a warrior.  She pushes me when my legs want to stop working properly.  The crowd screams for us to “run!”, “Go Pam!”, “You’re so close!”, Don’t stop now!”…All I could think was SHUT UP!!  I just wanted them to let us walk for a moment.

“Go Pam!  You’re almost there!” I could only shake my head.  PLEASE! SHUT UP!  I could barely use my legs now but I wanted to duck-walk right over to those amazingly positive people and slap them.  Every time they yelled it would make Pam run again when all I needed was a few more feet of walking.  We were laughing we were in so much pain.  Mile 26.  We can see the finish line.  Now the crowd’s positive energy starts to feed my legs.  We run.  With nothing left in the tank we actually pick up the pace.  “Go Pam!”  Faster.  “You’re almost there, Pam!”  Faster still.

Last 100 feet.  Pam’s artist friend Luca now runs sideways alongside us, jumping up and down, screaming our names as the line inches closer.  It’s the first time I heard my name the entire race and to be honest, it helped.  It felt like someone was pulling for you.  I now know that’s what the spectators are there for.  Their inspirational signs, their high fives, their broad smiles all combine to help a person achieve something they never though they could achieve, or to help a focused racer shave a few milliseconds of their previous time.  I now believe the people there for the racers are the most important people of all.  Without them a lot of people wouldn’t make it.

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We staggered across the finish line and hugged.  We had done something neither of us had ever thought we’d ever do.  I was very happy we had done it together.  I’m very proud of my sister.  She continually pushes life’s envelope and always rises to the occasion.  Pam has no give-up in her.  I’m afraid of what’s next.  But I’ll be there.

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A gigantic “Thank You!” to everyone who makes these events happen, and to all the people who helped us at the race.  It was an incredibly positive experience in every way.   And thank you Pam for including your little brother in this life-changing experience.  I love you.  And yes, I love you too spectators.  There was a moment where thousands of people and I weren’t getting along.  That’s behind us now.  And after having run through 5 Burroughs, 200 bands and endless support from perfect strangers, most of all…I LOVE YOU, NEW YORK

2 COMMENTS

  1. Leslee | 13th Mar 14

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring post! My husband ran last year and I am entered into the lottery for this years race. I appreciated your honesty on just how difficult this feat is and applaud you for finishing!!

  2. Julie Wilkinsoj | 14th Jan 15

    So cool to see a story by you Gerry. Wondered what happened to you for awhile… Hope life is fabulous! Take care, Julie Wilkinson (Old Santa Monica friend)

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