Look At Me Now !

Look At Me Now !

“I’m transforming, I’m vibrating, I’m glowing
I’m flying, look at me now
I’m flying, look at me now”

Cave/Ellis  ( Jubilee Street )

“How do you fancy going to New York for St.Patrick’s Day ? “ my Soulmate asked randomly one day last year.

“Love it !” I instantly replied.

“We will run in the Half Marathon”

“Or we could just go to New York and enjoy ourselves ?”

“I’d like to run with Georgie Crawford’s group ”

“What’s a ‘Georgie Crawford’ ?”

“The podcast I was telling you about, she’s great.”

“Good for her. But no.”

And then she smiled at me , the way she does, looked over her glasses, winked…

“OK , let’s go.”

So we did.

In between agreeing to go and actually going there was a wee bit of training. The group that we were travelling with were Team Good Glow NYC 24, and they had organized training plans which I studiously ignored, even though it was printed out for me, motivational talks/pdfs, which I ignored, training run meet ups, which I was unable to attend as I help out at our local parkrun, and a closed WhatsApp group where you could share photos from your training runs. Even though I am generally reluctant to share anything online, (my soulmate might disagree!), this I embraced thoroughly.

The race always seemed ages away, then it was Christmas, and then we’re packing bags for New York.

We were all offered Team Good Glow sweatshirts to wear on the journey over, so that we could spot each other and say ‘Hello’. My Soulmate got a Small, and I got a snug one, three sizes up from that! Queueing for the US Customs/Immigration Preclearance in Dublin Airport on Thursday morning was the first time we spotted fellow Glowers, although they hadn’t completely embraced the idea, and had their sweatshirts casually draped over an arm each. We said ‘Hello’ , laughed nervously, and got the measure of each other’s giddy dread.

When we landed in Newark my bag arrived promptly, but Eileen’s and 20 other passengers’ bags didn’t. It turned out that a baggage handler, on his first day, had noticed that it was his lunch break, and instead of driving his little wagon to carousel number 5, had parked it outside the canteen. But no one knew this until later. All the staff in the baggage hall could tell us that was that the bags had arrived with the plane, and were somewhere in the airport. In the meantime we were approached by two lovely ladies , Elaine and Mary, who’d spotted our sweatshirts and were also Glowers. We chatted to them for a while and then Baggage Boy finished his lunch and deposited the remaining bags …on carousel number 9. Mary and Elaine took us under their wings and guided us to the Airtrain, through Penn Station, and then the subway to Central Station.

Shortly after checking in we were greeted by Georgie’s partner Jamie, who recognised us by the sweatshirts and one or two of the WhatsApp photos. He thanked us for joining the group, told us we would have a blast, and …I don’t know…he just gave a vibe that he wasn’t going through the motions, that he genuinely cared that we were there, and were happy to be there…or that may have just been sleep deprivation, we’d been up since 3.30am, and I’d got engrossed in Oppenheimer and The Big Short on the plane and it was now 10pm at home!

We had supper in an Italian restaurant across the road from the hotel which was delicious , but were surprised that with the price they charged that we weren’t given souvenir chairs to take home.

We slept well.

Friday was one of the BEST DAYS EVER EVER !

We had pancakes for breakfast, we explored Central Station and I spotted that the staircase at the far end was in the scene in Madagascar where the little old lady attacks Alex, so I had to do the Alex pose and Eileen took a photo of me. I could have gone home then and said I’d had a good trip. We walked through Chelsea to the High Line, walked the length of it, taking one or two photos, then onto Brooklyn Bridge, walked across it, sniggered at the area being called Dumbo,  and took the F train to the one thing that I’d said to Eileen before we left Monaghan that I had to see, the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. ! It was beautiful. It’s an after school creative writing space for kids that has a quirky shop at the front selling tees, tins of love, immortality, schadenfreude, wickedness, and gallon drums of gloom, and doom. I restricted myself to buying 5 t-shirts. This was important research for the future Drumlin Giants Supply Store in Monaghan.

Then we took the train back to Manhattan, showered, changed, had a lovely gluten free and vegan dinner in La Botaniste, and then hotfooted it to The Long Hall to meet Eileen’s cousin Niall, where we learnt the true state of things in New York, what’s really in those steam vents, brown bagging, and developed a league table of favourite family stories from their childhood. The Guinness was good!

We then dashed over to Fitzpatrick’s Hotel to meet all 180 members of Team Good Glow. There were a few heartfelt words of encouragement from Jamie, Georgie, and an inspirational lady, called Olivia, shared an incredible story about overcoming incredible obstacles. It was quite dusty on that terrace, so I teared up a little…only a little…and that certainly wasn’t me that cry/honked into his sleeve. We met Georgie for the first time then and hugs were exchanged. Eileen got a little emotional and shared with Georgie that this week two years ago I had started my 16 week chemo journey. A little more cry/honking ensued…

We then bumped into Mary and Elaine again and regaled each other with our adventures so far.

We did not get up for the shake out run the next morning because the Guinness was good…..

We all met in the lobby at 10.30 am to walk to the NYRR exhibition centre to collect our race numbers. It was all real now. We left our precious numbers in the hotel and laid out our running gear, like a shrine on the sofa in our room. Then we headed to The Keg Room to watch the rugby and meet my great friend John Baloney and his partner Erin, who is now also a great friend. I ‘met’ John in an online writing group 12 years ago,  met in person in London several years later, and then later still got royally drunk together in Castle Leslie in Monaghan. Erin asked us what the rules were in the rugby match we  were watching and I said “ Honestly ? They make it up as they go along.” We won, there was much rejoicing, and we left to find somewhere quieter for a coffee. We talked about everything and anything the way old , comfortable friends do. We were told, in great secrecy , what was supposed to be in the safe in John’s office, and what was actually in the safe…like we were in a real life John Grisham novel. And those few hours were like a cuddle in a warm blanket.

No. We did not go to the parade. We saw it on the television in the bar, and it just wasn’t what I was expecting. There were no floats ! Just people marching , and multiple bands playing the same three songs. The parade in Monaghan has trucks, tractors, fire engines , and dancing Combilift machines !

We said our goodbyes to John and Erin in Times Square and walked back to the hotel. We bumped into different Glowers, and I think we were all a little quieter …nervous anticipation consumed us. We carb loaded across the road at 7 and then settled down for an early night. People in the WhatsApp group were sharing heartfelt notes of encouragement. I posted :

“The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow. Or you could die from it. Hard to tell with these things. Sleep well.”

Sunday was the BEST DAY EVER EVER EVER !

We all gathered in the lobby at the ridiculous time of 4.45am, walked to Central Park to get a bus at 6.00 am , and arrived at the starting line area in Brooklyn at 7.00am. We deposited our bags with a change of gear, warm clothes, and drugs, for collection at the finish line and toddled off to a nearby hall where we had bagels, coffee, water, bananas, and most importantly toilets. We chatted to a young couple from Cavan who were running this distance for the first time. We lied and said it would be easy. We met Mary and Elaine again and wished each other well. Mary and Elaine are magic people who make you smile no matter how you’re feeling. They were not alone in this group.

Time ticked on. The race was getting closer. Georgie was walking around to different groups offering words of encouragement and should have got a medal for the most selfied woman alive. Other people started stretching exuberantly …and alarmingly. I was starting to mimic one particularly enthusiastic chap wearing a green tutu, but heard something click loudly in my knee and then stumbled against a chair and decided I’d leave it.

“Wave 5 ! Wave 5! Showtime ! Make your way to the start.”

Leaving the warm, safe environs of the hall we met Gerry from Greenan’s Cross and his wife Karen and chatted to them the whole way to the start. They were a very welcome distraction.

I blinked and we were running in the goddamn New York City Half Marathon !

I kept pace with my Soulmate up to the 5k mark when I was distracted by a bronze statue of a naked man in the near distance, “Look ! They’ve put up a statue of Ray !” and stopped to take a selfie with it. She ran on. I more or less kept her within sight until I saw a dog wearing shoes. I asked the owner if I could take a selfie with him. “Sure , he’s Murph.” I knelt down got a lick from Murph, and then struggled to get back up, leaning on Murph’s back for support. Murph growled and gave me side-eye.

I ran on , stopping to take photos of Manhattan Bridge in the distance, cops, funny signs. Now I was on Manhattan Bridge, running , smiling….and then had a sharp twinge around my stoma. I got a bit of a fright. I walked a bit, ran a bit, nope, definitely something. I was now looking out for a medical tent, not for assistance as such, just a bit of privacy to check if all was OK. The dragons in Chinatown, distracted me. A lady in a Good Glow tee shirt tapped me on the shoulder and wished me well. More funny signs before hitting FDR drive , which was looooooong, but it curled at the end , we were on 42nd St. , the sun was shining… and I could hear Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds singing the live version of Jubilee St…

“I’m transforming, I’m vibrating, I’m glowing
I’m flying, look at me now
I’m flying, look at me now”

I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t tired, I was running, slowly, but running, I was a Glower again!

Fifth Avenue, Times Square, and everything on the way into Central Park is a bit of a blur now. I was near the finish. I just wanted to see Eileen……and have a banana!

I crossed the finish line.

I crossed the finish line of the goddamn New York City Half Marathon !

I collected my bag and saw Eileen waiting for me with some of the other Glowers. She jogged up to me “You OK ?”

I cry/honked, she cry/honked…it was lovely.

Georgie came over to congratulate us. She thanked us for being part of the group, told us we’d added to it, made it special, and …I don’t know…she just gave a vibe that she wasn’t going through the motions, that she genuinely cared that we were there, and that we were happy to be there…or that may have just been exhaustion… or déjà vu!

Jamie asked me how I got on.

“Great ! I came 4th !”

“You came 4th ?”

“Yes, out of the 27,000 people in the race there were 4 Bonds, I was the 4th.”

Eileen tugged on my arm and suggested that we go home to the hotel. Jamie smiled sympathetically. So we hobbled off towards Times Sq., smiling through pain, endorphins, and second hand hash. A nice chap selling bargain priced Louis Vuitton handbags said I had sexy legs. On mature reflection, he may have been addressing Eileen, but in that moment I felt magnificent !

When we got to the hotel we showered and I said I’d just lie down for a moment…Eileen woke me 2 hours later.

We went to another branch of La Botaniste for tea and then trundled our way to Blooms on 58th St. where all the Glowers were meeting for a celebratory drink or seven. We met a bunch of Glowers who all introduced themselves and marveled at the fact that we’d walked , they’d taken an Uber. We settled into a seat and laughed at our good fortune in being here, together with these good folk.

Two lovely ladies from Galway, Marie and Caroline fell in beside us and we roared stories at each other. We had a ball. Eileen told Caroline at one point that I wrote a blog and she immediately turned to me and asked “Will I be in it ?”

“Of course !” I replied.

She then turned to Marie, “He’s writing a blog about me !”.

And indeed I am.

Caroline was typical of the great people we met. It’s odd to even use the word ‘typical’ which implies common or plentiful, when we all know that meeting thoroughly decent, generous, loving, caring people is not that common, but in this group it was.

We met Mary and Elaine at the bar before we left, smiled and laughed so much that it hurt more than the legs, and throbbing glutes. We wished them well, and happy hunting on their further adventures in Nashville. And then my Soulmate and I skipped along 3rd Avenue back to the hotel, and collapsed into a deep sleep.

Leaving the hotel in the morning we met Jamie and Georgie again and said our ‘Goodbyes’ , swapping stories of past battles and future dreams.

We met so many amazing people and have so many beautiful memories from the past few days but my abiding thought will be that we all cared for each other , and we were all cared for.

Thank you Georgie and Jamie for leading the way.



P.S. This is Jubilee St

Author: paul

5 thoughts on “Look At Me Now !

  1. Brilliant Paul, you are an amazing writer. It captures everything about our trip and more. I am still there in my head. It’s the first trip where I don’t feel a low coming back. I feel high on life now xx

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