Meet Larry Zuchinno – Landscape Architect and New York City Marathon Runner

Please allow us to introduce Larry Zuchinno, Carolina Colours’ Landscape Architect and New York City Marathon runner.  Larry shared his recent marathon thoughts with us and thought the Carolina Colours residents might enjoy reading about his experience.  If anyone out there shares Larry’s passion for running, please email me, Beth Everett at and I will forward Larry’s contact info.

Before moving onto Larry’s marathon experience, I thought I might share a little info about Larry’s role in the birth of Carolina Colours.  As Carolina Colours’ landscape architect, Larry studied Mother Nature’s land, forests, streams and Brice Creek to considerately place our lakes and streets and traffic circle and towne lawn and retail towne centre  and activity campus and social pavilion and golf course and very special neighborhoods in their very special locations.  Larry played a critical role in making sure Carolina Colours is not just another suburban sprawl neighborhood, but instead takes considerate advantage of Mother Nature’s many blessings and is also a functional and enjoyable place to live and play.  We are very grateful to Larry for his many creative efforts to help make Carolina Colours a vibrant, very livable community.  I enjoyed working with Larry immensely and have the greatest admiration and respect for his experience and many land planning accomplishments.

November 8, 2009

New York City Marathon Race Report

Well folks, I promised you a marathon report so here’s my short version. (For those of you who have time on your hands, I have an extended version attached as well.)

For the most part, I did as well as I might have expected, finishing in four hours and sixteen minutes and some change.  It was a spectacular race with 42,000 runners, and an American male won the race for the first time since 1982 in 2:09, which was only twice as fast as my time. I was a little creaky for a couple of days afterward, but I have made a full recovery.  It was a memorable and satisfying experience (and highly recommended to those of you who may be interested in taking on a marathon.)

And thanks again to all of you for your generous donations to the Run for Something Better Campaign.  Through your contributions, I reached my goal of $2,500. Just know that there will be a youngster with access to a youth running program and an obesity education program as a direct result of your contributions.

Long Version

The marathon was pretty spectacular and as you might imagine, New York knows how to throw a party.  It was a big weekend in New York with the 40th NYC Marathon sharing billing with Halloween, the World Series and a Mayoral election the following week. (Bloomberg spent $100 million of his own money during his campaign.  I guess being Mayor of New York is important to him). The Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island was the starting point on a damp, windy 50 degrees….perfect running weather.  The marathon route took us into Brooklyn, up through Queens, over the East River on Queensboro Bridge with a panorama of mid-town Manhattan, up 1st Avenue with runners en masse to the horizon, into the Bronx, through East Harlem and back up Park Avenue into Central Park for the end near Columbus Circle.   Thanks to all of you, the ING fundraisers were treated to the courtesy of an express bus ride so I had a 5 am wake-up.  Other runners had a very early wake-up to make their individual treks on subways, cabs, city buses to Staten Island and/or a brisk pre-dawn ferry ride to Staten Island.  I got some fuel and coffee in my hotel room and walked to a waiting tourist bus for a direct delivery to the assembly area two hours before the race.   The Hilton on 53rd Street must have been the Danish marathon headquarters because the bus I rode in was seated almost exclusively with Danish runners, all of whom were slightly built, in shiny spandex and stylish European hoodies, and seemed too refined to withstand the urban edginess and grit of four of New York’s boroughs.  I am sure they made out fine.   As we wound our way through pre-dawn lower Manhattan, people were stumbling out of the bars and apartments and in crumpled Halloween costumes, ready to head home for the morning. We arrived at the base of the Verrazano Bridge into a sea of runners meandering about in open grass and parking areas on a damp and cool morning.  The crowd was definitely upbeat.  Thanks again to all of you; I enjoyed a heated tent with food and coffee with the other fundraisers, two of whom were friends and members of my Raleigh triathlon club.  The other 41,800 runners were out in the open air corrals waiting to go, most of whom had arrived three hours earlier.  You might say I had the luxury suite, but in the end, I still had to run 26.2 miles so the benefits, though much appreciated, were short-lived.

There were 42,000 runners starting in three waves on Sunday morning, twenty minutes apart.  I was in the third wave, which as I discovered later, was not just made of plodders, but had runners of all capabilities mixed in.  The result was that I was pretty much shoulder to shoulder with runners the entire length of the course, something I didn’t expect but came to appreciate as the camaraderie between runners was great.    After a live rendition of ”God Bless America” the cannon sounded and we were off, up the half mile rise of the  windy Verrazano Bridge where I could see only bobbing heads for half a mile shoulder to shoulder eight lanes across.  Only when I got to the crest of the bridge did I realize that the lower level of the bridge below us was full of runners as well, who were taking a separate route and would join back together at Mile 8.   I tried to keep my pace slower over the first several miles to avoid the notorious fast start and slow finish syndrome, but it was difficult given the pack mentality and the adrenalin.   I slowed to a 9:15 minute mile pace for the Mile 3 through 14 and just settled in and enjoyed the revelry that was going on with the other runners and the show that was taking place around us on the edge of the city streets. Nearly a third of the runners were international so there was Babel of languages heard throughout the race.  That mixed in with the diversity of the people of New York magnified by the distinct personality of each borough and neighborhood we were running through, must have made a keen positive impression on our foreign guests.  It certainly was clear to me that for all it warts and troubles, New York City is still a shining beacon for our country.

The entire route, save the bridges and a few industrial areas, were completely lined with cheering spectators from each borough.  The Times estimated a crowd of 2 million spectators.  Mary contends that the spectator effort was as challenging as the marathon and deserved equal kudos and a medal. Mary had hustled around the City with our friend Beth to several mile marks to cheer me on during the run and was at the end to greet me.  Over 120 bands of all types were set up on the sidewalks, some sanctioned and some just impromptu musicians, blasting out salsa, blues, and grunge rock, jazz, bagpipes, and an orchestra dressed in full tuxes, with the highlight being the Sunday morning gospel choir on the steps of an African American church in Brooklyn.  I certainly wasn’t lacking for entertainment or inspiration. NYFD firefighters were cheering us in full gear from their fire trucks parked along the route.  There was race-in-race challenge between the NYPD and NYFD runners that was punctuated with cheers from policemen and firemen along the entire route.

I reached the halfway point in good shape at 2:00, and was feeling pretty good about things but as we traversed the half mile “hill” of the Queensboro Bridge at Mile 16 over the East River headed into Manhattan, my energy level was flagging a bit and the conversation in the running crowed went to zero……everyone seemed to be grinding it out until we hit Manhattan at the base of the bridge at 1st Avenue and a roaring crowd got everyone’s feet moving again the pace picked up around me.    I mis-timed my nutrition about Mile 19 and started to flag again and struggled into the Bronx, and by Mile 22 headed up a long grade of Park Avenue, I was starting to count each mile.  Not a good sign.  I revived a bit coming into Central Park at Mile 24 and although I felt that I had picked up the pace and was feeling stronger, I was only running at an 11:00 minute pace. I have a hard time running that slow of a pace during training, so my mind was at the right pace but, little did I know at the time, my body was not.  I had hoped to step it up to become above average but the last four miles took a little of the starch out of me as the concrete streets were starting to take their toll.  There is a lot of concrete in New York which is less forgiving than our quaint asphalt streets in Raleigh.  Your mind can play tricks on you when you are tired.  I was sure that the cheering crowd along Park Avenue had definitely picked me out as their favorite out of the hundreds of runners per minute flowing past them which gave me a bit of a boost since I didn’t want to disappoint a tough New York audience.  The finish which was lined with tall bleachers was a short distance past Columbus Circle and I sauntered into the finish line at 4:16, with the average runners who weren’t racers or plodders, just that part of that great in-between.

I finished in 20,871th place which doesn’t quite have the cache of a top ten finish, but is not half bad. My friend Bob, who Mary and I traveled with to New York, finished a very respectable 3:36.   We all received our medal, a space blanket and a food pack as we wandered for half an hour through a dense throng of people to the exits heading out of Central Park.  It was a bit unnerving to see a few people dropping onto the pavement with medical staff busy hovering over them but I figured as long as I stayed upright I would survive.  I kept walking through the crowd until I met Mary on Columbus Avenue a half mile away.    As for celebrity sightings, Mary told me that Lance Armstrong had run unofficially with a friend and they had pulled him out of the race a few yards before the finish line into the bleaches right past Mary, who was sure to point out that he was shirtless.

All in all, it was personally rewarding experience.  So thank you all.  I have attached a few photos of the event.