From the back of the pack, former New York Giant Amani Toomer began zigzagging his way past other runners at the 2010 ING New York City Marathon.
"I felt like a punt returner," Toomer said.
Twenty-three miles later, however, the former wide receiver, who retired in 2009, felt like he'd been drilled by a linebacker in the open field. Still, his coach, Chris Thomas, continued to push him to finish.
"I was just throwing out everything I could at him," Thomas said. "I just told him to take it city block by block."
Despite the fact his legs felt like they were going to give out, Toomer didn't give up. Instead, as he did for 13 years in the NFL, the 36-year-old persevered. Toomer crossed the finish line late Sunday afternoon in 4 hours, 13 minutes.
"I'm really tired," Toomer said. "But it was a surreal experience. I'd do it again for sure."
Although he failed to reach his goal of completing the marathon in under four hours, Toomer did manage to pass what he thinks was about 20,000 runners. For every runner he passed, his sponsor Timex donated $1 to the New York Road Runners Youth Programs. He also established a new NYC Marathon record for NFL players. Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, who ran the marathon 17 years ago, finished in 4 hours, 26 minutes.
"He was incredible the whole time," said Thomas, who has been training Toomer seriously since July. "I'm glad he was able to pull through."
Toomer was physically deflated after the race.
"It was a lot tougher than I thought," Toomer said as he posed for pictures and fought through the throngs of other runners. "It feels a lot like the end of a football game actually."
Mike Mazzeo is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.