NEW YORK -- Walking by the finish line, seeing the banner and the preparation at Central Park, that's when it started to become reality. Ed Moran started to envision what it would look like -- what it would actually feel like -- to cross the finish line at the New York City Marathon.
Moran has driven over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge countless times. He has imagined running across from Staten Island, where he was born, into the streets of Brooklyn, where both his parents were raised.
Sunday will be Moran's debut marathon in what he's considering the twilight of his running career. So, at age 30, if he has a marathon in his legs, this is the time to find out, before he takes a shot at the 2012 Olympics. He chose the biggest stage he could find.
"This is the big time," he said. "This is the biggest marathon in the world. This is the Yankee Stadium of professional running."
Moran is not committing to calling it quits after the 2012 Games, but he admitted he can see the end of his running career in the distance. If anyone considers it late in his athletic life to tackle the 26.2-mile monster, don't blame Moran. He's accustomed to late starts.
After his parents moved to Lawrenceville when he was 6, Moran started running as a sophomore at Notre Dame High School in New Jersey.
"My parents said, 'If you want to hang out after school with your friends, you had better find an activity,'" he said. "It just so happened that a lot of my friends ran cross country."
Moran graduated as a decent high school distance runner -- 4:19 for the mile, 9:26 for the 2-mile -- and didn't draw a ton of college interest before landing at William & Mary, where he began to excel almost immediately. He became a four-time All-American for the Tribe, although his college campaign was haunted by injuries.
It's a wonder that Moran is running at all. He suffered five stress fractures in five years in college: both tibias, his foot, femur and two sacral stress fractures in his back. Each time he missed between six to 12 weeks of training. The injuries robbed enough of his college career that the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility. That year, while earning his MBA in graduate school, Moran shaved more than 30 seconds off is 5,000-meter time and vaulted himself into the professional ranks.
He went on to win the 5,000 at the Pan American Games in 2007 and finished fourth in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Olympic Trials. Moran also won the U.S. title in the 10,000 last year. He placed fourth at the AJC Peachtree Road Race, a race that serves as the U.S. Road Race national championships, clocking 28:19. The performance, and his training sessions, gave Moran the confidence to take on his first marathon.
Moran, who now lives and trains in Williamsburg, Va., is still coached by Alex Gibby, his former coach at W&M. His training mileage is as high as ever. Moran has been up to 130 miles a week, 50 miles more per week than he ran in college, and outside of a slight Achilles problem in August that bothered him for about a week, the rookie marathoner has been able to train uninterrupted.
And it's an opportune time for Moran to show his best running. He deferred a job at Deloitte Consulting after he finished grad school and never took the job because he pursed a professional running career. After completing his MBA in May, he earned at Deloitte and was offered another, which he deferred again until after the 2012 Games.
This marathon will not only serve as a great training opportunity while he sets his sights on the 10,000 in 2012. Moran expects to be competitive, even though he plans to be conservative to start.
"This is the greatest field that New York has ever assembled," he said. "It's going to be easy to get out a little bit ahead of yourself. That's going to be the first thing, not getting too excited running over the Verrazano Bridge, something that I've dreamed about as a kid. I really did dream about running across the bridge, going to visit Grandma. That'll be exciting and also, staying within myself. I have to make sure I'm not overcommitting. If you feel like you're racing in the first 18-20 miles, you're probably crossing the mark."
Moran's grandmother still lives in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. His parents, Pat and Ed Moran, recently moved to Virginia from New Jersey. His sister lives in New Jersey. He still has aunts and uncles in Staten Island, all of which he said are coming out to support him. Moran said even his high school buddies have found him on Facebook and sent him messages of support or told him to look for them at certain mile markers.
His fiancée, Megan Warco, will be waiting at the finish line as well. They'll be married next week in Pittsburgh.
"I really think that's going to help me, especially in the later stages of the race when you kind of get lonely," Moran said, knowing he'll need those voices as he nears Central Park. "You've been out there for 20 miles and the demons start talking to you a little bit. Then you have that reassurance that you're not only doing this for yourself, but everyone that's supported you along the way."
Christopher Hunt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.