On my plane ride to NY, I got to talking with this woman. She was young, had three children, and was a full time nurse in Colorado. Not before long, I learned that her reason for traveling to NY wasn’t for shopping, plays or marathons. She was going to NY to attend a conference on lymphoma. Her father just found out he was stage 4 of a very rare form. As she spoke, I was struck by her strength and positivity.
I relayed to her a few bruised apples from my family tree as well. I forgot how nice it was to occasionally open up to a perfect stranger. Sometimes, you surprise yourself at how honest it can make you.
We landed, and after we wedged ourselves in the crowded, impatient aisle to leave, she removed a bracelet and gave it to me for good luck in the race. It said: positivity. It hardly seemed I was the one who needed that bracelet after our conversation. But I was touched. I didn’t realize just how much I was actually going to need to focus on that 10-letter word come Sunday.
Sunday morning was gorgeous. It was sunny, clear skies and full of hope. My boyfriend not only got me to the ferry, he rode along with me to Staten Island and saw to it there were no problems with transportation to the start. All went smoothly. It wasn’t a problem that I arrived considerably past my assigned ferry time. There were just too many people to keep track of, which was what I was hoping. I was well-rested and ready to take on the challenge of running the city.
Although I knew the cool weather would be perfect for running, it began to really sink into my bones an hour into waiting. Teeth chattering a bit, I sipped on some hot water and found myself a sunny spot to sit.
It was finally time to line up. The adrenaline was starting to kick in—I was saturated with momentum. The gun sounded (or something of the sort), and we were off! Nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the feeling of running across the Verrazano Bridge, knowing you are one of almost 45,000 on the road fighting individually to get to that finish line.
The first couple miles were a little rough on the balls of my feet. In fact, it truly felt like hard balls, rocks even, were strapped the bottom of my shoes. I was terribly chilled, but I tried not to focus on it. I knew I’d be warm quite soon.
As we descended into Brooklyn, my excitement grew. People lined the streets—Mexicans, storekeepers, those in drag, those with boom boxes, independent bands, Hasidic Jews, little tots hoping for a high five, friends, lovers, family, Polish folk…it was intoxicating to feel the city come together like that.
By mile 6 or 7, I began to feel it in my legs…already. I knew then this was going to be tough. Never had the ship started to sink that early in any of my training runs! What was happening to me? That was all I could ponder. Something was wrong. I had a decision to make, and it took all of a few milliseconds to decide that I trained to long to walk now. I would not only finish, but I would fight to the end to not stop and walk.
And so on I jogged.
By mile 10, acid reflux kicked in. I thought I might puke, knowing that would give me no choice but to quit. Please don’t vomit, please don’t vomit (!) was all I could think. I didn’t.
By mile 17, I saw Jonathan (my guy), and I looked at him with a kind of desperation in my wide eyes—Where is the powerade goo station?? Mile 18, he reminded me, secretly afraid I might bonk before he saw me next at mile 24.
But I made it to him. After a few packs of sugary goo, my spirits lifted a bit. I would finish it. I knew it!
And I did. At 24, Jonathan ran with me for about a half mile in his dress shoes, offering an array of sugary foods, but I couldn’t eat anymore at that point. I was conscious of that positivity bracelet on my wrist with each and every mile. My hopes were high, and there was even a slight spring in my step. In hindsight, I know, my adrenaline was in full force.
I crossed that finish line and couldn’t care less that I finished about 20 minutes later than my last marathon. So, I didn’t meet my ‘goals.’ Like life, I had to recalibrate what that really meant halfway through the race. It was certainly no longer getting a sub-4 hour time. I would gladly take 4 hours and 48 minutes if it meant I didn’t give up completely or even slow down to walk (I don’t know how people can do that, actually. I would surely hit a wall!).
It’s Tuesday now. I can still scarcely get out of bed, and I look like an old lady hobbling from one place to the next. My body has never been put through such a great amount of pain. I had to laugh a little seeing a girl today who was about my age walking down the street with the same constipated half-step shuffle that I have. There was no doubt in my mind that she too had given it her all a couple days ago
And so, it’s hard to really complain when you know it was such an incredible experience. Every wincing step I take is met with a little inside smile just knowing I pushed on and finished the New York Marathon.