I wrote this on the way home from New York City on Monday. Selfishly I have read it at least three times a day to relive the moment. I still get chills and tears thinking the day. It was so special. It is one week post marathon today and I wanted to share my story. Someone asked me the other day, “What is your best piece of advice to get to where you are now from where you were before (running wise)?”. My answer, I stopped thinking of running as exercise and instead as freedom. I was alone, listening to my favorite music, and daydreaming. The world in my head when I run is quiet, beautiful, happy, free of pain..it is perfect. Running can be hard to start but once you get started I think you will find it as peaceful as I do. This is a long blog but there is a lot to talk about over 26.2 miles. Hopefully you are able to feel like you are there, you are inspired to start running, or inspired to run your first marathon after.
The ING NYC Marathon…
Six months ago I could barely run two miles. Running was not something I enjoyed or looked forward to anymore but I knew I needed to keep on for my health. I had run three half-marathons but those were all before I had kids and while I enjoyed it then it was not a passion, it was just exercise. I always wanted to run a marathon and finally decided to take on the challenge. Not sure what I was thinking on that day when I decided to sign up for one of the biggest marathons in the world, the NYC Marathon, but I did it and what an experience it has been.
I have read before that training for a marathon is like having a baby. You sign up for it not really knowing what to expect or just how much it’ll require of your energy and time. The beginning training is much like the first trimester of pregnancy. It can be hard at times because your body is adjusting to the routine of running four to five days a week but it’s new and exciting still. Next comes the second trimester when everything is perfect. You feel good, confident, and feel like you’ll be ready. You have most likely not endured any problems or major pains yet. For me, I was running distances I never thought I could and doing it every Saturday. I felt great. And then finally the third trimester, you are ready for it to be over. This is the part that most relates to pregnancy for me. About six weeks before the marathon I was ready for it to be race day. I was tired from all the training, starting to have pain in my knees and back, and beginning to wonder if my body would hold up. And much like the night before I was induced for labor, the night before the marathon I struggled to sleep. I had a terrible cough, and my nerves were working overtime. I tossed and turned all night and finally at 4:30 a.m. my alarm went off and even though I had only slept about three hours there was no need for the snooze button. The day I’ve been waiting for had finally arrived.
The marathon village was packed with 47,000+ runners and people working the event. The energy there was unbelievable. It was like we all had the first cup of coffee in our life. A large one from Starbucks at that, you know, the one that makes you talk faster, and gives you jitters because it’s so strong. The cannon went off for the first wave to start and I got chills while I watched them make their way over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn. I knew my turn was only an hour away. It was the fastest hour of my life. Everyone from my wave was packed in and lined up all anxiously awaiting our turn to test our bodies for 26.2 miles. I did not know one person around me, yet we all were high-fiving and hugging each other and saying “good luck”. As I stood there waiting for the cannon to fire a member of the NYFD sang beautifully “God Bless America”. There were fire trucks lined up and several members of the NYPD and NYFD in my site. And so was the NYC skyline. I couldn’t help but think of 9-11 and what this beautiful city endured. The cannon fired for the third wave, over the loud speaker played Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and off we went.
The best decision I made was writing my name on my shirt and Georgia Peach on my arm. My name was yelled out several hundred times, I heard “keep running, you’re almost back to Georgia” and “I love peaches”. It was hysterical listening to people yell at you, and signs they made were fantastic. “Hurry, that man stole my purse” was one that stands out, “Black toenails are sexy”, “You’re my Hero”, “This is the worst parade ever”, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”, and several more kept me entertained the entire route. I will never forget coming over the 59th Street Bridge into Manhattan. About a quarter of a mile before I came off the bridge I could hear the crowds screaming. Chills covered my body. I could not believe 2.5 million people were along this route spending their day to cheer everyone on. Every person running the marathon owes a huge thank you to those people. They carried us, especially at the end. I also have to thank Derek Hough because for at least half the time I was running I was daydreaming about dancing with him on Dancing with the Stars. :)
About mile twenty-one I met what is known as “the wall”. No amount of training can prepare you for what it feels like. I was not breathing hard and from the stomach up I felt great, but my legs were heavy and weak. It felt like someone had covered the bottoms of my shoes with glue and every step I had to peel my shoes off the pavement to keep moving. There was a battle in my head, one side wanted to keep going no matter what, and then the other side was telling me to stop. The only thing that will keep you moving is will power. I remember looking up shortly after realizing this is what the wall fells like and seeing a man holding a sign with “PAIN IS TEMPORARY, PRIDE IS FOREVER”, I wish I knew him so I could thank him because at that time it was exactly what I needed to see. I could tell most of the people around me had met the wall too because several had started walking. One of the neatest parts of the marathon was listening to people help them. Runners, volunteers, and spectators were determined to not let them give up. I can’t imagine there are many other sporting events where no one is pulling against you. Every person out there wanted everyone running to finish strong. After about two miles of pain and an internal battle to keep running I busted a hole in the wall. My legs felt lighter and the glue was gone.
With only two miles left we entered Central Park and reality hit me, I am going to finish my first marathon! That was a magical moment. I slowed down a little and really started soaking it in. I was running in the world’s largest marathon, in one of my favorite cities, finishing in one of the most beautiful and famous parks in the world, and after five months of dedicating time and energy to training I was about to cross the finish line. The crowds were large and energetic. The park was beautiful on a picture perfect fall day in the city. It was more than I ever could have dreamed. I arrived at the finish strong and with a smile. I could feel tears forming and told myself, please don’t cry, please don’t cry. But as my foot hit the blue line marking the finish I could not hold back the tears. I did it! Darn it, it’s making me tear up now writing about it. And then I looked down at my left wrist where I had written a friends initials. He passed away on November 6, 2005, six years to the day before the marathon. He loved to run and his passion for life was contagious. We all miss him and every step of my run I like to believe he was sitting on my shoulders helping me and enjoying the views of the city and yells from the crowd as much as I did.
What if everything in life was more like a marathon. What if we all worked together and pulled for each other to achieve our goals. What if we pushed ourselves further, and worked as hard as we could to finish the unthinkable. What if we all helped each other and never gave up. If we all were friends no matter our ability, our background, and our views. New York showed me what that world would be like on a very beautiful sunny Sunday, November 6, 2011. I am so lucky to have witnessed that moment.
Thank you New York.