Wednesday, November 7, 2018

TCS NYC Marathon

My heart sat heavy in my chest as I crossed the street to board a ferry that would take me to Staten Island, the start of one of the six major world marathons. I was joined by some of the fastest runners in the world and I would be running in the same race. How did I get here? It felt unreal. After a ferry ride and following a short bus ride, we pulled up to the start where tents and people stretched out far and wide. Men were dressed in heavy gear and machine guns decorated their middle. The Verrazzano Bridge sprawled out in front of me. I was finally there and what stood between me and a lofty personal goal was just 26.2 miles.

I arrived in a heated tent where runners were busy consuming food and water, stretching, relaxing, and feeling the same anxiousness that I was. As soon as I walked in, a cannon boomed. An eerie fear went over the entire crowd until we were reassured the sound signified the start of the professional women taking off. After that, the cannons continued. Wave after wave. Before I knew it, it was my turn to race. Alone in a crowd of 60,000 people, I made my way to the bridge. The loudspeakers were broadcasting many languages. The people around me, shoulder to shoulder, were speaking in their native tongues with excited pre-race jitters. There was so much activity to behold. Then, we were off!
The first mile is uphill, but because I've been training in the hills of Tennessee, I barely noticed. It was difficult to run with so many people. Slowing down and speeding up was as common in the first mile as it was in the last. I've never seen anything like it. It wasn't just the runners who were shoulder to shoulder, but the spectators, too! For twenty six long miles, people were cheering for us the entire time. The bridges were the only places that didn't hold fans of the race. It was amazing to see.
The NYC Marathon takes the runner through all five Burroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Manhattan. All walks of life, cultures, and personalities were displayed that day. There was so much support along the way for all of those crazy people who set out to run for twenty six miles, myself included.

I settled into a 9:30 pace pretty easily. I was right where I wanted to be. I felt good. I felt prepared. I was no longer scared of not being able to finish. My many months of training were paying off. I tried to manage my calorie intake by inhaling Gu packs every five miles or so. I carried my water with me so I wouldn't have to wait at the aid stations for too long. That worked in my favor for the first fifteen miles or so. But then, I decided to stop for gatorade on the following miles which slowed me down a bit. I couldn't believe how thick the crowds were still. In most races, I can outrun some folks and find a pocket where I'm not tripping over people every few minutes. Not so in the big apple.
The nervousness had long worn away and my hopes of catching a glimpse of my family in this enormous city were all but gone, too. It was just me and the pavement and I still had ten miles to go. At mile 16, I thought I heard my name. I was feeling quite like this whole marathon idea was dumb and so when I looked up and saw my sweet family yelling at me, I remember feeling so happy. Elated, seriously. My smile lit up my face. I was almost embarrassed at how pathetic it must have looked, but I didn't stop to talk. I knew if I slowed down to take a picture, I might not have the motivation to start up again. I waved so big and continued with my run and new wind in my wings. Around mile 19, my pace started to get consistently slower. My tired legs were stiff. People were starting to walk around me. They were trying to stretch at every opportunity, but I pressed on.
Again at mile 22, I saw my family again. They asked if I was ok. They said I looked good. I thought to myself, "Fake it till you make it!" I smiled and gave them a thumbs up, but really I was starting to feel lousy. It was at that moment when I knew I was going to run a marathon, though. I knew I could finish. Four miles left. I kept moving.

At mile 23, my chest started burning. I worried a little, but I couldn't stop now. No way. I walked some, trying to catch my breath from the pain that was catching in my chest and trying to stay hydrated. I didn't walk for very long and I began the slow shuffle of building up my pace again despite the discomfort I was feeling. Oh, those miles were hard. I was feeling completely exhausted when I heard my name again and I looked up to see my in-laws at mile 25 beaming with pride and waving to me. It gave me the boost I needed to finish the race.
I looked around me as I ran up to the massive blue finish line barriers to see the people I was finishing with. Tired faces surrounded me. Some were passing out. I walked to a smiling face who handed me a medal and immediately, I received texts from all over the country congratulating me on my finish. I knew the app that tracked me was working and I could feel the support from everyone. Great feeling. I was a marathoner now. And even more than that I was given the chance to compete in a world marathon qualifying race. I did it.

It wasn't without the help and support of so many people. From babysitting on training runs, to sending running gear, gifts, congratulatory champagne, to knowledgeable massage therapists, to race coordinators who become good friends, to people running alongside me in preparing, to buying a ticket to NYC to cheer me on, to people watching my kids so I could achieve this goal, to everyone who followed along with me on that big day with facebook posts, messages, and texts, to the Good Lord giving me great weather and a strong body that held up under the pressure. I'm honored. Thank you all for supporting me in this goal!

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