After years of running races, I have certainly found myself getting questions from friends, family, etc. about why I love running so much? “How do you run for that long? I would get bored?” “Once you’ve done a marathon, is it pretty easy after that?” “Do you listen to music while you run?” “What do you think about?” and then again, there will always be the ones that after hearing you run marathons can’t help by just ask “WHY???” While some can get annoyed by these questions, I will take any opportunity I can to talk about my love affair with running.
Every race has been a different experience for me. Not only because the course is changing or the scenery is changing, but because of the people I run the races with and getting to experience it with them.
New York City was another one of those incredible experiences. I can still remember years ago talking to my friend Hannah about marathons. She had run a couple of half marathons but didn’t seem to think a marathon was in her future. I’ll never forget how excited I was to hear that she would be fundraising for the NYC marathon to get a bib. I was ecstatic for her. Then another friend, Kait, mentioned that she would be doing the same as well. I figured, why not, Ill throw my name in the lottery, not thinking I would actually get into the race.
Then, there it was, the email stating that I was going to be running the 2016 NYC Marathon! Months went by and every weekend was full of encouraging messages from our little running group, asking what distances people were running and how the runs went, and offering words of encouragement and motivation. Another friend, Allie, was training for her first as well, the Marine Corps Marathon!
Training is never easy. Even though this would be my 4th marathon, there were good days and there were bad days. There are some training runs where time just seems to fly by and mile after mile your pace just keeps getting faster. Then there will be the occasional hard days. This isn’t always on your long runs of 18 to 20 miles, it could be on your days where you are only tasked with 3-5.
It’s incredible how much it truly is you against you…Maybe you have a hard day at work or a fight with your boyfriend and it’s hard to fight that little voice in your head that tells you that you should just give up. I can’t tell you how many times that little voice seems to tell me, what’s the big deal if you miss this run? Who cares if you even conquer this race. Nothing in your life will be better/worse because of it. And it’s on those days when a simple message from a friend or a coffee date with a fellow running buddy can help get you back in the right mindset.
Every training run I thought about my friends, conquering 26.2 for the first time. I pictured the finish line, and with us sharing our running stories with our marathon medals hanging from our necks.
When the big day came, I was so excited to have these wonderful people by my side. I knew that their lives were about to change forever, I couldn’t wait to be there with them.
It was an incredibly long day. My alarm went off close to 4am. I nervously got ready, double and triple checking my bag to ensure I hadn’t forgot my GU gels, my water bottle, my english muffin with peanut butter, my hat, my headphones, I seemed to be a nervous wreck.
I waited in a long line that seemed to go on forever, wrapping itself around the NYC public library until I was finally on the bus to Staten Island. Millions of thoughts raced in my head…my random pain in my foot that appeared the day before, would I run with a pace group or on my own, how much water should I drink, and what time will I get? Then after what seemed like ages, but in reality was probably 45 minutes, we all exited the crowded bus out into an even more crowded park in Staten Island. It all was becoming very real. As I waited as my friends to arrive on a later bus, I sat down on my towel in the grass by one of the many runner’s tents and had some breakfast. Suddenly I was approached by a twenty something guy who appeared to be pacing around looking incredibly nervous and fearful.
“I’m sorry but do you have a minute to talk?”
“Of course”, I had hours until the race started.
“Have you ever done this before?”
I went on to describe to him how this was my first NYC marathon but my 4th marathon. Then I continued to listen as he seemed to doubt himself, questioning if he would even finish. We talked about his training schedule, that he had mentioned he was very dedicated to and completed all the runs.
“You got this!” I said confidently. “Just think, the training, that’s the hard part. Now it’s time to celebrate all of your hard work. Sure there are going to be times when you’re hurting and you’ll hit a wall, but breaking through that wall is what’s going to make you remember this for a lifetime.”
As we continued to discuss, I slowly felt him building up confidence in himself. He seemed excited for what was ahead. Eventually he had to head to the bag check but he thanked me for the talk. It appeared that was all he needed.
Now, I have no idea what his name was, what his bib number was, if he finished, if he didn’t, but I hope somehow he knows he helped me too. That’s the thing about marathoners. It really doesn’t make logical sense why we actually pay money and give up our lives for months just to train for this thing. In the end, it’s all just so worth it. Knowing that I maybe helped him get through the race, pushed me through every challenging bridge, every pain in my legs.
The start of the race was incredible…there I was on the Verrazano bridge. It seemed like you were on a little planet where only runners’s existed. All of the runners cheered and finally the gun went off and we trudged our way up the first mile, up the bridge. After that it was miles and miles of loud cheering city streets separated with what seemed like hundreds of bridges, all very quiet which seemed to be an abrupt contrast to the loud city streets. Those moments truly challenged me. There were times on the bridge where runners seemed to slow to a walking pace as it was all too much. I thought back to those challenging training runs and told that little voice in my head to stay away and just kept pushing forward.
When it comes down to comparing the marathons I’ve ran, I must say the NYC course was by far the hardest for me, but that last mile going through central park may just be one of the most emotional miles of my life. The crowds power you through every step. It’s the most adrenaline I had ever felt in my life. I really felt that New York City is a city of dreams.
The hugs I shared with my friends after the race will also be a memory I keep with me forever. They had done it. They were officially marathoners! New York City will always have a special place in my heart from that race. I was overwhelmed with happiness to see my boyfriend, sister and friends at the finish. The level of support that they have for me is beyond incredible and I’m so lucky to have them.
Just when I thought it was time for a year off from running, I discovered it was time to return to Chicago…I had qualified as a time-entry runner just under the required 3:45 with a 3:43:20! And just like that, I couldn’t wait to set out on my 2017 training…