During the early months of my running renaissance in 2012, my friend Adeline, who was new to running, got a crazy idea – let’s sign up for the lottery for the NYC Marathon. Less than 10% get in, so most likely we’d be off the hook. But we were determined, and were considering running for charity if necessary.
On April 25, 2012, I got what I was waiting for – a charge on my credit card bill – which made it official, I was a lottery winner! Cheering each year had become a favorite pastime of mine – getting out there yelling every name I possibly could. I’d always walk away feeling high, not from running or weed, but from killing so many brain cells screaming for hours. And now I would be on the other side of the barricades – the cheerer had become the cheeree.
Adeline, while not lottery-lucky, was able to gain entry through a colleague of ours, Howard, who had done pro bono work for New York Road Runners (NYRR). Our other colleague, Marcy, was also in!
With so many changes happening in my life, marathon training was a gift to myself. But it was certainly not easy. I had recently moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn – swapping the 6.1mi Central Park loop for the 3.4mi Prospect Park loop – which made running longer distances mentally challenging (and boring). Not to mention the heat and humidity. I literally felt like I had died on almost every long run. I was also dealing with the stress of a new job, still in unproductive communication with my ex, and tinkering in the dating world.
But every now and then, I managed to get out and have fun, like when I danced with friends at 2am on the Brooklyn Bridge.
During that first year of training, everything was Facebook post worthy. Each long run I did was the longest I had ever run before, a new feat! Most joyfully memorable was the unexpected 17.1mi run with Adeline, nearly half of which was in torrential downpour leaving my feet to be anything but desirable. I’ll spare you the details of that photo.
On top of logging high mileage, I was working late planning for three major events happening within 2 weeks of each other, on opposite coasts, followed 3 days later by the NYC Marathon.
It all came to a head on October 6th, the day of my 20mi training run. I had finally bought a Garmin GPS watch just in time, knowing this run would give me my best insight into what the marathon would be like. I mapped out a route and then took the subway up to 215th Street, the tippy top of Manhattan. My plan was to run the entire west coast of the island, around the bottom, over the Manhattan Bridge and down Flatbush Avenue ending at Grand Army Plaza. Of course, staying out til 3am the night before was not a wise move, but it was much needed for my sanity.
The first few miles were easy, but that quickly shifted. I was tired, I was stressed, I was sad. And being new to the world of watch technology, I had not fully charged my watch. At mile 11.85 it died. And thank god for that. It was too much pressure to worry about my pace, and luckily I knew where the 20mi mark would be. So I continued on my way, stopping nearly every quarter mile to lie on a bench for a moment and cry a little. My ex had recently given me an ultimatum, which I declined, and shortly after let me know he had a new girlfriend hoping I would be jealous. I wasn’t yet feeling confident at my new job and was overwhelmed by the long hours and stressful work environment. I was at a breaking point.
The rest of the month was a whirlwind. On October 21st, my organization held a family friendly Halloween benefit in New York City and then I was off to Los Angeles, where we would be holding our second one. The day before we were set to fly home, there was talk about a massive storm, Hurricane Sandy. Days later would be our major gala, hosted by Alicia Keys and honoring Oprah Winfrey. We didn’t worry, they always hype these things up.
It wasn’t all hype. The storm was real. People were killed, homes were wiped out, the subways were down. Yet, there was barely even rain where I lived. I went out that night and had some much needed fun. The next day, it was announced, our gala was postponed. As disappointing as that was, I felt a sense of a relief. After two months of high stress, I could enjoy this last week leading up to the marathon, resting and relaxing.
Or could I? On Halloween, there was talk about if the marathon would still happen. While the race is a huge boom for the local economy and a symbol of hope in this city, so many people were still dealing with the aftermath of the storm. There was controversy over whether the marathon was diverting resources from the recovery efforts, including police, fire department, generators, etc. The final word was with Mayor Bloomberg, who declared the race was still on.
My next challenge was getting to the marathon expo at the Javits Center in Manhattan. There were still no trains running in Brooklyn, and very limited service in mid/lower Manhattan. There did happen to be trains running between Astoria and Manhattan. And lucky for me, I had spent the week getting to know a neighbor who had a car and worked in Astoria. It had been nearly two weeks since I used the subway since I had been in LA the week prior. The traffic in LA always makes me long for the subway, so I was extra excited when he dropped me off at the station and my foot stepped into the subway car.
The expo was magical and emotional – a dream of mine, running the NYC Marathon, was about to come true.
After collecting my bib and sampling energy bars, I made my way back to Astoria where my friend picked me up on his way home from work. All of a sudden I started getting texts saying, “I’m so sorry,” and, “I hope you’re okay.” I was confused until someone texted me in explicit words, “It sucks the marathon was canceled.” Everything came crashing down. I trained for 4 months, struggled through major life changes, persevered through 2 out of 3 work events, broke 2 iPods with my sweat, and now, 2 days before the marathon, after being announced it was still on, it was no more. It was not postponed like my work gala, it was flat out canceled. I was crushed.
On Sunday, November 4th, the day the race should have been, I wore my orange 2012 ING NYC Marathon long sleeve shirt and made my way to Central Park. While I was coming from just miles away, so many people had flown in from around the country and all over the globe for this day and were determined to run. As I ran a loop of the park, including past the marathon finish line, I felt hurt but hopeful. My moment had been stolen from me, but I was grateful that my family and friends were all unharmed by the storm, and recognized the countless others who weren’t as lucky, with needs greater than mine at that time.
Back in my office on Monday, I saw this note Adeline had left for me prior to storm. The only thing that ended up being true about it was that that day was in fact, a Monday.
Days later, the Philadelphia Marathon made the generous decision to open up their race to NYC Marathon refugees. A decade earlier, it had been my brother’s first marathon. He was already planning to be at the race, and of course, my dad, the one who had gotten me into running, was planning to join with me. My friend Sophie, who I had known since 2nd grade and terrorized during high school winter track, let us stay at her apartment while she was out of town.
A couple of weeks late, the moment had finally come, I was at the marathon starting line. Each mile came up quickly. The crowd was energized. Around mile 8, I was looking for my dad, ready to hand him my headwarmer. I was feeling good. I was also wishing it was the NYC Marathon. Philadelphia had never mattered much to me. But beggars can’t be choosers. Near the halfway point, my brother found me. He was casually running the course checking on his friends who were racing. He stuck with me for nearly the rest of the race. At mile 18, I was thinking I may need to go to the bathroom, and he smartly he advised me that if it wasn’t dire, I should keep going. Next up was the symbolic “wall” you often hear about in marathons. For me, it wasn’t made of brick, but was built like Ikea furniture. I hit it, pushed through, and ultimately made it to the finish line in a time of 3:44:27 / 8:34 pace.
Harder than running the marathon was existing after the marathon. Everything hurt. Just stepping up on a curb was a massive challenge. Even harder was changing into spandex, much needed to prevent chafing in sweaty clothes and keep me warm.
Once I had a moment to recover, I was filled with pride. Just months earlier, I was proud to run 8mi at that pace, and now I was able to run 26.2! Making the moment even sweeter, I had experienced it with my dad and my brother, the two most influential runners in my life.
2012 was a fluke. It was the one year since 1970, that the NYC Marathon did not happen. While I was grateful to Philadelphia for letting us into their sold out race, for me, it’s always been about New York. It’s the city I’m from, it’s the city where I live, it’s the city I run, it’s the city where my closest friends and family are. And so my new goal was set, to run the NYC Marathon in 2013, and every year after that I could.