As one of the world’s largest marathons draws near, I can’t help but to feel a hint of excitement, remembrance, and relief as I recall my experience from the 2009 New York City marathon. While I wasn’t blogging this time last year, I was making my way across the country to participate in my first marathon in over five years.
Despite our horribly placed hotel (right next to the Port Authority!), Chicken Face and I made our way through New York City like any good tourist would do. It wasn’t our first time to the big city, but we did put a special new emphasis on taking advantage all of the great food the city had to offer.
But more importantly, the NYC marathon served an important role in my running career: it humbled me while simultaneously inspiring me.
I’ll be honest, before the NYC marathon, I was running casually. Just a few half marathons here, some 10K there and maybe a 5k or two for fun. But when I was accepted into the New York marathon, it was a rude awakening that I better get my but in gear. However, for whatever reason, I didn’t take to heart the true amount of training, determination and dedication running marathons take. Naively, I thought, “I ran the San Diego marathon with my longest training run being only 16 miles…I can do the same here.” Little did I know, this childish outlook was not only foolish, but dangerous as well.
So here I will admit it: my longest training run for the New York City marathon was around 16 miles. Not smart. Not smart. Not smart.
I started the race full of energy, vigor and a pretty great pace. I was cruising along with the best of them and soaking in all of the crowds energy (if you are going to do the NYC marathon for any reason…do it for the crowds. They are FANTASTIC!) But then it happened. It was almost as if the running gods were thrashing their bolts of fury down on me because as I hit miles 14-16 on the race, my body completely stopped working. My hips hurt, I had to walk, I hobbled through crowded runners and realized that even though I’m young, I am not invincible.
As I hit Central Park, I never wanted to be done with something more in my life. But the funny thing is, the more I wanted something to be done, the more determination I had to finish it. There was no way I would stop. Enter: drama.
My determination grew fierce and I started to try and run through the pain and pick-up my pace. I was shaky, improperly fueled, and hadn’t consumed enough electrolytes to stabilize myself. I made my way through downtown Manhattan and conveniently stepped in a pothole and rolled my ankle. But as far as I was concerned, I wouldn’t let that stop me. Run…run…run. As I neared the finish line, the crowds grew thicker, the cheering louder and my blood sugar lower. As I ran through an aid station I slipped on a water cup and completely ate cement. At that exact moment, I felt as if all of Central Park had fallen silent and gasped. A medic quickly scooped me up and asked if I needed help. I quickly said no, there is no way I could quit. I was almost there.
My scraped up legs had no choice but to continue…
and in 3:56:45, I crossed the finish line.
I was absolutely elated, but immediately became dizzy and couldn’t focus. Medics stopped to ask if I was ok and I immaturely told them that I was fine. But before I knew it, I realized something serious was happening. I grabbed the nearest medic and told them I was going to pass out. They rushed me to the med tent where it was clear that I was dehydrated. As I sat there, I began to shake like it was freezing outside and my teeth chattered with fear. They wrapped me in blankets and forced pretzels and a sports drink down. It wasn’t until an hour later that I stopped shaking…
By the time we got back to the hotel, I was stabilized and realized that I still finished the marathon in under four hours. Not my goal, but still an accomplishment I was proud of.
The New York City marathon is everything its chocked up to be. Elaborate, exciting and a race you will never forget. But to me, it was more than that. It was a reminder that success and accomplishments don’t randomly happen. Instead, they are a savored journey that must be worked at, and with time, will be realized. I think that all of us have those moments in life where you realize what it will take to achieve your goals. It’s never easy, because if it was, everybody would do it.
I am happy to report that 365 days later, I have shaved 20 minutes off of my marathon time and one of my bucket list items will be checked off this coming April.
Good luck to all of the racers this weekend and happy running!