Dear NYC Marathon Route, all 26.2 glorious miles of you,
Hi! We met this past Sunday, Marathon Sunday, but I fear that you may not remember me. After all, there were 47,000 runners that touched your path on November 6, 2011. I was the girl with the high curly bun/pony tail at the Staten Island end of the Verrazano at 10:40am, and the deflated, low curly bun/pony tail in Central Park at approximately 5:48pm.
Actually, you may remember the last 4 miles that I cried. Or the last 1/2 mile where I found the strength, on sore and achy legs and feet, to sprint to the finish line.
You were so hard and yet, a marathon ending never felt so sweet. Two days ago, you showed me everything I’ve achieved and am in the 6 hours and some odd minutes it took to complete you. You reminded me of the grit and determination that lurks in my personality. It’s the one and same that has had several friends say, “Sara always does what she says she’s going to do” and currently that has me living a dream and plotting an escape.And at the end, after I refused a goody bag, mylar wrap, and photo at the finish, again showed me just how damn, plain stubborn I can be.
See, the road to YOU, my dream marathon, has taken five years. It has taken three marathons prior and a ton of self-belief and determination. For each of those marathons, and you, too, I fundraised on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Team in Training. I realized yesterday afternoon that I’ve raised over $19,000 for blood cancer research. That’s quite a feat. One that makes my long hours on four race courses not a failure.
When I started running in 2006, I said that I would only put myself through the pain of 26.2 miles for really cool places. Never would I run the Cleveland Marathon when I could run a marathon in Egypt (does that even exist?!)! And never would I run Boston because I’d have to qualify and commit myself to even more discipline than regular marathons and possibly even a lifestyle change.
And that’s where in lies the feelings of failure.
Between you and me, I have a fear of success. I have never fully appreciated my ability to “succeed”. I’ve always chosen to hide it so that I don’t stand out too much, or in another way of saying it, hold myself back. I’ve seen it at work and especially Sunday, as I crossed from the Queenborough Bridge into Manhattan and again at mile 21 when I thought, “You don’t really need a medal; you can quit you know and accept that you are just not good at running marathons, Sara”.
When it comes to running, sometimes I believe I can’t do it, even though I know that I can-I’ve witnessed the moments where my body becomes a running machine. It is because of this thought, that I’ve always finished a marathon, regardless of time and why I’ve gone back to challenge myself two and three and four more times after.
Every step up 1st Ave required me saying to myself, “It’s just 10 miles, you have this. You know what to expect.” Seeing Amy and Chiara at mile 18 was amazing and exactly what I needed, but you’d prove to me that I’d need to dig deeper, especially at mile 22, to get to mile 26. If it hadn’t been for spotting my boss at 22 and the pep-talk from the woman who saw me “hit-THE-wall” and said, “You’re doing what I couldn’t do because I got injured and had to drop-out mid-training”, I really don’t know that I would have finished. It was also at this point that I was reminded of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” lyrics, ” if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York…” at the start line.
I knew you were going to be tough, but I also knew you were going to be an emotional one. I am a Brooklynite by birth, even if I grew up in the Mid-West, and my Mom and little brother were here to see me run not-to-mention all the friends in the city that I knew were going to cheer me on.
Running the streets of NY was incredible, especially Brooklyn! When I got into Bay Ridge, and ran up 4th Avenue, I was awed and impressed. I even stopped into my favorite Coffee Shop in Root Hill and screamed from the door to get the attention of Michelle, one of the owners. It was surprising to her and I may have deafened a customer, but I felt such a love and pride for the Borough of my birth and the people that call it home. But what was more was the over all energy of YOU and the city. The people out there cheering in every Borough were such an amazing display of what there is to love about this incredible city that attracts so many runners to this day each year.
I would not have finished without all the support and encouragement that I got all 26.2 miles of you. The signs specifically for me from friends in Brooklyn and Long Island City made it extra special. What was the best though, hands down, as seeing my Mom, little bro, aunt, and cousins at mile 11. See, I’ve spent a lot of time in Williamsburg and so it was like I ran home as I ran through to LIC (another place I’ve spent countless hours) and on to Central Park.
Yesterday morning, I woke up to an email from my friend in South Africa that said the following,
” Well done! You made it. I was watching your progress online! Saw that
you made it half way and then it was late here, so I went to bed, but
checked your time this morning. Well done for persevering, I knew you
could do it. wishing you a quick recovery…”
Yesterday, with my swollen feet and aching legs, I ventured on facebook to see an outpouring of support, encouragement, and love unlike any other marathon I’ve completed. I no longer think that I failed you after all.
As I took MetroNorth to White Plains for a work conference yesterday morning, we rode into the Harlem-125th Street stop, just where I passed yesterday on my two feet and it was extremely cool to think, “I ran past this just yesterday!”.
When I walked into the meeting, everyone of my fellow conference attendees, from all over the world, knew I was the girl who ran the NYC Marathon Sunday. During the day introduction, they clapped for me and spent the rest of the day congratulating me and asking questions. Never once did it phase them that I didn’t finish you in 3 or 4 hours. They were just awed that I even had the gumption to run a marathon.
But that’s not what stopped me from feeling like a failure. No. It was more. It was the realization that no matter what-I’ve ALWAYS finished a marathon-even on poor ankles, a month after my father’s death, sacrificing my marathon for the sake of another marathoner and now, YOU, with an overwhelming desperation and anxiety to be just be done.
And so I thank you. Yes, I’ve rambled quite a bit here and I don’t think I even began to do you justice in regards to your scope and awesomeness, but THANK YOU. I had a heck of a journey to, through, and even now, after you. You inspired, caused doubt, fear, pain, anger and tears. You were harder than I expected and yet, more fulfilling. You were everything I wanted you to be and then some.
I hope to meet you again as a runner, one day in the future; maybe in a few years. For now, you remind me of my initial reason for signing up for a marathon and that marathons are not for babies or wusses. Marathons aren’t even for those that are half-hearted. No, to be a real marathoner, you must never give up, even when you want to, even with inconsistent training. You must be me, two days ago. The rewards to never giving up are much more than a medal at the finish, it’s NYC street cred.
Until our next meeting, my tired brain, achy legs and feet thank you beyond this long letter.