As Erin mentioned yesterday, things have been slightly slow around here thanks to us both running the ING New York Marathon this past Sunday. While Erin and her fiance are multi-time runners of the marathon, this was my first one!
I played soccer for many years and even ran track for a few, and despite all the running that those sports require, a marathon always seemed absolutely impossible to me. I think I was once quoted saying the only idea more attractive to me than running more than three miles in a row was death. And I know I was serious.
Last year, however, I tried stand up comedy for the first time…putting aside my general discomfort with public speaking in an attempt to learn how to control my fear of it. When that went really well, I got to thinking – what else have I not been giving myself credit for? What was on my bucket list anyway? A marathon was the almost instant answer. Writing a book a close second. But I still didn’t think I could do it.
Then, last November I saw Erin running. Even though I’ve lived in New York for seven years, somehow I had always managed to miss marathon weekend. But when seeing her go by, lost instantly in the crowd behind tens of thousands of people, I couldn’t believe how much energy there was in the air. And how cool it looked to see all those people running! I thought about it a few more months, and then decided I was going to go for it. It was now officially a bucket list item. If for no other reason than I hated thinking there was something in this world that I could not do.
Almost a month to the day after I started training, I found myself one afternoon paralyzed on the bathroom floor with what I thought was a kidney stone. ( I wouldn’t recommend self-diagnosing while on the bathroom floor.) Turned out, it was my appendix and it needed to be taken out. I spent nearly a week in the hospital and when I finally got out, I learned recovery would take six weeks. This pushed me into almost mid-May to actually start my regimen. Every first timer who told me they ran the marathon said they trained for 6-8 months intensely…so I thought that this was a major setback. But with Erin’s bullying coaching, I started running again as soon as I was well.
The first long run of pain was six miles. I literally screamed my way through Central Park at Erin. That we were going too fast. That it was too hot. That I wasn’t built for this. But I finished. And to my extreme surprise at the end, I was still alive. I did this through eight miles, as well. Then ten. Then 12. Every week, I was convinced this was the week that I would hit my limit. That even the Pitbull Pandora station couldn’t keep me going. But week over week, month over month, I managed to add a few miles onto my long runs. Even when work was busy and I couldn’t run for a few days during the week (and sometimes there was no time to run at all) I carved out the time on the weekend (which sometimes meant going to bed early or not going to dinner with friends – both painful) to get those long runs in. And each time, I felt a little stronger.
On October 15, about five months after I started training, I completed my last long run of 20 miles. For me, this was the true test. Out of the teens and into the 20s. I ran from my house in Queens to Central Park, around the park a few times, and then back to my house. I took quite a few breaks. There were several times that I questioned my sanity. But I finished just a few blocks from home, a little more than four hours after I started, slightly in disbelief but finally confident that maybe, just maybe, I could finish this thing.
The night before, I have never been so nervous for anything in my life. I literally cried from fear. What if I couldn’t find my family in the crowd? What if I got a cramp? What if I missed my ferry? What if I couldn’t sleep tonight and was exhausted tomorrow? I broke down from fear of hitting my limit coupled with fear of the unknown. But Erin talked me through how I would get there again, and my dad whipped up one of his famous Bloody Mary’s so I could calm down and get some rest.
And thanks to those words and the smooth Svedka vodka, I got a good night’s sleep (even though, literally, there was a police chase and a car crash outside my window at 4 a.m.. I heard the crash and the sirens but literally told myself, “you cannot deal with this” and went back to sleep.) And I made my ferry. And I got to my area, checked in and got to the start line. And I didn’t get a cramp.
And for 26.2 miles, I ran through this amazing city – observing the nearly 47,000 runners around me the whole way, listening to the 2.5 million people lined on the streets who give up their Sunday to help the runners make it to the end by playing music, yelling their heads off and screaming encouragement the entire way. To my surprise, I was not as emotional as I thought. The training was difficult. But the marathon was a freaking awesome time.
And 4 hours, 36 minutes and 51 seconds later…I was done! I sprinted through the finish line like I was being chased…arms raised and in a little bit of shock that I was on my feet, not in gut-wrenching pain and actually still smiling.
After all was said and done, the months of training was worth it. I couldn’t have finished without my amazing family, friends and boyfriend – who managed to show up at every turn (literally I saw people at miles 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 18, 23 and 24 and apparently in the case of my sister, brother, boyfriend and assorted others in that group, running a bit of a marathon of their own to make this possible) with surprises, hugs, supplies and encouragement. It was truly one of the coolest days of my life and I felt so lucky and blessed to just have the best friends ever. And of course, my coach Erin had everything to do with it. Without her stares of disapproval when I wanted to skip a run, our chats during our weekend Central Park long runs, or my general fear of her wrath – I simply would not have finished.
And I learned some pretty huge lessons in the end.
One, I don’t hate running. Given the choice now between death and a three mile run- I would now choose life. Two, there is nothing I can’t do if I put my mind to it. I am more capable than I think. And three? Well, let’s just say I better get cracking on that book.