The TCS New York City Marathon - The JOY is in the JOURNEY
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Running the TCS New York Marathon two weeks ago this morning was without a doubt the toughest feat of my life but brought me a pride and joy that’s hard to put in words! (some parallels there with giving birth:) I confess I went into this with a bit of uncertainty I had trouble shaking as my training schedule had even less miles on it than I ran prior to running my first Marathon, the Marine Corp Marathon, last year. Last year’s schedule was labeled “beginner” due to my “very prone to injury” status and three weeks after MCM I was injured yet again, having to D(id)N(ot)S(tart) a few early 2014 races, thus the uber conservative schedule this time.
Due to the predicted high winds race morning we received notification all tents and structures would be removed from the start line and along the course, baby was it ever chilling cold!! Warmed by spending time with my friend, Nancy, and sharing brief moments with the runners in Starter Village from all over the world.. Brazil, London, Australia, and the list goes on.. I don’t recall our talking to a single runner at start who was from the USA, I was excited to get the show on the road! When I finally got corralled more than 3.5 hrs after arriving on Staten Island, teeth still chattering, I was ready for what I knew would be an “experience” to remember.. the first race I’ve ever run where most of the runners kept their sweatshirts, gloves, & hats on as we started across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge with gusts of up to 40 mph. What outer wear HAD been discarded was flying about. I fought to stay upright being blown sideways & a tad diagonally forward. My Garmin GPS showed a 15 min/mile pace & since that’s my average walking pace I thought, hmmmm... so much for pacing LOL! I did however watch my lap pace during those early miles & could hear my Coach’s description of how to run this difficult course.. I felt achy early on & thought I’d shake it but I didn’t... At mile 9 I began feeling a strain in my left calf and glute which was unexpected as I’d had no trouble with this side of my body before. I was “on pace” the first half of the race when my body began telling me it was struggling... way too early to be feeling this much wear! I made an executive decision at this point to extend the walks I was taking as I took in fluids, realizing I’d have to if I was going to finish vertical. Disappointment nearly ruled me mentally but only for a brief instance, when I looked around at the cheering crowds, took in the beauty of the diversity around me, the relentless cheering from total strangers who instantly became encouraging friends, so proud of their home/borough and so welcoming, the children all bundled up & out there with their signs, high 5s all around, “BAM, hit here for POWER” read a child’s sign.. you can bet I did! ...circling back at one point when I missed the tiny hand of a precious little girl after having high 5‘d the rest of her family. With bands playing, spectators dancing all around celebrating every runner, I was filled with a joy I can’t describe & I couldn’t erase my smile. I have a dear friend who reminds me daily to “embrace my joy”... I thought of this and all I could do was smile and absorb the reality of what I was doing and what was taking place around me, fully realizing the blessing of what I was experiencing!!
I walked so much of the final half engaging the same strategy I employed late in my MCM route, “run till you can’t, walk till you can... repeat.” Because I had a Garmin malfunction at the start line and again mid-race, I had no idea of my time, which I’m thinking was a good thing :) My husband was at mile 17 to cheer me on as my sidekick and biggest “fan”. The wind had blown my bib loose at about mile 15 and when I texted him to get his ink pen out & have it ready at mile 22, he replied, “it’s ready” and didn’t ask why... smart guy!!! We did bib surgery, poking a new hole & reattaching it and I carried on with my journey, 4.2 miles to go.. oh my, it was HARD while at the same time AMAZING and WONDERFUL!!
With 3 fuel liquids still in my belt (oops, so much for timing my nutrition with a watch mal-function and a foggy mind), a Garmin watch I could not make any sense of, and a tired body, I entered Central Park which was lined with the loudest cheers yet, I didn’t think that was possible, and I saw yet another child with her family. Tears flow as I’m reminded of her beauty, another of God’s reminders that He and everything on earth that truly matters to me were with me in spirit as I completed the final miles of this difficult journey. She took my heart to my brother, Greg. As I reached both hands toward her, she patted my hands with hers and that’s all the strength I needed to cross that line... with my phone/camera in hand, I video’d the final minutes across yet another finish line with multitudes of tired and weary runners...
It’s funny how perspective works in terms of how we view life. While my finish was not what I had dreamed about, even though I went into this one not knowing what to expect without standard training, I had no room for discouragement. No matter what we runners say, we have expectations of ourselves and set ourselves up for disappointment when we don’t meet them. Not knowing what my time was till my husband texted it to me and thinking it was much more off my mark than it was, I was elated to say the least, but I can honestly say that for the first time in my short running career, it was the experience that made this the race of a lifetime. The experience of the race itself, time with my husband who was willing to forgo a vacation in order that I might run the race of my dreams, the experience of celebrating this part of my personal journey with my fellow Americans from all walks of life and from all cultures... the experience of EXPERIENCING first hand what this amazing, bright and shining city of islands represents.
One doesn’t have to be a runner to get weary during the journey and to allow discouragement and exhaustion to rule. If this strikes a cord with you, I encourage you to look around you, whom among you is there to encourage you and cheer you on. Whose world can you brighten by slowing down to pay attention, providing a hug or a smile!! It’s only in the giving that we receive. While a successful finish is the goal, the joy is in the journey and helps us redefine the word success making every finish line a positive experience that energizes for the road ahead!!