Sunday, January 4, 2015

New York City in a Nutshell... as if.

It's true. Every word.

On November 2, 2014, I ran my 8th and FINAL full marathon in honor of the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina. My goal was to raise $2,620 (that's $100 per mile) for the HSEC. I can't begin to tell you how many people ask me, "how far was this one?". So... all marathons are 26.2 miles. That's why it's called a marathon. Just saying... I capped off my fundraising at $2,675. Why stop at an even number right? Whoop whoop! Thank you to EVERY SINGLE person who contributed. I cannot even begin to tell you what it meant to me. I think it is very safe for me to admit that my fundraising was my biggest victory in this journey. Like for real. It was the ONLY glorious moment.

So I began this journey by begging you ALL for money. Not for me, for the animals I work with every single day. You ALL came through big time. I surpassed my goal of raising $100 for each mile I ran and maybe, just maybe I felt guilty. That is until I reached the finish line and they made me keep walking, and walking and walking to get to the exit. And then I had to walk more to get on the subway which was miraculously closed nearest the marathon finish. What in the world?! I digress. I traveled the extra distance for the extra money.I swear.

Proud Loser.
The New York City Marathon is a lottery entry marathon. This means that you have to pay $11 to "put your name in a hat" and hope it's drawn. They used to have a rule, that we conveniently got grandfathered into, that states that if you get denied for 3 years in a row, you automatically are guaranteed entry the 4th year you apply. This means, we won for being losers! YES! I'll take a win any way I can get it people. We (my husband and I) were denied for 3 years in a row. We were IN! Three years ago, I would have rocked the HELL out of this marathon. Fast forward to now and my life had a few changes... ( see my last post). Running became less of a priority. My family and my job (which is also my passion) ruled my life in every way. At night before bed, I am A-Okay with that. BUT, I had an opportunity that I didn't want to waste. I was going to run the New York City Marathon... Loser style!

My training was less than PAWesome and my farthest long run was 18 miles. In the words of Pink, "
So, so what? I'm still a rock star. I got my rock moves. And I don't need you." I've survived worse and really, if I have to stop and walk, who cares? It's New York. Everyone walks there! So there's that...

Troy and I planned our trip to include my kids, my Aunt Beth, my cousins Ryan and Casey, Aunt Kevona (my daughters Godmother) and my parents (although only Dad was able to join). We figured if we were spending a billion dollars (registration alone was $225 EACH), we should see family we never get to see and show the kids New York city. Every marathoner knows the cardinal sin of marathons in destination cities is sight seeing. Never walk all day for 2 days before a 26.2 mile race. Are you kidding me, we are in New York! Let's go! We drug our children around that city like there was no tomorrow. They walked and walked and walked and they saw EVERYTHING there was to see. We even trick-or-treated at bars in Brooklyn (don't judge, we didn't have a lot of options). We had a BLAST and I loved seeing my northern relatives that I hadn't seen in over 5 years. That being said, walking requires very different muscle groups than say, I don't know, running. These muscle groups had not been targeted during my "intense" and laughable training. I was sore from high tailing it!

The night before the race, we laid out our gear, pinned our numbers on our shirts and climbed into bed. I don't know that I ever fully fell asleep because I could hear the wind SCREAMING outside our barred windows. Did I mention we stayed in a somewhat sketch part of Brooklyn? We got up at 4am as we had to be on the subway by 5:15am to make it to the Staton Island Ferry for our scheduled departure time of 6:15am. I still haven't figured that out yet since our start time was 10am. I mean, I get there are over 50,000 runners that run this thing, but can we work on the wait time people? The weather was wonderfully craptastic. There were 25mph winds and it was 40 degrees. AWESOME! I can't wait to run across the Verrazano Bridge with 25 mph winds. Oh that's right, I'm afraid of bridges. Wait, I take it back. Do I really have to run?  Don't fret though friends. I came prepared for this weather. Well, I didn't come prepared, but I did go to a Family Dollar in Brooklyn (even more sketch than where we stayed) and purchased 2 key materials. A $5 fleece blanket and a $2 plastic table cloth with the fleece lining. Warmth and wind resistance. I. Am. A. Genius.

After you get off the ferry (which was pretty cool), they bus you to the start where you stand and freeze in a field near the bridge on hay until your coral is called to move forward. You are then ushered like a herd of cows to the slaughter to your ultimate demise. I was luckily distracted by 2 men that were in front of me in throw away warm up suits and faux-fur lined hats with the tags still on them. Runners are really smart when it comes to staying warm before their race. If you toss anything along the way, a crew picks it up and it is donated to shelters and homeless folks on the street so you can't feel too bad about tossing that faux-fur lined aviator hat. We approached and the gun went off.

After maybe 100 meters I hit the section of the bridge that is over water. I was literally being pushed into the runners next to me by the wind and it was cold... cold gusty wind on a freaking bridge. A marathon is about 95% mental and 5% physical ability. I remember my feet clanging together as I picked them up to run and feeling like my anxiety would cause an explosion at this point. All I could say before mile one was, "Honey, I can't do this!" Troy knew I was checked out of the game and tried to keep me laughing and focused. My husband was my rock on this journey and I wouldn't have finished without him. He knows me too well and so he stayed about 5 steps behind me for 26.2 miles, only to move up to check on me or when he saw me fading mentally. We reached the bottom of the bridge at mile 1.5 and we kept moving. Luckily the wind seemed to be blocked a bit by the tall buildings through the boroughs and we just rolled with the punches. I know this will be shocking to most of you, but I typically talk all 26.2 miles of a marathon. I was quite speechless for NY. Maybe it was the fact that I was totally not prepared, maybe I was just taking it all in, maybe I knew it was my last and had a lot to process or maybe, just maybe, I had fallen out of love with running and it hit me at mile 1. I might have broken up with running at mile 2, but I had to get to 26.2 to get my medal and for me, I ain't leaving without that medal! I had to motivate myself to get to the finish line and it became clear very early in the race (like before I got out of bed that morning) that motivating myself wasn't going to be easy. So I chugged along in silence.

This was mile 6 or so. I can't tell you how excited about seeing
this on the side of the road I was. I think she was pretty pumped too!
I searched the crowds for entertainment and as always, it was found on the faces of the 1 million plus spectators. I focused on that for a while. These people were FREEZING and yet they made posters and brought candy and kids of all ages lined the roads just looking for the next high five. The crowd was my favorite thing from NY. The sea of onlookers never stopped. I mean never. Cheering and bands and kids and all kinds of goodness was seen along the course. Troy and I really haven't talked too much about the experience actually, but I can tell you, I've never seen someone love a high five like Troy did that day. He searched for kids on the route and he would make eye contact, point at them and run right to them for a big high-five! I loved watching this interaction and it got me through quite a few miles. I am pretty sure he had no idea that he was my motivation until about mile 10 and then my focus shifted.

This is by far my favorite memory from the marathon.
My family at mile 12.1. From left to right: My cousin Casey,
my Aunt Beth, Nora, Jackson, Ryan and Dad is in the back.
You see, I knew my kids and family were waiting for me at around mile 11. They had told me they would be in a park and I knew it was coming. If I could just get to them and get hugs, I would make it. We hit mile 11 and I saw the park. Troy took the left side and I took the right. For a mile straight, I saw nothing in front of me. I scanned the faces of the crowd just searching for my children. I have been running marathons since 2009 and my Dad and my kids had never seen me run one. I had to find them. We passed the 12 mile mark and my heart was sinking. We hadn't found them. Had we missed them? Should I turn around to go back to find them? The tears began to swell in my eyes and I hit a 90 degree turn to the left just after mile 12. I saw my two tiny humans right on the front line and they saw me. I began to yell to Troy to cross over and ran to them for big hugs. My cousins Ryan and Casey, my Aunt Beth and my Dad were all in tow behind them. If I could have captured that moment and that moment only in my head, that's what I will remember the most. I did everything I could not to loose my sh*t and took a picture with them and let go of my daughter's hand and waved good-bye. It was beyond difficult for me to watch them diminish as I ran farther and farther away from them.

The man in the middle is blind. He has a rope tied to the
guide to his left that he holds in his hand.

One of my favorite things about marathons is their ability to put you in your place in this world. You certainly aren't the fastest, but let's face it, it could be worse. There are people that will beat you that physically shouldn't. They just have more heart, plain and simple. I've been beat by people that are overweight, 80 years old or disabled. Oh and this one time when the lady was pregnant and due in 10 days... yeah, totally happend. They don't beat you because they are in better shape. They beat you because what drives them is deeper than what is driving you. I know this because when I am working what I think is my hardest, they come wheezing upbeside me and I see it in their eyes. Every single time I think to myself, well if they can do this, so can I! It's not always them beating you though. Sometimes, it's people you pass along the way. You almost feel guilty, but it would be wrong of you to stop for them. They don't want your pity. They want you to look at them WITHOUT pity in fact. They are there to prove to you that pity is below them. I ran past quite a few of these individuals after leaving the kids and this moved my feet along the next 8 miles. Team Achilles is there and they are a group that provides "Guide Runners" for disabled participants. I saw many blind runners, runners in wheelchairs moving forward and even a man in a wheelchair that used his feet to push him backwards 26.2 miles. These are people that make you realize you need to quit your bitching and MOVE simply because YOU CAN. As you pass, there are always shouts and cheers from other runners in support of the Achilles runners. So much so that your eyes fill to the brim with tears of some emotion you just can't place when you see them.

My best friend Ke'Vona was waiting at mile 18 and she promised to have a beer and some pretzels for me so onward I marched. When I say I marched, I kinda really mean it. I was like, "Screw this, I'm walking!" I mean I still ran, but a walk break was my best friend. To my disappointment, the crowd was so big, I never found KK.

You can say that again. No, wait. No you can't.
Ain't gonna happen again.
When we passed the 20 mile mark, I was way past done. Troy knew I was at the end of my rope and said not a word, but stayed behind me a few steps to give me room to breathe. I kept trying to take in the sights and enjoy it, but it was clear, this love affair was over and I really wanted this marathon to be over, too. So many thoughts ran through my head. I was sad that running had broken up with me or maybe I with it. I was sad that I waited so long for this journey and I didn't or couldn't get to enjoy it like I should. I just felt sad. Despite this feeling of defeat and loneliness, I had promised my donors that I WOULD FINISH this damn race and at $100 a mile, I better hop to it! We hit Central Park (which means you are SOOOO close to the finish) and I thought I would kill someone. I knew I could make it. Strangely enough, that was never a question. I just wanted to be done with it about 4 hours ago and was ready for the confetti guns at the finish! At this time, I was walking half a mile, running half a mile and on a walking section a spectator had the audacity to yell out, directly to me, "PICK UP THE PACE! YOU'RE ALMOST THERE". If you are a spectator, please don't ever, under ANY circumstance, say this to a person at mile 25 of a marathon. Ever. She then asked, "What are you thinking?! GO!". I glanced back to Troy and he gave me a look that told me he was too tired to bail me out of jail if I decked her so I called her terrible names under my breath and moved on, slowly. Just after I had been heckled I decided this business needed to be over so I stopped walking and ran as fast as I could. Granted, as fast as I could was hilariously slow, but still. The finish seemed so meek despite it's grand stands and loud speakers. I even heard Hugh Jackman was there (If I had known this sooner, I would have finished way faster). It was emotional to say the least. I was devastated in every way possible and yet relieved that I had fulfilled my promises. I felt guilty that it wasn't the glorious experience I wanted it to be. It was certainly the largest race I had ever run with over 50,000 runners and over 1 million spectators, but my heart was more in the Cause Behind the Paws than it was in the feet on the street. It was a bittersweet moment for me, one that I still haven't been able to process.

Managing the best smile I could muster at the finish line.

As we traveled home the following day and spent 11 super fun hours in a car, I was at least happy that the journey was as soul searching as it was. I might have discovered some things about my soul that were a bit painful, but it only reinforced the one thing about myself that I have never doubted and that is that I love what I do for the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina. The hard earned finishers medal doesn't signify a 26.2 mile race for me. It signifies $2,675 raised for a cause I truly believe in. That is the equivalent to 36 dog spays or neuters, or 267 rabies vaccinations, or 60 cat spays. Whatever way you look at it, this journey was bigger than me and served a purpose and for that, I will love every foot strike of the race.

Thank you to everyone for supporting this cause, for supporting me and supporting the animals that we care for at the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina. I cannot begin to tell you what it has all meant to me. Over your lifetime, you will grow and evolve. From year to year, you will find that what makes you tick is different than it used to be. I am thankful for everything that running has brought to my life and it has brought me more than I can even manage to list through words. I am also thankful that I have a driving force in me that is different, yet still makes me happy and proud and will try to just embrace that for a while and maybe every now and then, I'll get in a good run and maybe, just maybe, in time, I will fall back in love with the road. Until then, LET'S SAVE SOME LIVES!

Here are some other shots from the race along the way. Thanks again for all your support!
Just before the start.
We are on the bridge and I might just jump off.
Troy trying to make the bridge funny.
I'm on a bridge.
I really like her poster and I was not that one. Ever. It's a rule I have.
Look closely. This man didn't just run 26.2 miles. He juggled and ran 26.2 miles.
This guy was dressed as the count. His buddy Big Bird was there too, but I didn't manage to get his picture.
Spectators along the way. Look in the windows and fire escape. It was pretty cool.
Kids with candy.
Kids giving high fives, or maybe just low fives.
My obligatory fireman picture.

That is all she wrote. Peace out!

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