Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 11/7/17
During my high school days, my cross-country team and I would hop on a train each year and head out to watch the New York City Marathon.
Every time, I would feel star-struck by the runners that ran by me on the streets that are normally stuffed full of cars. To me, to be able to run 26.2 miles was absolutely otherworldly, something that could never be in my grasp.
However, on Nov. 5, crossing the finish line of the New York City Marathon became my memory rather than a dream — but it didn’t come without physical therapists, podiatrists, injuries, tears, weekends spent in, hours spent running and hundreds of dollars spent.
For months, life beyond Nov. 5 didn’t exist for me. I couldn’t fathom that Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other day after Marathon Sunday would come. It may sound silly to someone who isn’t a distance runner, but I knew that this holy grail of racing would be the most important day of my life thus far.
Of course, this only added to my nerves that built up to Nov. 5. I have probably run close to 200 5K races, two half-marathons and countless other races of varying lengths, and as any of my running buddies can attest, I still get shaking-nervous before every single start. My marathon nerves were only exacerbated by my lingering calf tear and plantar fasciitis.
Although my injuries made me unable to complete additional smaller runs throughout the week because of crippling soreness, every weekend, I still logged my long runs, ranging from 10 to 18 miles, which I hoped would be enough to guarantee my finish-line crossing in any way possible, although it was nowhere near what competitive marathon training plans recommended.
On Marathon Sunday, I was so nervous for the three hours awaiting my 9:50 a.m. start that I spent the time throwing up water and my few bites of a bagel. Of course, this only made me more nervous. How would I ever complete 26.2, a feat already seeming to be outside of my capability, on an empty stomach with two hours of sleep?
I frantically called my unofficial coach and running buddy, Gianine Esposito, who has run 16 marathons, inspired me to sign up for the race and has supported me during literally every minute of my marathon training with advice, kind words, recommendations, gifts and rides to race starts.
She may have been nervous, too, when I told her about my rough morning, but she told me calmly that of course I was going to be fine. I didn’t need that bagel or two bottles of water before the run.
Once I got started, she said, I would be OK. Everything would be great. I should go pet some therapy dogs and take deep breaths. So I did. If Gianine thought I would be fine, then I would be fine.
At the start, as we tossed our throwaway sweats into the grass and shuffled uncomfortably on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” started playing, as it does every year at the start of the 50,000-runner race.
People who had got on planes to get here, spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars training started to sing and dance together. It was obvious — this wasn’t a race against the guy next to you. All 50,000 of us were going to do this together, whether or not we were injured, tired, cold or wet from the drizzling rain.
The ensuing 26.2 miles were hard, as they should be. I felt my lack of sleep, lack of food and lack of hydration at times. But what I also felt was the support of all of my friends, family and co-workers who were tracking my progress; Gianine, my boyfriend Mike and my friend Andy who stood dutifully at their posts to give me a hug and high-five at various miles; the cheers of ecstatic strangers; the jaw-dropping sight of seeing tens of thousands of runners fill the streets of New York City; and the magic that only completing a feat that you have dreamed about for 10 years can offer.
Crossing the finish line 4 hours and 44 minutes later with an ear-to-ear smile on my rain-soaked face, I knew that the quote I had always heard about this race was true: “If you do one marathon in your life, this is it. New York City is the greatest. You are the luckiest.”