“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”
-Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder
Some people don’t understand why we run. They don’t see the point behind training for months and months for a race that lasts some 5ish hours. They don’t understand the pain we put our bodies through or our need for the “runners high”, but that’s ok. I don’t expect anyone to understand what I do and why I do it after the weekend I just had in New York City.
The 2012 NYC Marathon was cancelled this year after much debate and controversy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. At first I was very sad to hear this, but then my friend Megan and I decided we would just keep our NYC flights and hotel and head to the city for a girls weekend. Little did I know this weekend would change my view of running into an even deeper appreciation for the athletes we are.
My friend Aaron, who I met while acting as a 2012 San Francisco Marathon Ambassador, was set to run his first full marathon in NYC. After finding out the race was cancelled, he asked me if I wanted to join him in lapping Central Park as he knew the loop was approximately 6 miles so we could do it in a little over 4 laps. I thought about it before I left for NYC and decided that since I was going anyway I would pack my running clothes and accessories just incase I decided to go for it. After visiting the Expo and talking to Bart Yasso I knew I had to go run it. He told me that several people had come by the Runner’s World booth and told him they were going to do the same. I figured that I had nothing to lose because I could run and if I needed to stop I would.
On Sunday, November 4, 2012 I woke up around 6, got dressed and started munching on a bagel. Megan had planned to bring water to us at the halfway point of our run so we ironed out those details and I took off about 6:30 to run down to the park (1 mile from our hotel). When I got to Columbus Circle I saw about 30 other runners milling about. I was happy to see that some other runners showed up. I had checked the ING NYC Marathon Facebook page and had seen that some runners were meeting at 7, 8, 9 and even 10 a.m. to get in a run on the day of the marathon so I figured I’d run into some fellow marathoners. Aaron showed up a few minutes after I did and we were off right at 7 a.m. from Columbus Circle which was about .3 miles from the actual finish line of the marathon which was still set up from preparations earlier in the week.
Now I NEVER expected to see what I saw for the next 5.5 hours, EVER. As we started running, we came across many runners. Some wearing their race bibs, some in their race shirts, some ran carrying bottles of water and some were fully decked out in their race gear (hydration belts, etc.). As we continued through the first 3 or so miles of the unofficial marathon, more and more runners were showing up. We came across runners lapping the park in the other direction, most said hi or we said hi and we kept right on going knowing that we were all out there for the same reason.
It was when we reached approximately mile 4 on the West side of the park that I realized this was MUCH bigger than I could have ever anticipated. We came across a HUGE group of runners, probably 50+, running in the opposite direction. They were cheering, yelling, laughing, talking and all excited about the “marathon” we were all running together. That was the moment I realized this was way bigger than I thought it would be.
The runners had showed up in mass to run their own marathons even though there was no organized race happening that day. We wove through the crowds of runners, snapping photos, hugging their friends, chanting their country’s names and continued on our second lap of the park. At this point even more runners started showing up. We were to the point where we were running with tons of people. It really felt like a marathon where you are surrounded by your fellow marathoners the whole way.
At the end of lap two the crowds at the finish had gotten even bigger and the stands were filling with supporters.
Aaron and I met Megan at Columbus Circle to refill our water and decided to make a quick one mile out and back so our finish would be at the real marathon finish in Central Park, then we reversed our lap direction weaving back through the runners all over the finish area. The only thing I can say about this lap is that it just kept getting better! More and more runners came out, more and more fans came out with cowbells, whistles, signs, gear check areas, even make-shift water stations! It was AMAZING!
We saw Megan as we came through the finish area at mile 20 (end of lap 3) and I swear the crowds were multiplying still. The last lap was an awesome countdown to the finish Aaron and I had both been looking forward to. There were still tons of runners out on the course and the fan support at mile 24 was unreal.
We came into the finish line (26.4 miles) at 5 hours and 34 minutes to the smiling faces of our friends/family.
(I’m on the far right of this pic with my arms in the air.)
This was Aaron’s first marathon and his PR (that I’m sure he will beat at CIM in December) and not my best time, but with everything going on at this race, I wasn’t even worried about my time. Nothing mattered but running the miles with all the other runners.
I can’t explain why I cry at the end of each marathon, but I do. It never fails that when I finish I put my hands on my knees and burst into tears. Am I proud of myself? Am I exhausted? Am I delirious? I’m not sure, but I know I cry every time. And yes, I cried this time too. But I cried for so many reasons this year.
This marathon meant much more to me than any other race ever has. It wasn’t just another marathon to me. I’ve been through a lot of personal trials in the past few months and everything I thought was happening in my life has changed drastically from where I thought it would be. Running this marathon was something I decided I was going to do for myself and by myself. When it was cancelled I was so heartbroken that I wouldn’t be able to achieve this goal. But seeing the spirit of the marathon runners out there in Central Park reminded me why I do this day in and day out. It reminded me how much I love runners, how much I love the sport and how much heart it takes to keep doing this and keep pushing myself to the next level over and over again. I was reminded of the strength I have inside and the healing and learning I have personally done over the last few months.
I am so proud to have run what many are calling the Run Anyway Marathon on November 4, 2012. I know how magical the real NYC Marathon is for the runners, but I also know that only the 2012 NYC Marathon runners will know how special this day was… the day when we all said, “I’m going to run anyway.”
I look forward to running the 2013 ING NYC Marathon in November 2013. I will be there, I will attack that course and I will make new memories, but they will never compare to the magic I felt for 5.5 hours in Central Park this past Sunday.