In my pre-race blog last week, I said that you learn a lot about yourself when you train for a marathon. After running the New York City Marathon, I realized that you also learn a lot about other people too.
Marathon week was a roller coaster ride. The pre-race buzz emanating from the city energized me. But, I didn't feel great during my runs – my Achilles and IT band on my right leg were still bothering me, leaving me deflated: “If I feel this way during a 3 miler, how I am going to make it to mile 26?” Panic set in. Should I even run the race?
Jen ready to run at 5 a.m. the morning of the race.
While visiting the race expo, I perused a large poster board displaying the images of all 343 firefighters that died on 9/11. As I wiped my tears, the fireman behind the table asked, “You running the marathon on Sunday?” I nodded my head. “You’re gonna love it – you’re going to do great!” he said warmly. I thought to myself – here’s this man who puts his life on the line on a daily basis, who survived 9/11 – a hero, talking to me like I’m the hero for what I’m going to be doing on Sunday. I felt a shift taking place.
Later, I watched coverage of Edison Pena, the incredible Chilean miner who was also running on Sunday. Not only was this man was going to run the marathon with an injured knee, the longest training run he’d completed was 10 km (my longest was 23 miles, so I had nothing to complain about). My amazing friends Erin and Lindsay then stopped by my room, aware of my fears. “Stop focusing on what you’re afraid might happen,” they encouraged. “You have to at least try. That is why you are here.” And with those words, my fears disappeared in a New York minute.
It’s amazing what happens when you change your mind set – the world around you changes too. On Sunday morning as I stepped on the bus headed to Staten Island, Kathleen Jobes – an elite runner who competed in the 2008 US Olympic Marathon trials, whispered in my ear, “Jen – I promise you, running New York, you will not feel your Achilles at all.” On the bus I sat next to Dana Casanave. This marked her 44th marathon of 2010 (she is running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise money for South African orphans). I was so inspired, I wanted to jump off the bus right then and start running.
Jen at the lululemon Mile 23 cheer station.
As the race began over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I realized that Kathleen was right – I did not feel my Achilles at all, nor did I feel it for the entire race. Entering Brooklyn, I was motivated like never before. Both sides of the race route were crammed with people cheering passionately…and it didn’t stop for all 26.2 miles. As I ran, I thought, this is what Sidney Crosby must have felt scoring the gold medal winning goal. But I think I felt even more elated than that.
Everyone asked what my favorite part of the race was. I was so inspired by every single spectator; I slapped every outstretched hand, I waved at every fireman and policeman; I smiled at every face. At mile 23 I was in pain; my legs felt like lead, my feet ached tremendously. I passed the lululemon cheer station in Harlem, and what a boost they provided. Then, about half a mile after that, I had the honor to share a few strides next to the Chilean miner. That was all the inspiration that I needed to gut out the final 2 miles. Running through Central Park was a bit of a blur, but crossing the finish line wasn’t. I felt overwhelming joy that has yet to cease.
So, while many people are inspired by those who run marathons, I am declaring that I am inspired by all of those amazing people who supported me – family, friends and all of those spectators who cheered, and made me feel like a champion. What a wonderful world. Thank you!