I can hardly believe that a little over a week ago, I was sitting on the plane to venture to NYC to fulfill on a life long dream to run in the New York City Marathon. A dream come true.
As I sat in the creme de la creme of coach class in my bulk head seat, I turned to the gentleman beside me and asked why he was heading to New York. Sure enough, my new friend was flying out for the marathon. I was overjoyed and downright giddy about the race and asked him every last minute question I could think of. Then all of a sudden, I received a text from my running coach asking if I was okay and that there had been a shooting at LAX. I paid the $6.99 and jumped online to see what all the commotion was and sure enough there had been a shooting. My heart was beating. It beat with excitement and fear and relief as I had just missed being in lock down for hours and that there was also an emergency happening below me. For the next 5 hours, we received news about the tragedy and about how all the flights at LAX has been canceled. We made it out just in time and arrived in New York safely.
The headlines in the paper the next day read, "Mayhem at LAX." What happened? It was difficult to leave the tragedy at home knowing that something as epic as the NY Marathon was before me. Following a canceled race due to the aftermath of Sandy and the tragedy of Boston and now the shooting at LAX, this year was really special for New York and for the runners of the marathon. The news said that over two million people came out from every corner of the city (and the world) to support some 50,740 of us and you could really feel the encouragement and support from complete strangers.
I can confidently say that hands down, it one of the most remarkable weekends I have ever experienced. It will go down in the books as a dream fulfilled - an experience of a lifetime. The energy was perfect, alive and electric.
On Sunday, November 5th, I wrapped myself in my warm purple plush bathrobe, grabbed 2 scrambled eggs and an apple and walked to the to the metro with Brian, then to the ferry, the bus and finally the hill to the orange start area at Ford Wadsworth. They lined us up and at 10:55am sharp. You could feel the anticipation. People were jumping up and down while others looked at their watches very seriously. Then the announcer said, "Ready, Set" and a horn went off followed by Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and I literally "disrobed" dropped my bathrobe on the side and began to proceed up the Verrazano Bridge, the most significant hill on the course to a point 274 feet above sea level. I was so in awe of the view and a state of disbelief that I hardly noticed the incline but no sooner found myself needing to slow down or I wouldn't have enough energy for the full race.
As we entered Brooklyn and took our first left of the race, there was a roar of fans cheering us on. I could feel my pace quicken again and I had to deliberately slow it down in order to stay on my race plan. I looked around and took a deep breath and said to myself, "This is it" and a big smile went across my face that didn't leave. I thought about how my uncle Craig had also run this marathon a couple years ago and how he said it was one of the best and he was right.
As I ran, I kept a keen eye out for my cheer team and passed through historic Brooklyn. It was at mile 8 that I saw a sign in the distance that said, "Lauren you are the MOST." It was Brian! I was overjoyed, I ran up beside the railing gave him and big kiss and it was the perfect power boost to get my up the long stretch up Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue. As I dropped down out of Williamsburg, I came across two enthusiastic cheerleaders, it was Elica and Marina and as I passed them I still had that huge grin across my face! (I had also learned from the internet the importance of writing your name on your shirt and that way everyone who sees it, cheers your name! So you have millions of personal cheerleaders!)
At mile 14, we crossed the Pulaski Bridge from Brooklyn into Queens and made our way through the borough to the Queensboro Bridge which was probably one of the hardest moments of the race. Firstly, I was tired. I was just over half way and I had done a good job of keeping an even pace and now I needed to go faster in order to hit my goal of negative splits. Secondly, spectators are not permitted onto the bridge, so although this section was a break from the cheering crowds there was an eerie silence and I fought to not go into my head and reflect and just stay focused on running. As the magnificence of Manhattan loomed before me, I turned off my music and listened to the foot steps and breath of my fellow runners as keep going.
We made our way up the First Ave and a fellow Brentonian, Ariana, I ran up beside the course yelling my name! It was such a surprise! We then crossed the Willis Ave Bridge in the Bronx where I saw Mom and Lainy cheering. They didn't see me at first and I yelled, "I love my Mom!" at the top of my lungs and blew them a huge kiss. With tears of joy in my eyes, I embarked crossing our final bridge over the Harlem River, Madison Ave. Bridge into Manhattan and up our final climb up 5th Ave through Harlem, along Museum Mile into our final stretch into Central Park. I looked at my watch and set a new goal, 4:20. As I entered Central Park, I thought back on every training run and race I had done and knew that I had to finish with the Selman Sprint. I began to build up the momentum to fly to the finish line and found it difficult to pick up my pace and migrate through the crowd.
With a little less than a mile to go, I locked in my focused up Central Park West and declared, "This is for my family" and sprinted my heart out to finish in exactly 4:20:14, over 45 minutes faster than my last marathon. I took a deep breath and they place the medal around my neck and if felt like it weighed 5 pounds. It was huge yet I felt weightless and over the moon.
For me, it was a really special race. Not only has it been a life long dream and an opportunity to run it after applying for the lottery for years, I chose to run in memory of three incredible women in my life who have passed this year: my nanny - Ines, my godmother - Patricia and my grandmother - Janiece. All three women played a crucial role in shaping me into the woman I am today and I am forever grateful to them and their contribution to so many in the world. They were strong, proud and determined women and I miss them tremendously. Throughout the race I called upon them for strength, determination and I am confident I made them proud. For all of us, Sunday really showed me what the human spirit can do. The human spirit can heal, inspire, unite, forgive and above all love. I fell in love with New York, with running, with my friends, with my family and with myself. The lost of Ines, Patricia and my grandmother, has had a tremendous impact on me and my family and I know that, like a marathon has shown me, that if we take one step at a time and breathe that we will get to the finish line.
The other night I was talking with Brian about the concept of "collecting experiences" and checking things off a bucket list. What I discovered last weekend was the power and magic in "sharing experiences" rather than just collecting them. It was not just me running through the 5 boroughs of Manahattan, it was YOU carrying me through. From the delicious power meal the night before, to every run, phone call and word of encouragement, I am positive that the weekend wouldn't have been what it was without you. The weekend was beyond what I could have ever imagined. Thank you for providing and sharing the experience with me. The ING NYC Marathon slogan this year was, "You Make It The Marathon," and I'd like to declare that together "We made it the Marathon!"