Thoughts After Running My First Marathon

amy
At the start, in the finishing chute, and happy ever after

(1) That hurts! 
(2) New Yorkers—they’re nicer than you think!

(3) Look at me! Look at me! (a.k.a. pretty darn proud of myself)

Let me explain. I trained for this thing. I bought new shoes in a larger size the appropriate number of months in advance. I ran the hills and bridges in my long training runs, and my pace was consistent. I gave up wine (okay, it was only the last month, but this sacrifice cannot be overstated). I read the strategy blogs and asked advice of anyone who would put up with my questions. My sleep schedule was locked in. My nutrition was on point. Yeah, all of that was pretty much a bust on race day. By mile way-too-early, my knee, my ankle, my hamstrings—normally quite helpful and cooperative—they all conspired against me. By mile 16 the thought began to creep in that perhaps those nice people grilling out on their stoop had the right idea. Why did I decide to do this again? By mile 20, you start to feel like you’re running through a field hospital. People are collapsing around you, moaning, crying, hobbling over to complete strangers (no, not race volunteers, spectators) to get their legs rubbed down. I know that sounds dramatic. It is.

But here’s are some reasons I still think you should sign up for this race . . .

There is absolutely nothing else quite like it. I heard someone say the New York Marathon is the closest you’ll ever come to being in the Olympics. I kind of agree. People from around the globe racing beside you. You’re surrounded by dozens of different languages, but each face at the starting line shows that same energy and anticipation you’re feeling. You’re running through the greatest city in the world, and you are the athlete one million spectators are cheering for.

Which brings me to point number two. New York, I love you. I know we have this back-and-forth, love-hate thing; I mean, you know how you get sometimes. But when Frank Sinatra plays at the starting line, and you’re running across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, looking at the skyline of this overpriced, type-A, cutthroat, incredible city of ours, it is the most amazing feeling. The friends who came to cheer me on immediately became my new favorites. Every mile, through every borough, there are actual choirs singing, people passing out tissues and orange slices, telling you you’re almost there (they think it’s hilarious to start saying this by mile five), and calling you out by name to remind you, You got this!

Dear people who just signed up for your first 5k and think this all sounds like crazy-sauce: I get it. I signed up for my first half marathon in 2009 and had no clue what I was doing. I’ve been running since then, at least one half every year, but I’ve always said I could never run an actual marathon. Then at some point I told that voice in my head to shut up, because guess what, I can do it. And I did. Left, Right, Repeat. Just keep going. I was pretty surprised by how emotional I was when I finally crossed the finish line. It’s so bizarre, but I’ve never in my life felt a sense of accomplishment and pride quite like that. As I limped over to claim my medal, I remembered the starting line, where I’d nervously chatted with another first-timer. She asked me who or what I was running for. Just me, I told her. I ran this one for me.