Would I do it again?
Before I ran the marathon, I used to respond “Hell no, I’m running this one and will brag about it for the rest of my life”. But ask me again, now that I conquered the pain after hitting the wall at the 20th mile (yes, all they say about this wall thing is true), now that I received the support and respect of about 2 million people passing through the 5 boroughs, now that I gave High-Fives to as many kids as I could … and I could go on and on about the reasons I would do it again.
The feeling that takes over you at the finish line is a high that makes you feel that everything is possible. And you want to feel that rush again.
My friends, like many other people, wondered why I signed up for the marathon in the first place. I had no answer until I remembered the movie Running with Michael Douglass. An athlete, his character was losing everything because he was not pushing hard enough to get what he wanted. It was then that he decided to take his life back, and if I remember well he had to run a marathon to qualify for whatever competition (this was the time we used to rent out VHS movies back home in Reunion Island, so forgive my lack of details). Long story short, he fell during the race, hurt himself quite badly, and despite his agony, limped his way to the finish line, unexpectedly receiving the cheers and admiration of the crowd. As a kid, this is when I understood what determination meant.
I’ve been running for a while, but training for the marathon is another story. With all honesty, I didn’t realize the level of commitment it requires. I had to run four to five times a week, including long runs on Sundays. The amount of mileage I had to put in took a toll on my social life and body. About six weeks before the big day, my right hip had me worried. I woke up on a Tuesday at 5 a.m., in pain. Truth be told, I knew something was wrong for two weeks already, but it was on and off and it would always go away with a day or two of rest.
But that morning was different and the pain wasn’t going away. I burst into tears, hating myself for not having been more careful. Above all else, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to run the marathon. I had worked so hard for it and was so close. I went to the sports doctor and the diagnosis was grim. It was a hip impingement, requiring six weeks of physical therapy. It also meant I could not run an upcoming 18 mile prep race I had planned and the fate of my participation in the marathon was also up in the air. Imagine my despair.
I told myself, no this is not happening, I will run this 18 mile race and I will run the marathon on November 1st. And I did. I had physical therapy twice a week, and on a top of my training schedule, I would do my PT exercises twice a day. This is when I discovered my own determination.
The Saturday before the race was spent prepping all the details, as well as resting and eating. I woke up Sunday morning, thinking, this is it (thankfully we had an extra hour of sleep because of the time saving change). Anxious but focused, I prepared to jump on the train at 7 a.m. It was that moment that I saw fellow marathoners on the platform. One of them had come all the way from the South of France (close to where I used to live for about 7 years) for the occasion. Her company was a blessing, as it took nearly 3 hours to get to the start line (my first time in Staten Island, after almost 6 years in NYC).
There I was, about to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, after weeks of painful training, after 3 toenail losses, after a hip injury at it was in that moment when things seemed as unreal as they were real. I mean, I’m this girl from Reunion Island (I know, y’all never heard about it…Google!), who wasn’t even allowed to dream she could travel so far, for whom America was just something you could read about or see on
TV. And at that moment, I’m thinking about how I’m about to run 26 miles through this city that I love so much? I’m either very lucky or very determined or both.
Now picture the smile on my face, and on everyone else faces. Picture the whole city smiling back at us, cheering us on. It is real.
After 4 miles, this other runner (5’5’’ tall of Spanish sparkles from Venezuela) approaches me and asks “what’s your pace? I’ve been following you since the beginning”.
“I’m trying to hold 10min/mile” I said, to which she happily responds “me too.”
So we decided to run together. She was like this random person you meet one day at a bar and stays in your life for the rest of it. We’d push, motivate, yell at each other, like two sisters who know what the other is capable of. If she was cramping, I’d rub her butt. If I was screaming of fatigue, she’d be like “we got it girl, we got it.” I’m so grateful for this bond. I would have never made it as well without her. Big shout out to you Carolina!
My best moment, ironically, was also my worst moment. At the 21st mile, my quads were hurting like never before. But I was in Harlem, my hood. I have so much love for this place which I’ve been calling home for almost 6 years now. And I realized that Harlem loves me back. My people were there, screaming my name, running on with me for a minute, showing me love and admiration. Of course, I teared up a little. The amount of support I received just propelled my exhausted, cramping self to the finish line.
When I got to 5th ave, I was breathing hard, emitting these strange noises communicating my suffering. It was then that my running partner Carolina said, “we got it girl, we got it! My butt hurts, but we got this!” So we pushed harder.
Then we were in Central Park, with just one mile left. Every little part of me was burning, but the cheers were getting louder, the high giving me chills (could have been the pain too.) We passed the 26 mile marker, and had just 0.2 left to go. Carolina and I raised our arms, smiling, feeling genuinely 100-percent, happy, relieved, grateful, proud, amazed.
“This is it,” I thought. And then it was done. We hugged each other, in disbelief of what just happened, of how a 4:36:44 life-lesson just went by so quickly. We were smiling, laughing, glowing and, of course, limping. And I haven’t really stopped smiling ever since.
I intend to hold on to this feeling for as long as I can. I will hang my medal somewhere in my bedroom and write my goals right next to it. I ran a marathon people.
I ran 26.2 miles!
I feel amazing, I’m serene, I’m certain, I’m at peace, ready for the next chapter of my life.