One year ago today I stood on 77th and First Ave waving a neon pink sign I had made the night before, ready to cheer for my Uncle John and “Aunt” Trish as they ran the NYC Marathon.
At the time, I knew little about marathons or running in general. I had run on the cross country team in middle school, and I hated it. I often got cramps and was one of the slowest runners on my team. Running was just not for me.
As I stood on the crowded side walk, waiting to catch a glimpse of my family run by, I got the chance to pause and take in what was going on around me. Hundreds of runners were herding up First Ave. Fast runners, slow runners. Some old, some young. A few famous people.
Runners were stepping off to the sidelines, to take to hug their families and say a quick hello. Although some looked fatigued, mostly everyone looked really happy. Proud to be accomplishing a dream. Happy to be running on such a beautiful day.
When I realized that I had missed my family on First Ave, I made my way over to Central Park, desperately trying to catch them closer to the finish line (I never did end up finding them). As I watched runners complete their 26.2 miles, it hit me.
I want to do this race some day. I have to run this race some day.
Although it took me a months to get going (the holidays happened, then the winter)… I purchased new shoes with my tax return money in April and began running in the spring. I got a bit more committed towards the end of the summer and just last weekend, ran my first 5K!
Running the 5K made me happier than “middle school Gillian” would ever would have imagined.
The weather was lousy (someday we will all say — remember that freak Halloween snow storm?) and when I woke up to pouring rain that day, a huge part of me wanted to back out.
But I had trained for this thing for weeks! So many people knew I was signed up. My coworker (who is actually running the marathon today!) was the organizer of the race. If I backed out, everyone at work would know. But mostly, if I backed out, I would let myself down. So, I layered up and ventured out into the weather.
I don’t remember much. I remember crossing the starting line thinking “well, this is is, we’ll see what happens, here we go…” and then my mind blacked out for most of the race. Maybe it was the icy rain. Maybe it was the wind? Maybe it’s because my legs were numb.
What I do remember is rounding the corner towards the finish. My body felt like like jello, but I knew I wanted to finish strong and sprint to the end. So, I forced my wobbly legs to go, go, go and I raced across the finish line.
I was proud and happy to be done, especially in such crazy weather. I was also happy to learn that I had shaved 2 minutes off my time from the practice run I had done the weekend earlier.
I know some people might laugh at the idea of taking weeks to train for a 5K, but as I said above, running does not come easy to me. I think that’s one of the things that makes it so rewarding, for me personally.
The biggest realization I had from completing the 5K is that the effort I’m putting in during my runs three times each week is really starting to really pay off. I felt very prepared for this race.
Hopefully the 5K was the first of many races for me. Hopefully, one day, I look back at this post and say “how cute.”
Today I will watch the marathon, not as a random person on the sidelines, but as a runner. I am so excited to see so many people inspiring runners accomplish their dreams, and I hope that one day, I am able to do the same.
Until then… you’ll find me around mile 19, sipping some spiked cider from the sidelines. Happy Marathon Day y’all!
(One last thing — apology for all of the shotty photos. As I may have mentioned, it was kinda rainy.)