Looking back on it now, I can’t believe there was a chance that I was not going to run this race. Leading up the NYC Half, all the signs were telling me to pull out! First, my training partner could no longer run the half. Next, my body all of a sudden decided that it needed a break during my training. Yet and still, I remained committed to running through Times Square with thousands of other half marathoners.
As time dwindled and the marathon date approached, doubt crept up again. My work schedule became more hectic, and I would now have to leave from a work assignment in Detroit, MI in order to make the race. More and more of my friends were unable to run or cheer me on due to their own scheduling conflicts. At this point, the financial investment was my only motivating factor.
The fight or flight moment came when I was exiting the subway for bib pickup and was greeted by snow flurries. This was it. This was what I had been waiting for — the sign telling me loud and clear that I needed to bail. All I needed to do now was sell my bib and rid myself of the burden. Falteringly, I dug deep inside myself and remembered an exercise where I wrote down my running goals before the start of our DRC season; I made a commitment to be a more consistent runner.
The morning of the race was less daunting, I was equipped with the appropriate cold-weather gear, my headphones were charged, and my cell phone battery was full. Admittedly, I was running a little behind schedule and ended up missing the start time for my designated wave. (I ended up paying for that later on). As I entered Central Park, it began to materialize that I was really going forth with the run. I was fulfilling my commitment to be a more consistent runner and forcing myself out of a series of comfort zones. My time walking to the corral was filled with excitement and antsiness. Fortunately, I was not alone since I had conned Clif, another DRC captain, into pacing me.
The race started off calmly, there was a slow collective jog to the start and we spent the first couple of miles dodging other runners in the second wave start. (Note to self: always be on time to your race and start in your designated corral. Lesson learned…). Snow, which had originally been an impediment, highlighted the scenery of the park. The hills of Central Park rolled, and my conditioning felt great. The energy of the other runners was contagious and motivating. Even Harlem Hill was less intimidating, with the support of Harlem Run cheering us on.
The torture of hills was finally over at mile 6, as we exited the Park and entered 7th Avenue, towards midtown. Times Square’s regular chaos was transformed into a sea of runners surrounded by bright lights and a raucous cheer squad, comprised of both tourists and supporters. Spirits were still high as the cold air from the water hit us on the West Side highway. “Make it to the tunnel!”, is what I kept telling myself as I tried to finish the last 4 miles of the half. Warily, I made it to the tunnel with the support of Clif, and onlookers screaming, “DRC!”, and, “See you in two weeks!” Once I made it through the tunnel, adrenaline took over and propelled me to the finish.
Collecting the thermal blanket at the end was almost more rewarding than the medal itself! As I draped it over my shoulders and went to gather with the others, I felt an immense sense of accomplishment. We then gathered with the runners from Harlem Run and bonded over our shared anguish. This bond intensified as we all grabbed food and celebrated each other’s most recent feat.
The cold didn’t feel as cold anymore, and my hellacious work schedule and subpar training was inconsequential. The collective head nods and other affirmations from other finishers made the race even more fulfilling.
As we approach Bridge the Gap weekend, I’m reminded that each person runs their own individual race but not individually. It’s a collective movement that is so much bigger than me and even bigger than DRC.
And to think that it almost didn’t happen, the feeling of completion was intoxicating and made every ache and pain worth it.