“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.”~Hubert Humphrey
In another moment, having Alicia Keys walking next to me…might have been exciting. However, given the context, I hated being next to her, because I shouldn’t have been WALKING. Oh, life…it often takes us on a direction that we did not plan…even if we valiantly fight against it. However, if we step back and take a moment to put down the boxing gloves, we can have the clarity to find the lesson life had in store for us.
This March, I kicked off an intense training program to prepare for the 2015 NYC Marathon. I trained and ran in small races, then bigger ones, all in preparation for the Big One.
On the morning of November 1st, I was excited – enjoying the energy of the start line, I inadvertently walked into a puddle — I got my entire left shoe muddy and wet. When the race started, I maintained my composure; I had been warned to not go to fast. My plan was to run negative splits — a faster pace in the second half of the race.
A few miles into the race, my left foot (the one that got muddy and wet) started to hurt. A small rock was lodged in between my toes. When I stopped to remove my shoe and sock, I noticed the rock had cut open the skin between my toes — the open wounds created a bloody mess. To make matters worse, my left sock – soaking wet from the puddle excursion – created friction and even more blisters. I limped into the medical tent to get it cleaned and taped up. I was determined to rejoin the race.
At first, I was able to block out the pain and run. After a few more miles — my body shut down. I’m not sure if it was from the pain from the bandaged, bloodied toes or if I was depleted from not having enough food in the morning. I couldn’t move. I have never experienced something like this before — and I have done plenty of long runs, leading up to this race. At mile 13, I stopped running and stood there for a moment, with my throbbing foot, trying to decide what to do. It hurt so bad to walk at this point, but I didn’t want to quit. At the same time, I knew it was impossible for me to run — the future had 13.2 miles of painful walking or quitting. I still don’t know how I did it on a gimpy foot, but I finished. I limped through, fighting back the tears coming from physical pain and disappointment. I was walking with the walkers (not a runner in sight), Alicia Keys was nearby, and I hated it.
The last few miles were miserable. I had to stop many times to lean against a pole and breathe through the pain. My friends came and gave me their support along the route. I crossed the finish line and had the medal placed around my neck, but I was sad. It was not the finish I had expected. I went home, and after a painful foot bath to clean the grime out of my open wounds, I went to bed, feeling like my heart was broken.
I woke up the next morning, and cried; a mixture of emotional exhaustion and disappointment. Then, I picked up my phone — I hadn’t checked it since race day. I was shocked. I had over 40 friends send me text messages of loving support; saying how they had tracked me the entire race and followed me on the app until I finished (yikes, everyone knows my awful race time and they’re still proud of me?). It took me an hour to read all the messages and I started to smile through the tears. I laughed at the jokes my friends sent me about my run. I was reminded of all my friends who took the time out of their day to cheer me along the race; I had friends in Brooklyn, UES and Central Park who waited for me to pass by. I was blown away by the kindness, love and encouragement — it felt good.
Very often we focus on success and forget about enjoying the friendships and life we have. And so I thought my Marathon Story would be about achieving a goal, after almost a year of dedicated effort. Funny, it ended up being something completely different. It awakened me to how lucky I am, to be surrounded by a loving group of friends. My heart feels warm and I am grateful. I didn’t quit. I still can’t believed I persevered through it. I made it through the pain. And my friends still love and cheered for me with excitement, even with the abysmal finish time. Truth is, friends make life a lot more fun — and I like this ending better than the one I had planned.