I needed these last two weeks to process everything that happened on November 6. I hope you can forgive me for the delay in keeping you all updated.
I'll start at the beginning. At 4:30 AM, the day began. My friend Glenys and I nervously ate toast and drank tea, double and triple checking to be sure we hadn't forgotten anything. We took a taxi to meet the rest of our group, and all of us shared a private car to Staten Island (not my idea, but I was quite happy to skip the long transportation lines in the cold). We crossed the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and made it to the start villages by 7:00 AM. By the time my wave went off at 10:40, The temperature warmed up to near perfect upper 40's, but I hung on to my thrift store warm-up out fit until the last minute, where it was donated. I must say, it looked pretty amazing. Hats complements of Dunkin Donuts (!)
The rest of the people I knew started at 9:40, and were in their corrals by 8:45. After I hugged my friend and wished her luck, I had plenty of time to think about what was about to happen. It was a perfectly beautiful morning.
I made it into my corral at 9:50. Nerves came and went. I sent a few texts to my husband and prayed and prayed and prayed. The start was beautiful. There were several thousand of us going off together, and talented singers performed the national anthem and Frank Sinatra's New York, New York. And then, very suddenly, the longest day of my life began.
My old familiar pain started on the downhill crest of the first hill. I didn't even make it one mile.
At first, I started crying. I had been hoping that something amazing would happen and I'd be okay. But that early pain caught me by surprise, and I knew then that this day was not going to go anything like I hoped it would.
The streets were lined with happy spectators, jumping and shouting and cheering. I was not proud to be walking that early. So I decided that this was not happening, that I'm running. So I tried to run, and was met with more pain. Early disappointment hit me in waves, waves of tears and waves of determination. At one point, a very sweet Mexican women, Daniela, took my hand and said, "don't give up! We are running today, let's go!" I tried to explain that I really couldn't run, and she called over her trainer, a man in his late 60's, who whipped out a spray can of some numbing spray and covered my knee with it. Daniela said some more encouraging things to me and took off. She was so kind.
I found myself keeping pace with a woman who had a jersey that said "Jess." After a while, we started talking and walked together. Her name is Anne-Marie, she is from the UK. You can see us walking together on the far left, at the bottom of the picture:
She also had pain from the first bridge. We walked together for around 6 miles. She told me she didn't come all this way not to finish, and if it took her all day, she'd walk to the end. That was the first time it actually occurred to me that if I wanted to, I could finish walking.
I tried out my knee again at around 7 miles, and I didn't see Anne-Marie after that.
Jeremy met me at mile 8, and we took this picture together:
Yes, those flowers are for me. He's good.
Just seeing him had me in tears again. But he walked with me for a while, and at that point I was determined to keep walking. So we made a plan to meet at mile 17, and if I ran into trouble and needed to drop out before then, I'd call.
After Jeremy left, my anger was driving me. I was angry that I knew I could run and yet was prevented. Angry that there was nothing I could do to change my situation. Just angry. And stubborn. I decided that I'd make my race-walking Mom proud of me and finish this thing come hell or high water. It was not pretty, but my average pace was around 12:50 minute miles at that time.
I kept up my walking and ran every now and then. My knee hurt less going uphill, strangely, so I ran the occasional uphills. At that point, the course was still pretty flat. You can just barely see me in the middle here, at the half marathon mark.
The Queensboro bridge was just as bad as everyone said it would be. Its long. Very long. And hits around 16 miles. I kept going thinking that very soon, I'd see people I love.
17 miles came and went, and I didn't see anyone. I was so discouraged, so tired, and in a lot of pain. So I just started crying. Lonely, painful, deep, intense crying. I felt alone and exhausted, but since I hadn't given myself permission to give up, I kept walking - tears running down my face.
I was receiving texts so I heard Jeremy was at 23. 23 is a hell of a long way from 17. I can't describe how tough 17-26.2 was for me. Exhaustion and physical pain, mixed with the sadness of being alone was almost unbearable. I didn't know why any of it was happening, why I couldn't just run, why my family and friends weren't there for me, why I couldn't quit.
Its like I said, I'm stubborn.
I cried on and off from 17 to 23. People started saying, "you're almost there!" from mile 20.
No people, we are not almost there. Stop it.
Then the sun started to go down, and it got cold. Soon my skin was red and numb and I had a hard time feeling my fingers.
I made it to 23, with no sign of Jeremy. That was the end of holding it together for me.
These pictures about sum it up:
Slow, cold, exhausted, alone, discouraged, in pain. I'm not sure how I kept moving. By the time I made it to 25, the cheering crowds were much thinner. When I turned the corner at 25, someone was rolling up the banners along the course. It wasn't difficult to be discouraged. I haven't cried so hard, so much, since I can remember. The tears just kept coming.
This race represented so much for me. Its hard for me to even talk about now. It was devastating to feel so powerless and alone.
Eventually, darkness hit the course and the I crossed the finish line, running. I saw Jeremy at 26, and he shot this video:
As it turned out, Jeremy did all he could to be there for me, but he kept missing me.
I dragged my pathetic self across that finish line with streams of tears running down my face. I was struggling to breathe when I crossed it. I doubled over from the shock of it all, the relief that it was over.
I finished in 6 hours, 22 minutes, and 7 seconds.
My phone went crazy with texts from people who had been tracking me, congratulating me on my finish. I didn't feel much like anything had happened that was worth celebrating.
I think I emptied my body of all my tears from the last 10 years of my life. Its taken me two weeks to try to understand what happened, why I felt the way I did, what was really happening in me. I'm not sure I'm there yet.
Luckily, I've decided that what I did was good, honorable, and brave. I didn't think so for a while. Looking back, there were so many moments that I saw, heard, and felt confirmation that I actually wasn't alone - that I wasn't abandoned.
I saw two little boys in Queens that looked like my sons might, cheering their little hearts out. I passed church choirs and singing women who looked me right in the eyes and smiled. I ran behind a woman wearing a shirt that had one of the verses I had been meditating on, Isaiah 43: 29-31 - "He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint." I heard God say He is proud of me, He has never left me, he will never leave me, He will not forget me. Even last week, in worship at church, I heard Him say I was never alone. I felt alone. I was not.
I know that I have important things to learn from this. That I am capable of so much more than I thought I could be. That even in physical pain and intense sadness I kept going. That even without the immediate support of people I loved, I didn't stop. I know that I will need these lessons in the not so distant future. I now have evidence that I am strong and brave and powerful when I don't feel like I am.
And it is good.
Thank you, everyone, for how amazing you are. You sent me texts and facebook messages, you called and checked in. You told me how proud you are of me. I shrugged it off, but I so needed to hear it. You interceded for me powerfully. You believed I could do it. I can't thank you enough for that.