Apparently, I am running a marathon.
On November 2, 2014 I will join thousands of other runners at the start line in Staten Island to complete the famed 26.2 miles.
Now. I’m not really a runner. I’m more of a “runner” in quotations. In fact, I grew up a dancer and the first run I ever signed up for was a 3K. THREE KAY. That’s not even two miles. It was 2002, the summer before college. You guys, I hydrated pre-race as if I was preparing for a year-long pilgrimage in the desert, and by the time the gun went off my bladder was so full that I actually peed my way through the finish line. True story. My little sister looked at me and said “wow you’re sweaty!” to which I replied “Get in the car! We have to leave immediately.”
So that went well.
All my life, I have always loved fitness. But running remained this sporadic thing I would go out and do when the weather was nice enough, or I was too emotional to deal with anything (literally: running away from my problems) or, let’s be real, out of guilt because I had stumbled home the night before from a frat party and shoved an entire box of graham crackers down my non-sober pie hole. But beyond that, I started to like the liberating feeling I had when I ran. Time alone with your thoughts, your breath, your stride. But I convinced myself that it made my legs too muscular and so for vanity’s sake it remained a rare hobby saved for those desperate moments. #basic
Until about 3 years ago. I was going through a pretty turbulent time in my life. I was coping with a recently-called-off engagement and nearly-paid-for wedding. On top of this I had just made an enormous decision to leave my career in music theater and pursue graduate work at Hunter College. And then there was the moving out of the apartment we called home for two years into a sublet. It was an enormous and humbling transition in my life. And I knew I had to find myself again. So I started pounding the pavement. I would get up in the morning before Astoria had come to life and run before work. I would run to the park at sunset and watch the fiery sky light up while I logged miles. When out of town, I used it as a way to site see. It quickly became a haven for me.
So I signed up for my first 5K with a close girlfriend of mine, Demi. I refrained from chugging three gallons of water pre-race this time, and even though I was certainly not the fastest, I had fun.
And yay I didn’t pee myself!
So I signed up for another 5K at Yankee Stadium supporting the Damon Runyon Foundation for Cancer Research. And then another 5K for Susan G. Komen. And then the Turkey Trot!
Fast forward one year later, which ironically was one year ago: September 2013. I was training to become an instructor at Physique57 and simultaneously a trainer at Mark Fisher Fitness. I had moved into my own place. It sounds hokey, but for the first time I felt like I was becoming who I was meant to be. Read: Things were really going well in my life. And because of my physically demanding schedule, running had sort of fallen away.
Until running found me again. This time, though, my WHY was much different. The week of Labor Day, my father was admitted into the emergency room. Being over 1,000 miles away, I felt helpless. They weren’t sure what was wrong and it was a very scary week of not knowing, to say the least. It was impossible to get away at the moment because I was in the throes of training intensely for two brand new jobs. So I held my breath here in NYC, and the only thing that kept me sane was running. In all honesty, it was the only thing I felt I could control: my pace, my stride, my breath. And if I had to cry, I would. The tears would just blend into my sweat anyway. And on one particular run, it suddenly dawned on me: I have to make my steps count for something. I may not be able to cure my father, who has PD, but I can run toward a cure. It was that day that I joined Team Fox, the athletic division of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
A month later, in October of 2013, I completed my first 10K. 6.2 miles.
It was the longest distance I had ever run. And a very challenging course with huge elevation gains. My good friend Amanda (a.k.a. TWINEE) is actually a real runner, without quotations, and she ran by my side the entire race. She coached me through hills and pushed me to sprint the final mile. And this time, instead of awkwardly peeing through the finish line, I cried. The whole race was created for Team Fox, to raise money and awareness. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of support and the change that could be made just by putting one foot in front of the other, that I knew I wanted to do more.
It took a few weeks of deliberating, but after I stood on the sidelines of the NYC Marathon 2013 to cheer on Amanda and many other friends, I finally decided to sign up for my first half marathon. The NYC Half. I will be honest — training was not easy. Running in January and February through one of the worst winters NYC has seen was incredibly difficult. I learned how to layer properly. How to watch for ice. How to run negative splits. And then I learned how to be patient. My knee became very inflamed early on in training, forcing me to sit out runs and solely strength train. In fact, the morning of the actual half I still wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish. I joked about running into the woods in Central Park, hopping on the subway, and meeting everyone at the finish line.
Yet again, another amazing friend of mine, Holly, was waiting at the start line for me. She and I kept a great pace the entire race, taking #selfies and looking out for friends and family along the route who had come to support. At mile 7, after the loop of Central Park, we ran straight through Times Square. It was here that I ran by the Team Fox crowd at mile 7. i got pretty emotional.
Captured by Team Fox the moment I spotted them.
It will be a moment I will never forget. My entire family was tracking my progress via app and sending me encouraging texts every few miles. Holly and I beamed our way through the finish line and took plenty of pictures to commemorate the moment. And I learned something about myself.
That I could run through it.
No doubt, I had to run through pain during the race. As a fitness professional would I recommend this? No. But as a human being who wants to dare to be great? Sometimes you have to run through it. Run through discomfort. It’s to prove to yourself that you can. My mantra through the race: I can and I will. I run for those who can’t. On that day, I crossed the finish line despite an injury at 2:07 which was just 7 minutes shy of my intended finish time pre-injury and what’s more?
I RAISED $1,770 for MJFF thanks to the support of family and friends.
After the half I swore 13.1 miles would be as far as I’d ever run because CHILD PLEASE. But it didn’t take long after the race (less than 24 hours to be exact) to sign up to represent Team Fox in the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon. My first 26.2 miles.
I started training in August, and since then have purchased a Garmin to track my progress more accurately, I have run through near heat strokes in the summer months, rain storms, sprinted up and down wicked hills, dealt with even more knee pain, traversed Queens to Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge, carved many paths in Astoria Park, Riverside Park, and the Westside Highway. I’ve run by runners who’ve cheered me on and I’ve offered encouragement to runners along the way as well. But today’s run was the one that mattered most.
I was tired. This week has been especially long. I didn’t WANT TO. I had already worked out hard earlier today (read: swinging a 36kg bell and double cleans with two 12kgs in class), and my body was sore but I knew my BRAIN needed to run. I needed it for my psyche. So without thinking, I laced up my shoes and headed out to Astoria Park. As I ran, I remembered my WHY from one year ago. And although my muscles burned, my legs felt heavy, the humidity was especially thick, I literally was swallowing bugs (I’m not joking. How many grams of protein, ya think?) and my stomach even started to cramp, I kept running. Because I run for those who can’t. I run for my dad. I run for my friend MK. I run for Robin Williams. I run for Richard’s father.
I ran through the discomfort today. Because that’s the only way, isn’t it? When we are presented with something challenging in life — a mountain to climb or a setback or a tragedy — we cannot run above or below or around, we must run through it to get to the other side.
When I reflect back on my running, I realize that is the theme that has carried me to where I am today. I run through it all because I know I will be stronger once I do. I think I discovered something important about myself today: I think it’s time to take the quotations down.
I AM A RUNNER.
And I proudly run for those who cannot. Those who continue to run through the challenge of PD every day. You are the heroes. I’m simply the vehicle. And I am so honored to run through it with you.
“Optimism is a cure for many things.”
Michael J. Fox