I Ran the New York City Marathon
The Finish Line
At mile 20, as I enter the Bronx and hear the bands, I pick up my pace. Right now is when I'm allowed to unleash if I have the energy, and I do. No more holding back. My shoes must have wings for they propel me forward and I glide. I high-five the crowds. My iPod is in one ear, as Madonna and Maroon 5 push me on, while my other ear listens continually for my name.
"Go Brooklyn Jill!"
"Brooklyn Jill, looking good!"
For this one moment, I am an Olympic Athlete. The world is rooting for me.
We turn the corner and head into Central Park. The final push. The crowds are five deep and my body is starting to feel the fatigue. I wobble and then steady myself. My legs are exhausted. One trip and I'm down for the count. But I'm going to make it. I now know the finish is in my grasp and I begin to contemplate something I haven't allowed myself to think about until now: Boston. At my current pace I am going to be within a minute or even seconds of qualifying for the world's most famous marathon. I didn't even want to put that kind of pressure on myself ahead of time, but with three miles to go, I think I can do it. I pick up my pace a little more. The crowds are going crazy but I don't even hear them. I put my head down and concentrate on my sneakers passing up other sneakers. I meditate on my cadence and allow myself to become mesmerized, numb.
I am panting and my husband leans down next to me, "Are you okay?" he asks concerned. "I have to hop out soon." I nod my head. He knows what I am trying to do. I see his sneakers fade away. I cross the 25-mile mark. I am on my own and no crowd or music can help me now. It's up to me. Pant. Push. Push. Pant. I round the bend at Columbus Circle and head into the heart of the park. Half a mile to go. The stands are full of people cheering. I see the clock. I see the banner. I see the finish. I cross. My time: 3:44:04. One of my life's greatest moments was just created and solidified, but really, it was so much more.
What I now realize is that doing a marathon isn't just about the finish and the time. It's about transforming the way I think and feel about running, because in many ways, running is life. You feel pain, joy, happiness, and sorrow. You struggle, you achieve. It's also a feeling of comfort and familiarity -- to know exactly how it will feel each time your foot hits the pavement, for better or for worse. Just like life, it is a yoyo, complete with the ups and downs. I know I'll have miserable days ahead, but I also know there is a place inside of me that doesn't have to hate this. In fact part of me can love it, and I do. And for now, at this moment, that is enough to keep me going one more loop.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, February 2008.
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