12 Things I Learned Running My First NYC Marathon At 50
It's hard to believe a year has passed since I laced up my sneakers, boarded an early ferry to the start line in Staten Island, and with 26.2 miles across five boroughs stretching out ahead of me, took the first steps toward running my first marathon.
I'd like to say that after months of a dedicated training program, my body was honed to follow in the footsteps of the greats: Joan Benoit, Greta Walz, Fred Lebow, Cogwaggi, Pheidippides.
But truthfully, my dedication had flagged some weeks earlier and the longest run logged by my 50-something self over the summer had been about four miles. The temptation to pack it in, mosey down the block from my Harlem home, cheer on the marathoners per usual and save my big run for 2014 languished in the recesses of my mind, unbidden though not unwelcome.
But I'm stubborn. And determined. And wholly unwilling to be humiliated. I'd jabbered about making this run for a whole year. So I did it.
And I had a terrible time, but also a wonderful time.
Chalk it up to quieting my mind with singular purpose for five hours and 55 minutes (or maybe it was just delirium), but I learned a lot from that very long run:
1. I feel like I can do anything.
Maybe I can't, but I sure feel like it.
2. Everyone should feel like they can do anything at least once in their lives.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself pays off in ways you can't imagine.
3. The human body is amazing.
We tend to sell it short, so focused are we on its flaws. If you had told me at 15 that I'd run a marathon at this age, I might have died from laughter.
4. Nike is right for saying, "just do it."
You can talk yourself out of a million things and opportunities, but overrule contrary chatter and take the first step. I promise you won't regret it.
5. The Verrazano Bridge is apparently a toilet.
Despite the gentle admonitions that this should not be the case and that relieving yourself on the bridge is both "unpleasant and unsanitary," runners still hate going across the lower span for a really good reason.
6. Never underestimate the power and influence of spectators lining the route.
Their cheers will keep you going when you feel your legs cannot. Just try stopping or slowing down in front of little kids with their hands stretched out for high-fives.
7. Friends and family along the way are crucial.
There's no way to describe the feeling of seeing those you love when you need them the most.
8. I can run and cry at the same time.
When I saw my darling daughter at Mile 22, my eyes filled up and the tears didn't clear until I got to friends standing at the top of the park with the most awesome almonds of my life!
9. I now know what it means to "hit the wall".
Those last two miles stretched out into infinity. I felt like a cartoon character whose nemesis keeps pulling the road forward.
10. I know what it means to push through the wall.
Bricks? Mortar? Sore hips? Stiff legs? Empty stomach? Eh, no problem ... I've got another mile or two in me!
11. That clinking sound at the end?
Those are the medals and you're about to get one, so bow your head and keep going.
12. If anyone hears me saying I'm going to do this crazy thing again ...
... please encourage me. It was awesome!