My friend Penny is training for the NYC Marathon on Nov. 6. Penny is the mother of 4 and a pediatrician. She used to work in the ER of a Bronx hospital. She takes everything in stride. So while the thought of walking 2.6 miles to me sounds exhausting, the thought of her cruising through what is described as a "26.2 mile block party" around NYC to raise money for a special ed school is as good as done. She even looks the part:
How surprising it was to hear from her: "I worry about finishing and have spent LOTS of time questioning myself. At the 18 mile run this past weekend, Mary Wittenberg, president of NYRoad Runners, said that if you finish this hilly course you CAN do the marathon. I finished the course. It felt so good. But still, a few short hours later I found myself asking my husband, "Why would she say that? It is EIGHT more miles! Why would she say I can finish?" (I actually said "I" as if she were talking specifically to me!)."
Well, Penny, I want you to meet Erica. Erica ran her first marathon last spring. How did it go?
|Erica, finishing her first marathon|
Look how happy she is!!!!
I asked Erica to share her story here because I found it so inspiring. I don't even run (except when food is involved, or sample sales). But I got such a lift from her message, and hope Penny and everyone training for the marathon right now will as well.
To support Penny in her fundraising for Standing Tall, a school for children with disabilities click here
And Erica's amazing story right here:
When my stepmother, Toby received a diagnosis of acute atypical myeloma, I was so sad but realized I could help by raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). I love to run and all my life had wanted to take on the challenge of a marathon. I knew that Team in Training, the arm of LLS that provides coaches and mentors for participants, was an excellent group - I had fund-raised and run the Fairfield Half Marathon the previous summer with them. When I trained for that event, I was running for all who were battling blood-cancer—this time, it was personal.
I started training in January. It was a crisp 4 degrees the Sunday morning our group met at the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club in Southport, CT. In the 4 months that followed, we increased our mileage, each Sunday taking the long group runs. Thomas Harding was our super coach—he could run and talk at any speed for any distance. The 10-mile run became the 12-mile, then the 13-mile, the 14-mile, and so on until a month before the race we did the longest, a 20-miler. If there were rough patches, they never occurred on the long runs. Coach Tom was always there to say just the right thing or crack another “Airplane” or “Caddy Shack” joke. I never felt like quitting—it was hard on my family to have me come home from work then leave for the long runs during the week, but with my husband Alec’s steady support and cooking, we made it through.
The day of the race I got up at 3:45 am. We took a bus to the starting area and fueled up. The gun went off at 7:30 after an American Idol semifinalist sang the National Anthem. The music never stopped, as for each of the 26 miles a band played along the course. The temperature was about 80 degrees, which worried me a little. I had never even done a training run in shorts because our Connecticut winter had been so long and hard. But everyone was friendly and the spectators cheered and clapped. I made my way from mile to mile, temporarily joining then leaving group after group of runners. I was sure to take it easy, at times running a full minute slower than my natural pace because the course was very hilly.
I felt great for the first half and after mile 13 it struck me that I would make it to the end, no matter how hot or tired I felt. I was elated and a little sad, knowing that in all my training I had worked so hard not knowing this, not realizing that just as I had done during the training I would do here. After the last training run before coming to Nashville, an experienced friend had told me, “Don’t you worry, the hay is in the barn,” meaning that the work had been done, I was ready to run the race. Even then I doubted this to be true. But now, running the marathon, I felt tears stinging my eyes because I realized that I had done work, that I would make it, that I had no reason to doubt myself.
I ran the rest of the race with a deeper focus after that, a little like I was watching myself run. The heat wasn’t so hot, the hills weren’t as steep. At mile 24, I felt out of gas, nauseous, but I kept running. I knew I could do 2 miles, and when I finally did cross the finish line 4 hours and 44 minutes after starting, I sprinted the final .2 of a mile to get there. Smiling.
I loved the experience, all of it. From making my fundraising goal to the training, to the finishing. It took a lot of time and energy and extra support from those close to me but even now I call on that knowledge daily, that cry to never doubt myself. I don’t know how else I would have learned that but I’m grateful that somehow in my lifetime I was able to.
Erica is currently training for the New York Half Marathon in March with Team in Training. She knows she'll finish the course.