Below is a 1;15 min video of our day! It was awesome.
“What we resist persists.”
Losing my ability to run should have been a devastating emotional blow. I am grateful to have navigated successfully the years of not running/racing by using skills like acceptance and refocusing. It is nice when coping skills actually work like they are supposed to.
If all I focused on was my injury, I would exist only as an injured person. By resisting accepting that my achilles was damaged, I would have imprisoned myself into a world where I felt defeated and broken daily. Instead, I focused on what I could do, what was possible, what felt rewarding, and I felt strong.
It is not unusual to be both very strong and very weak at the same time.
"We are what we focus on."
I bought other cardio equipment and I did other things with my time. Life is short, life is hard, life is not fair, life is filled with good and bad. I prefer to not spend my time emotionally tuned into problems and suffering without working on change.
Of course, fully accepting that I would not race again helped my achilles function again. The bone spur from Haglund’s Syndrome doesn’t go away. I still feel my achilles get irritated, but it just stopped getting in my way. long enough to allow me to enjoy racing again. This was a pleasant surprise.
NYC Marathon Lottery
At the end of February, the NYC Marathon Lottery opened. The race was on my birthday.
In early February both my parents became very sick and both were hospitalized for what felt like an eternity. My dad recovered after a week and was released. My training almost stopped. Thank goodness I had that spin bike. It kept me moving in the morning before sitting at the side of her bed waiting for my mom to wake up.
Even at its longest, life is still very very short. Life will most likely be taken from us by surprise, I need to prioritize the things that make my life enjoyable while I can. This means doing things that bring me a sense of meaning and purpose (like helping others) and it means doing things just for me when I can.
I will never again be sure of what I could reliability do as a runner, but does that really matter? I put my name in the NYC Marathon Lottery and let the Universe decide if I will spend my birthday in NYC.
On the day of the drawing with my fingers kind of crossed, kind of not, not really sure what I was hoping for...I opened my NYRR email to a strong wave of emotion. I was NOT selected. Bummer.
Flatwater Foundation Charity Bib
I was not going to sit at home on my birthday while Sid runs the NYCM marathon. I guess the universe DID want me to run the marathon but it wasn’t going to make it easy for me to get there. This race couldn’t just by my private goal, something I quietly worked on, waiting to see how my body held up.
Nope. I needed a charity bib. This meant I had to share with the world that I was going to run the marathon.
For those who know me best, as a rule, I tell only a select few individuals about my race plans. I write race reports after the races but I don’t post about what I am doing before unless I have a good reason.
Some think that running a marathon as a Charity Runner is the “easy way” in to races but this is so far from the truth.
There is a lot competition for charity runner bibs for the world majors. You need to plead your case, demonstrate capacity to raise money, and hope that you get picked. If you are not on top of the charity runner application process in the first week or two after the lottery results are posted good luck trying to find a charity you are sincerely interested in that will accept you. All charities are worthy causes but it is more meaningful to find a charity you have a personal connection to. I applied to several charities that were still open only 1 week after the lottery was drawn. I was denied by at least 5 before I heard I was accepted by Flatwater.
Once selected you need to raise about $3000-$4500 or more before you will be granted the opportunity to run the race for the cause. This means months of begging everyone you know for monetary support, (which feels awful ... so I raffled off some coaching packages to give something back to my generous donors).
The pressure to perform well after asking friends and strangers to help is more than most people feel during a training cycle. This adds something that isn’t necessary pleasant. The reality is most people don’t donate and then expect a runner to run hurt in return. But charity runners do feel a sense of obligation to those who donated and to the charity.
As someone who really dislikes announcing my race plans, I definitely felt extra pressure. But it was my choice to put myself in this situation when I asked for a charity bib.
A Good Run of Check-Ins.
I would like to believe I know how to manage performance pressure. I chunk the work into check points and stay focused on the moment (chunk) I am in. I don’t finalize a race plan until the week before a race so that I have the opportunity to reflect on what I did and how that information can be used to project a realistic reasonable race goal.
With NYCM in my future, I got to work on task-mastery, picking check-in races and training for them one chunk at at time:
- At the end of April I ran Jim Thorpe and BQ’d with a 3:45 out the gate! Great start.
- In June/July raced a few 5ks to test my speed. 6:50 pace. I was happy.
- In mid-July, I negative split Aspen Marathon as check in race and took 5th (3:27). I felt like I was coming back.
- In August, raced Sri Chinmoy Marathon with a huge negative split, finishing sub-7 pace, running a 3:21 and taking 3rd place. These were training runs not goal races.
- Early September, I negative split at the Belmar 5, averaging 6:45 pace, placing in the masters race and wining prize money. Getting faster!
- One week later in September, I negative split up at Big Cottonwood Marathon. I negative split, ran the 2nd fastest time for women (took 3rd OA, gun-time rules for top 3) in 3:06. I projected this to be about a 3:14 on flatter course.
I was doing my job. I was meeting my check-in goal. Running NYC in 3:10 or faster felt realistic. Maybe a sub-3 might be a reach goal? Anything felt possible.
Oh no no no …. not my back!
I got home from Utah feeling great. My training schedule was set. A few more check in races were selected. I was ready to elevate. I felt strong and fit and contemplating what else I could add to my training to help me achieve my goal.
And then I moved wrong in the kitchen, being down to pick something up. My glute felt weird and running triggered sciatica. After a week of pain, I saw PT for an assessment. She determine that I slipped disc that put pressure on my sciatic nerve. I needed time to let to move back into place. I was cleared to run only if running didn't hurt. She gave me exercises to help encourage the disc to return to it’s home. I was able to run 9:30-10:30+ pace on flat ground with out pain so that is what I did. Faster running irritated my sciatic nerve.
On 9/24, I was able to run Sid’s 18M long training run with a bail out plan in place. I was healing, The following week, we ran the LBI 18 together. Sid negative split and finished remarkably strong! Although I wasn’t 100% yet, I was feeling again that NYC would happen for me.
However, training for NYC for me degraded into what was basically the bare minimum. I would do Sid's long runs with him. I would spin or run short runs midweek. This was not my vision back but it was happening.
On our 22M run on 10/21, my right knee starts to bother me. Seriously! This was starting to feel like a roller coaster that I didn’t enjoy.
So once again, I was listening to my body and I wasn't sure if NYC was a good idea. I have not had knee pain in 15 years. So I looked into deferring. I would need to completely drop or ask my charity for a 2024 bib which is not necessarily possible.and then raise $3000 again.
If it was just me on my own deciding what to, I likely would have dropped out. I hurt my achilles trying to train to run Boston when I know my body felt pain. It was happening again. But the entirety of the circumstances mattered. I had a lot of support and people donated a lot of money to help me run this race. Sid was running it. I could run train free at 9:30-10:30 pace which is what Sid would run. I wanted to be there with him on my birthday..
I felt obligated to not give up which as a "smart runner" I know this is the exact situation that leads to injury. But also as an adult who can make bad decisions whenever I want to, I weighed pros and cons and made my choice.
Rather than run the race alone on my birthday I asked Sid if he would like company on race day. Sid doesn’t run marathons often (this is his 2nd and probably his last). This was a big deal for him. I wanted to witness his experience at the most outrageously energized marathon in the world.
There is truly nothing like NYCM.
Weather: 60s and minimal wind! Perfect.
Shoes: Vaporflys because they were light. I felt they wouldn’t bother my knee. Good call.
Clothing. I love my rabbit sports bra with the back pocket for my phone. I still used a waist pack to carry some things we might need along the way.
Goal: Sid was in charge of the pacing. The only other marathon he has run was a 4:45 and he said he would like to beat that time, maybe finish under 4:30 if possible BUT we were not actually out there chasing a time goal. We wanted to feel like we were getting it done swiftly but with any performance pressure. And this is what we did.
Nutrition: Sid wanted "A Donut." He went to get two for use before leaving for the race and returned with a box of Munchkins. We split that box. We got in tons of calories before the start and we didn’t bonk from low energy.
Transportation: Getting to the start was stressing me out. I wasn’t sure what roads might be closed because information is sparse. Thanks to Janet and Tom, getting to the start was easy. They are great friends and live next door. They drove us the 25 minutes over to Staten Island and dropped us off at 8:45. We had a 10:55 start. Then they went back home to feed and play with our dogs while we ran. This made my experience 1000% better than it would have been had they not helped us.
It takes a team to run a marathon. There are many behind the scenes people doing things to clear the way. I am so grateful.
The start was slow. VERY SLOW. The first 2.5 miles were packed tight. It was hard to move. The mile long uphill didn’t help the pace but even if it was flat it would have been slow. It seems that since most people are running around a 4:30 total time, if you start near the 4:30 pacers is exceptionally packed. The amount of runners stopping on the Verrazano to take photos did slow things down. I share this to say, if you are trying to run a goal time, expect to not be able to move freely until 2.5 miles after the start.
Running with Sidney was the best decision I could have made. To share every mile with him, to see him do something so amazing for himself, I had such a great time!
I suspect marathoners who race marathons at lot might forget how amazing running a marathon really is. I got to see the NYCM through Sid’s eyes and this was such a gift. One of the most beautiful observations he made was:
“You know, people believe in a lot of different things. We fight about politics, about religion, about everything. People have so much trouble getting along… but today everyone is cheering and screaming for each other. Everyone is doing this together, all these people running, all these people cheering, everyone is getting along today… “
And that’s it! That is part of the magic of the marathon. It gives people who may not otherwise care about each other a reason to feel what it feels like to be on the same team even if for just a day. And when you are part of that experience, people in general seem to suck a little bit less for all those miles.
And then he added “But honestly… I just don’t think I can take much more of this cheering!! This is insane. It’s so loud! Is this going to happen the whole way?!”….
And I said, laughing at him “You know this is only mile 11 right, and it gets louder once we hit First Avenue.” LOL
These photos make me laugh. During the entire race every time I noticed a camera I would remind Sid "We are supposed to raise our hands and waive!" At first, he gave a little half wave.
I said "Not like that, we have to raise our hands over our heads!" He wasn't really sure why we needed to do that and to be honest I am not really sure why either. "I think it is to show we are excited to be here and to prove we are having a good time".... I don't know why this felt so funny to me but it was.
I can also honestly say the running with Sid was such a good time. I can see myself smiling in every photo and those candid shots are the ones that prove to me what a gift spending this 26.2 miles side-by-side with Sid was for me.
The Universe wished me a Happy Birthday.
I did choose my "Run More, Age Less" shirt intentionally because it was my birthday. I did not make a sign for my shirt announcing this to the world. However, during the entire last mile, there must have been someone running behind us with something on their shirt announcing it was their birthday.
All I heard over and over for the last 10 minutes of the race was the crowd cheering "Happy Birthday" over and over... and even though in reality I know they were just reading someone else's shirt, I would like to believe in my heart this was the Universe speaking to me.
I had a very Happy Birthday for sure!
Life is short.
It will most likely be taken from us by surprise.
Celebrate life by sharing the things you love with the people you love.
Buy the photos.
Share your stories.
This can help to make all hard parts worth it.
Revising the Vision:
I had an initial vision of crushing NYC on my birthday, running a time that made me feel proud, like I was outrunning Father Time by taking care of my health. It was my 48th birthday. To run a marathon at all is amazing. To run a marathon fast is remarkable. To run a fast marathon at 48 would feel like magic to me. We are supposed to slow down as we age. But I don’t want to slow down just because of the date on my birth certificate. I know the clock is ticking and at some point I wont be able to run "fast" (for me) times. But if/when I still have a chance I need to try.
I believe the mind gets tired before the body. I want to run out the clock trying to peak as an athlete. I want to feel like an athlete for as long as I can. And when I can’t, then I can’t. And everything will be ok.
I already know what it feels like to truly believe that I can never race again. And I survived. There will be more chapters in my life where I invest my energy into mastering other things, but I do really like this chapter where I get to try to master long distance running...and I am not ready to turn the page yet.
NYCM was a gift to me in so many ways:
- The massive amount of support, love, and appreciation I felt from friends, family, and even social media acquaintances was incredible.
- Sidney ran a marathon at my side, well-trained, and able to fully appreciate and understanding “my sport” from my point of view and he gets it. And I got to experience the NYCM from his point of view and it was a beautiful lens to look through.
- My family followed Sid and me on the live tracker texting us to celebrate our adventure which made this special. .
- Janet and Tom were a remarkable "crew" to us, taking care of us in every way they could the entire day in the exact ways we needed to free our minds to fully enjoy the run. Without them this race would not been as much fun for me.
- And all of you, the people who donated money to my Flatwater fundraiser, you helped people affected by cancer access therapy which is incredibly important, but you also gifted me one of the best birthdays of my entire life.
I am so grateful.
Oh and one last tip.: if you didn't pre-order photos, consider waiting for the Black Friday Sale which I did. The plaque of Sid and me running together arrived today. And this is what took so long for me to share my NYCM Birthday Run Race Report.