Today is the 50th running of the famed New York City Marathon. Ten years ago, on a crisp, sunshiny fall morning, my brother and I joined the throng of runners at the starting line of the NYC marathon. We were in one of the last “waves” of runners and we weren’t going to break any records, but we were all wired and ready. Along with thousands of others, we crossed the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, leaving Staten Island and heading to Brooklyn and the other three boroughs. A recording of Frank Sinatra belting out “New York, New York” filled the air from the speakers mounted on the bridge. The Statue of Liberty gleamed in the harbour and the Battery and the skyline of Manhattan could be seen in the distance. Every single person on the bridge brought his or her own personal story of what inspired them sufficiently to get to the starting line. Everyone was smiling broadly, as the reality that this was actually happening sank in. After all those months of training, all those plans of how to make it happen. The adventure was finally about to begin.
5 hours, 49 minutes and 54 seconds later I crossed the finish line in Central Park. Yes, the adventure lasts longer for some of us than others! And every one of those minutes was special. Nearly 6 hours of interacting with literally millions – yes, millions – of encouraging spectators. The marathon route goes through an enormous variety of ethnic neighbourhoods, speaking to why New York is a city that belongs to the world. Each neighbourhood in the boroughs welcomed us in their own unique way, entertaining runners and spectators with live bands, dancers, and cultural dress. My brother had thought to bring small Canadian flags to hand out to kids along the way, so we were able to reciprocate. It was magical.
And even though the elite runners and wheelchair athletes, not to mention serious non-elite runners, had finished hours ago, spectators still lined the route right through Central Park to the Finish Line as we came through. I can still remember running down 5th Avenue and turning into the entrance to Central Park – the entrance I had watched so many elite runners turning into when I watched the marathon on TV over the years; I thought, “Oh my God, I’ve got this!” What an amazing feeling.
What has a senior citizen who had never previously attempted anything remotely athletic in her life learned from her late-in-life efforts at long distance running?
- Practice may not make perfect, but practice can make the impossible possible. Training actually works!
- Listen to your body. It turns out that your body often has a lot to say!
- There’s a whole world of physiotherapists, massage therapists, and online help available as you learn about mysterious things like IT band injuries, tendonitis in tendons you didn’t know you had, metatarsalgia (sore ball of foot), and many more marvels and complaints of the body. Wake-up call: you must follow the exercise plans of these professionals religiously (sorry to say).
- Sometimes giving your body a rest is the best thing you can do. Think of it as part of your training regime.
- The running community is one of the most welcoming groups of people one can imagine. They are incredibly supportive of everyone who puts on a pair of sneakers and puts one foot in front of the other.
- For me – and I understand that this is not true for everyone – running is good for my soul as well as my body. Finding whatever makes you feel that way is important. And when you can’t do that anymore, find another passion that can make you feel just as good … and maybe less tired. 🙂
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of my NYC marathon experience, I chose November 6, the actual date 10 years ago, to complete my 11K Run for Veterans NB. This year this Run for Veterans had to be virtual because of COVID, so we were able to do our individual 11K on our own, anywhere and any time between when we register and November 11, Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the U.S.). And so, on a crisp, sunshiny fall day similar to that day in New York 10 years ago, I ran my 11K along the beautiful Wolastoq, aka the Saint John River. There were no massive crowds (although there were plenty of walkers, runners, cyclists, and families with dogs) and no throng of runners, but it was immensely satisfying. Beautiful and immensely satisfying. I spent the time thinking about running in New York City, for sure, but also spent time thinking about the ultimate sacrifice that so many soldiers have made in so many wars even after World War I – the war that was supposed to end all wars. I was able to run along a beautiful trail in a beautiful, safe, peaceful city thanks in no small measure to those who gave their lives fighting for peace.
On this, the 50th running of the NYC Marathon, I wish every participant success in meeting their own person goals and joy in being part of such an amazing, life-affirming event.
And as Remembrance Day approaches, I encourage each and every one of you to take the time to remember. Remember with everlasting gratitude those who fought for our freedoms, and those who gave their lives in that cause. Lest we forget.