I am writing this from 37,000 feet in the air, jetting my way across the country to New York, where this Sunday I will be joining a gang of 50,000 runners carving a collective path through the five boroughs, bounded by an almost solid wall of volunteers and kind, enthusiastic souls cheering us on for the full 26.2. My long build up to this year’s race has not been without its obstacles. Life and career demands aren’t always forgiving when it comes to prescribed marathon training, and when I put my body through all the miles these days, every once in awhile it decides to bite back - what new hell are you trying to put me through now? Mostly, though, there has been an extraordinarily emotional undercurrent to this training cycle because it is impossible for me to look forward to this marathon without looking back to my 2015 NYC Marathon, and examining with wonder how one stacked series of events can make your whole life pivot until you find yourself on a trajectory you never could have imagined.
For the uninitiated, I blame (or give credit to) my brother for getting me into the predicament that was my entry into the 2015 NYC Marathon. In 2013, our father was diagnosed with terminal cancer which was the practical equivalent of setting off an emotional bomb in our family. I was trying to manage life in a deep, grief-driven fog during that period of my life, and found myself taking my tired and sorely-out-of-shape body out for runs to cope. It gave me alone time to cry and be fiercely angry, it gave me a different pain to focus on, and it - and the passage of time - eventually brought me some measure of healing. My father passed away on January 15, 2014 - my brother’s birthday. A year later, the organizers of the NYC Marathon announced that the marathon lottery would open on January 15. “It’s a sign” my brother declared - we were meant to run this marathon together - brother and sister - won’t it be great?! Predictably, I got in and my brother got a one way ticket to the cheap seats watching the marathon madness unfold from the comfort of his couch.
But, Mr. Bright Ideas wasn’t done yet. A couple of weeks after my entry into the 2015 NYC Marathon, he sent me this text: “You should blog about it.” Welcome to the birth of Midlife Run.
I’ve written plenty about the journey to the 2015 start line, and the overwhelming joy of the day. Extraordinary. But, waiting at the start village, I was overwhelmed, anxious, and insecure. Alone. Every one of the other 50,000 runners seemed to have friends, or a well rehearsed pre-race routine. Me, I was just trying to blend in and hold it together, trying my damnedest not to look like an imposter, and trying unsuccessfully to both absorb and process the fullness of the experience. My family was scattered around New York City, poised to jump from spot to spot on the course, and our daughter was camped out on the family room floor at her uncle and aunt’s house ready to track my progress on an app while my husband, son, mom and her soon-to-be husband relayed messages to them. My web of support was deep, but they couldn’t run the race for me. Again, alone. Scared. Intimidated as fuck.
A lot of things have happened since that day in 2015. But mostly this: I’ve grown.
I dared to step far outside of my comfort zone, and have met people and embraced experiences I otherwise never would have known. I have practiced pressing my body to move past discomfort and have started to learn how to rely on the power of mind and heart to guide me through. I am beginning to view my still persistent insecurities as an opportunity to pause and ask, why? And what exactly are you prepared to do to grow beyond the self-doubt? I have spent hours playing with words and rediscovering a passion I had all but given up. I’ve learned that my voice matters. And how I choose to spend every day matters. I choose to live, I choose to grow, I choose to learn.
Sunday’s marathon still scares and excites me, but now I know that I won’t be alone in those emotions.
When I stand at that start tomorrow, I will look up to the heavens, with a nod to my Dad, and give thanks for everything and everyone that brought me to this moment. I will channel the love, the lessons of general bad-assery, and the collective strength of my family and extraordinary web of friends. With confidence, I will own the moment, and own who I am in that moment. With all of my years, with all of my faults, with all of my strengths, with all of my insecurities, with every bit of who I am today.
And then I will run with joy.