In the days leading up to last year’s New York City Marathon [that wasn’t], I spent a lot of time thinking about each mile of the race.
While I don’t know every step of the 26.2 mile route by heart, I have lived in New York City for six years now, and I’ve studied the NYCM course for three of those years.
So, when I was planning to run the 2012 NYCM, I was ready to embark on a celebration. A celebration of my city — my grown-up-life hometown.
A celebration of the year I’d just overcome — a year that was marked by injury and repeated illness, an eventual hospital stay and a remarkable comeback. Most of all, it would be a celebration of the friends and family who stuck by me during my darkest times.
I decided to dedicate each mile of that race I never ran to someone — or something — important in my life.
Mile 1 was dedicated to the year 2012. I was ready to say goodbye to it.
Mile 2 was for New York City. Long before Hurricane Sandy came to town, I knew the second mile of the marathon — the mile that takes you into Brooklyn and envelops you with screaming fans — would be for my hometown.
Mile 5 was for my Sweat Squad: Lindsay, Susan, Meggie, Kelly and Megan. These girls got me through so many early morning weekday runs, plus many hours on the Bridle Path. They helped me train for my very first marathon and they were the girls who helped me identify myself as a runner.
Mile 6 was for Page and Aron. These two snapped me back to reality the first time we met in person. The day after I bonked hard at the Las Vegas Half Marathon, Page and Aron gave me the pep talk of a lifetime. They completely changed my perspective toward running and racing that morning at Starbucks, and I have been a much more level-headed runner since that day. They changed my life. Aw.
Mile 11 was dedicated to three-legged dogs everywhere. When things get tough, I think of three-legged dogs. They are my ultimate inspiration. At mile 22.5 of my first marathon, Brian yelled to me, “You’re a three-legged pug!” Those words carried me to the finish line.
Mile 14 was for Deanna. She’s a beast of a runner and she’s unbelievably humble. Deanna offered me so many kind, reassuring words throughout the year, and I always knew that if she had faith in me and believed in me, I needed to have faith and believe in myself.
Mile 17, which runs up 1st Avenue in Manhattan, was for Lauren. Lauren has supported my running endeavors tirelessly — she even came to the Hamptons Marathon to cheer for me in 2011. We both lived in apartments on East 89th Street, separated only by the 1st Avenue marathon route.
Mile 18 was for Conroy. She was my first roommate when I moved to NYC. We met on Craigslist and since she wasn’t a murderer, it worked out great. She taught me about running, took me for my first run in Central Park and ran my first half-marathon with me. Conroy became one of my best friends: She can always make me laugh and she is the only person in this world who knows exactly what I’m saying when I’m brushing my teeth but really need to make an important point at the same time. (Brian, I really wish you would learn this skill.) This mile would pass by the first apartment we lived in together, in Spanish Harlem, right on the East River.
Mile 19 was for not-yet-pregnant Lauren. Another tough-love-giver and that friend every girl needs to bring her back down to reality.
Mile 20 was all Emily’s. Emily ran my first-ever 20-mile run with me when I was training for the Hamptons Marathon. To this day, whenever I set out for a 20-mile run, I think of Emily. (And, as you may recall, she was my running buddy at last year’s Manchester City Marathon. She ran by my side and paced me from mile 0 though the finish line.)
Mile 22 was for my brother and sister-in-law.
Mile 23, up that tough Fifth Avenue climb when things would undoubtedly hurt, was for my mom. I knew that when things felt difficult and I didn’t want to keep going, thinking about my mom would give me some power and a gentle kick in the butt.
Mile 24, which would take me by my favorite spot in the entire city, was for Brian. My favorite spot is just south of Engineers’ Gate in Central Park, where I filmed my first commercial for the Run For The Rabbit campaign. That’s how I met Brian. That’s how my life changed in so many ways, all for the better.
Mile 25, so close to the finish line, was for my dad. The strongest, toughest person I know. The person who always believes in me, supports me and tells me he loves me, even if he’s just made me cry because of my debt and unpaid medical bills and lack of financial responsibility.
Mile 26 was for my very best friend Tyler.
And I dedicated that final .2 to myself.
Last year, many marathon-related plans went awry. I still got to run my marathon, but it wasn’t in New York City, and my mile markers were forgotten. Still, I PR’d, I ran sub-4:00 and I had the second-best day of my life (Hamptons Marathon Day is still the best day).
So this year, I’m again attempting to run the New York City Marathon. And this year, each mile gets a dedication again.
Call it lame.
Call it narcissistic.
Call it cheesy.
(Please don’t call it any of those things. Be nice to me.)
This year, every step along that 26.2 mile route is for me.
I love the people who have stood by me this year, which was about a billion times tougher than the last. And they all know how much I love them, cherish them and need them in my life.
This race isn’t about them, though. Not this time.
This is my race.
I’m not running tomorrow to prove anything, either to myself or to anyone else. When I cross that finish line, no matter how long it may take me to get there, I’ll still have Crohn’s disease. I’ll still feel sicker than I’d like. A medal isn’t going to change that.
This race has been three years in the making for me (and my bank account): I qualified through the 9+1 program in 2011, didn’t run last year, of course, and am now finally getting myself onto that Staten Island Ferry. I’m running this race because I really want to have some fun for a few hours. I realize it may not be a pretty race, but I’m not going for a personal best and I’m not planning on even wearing a watch.
I’m running because being “a part of it,” as Frank Sinatra will tell you, is so much better than being on the sidelines.
See you at the finish line!