Sunday, May 20, 2012

Across the Finish Line

I did it!  I successfully ran a half-marathon yesterday.  I even beat my goal time.  I'm kinda still surprised.  I called my mom after I got home and she told me she was proud of me and that she still couldn't believe I had done it--never would she have imagined that I would become a runner.  I agreed with her--never did I imagine.  And yet, I love that we have that freedom: to perpetually remake ourselves, to know that our identities are never fully shaped with finality.  What a privilege that is.

Photo found on
This weekend the weather has been absolutely gorgeous.  It was in the high 50s and sunny yesterday for the run, with just a slight breeze.  Throngs of runners gathered well before 7am to take their places and work through pre-race jitters by stretching or talking.  Once the race finally started I wasn't nervous anymore, just happy to finally be running.  Before the race began I heard several men comment that if the need to pee arose during the race that you had to use the portable toilets provided, otherwise you risked being banned from all future NYRR races, including the NYC Marathon.  This, however, did not deter dozens of men from jumping off the route in the first mile to pee into a wooded fence area at the perimeter of the park.  It was such a bizarre sight, mostly because it seemed as if I were accidentally running by a bank of outdoor urinals.

I felt almost nothing for the first seven miles.  That is, I simply enjoyed the sea of runners, the people standing by to cheer, and the beauty of the day and didn't yet feel tired.  My favorite sign was black letters on a hot pink poster board that read: "Run like you just stole sumthin'!"  Cracked me up.  I'd run most portions of the race route over the past few weeks on my long runs, but it's completely different when the traffic is blocked off in every direction and you're no longer a solitary runner.  As we exited the park and made our way onto Ocean Avenue, the route took us down the freeway entrance ramp.  I've never run down a freeway entrance ramp before, and I found myself smiling and enjoying the moment as I looked down over the multitudes, smoothly making their way to the ocean, like a human river in search of its delta.

Around mile nine I wasn't smiling anymore.  Running was getting hard at that point.  My feet were sore, I was trying to maintain my pace, I was getting tired, and I still had four miles left to go.  But you know, you just keep running.  At mile eleven I noted that I had reached the "this is the farthest I've ever run" point again and asked myself whether I was ready for the last two miles.  And to myself, I responded that I was.

I know that sounds silly, but I think tests of endurance take a lot of actual talking to yourself.  These conversations I had with myself yesterday, they were different from thinking.  I didn't speak aloud necessarily, but they were deliberate conversations with real questions and concrete messages of encouragement.

So, on I ran, all the way to Coney Island's boardwalk.  One of my past students who I am close with came to cheer me on across the finish line.  Knowing she would be waiting there helped me keep running that last mile.  And then it was done.  Just like that.

Today I am somewhat fatigued, but the good sort that’s like a lingering echo of recent accomplishments.  And I'm happy not to have to run in the next few days, looking forward to a bit of rest.  Even as I type this, though, I'm listening to my race-day playlist and finding myself thinking, I could go for a run...


  1. hooray hooray! You did it!! Of course you did!! We are very proud of you and hope that you get some well deserved rest today. I hope your feet/legs, etc. aren't too sore today.
    Lots of love,
    Aaron, Lucy, Eleanor and Baby Sister xoxo

    1. Thanks, Lucy. You've been among the best cheerleaders this whole time. Thanks for all the encouragement. Love you.

  2. You inspire me Sarah! I love your first paragraph, I feel the need to remake myself.
    I also liked the part about the men peeing in the park. When Bob and I ran Twin Cities Marathon there was a line of men peeing in the bushes along side the Walker Art Center. Bob joined them and every time I drive by these bushes it reminds me of that day.
    Congratulations on your race!

  3. Yay you! Ending up at Coney probably didn't feel much like picking up anything at Nathan's, eh?

    What a shame.

  4. Oh Sarah! I am so very proud of you. You are an inspiration to me. You were always special. From the time I first met you as a toddler I knew you were, and look what you have done! You are a teacher, one of the most meaningful professions and you are breaking through personal barriers with your running! What a woman! You write so eloquently about your experience, Sarah, you may have another career there as well. I am so glad your Mom sent me this link. Love, Bobbie

  5. Thanks for the support and congratulations, everyone! Bobbie, it's so fun to hear from you! It's been forever. Sandra, I'm not letting myself think about running a marathon yet, but I'm in awe of anyone who's done it. Dewey, no Nathan's for us--they were handing out apples and bagels, which I guess is its own sort of NY snack, huh?