When it comes to working out, running has always been one of those things that I actually liked, surprisingly. For me, it was an easy way to break a sweat and feel like I'm getting some sort of workout in. Living in New York, I've witnessed the deep appreciation that this city has for this activity. Each year, I've watched as hundreds of people make their way into the train cart after finishing the New York City marathon in the fall. Sweaty faces, metals hanging from their necks and a huge cape reading TCS New York City Marathon over their shoulders. I never imagined myself being one of those people until I began toying with the thought of running a marathon this past November.
Early January, my current place of employment (Oath) sent out a message recruiting a team for the NYC Half and that's when I knew the universe had listened. I immediately hopped on the opportunity and was put in contact with a head coach from the American Cancer Society team. Before I was sent information on the training, I made sure to do some research myself and there wasn't a moment where I didn't ask myself: what did you get yourself into?
Prior to this, I never ran more than 2 miles without feeling like I'm going to pass out. Sticking to a workout regimen was never my thing and before I even began training, I was worried about quitting. Not to mention, I started training in the middle of winter. You're probably thinking I'm crazy or wondering why I wanted to take on this challenge when 1) participating in sports isn't my thing 2) it's fucking cold out.
Well friends, this wasn't to show off. I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it -- and I did. For about 11 weeks, I followed a pretty robust plan that gradually intensified as race day approached. Each week, I'd add 1-2 miles to my long runs. Each week, I was essentially breaking my own record, pushing my body more and more. It was tough and best believe there were times where I cried because of the uncomfortable feeling that comes with doing something you've never done before.
I learned a lot about the importance of layering for your runs. The photos above show a fraction of what I wore for race day: a Nike windbreaker, Dri-Fit gloves, a headband, and a handheld water bottle. Under the windbreaker, I wore a long sleeve wicking shirt and a Dri-Fit long sleeve Nike jacket, a neck warmer and some Gap Fit leggings. Shoutout to Nike's Air Zoom Pegasus 34 for holding it down during the race. It doesn't sound like much when it's 28 degrees outside, but trust me, when you're running at a moderate pace for a long distance, your body is going to create a lot of body heat and you want to make sure you're not too overdressed but also not freezing.
Running in the cold, and just in general, taught me that it is all mental. I strangely got accustomed to the weather and was fortunate enough to not get sick this season. Your mind might be telling you hey, you've been running for 30 minutes.. time to stop, but your body might not necessarily be tired. It started becoming easier when I stopped looking at my watch for the time. It got to the point where I would completely zone out and just go. Of course, listening to your body is key. If my calf hurt, I'd stop for a bit to stretch or I'd slow down. I learned to pace myself. It's easy to get caught up on how fast Joe is going, especially as a beginner. I had to constantly remind myself that it's okay, I'm not doing this to come in first place. I eventually found a good rhythm and stuck to it.
RACE DAY --- probably the most nerve wrecking day of my life, aside from the day I had to undergo surgery for a brain aneurysm (1999). I woke up an hour before I was supposed to because I was so nervous and also, 'cause you can't really rely on the MTA. I managed to make it on time, despite the packed trains and freezing weather. 22,000+ runners were scheduled to run that day. People were huddled in their corrals and ready for the gun to go off. I was nervous yet ready as fuck.
I was placed in the 2nd wave of the race, meaning I started running at around 8:30. As soon as it was my turn, I just went for it. Down past the Barclays Center and across the Manhattan Bridge, I made it out of Brooklyn and went onto Chinatown and to the East River. A couple of GU Energy gels later, a girl was pacing smoothly across the greatest city in the world.
By mile 10.5, I was at Central Park at that point and that's when it started hitting me --- I "hit the wall" as they say. My knees started buckling, my left hip ached badly, and the soles of my feet were crying. I wanted to stop right then and there but I had 2.5 miles left to go. Not to mention the HILLS I had to go through while my body was beginning to shut down. It was so hard but I had no choice but to keep going.
The moment one of my coaches came out of nowhere to cheer me on on the side, it gave me more of a boost. From a distance, I began to see the finish line. I'M ALMOST THERE. I didn't even take the chance to check my time but I was happy to see that I had made it. Once I saw my friends near the finish line, I began to get emotional. I immediately let out an ugly cry as soon as I crossed. This was such an emotional journey and to have completed it was such an overwhelming feeling. A feeling of relief, accomplishment and joy.
I did it. I grew up being bullied by classmates because of my weight and that led me to believe I couldn't do anything like this ever. I FUCKING DID IT and no one can take that away from me. Shoutout to discipline, willpower and surrounding yourself with positive people.
I'm looking forward to getting better and faster. Maybe I'll do a full next year.