Girlhood. Momhood. Lifehood.
Insights on navigating the craziness of life with young kids one — “large coffee with skim please” — day at a time.

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The Race

November 4th, 2008

I’m blessed to know some pretty incredible women.

Deborah, who wrote this essay below, is one of them. Not only is she sharp as a tack and super fun, but she’s also a great mom to four young kids (including twin girls who are not quite a year old). She absolutely inspired me today with this essay she sent recounting her recent running of the New York Marathon. So with her blessing, I decided to share it with you, my “HeyGirl” readers.

And on this historic day of a different kind of race, you can feel the energy in the air. And by this time tomorrow, we’lll know who won. But one thing is for certain. No matter what your political convictions, affiliations, beliefs, parties or even the hue of your state, the human spirit, like Deborah’s, always wins the race….Enjoy!

Deborah’s Story
This past Sunday more than 37,000 runners completed the New York Marathon. Thankfully, I was among them.

I wanted to send a huge thank you to everyone who supported me, with emails, text messages, phone calls, words of encouragement and of course, Jimmy Fund donations. I will reach my goal of raising $5,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and incredibly the 6 runners who ran NY for D-F together will raise more than $30K. Even bigger, NY Marathon runners have raised $18.2 million for charity, with more expected in the next few weeks.

The marathon was an incredible experience and I was so thrilled to be able to take part in it. I’d like to share a few glimpses of what it’s like to be a part of such an amazing event (this is a little longer than I expected, so feel free to cut to the chase!)

5:20 a.m. Meet Julie in the Village. It’s dark out, and really cold. We head to an all-night diner for breakfast, cheered to see there are runners already there. When we arrive, however, we realize that everyone in the diner is just coming in from their night out on the town. We’re depressed. What are we thinking?!

6:30 a.m. Get on the Staten Island Ferry. Now we’re with runners, thousands of them, and everyone has the same combination of nervousness and excitement. We’re getting jazzed.

7:30 a.m. Arrive at the Athlete’s Village. We remember Staten Island is an island (duh), and it’s about 10 degrees colder here. The port-a-johns lining the roadways are filled with people hanging out in them (with the doors open) to keep warm. Pretty much stops us in our tracks. We aren’t that desperate. But it’s cold. WAITING…hours go by. We move around, find a power bar station, take phone calls and answer texts. Tie and retie our shoes. Visit the port-a-johns. Then go back and visit them again.

9:30 a.m. We have to check our bags. Pack up all non-essential clothing. Tie our shoes again. Wait. Gun goes off for the first wave. We start in 40 minutes. Wish we were starting now.

10-10:20 a.m. Finally, we line up, packed in the corral like sardines. At least it’s warm. Suddenly, we are moving, walking, jogging, running…headed onto the looming Verrazano Bridge. The gun goes off. We’re running!

Miles 1-8 are exhilarating, exciting, surreal. We head over the two-mile expanse of the bridge, dodging tossed clothing and people stopping to take pictures. Surrounded by runners, but it’s quiet. The cadence is running feet and breathing. Down the bridge into Brooklyn…I can hear the crowds before I see them. Then I turn the corner and it’s lined with people, cowbells ringing, bands playing. The variety in the crowds is amazing and multi-cultural…there is live music every mile or so, and the crowds are wildly enthusiastic. I pass a man with two prosthetic legs and crutches, struggling along. Wow. Talk about inspiring. I had taped my name on my shirt, and loved to hear the shouts of “Go Deborah” as I passed by. Everyone is happy, and it’s really fun. I can’t believe I’m a third of the way done already!

Miles 8-13…how big is Brooklyn anyway?! I’m obsessing about my pace…am I too fast? Too slow? I can’t have more than half of this run left…someone must have marked it wrong? No one is cheering for me anymore; I look down, and my name has fallen off. Well that explains it. I know I have a friend after the halfway point…hanging on to get to her. Turn on my music, really loud. The crowds are more sparse here, but those who are out are into it. Finally can see the Pulaski Bridge in the distance, but it’s an uphill to get there. Who thought of that? I know the halfway mark is in the middle of this bridge…everyone around me is walking up the bridge. If I walk I’m afraid I’ll never start again. A senior citizen powers by me on the left. Now I’m motivated, and pick up my pace.

Miles 13-16…Queens. I think I’ve missed Katie. Wait, she’s there. I’m invigorated, back in the zone. But within a mile it’s a steep uphill to the Queensboro Bridge. There is absolutely nothing to see while we run for 1.5 miles on the lower deck of this bridge. I feel like I’ll never get off. I think I’m losing my mind. Then I pass a young man with a t-shirt that reads “Christian (his name). I’m blind.” Ok, I can do this.

Miles 17-19…my peeps will be here. I know I have a great cheering section along First Ave. I see them all, I’m flying. High fives all around. This is great, this is fun. I’m almost done!

Miles 19-23…I’m pretty sure I can’t do this. Tons of people are walking around me. It would be so easy to just stop and walk. The Bronx. Who cares? Every single part of my body hurts. If I throw up would I feel better? I look at my watch…I’m really close to the time I want. Maybe I’ll just hang on a little bit longer… Totally sure I’ll never do another marathon again. Another half-mile uphill to another &**(%@ bridge. Who thought of that, anyway?!

Miles 23-26.2…Central Park. Utopia. I must be almost done. Who knew Central Park was so big? Every mile seems like 10, and I find myself watching the street signs. I’ve run a block. I’ve run another block. Suddenly I hear my name, and Pete, my husband, is jumping up over the crowd so I can see him. I’m psyched. Next comes Mom, Dad, Pam, Katie, screaming and cheering my name. I’m not sure how I’m putting one foot in front of the other, but I seem to be moving. I see a sign: 1 mile to go. Then ½ mile to go. Then 400 meters, 300 meters…note to marathon organizers: really bad idea. Hate those signs. I only want to see FINISH. I think of advice a friend gave me…those last miles think of people who have suffered more than you, who can’t do this, who have had pain. It’s helping.

Suddenly, I’m crossing the finish line. People are coming in all around me. We all keep moving forward…thank goodness I’m surrounded or I might fall over. I get a medal around my neck. I’m quite sure I’ll never take it off. The exhilaration returns…I’m done! I’m choking back tears from sheer exhaustion. All around me other runners are smiling, talking, sharing the moment. Just about everyone is alone, but we are all together. It’s amazing. I did it.

Special thanks to my on-site cheering section of Mom & Dad, Pam & Katie H., Danny, Anita & Brenna. Thanks to Julie P., for being off-site support and letting everyone know where I was. Big thanks to Julie W., who ran the marathon last year and this year, and was my guide to all things NY Marathon: getting me to the start, hanging for 5 hours, keeping me calm and running that first incredible expanse of the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island together. Kudos to Katie S., who kept me on pace and pulled me through those grueling miles 18-23. And finally, Pete and my children: my supporters, my inspiration, who put up with me running most days for the past 4 months and never stopped believing in me. I love you guys.

Thanks again for all your support…you are the best!

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