Two weeks before the 2014 NYC Marathon we had a great 12 mile run and I hit this pose exactly how I wanted to.
At the beginning of every yoga class, we’re asked to set our sankalpa, our intention, for the class. Every class, every time, as I was training for the New York City Marathon, this was mine: Strength in every pose, always engaged. This was my way of focusing my head and my heart into my practice. And my way of reminding myself that in yoga, as in life, and — as I hope to convey in this post — in running, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to find your strength and stay engaged.
San = born of the heart. Kalpa = way of being. An intention isn’t necessarily a goal.
So with that in mind, let me tell you about my NYC marathon experience. I’ve been thinking about it, reading about it, talking about it, since Sunday. We’ve been anticipating it since July! But I’ve been struggling about how to write about it – until today. I found two things inspiring enough to help me start. The first is this, written by a volunteer at the water stop at mile 15, as posted on the NYC marathon’s Facebook page: “So many…marathoners chip away at doubt and fear with every breath taken and mile accomplished. Overcoming a challenge, setting a goal, and relentlessly moving forward to achieve it, without excuses.” The second came in an email from the marathon organizers. It said, in part, “you’re now part of an elite class of TCS NYC Marathon finishers! Let that sink in.”
Honestly, it’s taken me a few days of letting it sink in. Carl tried to tell me during and after the race that hey, Krista, you are running the NYC marathon. Krista! You finished the NYC marathon! I was like, meh.
The pain was intense. The struggle to the finish line was fierce. But I was determined. Strength in every pose (step). Always engaged.
But let me back up.
At the start village, trying to stay warm. Just one of multiple challenges.
This race was the hardest of my life. Up at 4:00 a.m., we took a bus to the Staten Island start line at 6:00 a.m. And there we waited – and waited, and waited – until our 10:55 a.m. start time. It was cold, and we could only sit (hard to stand on your feet while waiting 4 hours to run a marathon!) on the cold ground and try to stay warm. It’s difficult to describe the day up until the race start. There are four villages that separate the runners into start waves and corrals. We were in the orange wave, corral F – the LAST group to go. We got there and staked out our small piece of ground and settled in for the long wait.
We took pictures, ate some snacks, drank some coffee. Listened to the announcers announce all the other wave starts. Watched everyone else leave. Wait. Wait. Wait. It took real effort for me to not lose it before we even started running. Total mindfuck.
There’s only so much excitement I can muster waiting in the cold to do a really long run. Especially when my relationship with running is love/hate at best.
At the start village with Carl, staying warm.
It’s a challenging course in the most perfect conditions. Our particular race day saw 20-30 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 50 mph. We abandoned our time goal at about mile 1 – halfway across the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, as we struggled to stay upright and moving forward through the brutal winds. At times on the bridge the wind was so strong it would blow the foot that was off the ground into the other leg. The elite runners (I heard) were laughing as the wind knocked them into each other. I’ve never even attemped a training run in winds like that, much less a marathon. At mile ONE, I knew we were in for a hell of a physical and mental challenge.
At the apex of the Varrazano-Narrows bridge, linking Staten Island to Brooklyn, and one mile into the NYC marathon.
So off we went, through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan, each burrough exibiting its own style, with fans and bands lining the streets, all strangers supporting strangers as we pushed onward. I admit there were times when I failed to pay as close attention as I wanted to. But I’d bring myself back, remember my mantra, and carry on.
Brad came out to cheer us on at mile 20! Great!
My brother-in-law, Brad, came out to support us at mile 20, a welcome mental boost that got me a couple decent miles. And then the wheels began to come off.
Around mile 22 (earlier if I’m honest) I started to experience pain. My lower body just hurt. That’s all I can say really. It’s at that point that the mantras kick in. One foot in front of the other. Forward. I’ve come too far to stop now. I’m going to cross that fucking finish line if it kills me. I began to feel a disappointment, though. Disappointment that I wasn’t able to enjoy every mile like I wanted to. Disappointed that ALL that hard work wasn’t paying off.
But then, as I was still trudging toward the finish line I thought, maybe, just maybe, all the hard work, all the training, those 409 miles, helped to push me across the finish line. Maybe without it, I woudn’t have finished. The coniditions were such that I think that is highly possible. I pushed myself, certainly. So much so that I ended up in the medical tent once I did get across the line. The cold and the wind really got to me, dropping my body temp below acceptable levels and contributing to my utter exhaustion. A great running partner in Carl, and great medical staff, knew exactly how to handle me and had me back on my feet in no time.
My co-workers welcomed me back with a sign and well wishes. Friends near and far said the nicest things, congratulating me on this accomplishment. A close friend said to me yesterday, “Krista! You know this is an amazing thing you did. You get that, right?”
Some distance from the race preparation and from the race itself affords me some perspective. But this isn’t about doing something that is any better or more significant than anyone else. For me – and I told my friend this – this is about finding my strength, both mentally and physically – to move forward. No one can run for me. It’s my mind, my body, my heart. Finishing that race was hard, but people do more difficult things EVERY DAY. This happens to work for me, but everyone can find their strong. I am still struggling with being proud of the accomplishment when I worked so hard to do better, and when so many stuggle with things in life that are so much more important. This is just running. Yes, it makes me proud, and strong. Kathrine Switzer says to run fearlessly, and I love that. But in the end, it’s only running, and I think I finally get it.
With the great and gracious Kathrine Switzer at the NYC marathon expo.
NYC Marathon Bling! The 2014 NYC Marathon was the largest marathon in the world. No, really. With 50,564 finishers, it was the largest marathon EVER.
Strength in every (thing). Always engaged.