SO! I finished my third NYC Marathon on Sunday, November 5th, improving my time by a mere 53 seconds. I know it’s cheesy, but running – especially training for the marathon this year gave me these life lessons and I wanted to share them with you!
In 2014 and in 2016, I mostly trained alone. I did my short and long runs alone, (pretty boring to do 20 miles by yourself), I did most of my races alone, and I did the marathon alone. Both times, I did ok, and the second time, I improved my time by 7 minutes!
This year, through the New York Road Runners, I trained with a group of runners twice a week for almost 6 weeks, and it was incredible! We trained together, challenged each other, bemoaned our injuries together, shared advice, high-fived a lot, and had lots of fun too! We had terrific coaches who were enthusiastic, empathetic, and practical. Together, we have become a running community that I hope to keep in touch with for a long time!
And unlike the previous years, I started the marathon with three awesome women, two from my group training and one who I had known for years but never ran with. Although Bethany (left) and Christine (right) eventually ventured off on their own, Fiona (far right) and I stuck together through mile 22, and because of that, I think I ran a better race!
I am not saying the group is more important than the individual, but I am also not saying the individual is important the group – it’s both! This is so well reflected in the wall of names made every year for the marathon. The names of every registered runner are printed on this giant wall, but when you find your name among the many, it’s a thrill!
According to Running USA’s 2016 marathon report, there were 507,600 marathon finishers – so even though the NYC marathon is the largest, it’s still only 10% of the total number of marathoners in the US. Of course, at the same time, marathoners are only 0.5% of the US population. So while it’s a great accomplishment to finish the NYC marathon and a unique one, there are 450,000 others who have also done it!
The NY Times always publishes a “Marathon Monday” section and they print as many finishers’ names and times as they can (2017’s edition contained runners finishing up to 4:59:07). Seeing your name in print in the NY Times is cool, but what’s even cooler is seeing who ELSE finished the same time you did!
Take a look: my name is highlighted and notice the profiles of the people with the same time – a 51-year-old female, a 25-year-old female, a 31-year-old male and a 48-year-old male – all finished the same time as me, a 42-year-old female! And each has their own story — while 4:17:26 was a slightly disappointing time for me as a third-time marathoner, it might have been a PR (Personal Record) for another runner; or an incredible time for a first-time marathoner; or a horrible time for a 15th-time marathoner.
I don’t think many people would say that I am a person who demands a lot of support or needs a lot of encouragement. BUT when you are out there, pounding the pavement, especially when it starts to hurt (for me, around mile 22-24), it’s so great to hear your name. I might have been dying the second before and after these shots, but that one-second boost after hearing my name certainly helped! It’s wonderful to have people cheering for you along the course – not just friends and family but strangers as well – and the NYC Marathon is probably my favorite day in New York because of it!
The 2017 NYC Marathon was extra special for two reasons. First, the female winner was an American, the 1st American woman to win it in 40 years! Shalane Flanagan was training for the Boston Marathon when she had to withdraw because of a fracture in her lower back (ouch!). She had to stop training for 10 weeks – but came back with a vengeance to beat Mary Keitany, the winner in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Her performance in the last miles of the race is what we, amateur runners, hope for – enough energy to sprint through the last miles of a marathon. Shalene has often cited Meb Keflezhigi as her inspiration, and he is the second reason why the 2017 Marathon was so special.
In his last professional marathon, Meb was hoping to be in the top 10. Instead, battling stomach issues and pure exhaustion after almost 30 years of giving it his all, he ended his professional career in 11th place. His career is marked with incredible wins – a silver medal in the Olympics in 2004, an NYC Marathon win in 2009 and an emotional win in Boston in 2014, a year after the bombing. In between those thrilling wins (and the only long distance runner to achieve those three finishes) – there have been many top 10 finishes, top 25 finishes, and even a 33rd place finish in the 2016 Rio Olympics – but Meb is known to always have a positive attitude, possesses a wry sense of humor, and real desire to encourage and support other runners. This article in Runners World summarizes it best: https://www.runnersworld.com/meb-keflezighi/why-everyone-loves-meb/slide/3
I recently became the chair of the committee in charge of awarding these scholarships. Since we started disbursing scholarships, we have given out almost $22,000 to six amazing students, including Natalie Munoz who interned with Operation Exodus this past summer. Read about her experience here.
The Iza Fund was created in 2015 to honor the memory of Gerald Iza, son of Operation Exodus founder Luis Iza and his wife, Maggie. Gerald tragically passed away in June 2014 and an Exodus board member created the fund to award scholarships to support Exodus students in every stage of their academic and career development.
The Iza Fund provides four major scholarships:
Would you consider donating $25, $50, $100 or more to the Iza Fund so that more Exodus students like Natalie can realize their goals?
To donate: Text IZA to 41444 and follow the directions OR Go directly to the link https://app.mobilecause.com/f/1k8t/n
On to the next run!
– Lana K.