Time for a Marathon, Week 28 in the Time of Transition

Time is a funny thing.  If we sleep late this morning we wake up at our regular time due to daylight savings time.  The fall back of the time change here in New York City is particularly fortuitous for the NYC Marathon runners, in the event they could sleep at all. 

Today I’ll be cheering from the side lines.  I am always moved by the determination and grit that it takes to run a marathon.  I am deeply inspired by each marathoner.  The early runners are great athletes who race to win.  The Achilles Club athletes, some accompanied with guides, always move me, often to tears, because they transcend physical and mental barriers to get through the 26.2 miles to the finish line.  And the other runners, joggers and walkers who complete the 30,000 total NYC marathoners this year trained to be able to move through the five boroughs of our city. 

Image from NYRR via Getty Images online

A shout out to my friends Julie, Jeannette, and Debbie, who I will be tracking to cheer them on at East 87thStreet, close to my office.  They all trained for two years since the only options last year were solo, virtual runs.  This year they’ll all start from the line up at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in Staten Island.  Their first step carrying them through all that follow.  

I am proud to have run the NYC marathon six years ago.  I was not a runner.  I learned to run slowly to manage physical limitations, including shortness of breath.  It was hard to find a trainer for this type of running since most marathon trainers focused on minimizing running times while emphasizing form.  So, without formal training I found the best way I could do it, slow and steady.  All those cheering from the sidelines gave me the stamina to keep going.  I am eternally grateful to my friends, family, and the strangers whose enthusiasm provided me energy.  

Whether we can make it out to the marathon course to cheer the runners on, or whether we encourage those in our lives to follow their dreams, we may never know the full power of our support.  Again and again, we hear of those who have had major accomplishments thank parents, teachers, mentors, and friends for the support they received from them.  Let us all take the time, in much of the USA we now have that extra hour, to support someone in reaching his, her or their dreams.  And, whether you’re running a marathon or reaching for your marathon equivalent, have the courage to ask for support.  It will move you forward in countless ways. 

Self-care Tips:

  • Run around the block.  Run slowly.  Notice if this run feels different than the other ways you move.  
  • Take one step to start something new today.  Observe what it takes to take that first step.  You may be pushing yourself.  Take note if this step feels productive.  Do you feel you accomplished something?  Do you feel hopeless that you can keep moving in the direction of completing it?  And do your feelings tell you something about it that is useful?  
  • Find the people or circumstances that inspire you.  Pursue ways that you can regularly feel inspired.  It awakens something deep in us.  

The Last Word on The Marathon


So, I’ve been writing a lot about planning on running the marathon, training for the marathon and running the NY Marathon. Not only was the run a personal endeavor, but having written about it, it became a shared event. I secretly think it was self-centered of me to do this, and perhaps even more so in writing about it, but it’s a risk I’m taking. That said, I do want to complete this cycle, so I’m writing what I believe will be my final chapter on this subject. As selfish as I was in working towards and running the marathon, I have been acutely aware of how kind-hearted and generous my friends and family have been.


In fact, more than anything else I’ve gained from my experience running the TCS 2015 New York City Marathon is that I’ve gained an appreciation for all the good will out there. Even though I trained for the marathon, I’m not a serious runner. I started running five years ago, treading lightly to avoid extra knee pain. I’ve always loved walking but never in my dreams did I think I could run. Nonetheless going at my very slow pace, I could maintain a runners gait. After a couple of years running from time to time for a couple of miles or so, I thought I’d enter a race. I didn’t care about my time, and resented those who kept encouraging me to pick up my pace. I am usually a private person, so I was uncertain about the yelling that took place. “You can do this!” “Go, go go!”

Instead I put on my head phones and finished the race noticing people 10 years older pass me by. I didn’t check my time, and was happy to have done it on my own terms. From there I entered other races. I still had a “leave me alone” attitude, but I was proud to be in the races, increasing my distances. For my first half marathon, which was the More Half, I liked that there was a mix of women all ages, shapes, ethnicities and sizes. I felt like my unique running style was perfectly suited for me and for the event.

A friend said if I could do a half marathon I could do a whole marathon. But I thought getting through half a marathon was all I would ever be able to do. I loved going to First Avenue year after year to cheer the runners on the first Sunday of November. I always cried because I was moved by their determination and stamina. But they were runners. I was not. I contemplated walking the marathon. And when I thought of that it seemed doable. At some point I decided I will try to run the marathon. Maybe not completely, but as best as I can. My friend Jeannette was very encouraging. She had gotten into the marathon and was committed to her training. Zena, another friend who lived in Chicago until recently, was a complete champion of my running. She gave me a half-marathon necklace to commemorate my first half. She gave me advice about running. And when she was in New York she ran a race at my pace even though she is twice as fast.

Then there were my friends who would compliment me. I didn’t always take in the comments, replying, “Well, I’m really slow.” But people were kind. When I did announce that I was going to do the marathon, I got so many encouraging and enthusiastic comments. In the past I might have felt that I was now obligated to run because I said I would. And, what would people think? But instead I felt grateful. I was happy reading comments from friends and family. I felt supported.

And, as I thought about it, I knew if I showed up I would complete the marathon. I just had to show up. So, Sunday morning I got up early, got dressed took the subway to the Staten Island Ferry, took the Ferry and a bus to the Verrazano Bridge, where I would start the race. It was unseasonably warm. For me the weather was perfect. I prefer to be warm rather than cold. As a slow runner I don’t get as sweaty as those at faster paces.

I was in the last group of runners. Many were running for the first time, so there was a friendly yet nervous energy in the air. I had my playlist on. Fabulous music for 10 hours created by Larry. The gun went off and I started at the pace I kept throughout the race. When I was in pain I walked. I only stopped to use the porta-potties. I drank the Gatorade. I like luxury bathrooms and I don’t like energy drinks, but that was a small price to pay to do this race.


What was most amazing to me were the crowds of onlookers. I painted my name on my shirt. I knew I needed encouragement to do this run. Partyers would chant, “JANET, JANET.” I would hear my name from balconies, from strangers, from tourists and cops. It kept me going step after step. At mile 15 I was sure it was mile 16, and felt deflated for that mile. But then came mile 16 and I knew I could do 10 more. After 16 I was met by friends, first Zena and Seth, with an awesome sign as I entered Manhattan from the Queensboro Bridge, one of five. Then later Larry and Emma with our dog Lucy. They were with our other friends we met through Lucy, Just down the street stood more friends with another sign and a banana. From there I was met by many strangers wishing me and the other runners well. It was amazing energy.


In some ways the psychological training was more significant than the physical training. I had to get out of my own way. I had to learn to be less judgmental, at least for the duration of the race. I had to let in others’ enthusiasm. I had to appreciate the love shared. Don’t get me wrong, I had my moments. At two separate times I thought, “Fuck You,” when marathoners who wore tee shirts stating all the marathons they had run were condescending to me, a mere novice. They were nice in that fake way that lets me know they have “Experience.” But those moments were fleeting. Mostly I felt and continue to feel grateful.

Even though I ran this race for me because I wanted to do it, a bucket list item, everyone was so amazing. And that is what kept me going. I am surprised at myself for enjoying such a positive experience. I can latch onto the gaps in life complaining about what I don’t like. Yet for one day, one very long race from morning until night, I was smiling. A true reflection of all that was given with love and generosity. It brought out the best of New York City and the best in me. So thank you. I am now a proud New York Marathoner.