When I tore the plantar fascia in my left foot last year, I wasn't just upset because of being confined to crutches and all the expense and inconvenience and garbage that entails. I was just two races away from qualifying for the 2017 NYC Marathon under the New York Road Runner's 9:1 program - run in 9 races, volunteer in 1 during a calendar year, and you automatically gain entry into the following year's marathon.
Running in the 2017 marathon was to have particular significance for me because it would fall around my ten year anniversary of being a runner. I'm a big nerd when it comes to anniversaries and special occasions and pretty much any excuse to celebrate or acknowledge milestones, and the symmetry just seemed to perfect.
Shortly after I first started running in August of 2007, I subscribed to Runner's World. The idea of running any farther than a 5K seemed like an insane, superhuman feat of unattainable athleticism. I was intrigued by the columns and articles meant for runners far more advanced than I, and by the constant emphasis on half marathons and marathons. The race that sounded the most appealing - if I were an athlete instead of just an out of shape college graduate trying running for the first time because I secretly always wanted to and didn't think I could - was the New York City Marathon.
Now, obviously last summer's injury was not a death sentence. I'm here, I'm almost 100% recovered, and I'm back chasing the goal of the NYC Marathon. And honestly, I don't care if I ever run another marathon ever again after I conquer this goal. The marathon distance is not my favorite, and the Disney marathon was really rough. But there's just something about the New York City marathon - about running through all five boroughs, all of the neighborhoods and cultures and people and life of the city, that has been on my mind for what feels like forever. I don't really have a bucket list - I just have this one thing that I want desperately to do.
As grateful and happy as I've been to dip my toes back into running, the fastidious, precise part of me that was so pleased by the symmetry of completing this goal on in the same year I'd celebrate 10 years of running was still incredibly disappointed by the loss of the race this year. And of course, though I entered the lottery for the 2017 marathon, I didn't get a spot. (It's about as likely as winning the Hamilton lottery if you opened the Hamilton lottery out to the entire world.)
And yet - there's another way to look at it. As my always-helpful husband pointed out, I can look at the 2018 marathon as a way to kick off the first year of my second decade of running.
And in 2017, this tenth year of running, my challenge to make it to that 2018 marathon is to complete - oh, how funny - 10 races. Running in 9, volunteering in 1. My neurotic desire for symmetry is satisfied!
All of that incredibly long and wordy and self indulgent intro is to say - I ran my first race toward that goal on Sunday. I ran my first race in over 7 months on Sunday. I ran my first race after injury and rehab and muscle atrophy and oh so much physical therapy homework on Sunday.
After layering with approximately 47,000 pieces of clothing for the 5-degree-with-the-wind-chill-weather and making the hour long schlep up to Washington Heights (it's a lovely race but NEVER AGAIN!), I made it to my corral, bouncing up and down with all the other crazy people running the race with me. (Some of whom were in shorts. SHORTS!) Once we crossed the start line and really got going, I kept thinking back to my first race ever, back in the early spring of 2008. My sister came up from South Carolina, where she was living at the time (or was she in Charlotte by that point?) to run it with me, as she started running shortly after I did and we Galloway method-ed together, which was an awesome way to long-distance bond.
The course was around a place I know and love well, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. And oh lord, I thought I was dying. I think it was the first time I ever ran 3.1 miles, it was probably the hilliest course I'd ever run (and how could it have been that hilly?). My sister ran ahead at a certain point, and I ran/walked it the rest of the way myself, wondering if I could make it. My mom was at the finish line cheering us on - a physical manifestation of the metaphorical cheering on she does constantly for us.
My concerns about this run on Sunday were simply paying attention to any pain or sensation in my feet, making sure I didn't let the excitement of a race keep me from my run/walk plan of taking it easy, and making sure my eyeballs didn't freeze solid. Luckily, I had success on all fronts - although my run/walk ratio was definitely a little off in the first and third miles.
The emotions that overcame me approaching and crossing the finish line were so similar to those I've felt crossing the finish lines of my distance races - the half marathons, the oh so painful marathon. The sense of accomplishment was for much more than running 3.1 miles, but to being free to go back to doing something I love so much and the hard work it took to get back there.
For a yoga teacher, I can be incredibly inflexible. I get hung up on an idea of how I want things to be, how I think things are supposed to be - and when things go wrong, when plans, change, when injuries and sickness happen, it can take a long time for me to calm down and get perspective. It took awhile, but I think I'm there. I'm so grateful for this giant mess of a race and for the opportunity to participate in 9 more this year on my long, long road to run NYC.