The Surprising Thing I Learned From Running The NYC Marathon
I set three goals for myself as I approached my 30th birthday: live in a city larger than San Francisco (where I was living at the time), study Spanish in Spain, and run a marathon. I spent a summer working in Paris the year before, and my coworker Scott was training for the NYC marathon. I never considered myself a runner – AT ALL – but I joined him one morning for a run along the Canal Saint-Martin (we looked conspicuously American in our running shoes). He was a slow runner and it made me realize that I can actually run if I just slow down.
When I returned to SF, I started making my year-long plan to save money to leave my tech job, book classes in Spain, enter the NYC marathon lottery, and move to New York City. I was in Seville, my first stint studying my Puerto Rican father’s native tongue, when I learned that I was chosen in the lottery. Terror and excitement set in all at once. That meant I’d have to actually train for a marathon, never having run more than a mile.
Pain Before The Gain
Photo by Hanna Auramenka / PEXELS
Having already left my heart and job in SF, I returned home to my mom’s house in New Jersey to start training. It helped that I didn’t have a job and could focus the next two months on eating, sleeping, and running. I started out of the gate strong, 5 very slow miles. I realized that not thinking about the finish line made it much easier to focus on just running. I started to learn about my form – keeping my head up, shoulders back, relaxing my hands. I figured out a pace that worked for me – as soon as I started to lose my breath, I slowed down vs. just stopping. It became a game for me to keep my breath even. My body would eventually get stronger and take me literally the extra mile. I started running 5Ks to get familiar with the race experience. I trained with NYC friends, who were either training for the same marathon or had run it before. I eventually reached the final 20-mile training run, which I ran in the rain in Central Park.
My body was the strongest it had ever been. I was lean and healthy but my body was still the same pear shape it had always been. That’s when it sort of hit me – I had worked the hardest I ever had and my body was still my body. I was never going to have long legs or small hips no matter how hard I worked. I realized that griping about my imperfections – even if just in my head – was a huge waste of time. Once I realized that, I sort of let go of the body insecurities and negative self talk circulating in my brain. The marathon kick-started a life-long routine of running and taking better care of my body. Kind of an intense kickstart, but I’m grateful for it!
Five Boroughs In One Day & On Day One
Photo by cottonbro studio / PEXELS
While I trained, I searched for a place to live in NYC. I found a roommate situation on 70th and Columbus Avenue, just a few blocks away from the marathon finish line in Central Park. And thus I was committed! I moved into the fifth-floor walkup the night before the race and woke up the next morning before dawn to head to Staten Island, where the race would begin. I started running with two friends until they eventually outpaced me.
By mile 8, running through Brooklyn, I knew I was going to finish it. I was at a good pace and I felt like I was on auto-pilot. I knew my body was strong enough to get to the finish line. My first day as a New Yorker, I ran through all five boroughs. Random New Yorkers were cheering “Go T!” because of the letter T I had on my shirt; I saw my mom on the sidelines in upper Manhattan and teared up, and my college friends met me one mile before the finish line with a sign that read “T-Love, Nice Hustle” and on the back “26.2 ain’t got nothing on you!” They jumped in to run with me for a bit – the total boost I needed to get to the finish line (a mile in, I *did* start to think about the finish line).
Every year after that, for the five years I stayed in NYC, I would join the runners but only from the sidelines. I’m so glad I took that time in my life – single, no job, no kids – to train and run it because it was an amazing NYC experience and a huge personal accomplishment. Eventually my career, relationships, and raising a child would take over my life but I’ll always have that New York memory. I’ll always have the NYC marathon.
Sign up for our newsletter for more takes on health + wellness!
Header image via Shutterstock
Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.