Running around New York City
The start line of the 2002 New York City Marathon
The distance from Placitas to Central Park in New York City is approximately 2,526.2 miles. I recently had the opportunity to run the last 26.2 miles by participating in the New York City marathon. And what an adventure it was.
For me, the actual event took between three and a half and four hours, but the preparation lasted sixteen weeks. Since this past July, I have gotten to know the back roads and hills of our small village intimately, by running endless miles, alone. In the marathon, the miles of dirt roads were replaced with pavement and bridges. The solitude was replaced by thirty thousand runners, as well as the thousands of people along the course who cheered us on.
The adventure started three days before the marathon as our plane touched down and we exited the plane running. My husband, Piers, and I had the great fortune of spending time with a good friend and great tour guide, Bob Dalessandro. For the last thirty years Bob has divided his time between the mountains of Placitas and the towering giants of New York City. We stayed in an apartment owned by Bob's friend Eddy, whose generosity and warm nature made us feel right at home. We flew in on Halloween and headed for Greenwich Village where we shared the evening with witches, goblins, and other characters.
By Sunday morning I felt as though I had already run the marathon—as all New Yorkers know, you do a lot of walking while seeing the city. People were accepting and friendly, and the subway system was a joy, especially to a couple of Westerners who spend at least two hours a day in their cars.
Sunday, November 3, started early with a 7:00 a.m. bus ride to Staten Island where my true marathon journey started. I had the great fortune of qualifying to be a part of a group of about two thousand women runners who would lead off the marathon. That was something I had not experienced in my previous runs. I felt honored when we were taken to the start line with about twenty-five elite women runners who would be starting a short time ahead of us. As the early-start gun went off I was privileged to see these "greats", like Marla Runyan and Joyce Chepchumba—the eventual winner—take off. Over the next thirty minutes, the rest of the runners fell into place behind us.
There was an ocean of people as far as I could see behind me. It was a colorful, magical sight. Before I knew it, the start gun sounded and we were off. The elite male runners were beside us and, in a fleeting moment, I watched them run by at their incredible pace. Soon they were just a blur in the distance. It's hard to express the feelings and excitement of sharing an event of this magnitude with thirty thousand other souls from different parts of our world, all with the same purpose in mind. Makes one think that anything is possible if we could all just work together. I guess it's what keeps people coming back for more.
The next 26.2 miles now seems like a vivid dream. We crossed the Verrazano Bridge and, off in the distance, I caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. For the next three and a half hours, I traveled through the five boroughs of New York City. I knew when I entered each one because of the echoing voices chanting “Welcome to Brooklyn,” “. . .the Bronx,” “. .Queens.”
Throughout the course, I encountered people running beside me who made me realize the power of the human will. There were people in old wheelchairs rolling themselves along and runners with prosthetic legs. There were sight-impaired runners who had guides to help them "see" their way along the course. They all helped lessen my pains and increase the humility in my heart.
The Madison Avenue Bridge marked mile twenty as I rounded the corner. I was greeted by the cheers of thousands and a rock-and-roll band whose music welcomed us to Harlem. The last six miles took us through Harlem and into Manhattan. This is when the months of training in the high mountains of Placitas paid off. I could feel the extra oxygen in the air bathing my tired aching legs and filling my lungs as we headed down Fifth Avenue and into Central Park. I “hit the wall” at mile twenty-four, but pulled myself over it and headed for the finish line. I glided through the last quarter mile and my foot crossed the line at three hours and thirty-two minutes. The finish line was a magnificent site to behold. I had accomplished what I had set out to do so many months before. It was a great feeling that still lingers on.
“Ground Zero”—site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City
Our adventure continued for another couple of days. We visited the site of the demolished World Trade Center. The rubble is gone and all that remains is a massive hole cut into the earth. It is a solemn place and people pay their respects quietly as they look on. The sadness of the place is evident. There was an undeniable irony between the wonderful event that I had just been a part of and the terrible destruction of this place. We rode the Staten Island Ferry to see the harbor and get a closer look at the Statue of Liberty. She is a symbol of new beginnings. I felt like an immigrant in this place of constant activity and movement. The Verrazano Bridge loomed in the distance. As I looked on, my mind returned to the start line of the marathon. My legs were sore and my body was weary, but the memory of the day gave me a strength that will be with me for a long time to come.