“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you” – Fred DeVito
We headed to Central Park the day before the marathon to map out the spot where we would meet at after I crossed the finish line knowing that with millions of spectators, we had to have a solid plan. We chose a location and had our plan in place; we’d meet at the exit to 69th street. I was still nervous but also feeling relieved knowing we had a plan for reconnecting after the race. The next day started at 3:45 AM, but it all went so quickly. I got dressed, fuled up as I had for the past 4 months during training and the next thing I knew I was hearing Frank Sinatra sing “New York , New York” as I prepared to start running. Before I knew it, I heard Gun’s n Roses “Sweet Child ‘O Mine” as I crossed the finish line, having just run 26.2 miles. I was crying, smiling, hurting and a bit disoriented, but ready to walk over and give my husband a hug. With nearly 50,000 runners continuously crossing the finish line, they were moving us like cattle to keep everything flowing smoothly, handing us our medal and a goody bag that consisted of a bottled water, a gatorate, an apple and a coupon for some type of chaffing cream that I really could have used prior to the race.
As I was walking, I could see the exit that my then husband and I had planned for me to take in order to meet him, but they had it blocked off with police officers and a sign that said NO EXIT. “But, wait I need to exit here!” I said frantically. “Keep moving, the exit is about ¼ mile away”. “No, I have to exit here…” but it wasn’t an option and I kept following the other runners like a lemming. I finally go to the approved exit, but my husband was nowhere to be found. We were supposed to meet on 69th street, which I wasn’t allowed to exit on, and now I had no clue where to find him. I had no cell phone on me, I didn’t check my bag because he was going to give me my jacket and pants once I saw him. There I was standing on 77th street, not sure if I should venture down to 69th out of fear that he might be headed towards me and I’d miss him. I asked a spectator if I could use his phone to call my husband (thank god I knew his number, if you don’t know someone’s number by heart because we all rely on our cell phones to store numbers, I highly recommend you take a break from reading this blog, pick two people and memorize those numbers). Crap! It went straight to voice mail; I realized that his phone must have been dead. My brain wasn’t working straight, I didn’t know what else to do but stand there soaked, like I just stepped out of a pool, on my very tired legs with growing hunger pangs. I was so hungry I would have eaten anything covered in ranch dressing, no questions asked! An hour passed and the NYC temperature dropped to the low 40’s, the sun was gone, my lips were blue, and I could no longer feel my toes or my fingers. As I was about ready to start walking towards a restaurant, I suddenly saw a jacket I recognized and the back of my husband’s head. I broke down crying, screaming “Drew, Drew….” As he embraced me, I collapsed in his arms crying out of physical and emotional exhaustion and so grateful to be in the arms of my husband, my person.
That day I was so proud of myself; my body and my mind allowed me to complete my second marathon. Running a marathon is very challenging to your body, but for me it’s more challenging on my mind because I have to keep telling myself over and over “You got this!” And I did it. I was so strong. So how is it that the day I was separated from my husband, even though I was able to run a marathon just one year before, it mentally broke me and I no longer felt strong? How is it that I could run 26.2 miles, but the thought of getting out of bed after my divorce felt impossible?
I am not an elite runner, I started distance running when I was 29 after an abdominal surgery that left me bed bound for weeks. During my waking hours, bored out of my mind, I was watching movies and came across a documentary called Spirit of the Marathon. I told Drew when he got home that night from work that I was going to run a marathon, mind you…I had never run more than 2.5 miles in one stretch at this point. I have always loved to exercise but I hated running. There was something about laying on that couch, hardly able to even walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water, that made me want to run once I could start exercising again. My now ex-husband said “ok babe” with a little skepticism in his voice, but just a few months later at Christmas he bought me a pair of ASICS Nimbus 7 running shoes, a running outfit and a book on how to run your first marathon. Little did I know that training for and running my first marathon, which I thought would be the hardest thing I would do in my life as only .5% of the US population has done it, was nothing compared to going through a divorce.
You have probably heard people referring to life as a marathon. “Just take it slow, it’s a marathon not a sprint”. Because I have both run marathons and I’m going through life, personally, I don’t feel like you can accurately compare a “real” marathon to the journey of life. Sure, there are similarities in life and when you distance run, “one step at a time”, but one of them you really want to end after 4 ½ hours on your feet. When you are going through life, you don’t have aid stations along the way, you don’t have people cheering you on and ringing cow bells to encourage you to keep going. Parenting doesn’t stop when your child turns 18, relationships aren’t perfect after you say I do, and you are going to have people close to you come and go in your life. Life is a lot longer than 26.2 miles, it’s a long ass journey that keeps going with a great deal of ups and downs.
The reality is that even when you get through this current pain or hardship you are dealing with, life doesn’t stop. Every time I have finished a marathon, there is an end, I cross the finish line and it’s done. There might be sadness and other emotions because something I just trained four months for is over, but it is over and life…keeps going. In life we crawl, we walk, we sprint, we run, we stop, we go, we stop…we go. Keep going, the run sometimes sucks and it’s hard, crawl on the days you need to crawl, sprint when you can and do your best to absorb all the lessons you are learning along the way.
I am so thankful I saw the documentary years ago that challenged me to do something that seemed impossible. A marathon takes commitment and dedication and a $h!t ton of hard work. Little did I know that committing to train for a marathon was going to mentally prepare me for even more difficult things in life to follow. This Sunday I will be running the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon and I know I will cross that finish line. I will cry, smile, maybe cry a little more, then go binge on pasta and toast myself for finishing one of the most challenging things I’ve gone through on my journey; not the marathon, but making it through another first without my ex-husband. I will be proud of my body and mind for physically and mentally allowing me to finish the marathon, and I will also be proud of my mind for mentally allowing me to keep moving forward in this journey of life one step at a time.
This will be my 4th marathon and it is going to be the most difficult one so far because I have not only the physical aspect of it (my knees are not happy with me) and the mental game I have to play with myself to keep my body going after I hit that wall around mile 19, but also because of the emotions I will feel knowing my ex-husband isn’t at mile 8, mile 13, mile 18, mile 26 or on 69th street holding my bag ready for me to collapse in his arms.
I’m getting ready to travel to NYC without my ex-husband, my biggest fan for so many years, and I’m honestly crying as I type those words. I’m getting ready to navigate my first marathon without him and I’m scared. But it’s another first. Getting through the firsts after a divorce, a loss or a significant change of any kind is very hard. The first Christmas, the first birthday, the first [fill in the blank], those firsts can be brutal! But it’s one foot in front of the other, just like a marathon, we can do this.
If you would like to follow me running this Sunday, November 3, you can download the TCS NYC Marathon app HERE to cheer me on, my bib number is 61191 and I start at 11:00 AM EST/ 9:00 AM MST.
I might need you to say it to me this weekend, but here we go…You Got This!