Sunday changed me. It changed me in more ways than I probably can put into words. My soul changed. My body changed. My willpower changed. On Sunday, I ran the TCS New York Marathon. As I write this blog post, my body is aching, begging for fuel and attention. I am mentally and physically exhausted - close to how I felt after childbirth. And yet - similar to how I felt after birthing my daughter - I feel powerful and exhilarated.
When I run, I find the ability to concentrate on one thing only. I put my headphones on, tune out the world and all its noise, and focus on my body. Running has always been independent for me. I am a member of only the New York Road Runners, and I shy away from running clubs. Running isn't social for me; it is therapeutic.
On Sunday I was prepared, rested, and game for a hilly 26.2 miles through New York's five boroughs. I had my playlist synced to my step count. Every detail was meticulously planned out to put me over the finish line at around four hours. I knew I could do it. I was ready to do it no matter what mother nature threw at us runners that day.
The rain started just as the cannon went off for my wave. That didn't matter; I was prepared. Mile one through 14 I was steady and my energy high. And then the Queensboro Bridge happened. I did not anticipate how slippery the metal channels of the bridge would be. As I began the steep and long incline I stepped on one, and my right knee went right, and my leg went in the opposite direction. I heard a pop as I stumbled a bit, but never stopped. I knew if I looked down or acknowledged the pain the race would be over for me.
I made it all the way to the Willis Avenue Bridge before fatigue caught up to me and I could not tune out the pain. I began to slow down into a hobbling lope. I saw an end before the finish line, and it was crushing.
I looked to my left and saw a man struggling like me. I saw the pull of his hamstring and the pain on his face. He was as depleted and in as much pain as me. I pulled my headphones off for the first time during a run and said to him, "We need to do this together." I needed someone to support and encourage me, or I would have failed. My music wasn't enough anymore. My willpower wasn't enough anymore. I needed help. I needed someone other than myself. At that moment, I found my team in what I considered a solitary sport.
For those last few miles, we encouraged one another, pushed one another, and in the last 200 meters he grabbed my hand, and we ran. We ran faster than we had in those preceding miles together and finished the race, hand in hand, before collapsing over the finish line. And without my headphones on.
We thanked and embraced each other, and in a cluster of other finishers, emotions, and marathon volunteers we walked our separate ways to find our families. As someone hung a medal around my neck, and a poncho draped over my shoulders, I broke down. Yes, partly from exhaustion and my knee pain, but mostly because the realization of speaking about "Creating A Tribe Of Motherhood" isn't just in raising our children. We need a team to help raise ourselves. We need a team to show us what we are capable of achieving. And what is possible if we have the support and strength from those around us.
So thank you to the stranger that broadened my Tribe yesterday.
Marathon #1 accomplished!