Dear New York,

March 8th, 2018. After a week without wifi (a blessing!) and 11 days of hiking to 5280 meters of altitude and back to 3440 meters, I opened my email. “Congratulations.”

“Check your email,” I told Angel.

I had won the lottery to run the NYC Marathon in November 2018. It was the last thing I wanted to do at the moment. Hiking to Everest Base Camp and back is the equivalent of three marathons and I had no desire to do another. Angel had had to carry my backpack for an entire day downhill, bless him that I didn’t end up on a helicopter home. But yet, there was still something magical about the thought of running the streets of NYC without cars.

I was born and raised in southern New Jersey. When I would travel and people would ask where I’m from, I would tell them the truth. “New Jersey? That’s near New York, right?” They would respond. I eventually just told people I was from New York, even though I have always been a proud Jersey Girl.

Now I have a New York driver’s license. I’ve lived and worked in New York and commuted on the subway for over an hour. I don’t miss that part one bit, though I do enjoy coming back to visit. But I could not have been more wrong in my expectations for the NYC Marathon.

I thought I was going to run the five boroughs. And I did. I thought I would enjoy the sights. I did that too. I thought I might cry crossing the finish line. Zoom in and take a look at that photo, at the end of this post.

I had no idea I would cry entering Brooklyn, just across the Verrazano Bridge, where residents - adults and children - would be cheering with signs.

I knew the tendency for all runners is to start the race too fast. I had no idea that the best and most enjoyable way to slow down would be to give high fives to all of the children holding out their small gloved hands along the side of the road.

It didn’t feel like a race. It was a parade. The Macy’s Parade was still two and a half weeks away, but this one was better. Some wore costumes, but most just boasted their own first names on their shirts and spectators held signs, “Run, Random Stranger, Run. I’m proud of you.” There were plenty of organized water stations, but in case you misjudged your own thirst or hunger, neighborhood residents also offered water and orange slices throughout the race.

“Pretend like you are in 1990,” the New York Road Runners coaches told the crowd at the expo. “Make a plan and stick to it, like you used to do before cell phones.”

I ran the race on airplane mode, as our unlocked US mobile stayed packed in a box in our new house in Spain.

Angel met me at 59th and 4th, just after mile 4, then again at 9th and 4th, just before mile 7, in Brooklyn. He was waiting across the Queensboro Bridge, where I broke away from the group of Spaniards I met to give my favorite Spanish-American man a third big kiss during the race. Not realizing there was a bridge at 125th street before Harlem, his quick thinking led him to surprise me and chase me for half a block down the other side of 5th and 125th until I saw him and then kept me going halfway around the small park before continuing down 5th Avenue to Central Park.

I finished, without walking a single step until the 30-minute walk just to exit the park. Crossing the finish, I received my medal. And half an hour later, a race volunteer wrapped me in my fleece-lined post-race poncho. Then Angel wrapped me in his arms.

A month later, we returned to NYC for my birthday and I was ever so cognizant of the hills in Manhattan! On the latter trip, it was our turn to slow down and admire the people - from the musicians on the street to the Santa Con participants in Grand Central and at a food cart near Macy’s.

“If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere,” go the famous lines of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York. But the most important words are what follows: “It’s up to you.”


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