The Home Stretch

NYC-entrant-cardSo here I am, a week away from a life event that has been 37-plus years in development – running the New York City Marathon (NYC Marathon).

Some background: I started distance running in the summer of 1976 – the Olympics were being staged in Montreal (my country of residence); I was in Portugal (my country of birth) on summer vacation; Portuguese runner Carlos Lopes was pushing the pace in the 10,000 metres; American Bill Rodgers was running near the front of the marathon; and, I became inspired.

Rodgers would go on to win the next four New York City marathons, followed by three record wins by Alberto Salazar. And, I watched their finishes thanks to the miracle of national TV (from ABC). At about the same time, Norwegian Grete Waitz was on her way to winning nine NYC Marathons (between 1978 and 1988). However, it was the 1983 finish by Rod Dixon, a New Zealander to that point in his career mostly known for his prowess in running the mile, which made me promise to myself that I would one day run this race.

How can such performances NOT inspire a runner? Or any person, for that matter.

I have never been that great of a distance runner but in my early years, I always enjoyed the competition enough to endure the training. These days, I find I enjoy the training a lot more than I do the racing, which is a complete reversal from my running infancy.

I never really had any desire to run a marathon, except for this one because it is usually staged around my birthday. Many of my high-school contemporaries had aspirations to run the Boston Marathon (and some did) – probably the marathon to which most runners aspire (including many of my present-day contemporaries) – but mine was always New York. And only once (many fellow runners say that once I run one, I’ll want to do another but I don’t know …). I had no idea back in the early ’80s that the NYC Marathon would become the world’s largest.

Around the same time that Dixon was sprinting to a NYC Marathon win, I dropped out of running. I was in university and other things became more important in my life (the types of things are important to a 20-something away from home for the first time). But, every year on the Sunday closest to my birthday, I’d sit down to watch the NYC Marathon.

When I got back into running in 2005, my dream race was back on the goal list. I wanted to run it on my birthday and that would happen in 2013 … eight years seemed about right for me to get all my ducks in order. I signed up in August 2012 and dropped out in July 2013 (thinking I could try again for 2019) and signed up again in August 2013.

There were setbacks along the way – an ankle injury in 2006 took about two years out of my progress; lacklustre performances in half-marathons in 2009 and 2010 left me discouraged about deriving any enjoyment from running anything longer than 10k (10 kilometre) races; personal challenges made me shift priorities – but all of them won’t matter once I line up on Staten Island at 10:30 to cross the Verrazano Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn at the start of the 2013 ING NYC Marathon.

I wish I was younger, but running is a lifestyle built on patience (and one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t hurry patience).

I wish I was about 10 or 20 pounds lighter, but I can safely say I didn’t deprive myself of anything through my training (though maybe I should have…).

I wish my mileage was farther along than it is, but I know I’m not going with any aspirations of grandeur, except to cross that finish line in Central Park.

I wish my family would be there in the spectator stands in Central Park to watch me finish, but running isn’t about recognition and admiration from others; it’s about personal achievement and self-recognition.

I’m going to enjoy every step I take over those 42.195 km (that’s 26 miles and 385 yards for those keeping track in the U.S.A.).

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