“Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed. Maybe they need to run free, until they find someone just as wild to run with them.” Carrie Bradshaw, SATC.
I’ve had an almost life-long love affair with New York City, which has made running the NYC marathon a bucket list item for me in the last two years once I realized that I’m ready to start going the distance.
I actually lived in Manhattan from a few days after birth to the age of 3, but my love affair probably started sometime in my preteen years when I was living in Pittsburgh. My mom’s best friend lives just outside the city, and used to own a candy shop very close to the 5th avenue Macy’s. We’d visit her at least annually, and we’d go into Manhattan where I’d spend the day getting to eat all the candy I want and get to roam the city on my own. I loved the crowds and the ethnic diversity. For a dark girl living in a pretty white Pittsburgh suburb, roaming the streets was an escape where I felt right at home. And again, the unlimited candy….
As my teen years progressed, so did my love of fashion, and those trips became more about walking through the city, getting lost in massive major department stores, and people watching. While I didn’t have the money to shop, I still felt a rush of excitement from just spending all day perusing.
Then there were the college, medical school, and residency years, when visiting Manhattan regularly no longer fit into my schedule, but hey, at least I had Friends with Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, and Central Perk….. and I had Sex and the City. I’ve binge watched every SATC episode so many times…. and will still watch reruns on TV to this day. My kids as toddlers could hum the SATC theme song and knew Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte (mom/pediatrician of the year… I know…don’t judge…at least it was the TBS version)… Hey, I’m the girl who as a grown-ass 40-year-old woman stood in line for 2 hours a couple of years ago at Nordstrom’s to have her SJP shoes signed by Sarah Jessica… and I have not stood in line for anyone else. I actually made my husband rearrange his patient schedule that day to get home early and be with the kids so I could stand in that line…. (I always say, when it really matters, my husband steps up to the plate.)
Eventually, my baby sister moved to the West Village, which provided me with the perfect opportunity to resume my regular visits once my kids got a little older. Each time I took a few days off to make a trip to visit her on my own, I’d come back renewed and refreshed. While this was initially in my pre-running days, I’d still cover miles and miles of the city on foot during each trip. Somehow, walking through the crowds by myself all day (my sister having to work) and getting lost in Central Park for hours felt like therapy/solitary confinement to me; similar to what I would feel later when becoming a runner….just as I can be running among thousands but still be alone with my thoughts. I came back from a trip and told my husband that when the kids are all in college, I would take a 6 month leave of absence and just rent a little studio in the West Village and live there by myself (he could have visitation twice a month.)
Then my sister had babies; even more reason to visit…that’s what a good aunt does. By the time she had babies, I was a runner. I still remember my first run across and back over the Brooklyn Bridge, and my first run along Hudson River Park, after which I sat down and just stared at the Statue of Liberty while gratitude filled me…. gratitude for a body that can run, a husband who completely gets the need for me to escape periodically, and a sister with an apartment in the ideal location.
So given my history with The Big Apple, it is no wonder that after LA, the NYC marathon is the one that I wanted to run most. I entered the lottery in January on the first day that it opened, and anxiously waited for March 8th to see if I would get in. During this time period, I spoke to people who had entered the lottery for 5 years and not gotten in, and others who made it in their first year. A while ago, I had decided that I would give the lottery a shot for 3 years, and that if after 3 years I didn’t make it in, then I would run it as a charity runner and donate the money myself.
The night before the lottery, I was so anxious. I was speaking to my husband and said what if I don’t get in….I want to run NYC so badly….I started crying (shocker), and said maybe I should run it for charity this year. While my husband’s initial reaction was that I was being ridiculous and that this whole running thing is getting out of hand, within a few minutes he said that he knows that this whole running thing isn’t just about running, and that if I didn’t get in, I’d have to be the one to make the decision whether I’d give the lottery a chance a couple more years or run for charity this year.
On Tuesday March 8th, I did NOT get into the lottery, and I watched other people on social media announce their excitement over getting in or heartbreak over not. 19,083 people got in through the lottery, but that was only 23% of the people who applied. Over 60,000 didn’t make it, along with me. And then I was left with the decision of waiting a few more years, or donating the money to charity.
What helped me make my decision…. here is what I have learned these last few years. Don’t take anything for granted….don’t have any regrets. Right now, I know that my body is capable of covering the miles, and that most likely nothing will happen between now and November that will prevent me from running it. If I wait 3 years, who knows what will happen. Hopefully, in 3 years, everything is fine and I’m stronger than I am today… my kids are fine, my parents are fine, life is fine, and I can run whatever I want. But what if some unexpected thing happens in the next couple of years, and I didn’t run New York. I can’t take anything for granted. Don’t wait for a health scare or a cancer diagnosis or something else to go through your bucket list… Enjoy every day now…. Don’t wait for retirement to take up what you’ve always wanted to do…. How many people wait for retirement, only to never get there….What you can make the time for and do now, do it. I joined Team For Kids which supports New York City youth programs and will donate the money to charity myself.
Currently, I’m actually in NYC (with my children this time) visiting my sister and my niece and nephew (best aunt ever that I am), and as I walk through and run through the city on this trip, I think about how my relationship with this city has evolved. It started out being about candy, it moved on to fashion, it became my escape, and now it is my playground. I know that the next time I’ll be back here again will be November 2016, and I’ll be covering 26.2 miles of NYC at the marathon in a Tiffany blue sparkle tutu…. because this marathon will not be about therapy but it will be about fun….because if SJP was running the marathon, I’m pretty sure she would wear one, too.