On the Road to the Start – My First Marathon

Running has played an enormous role in my life in the last 3 years, but committing to training for the NYC Marathon was something that I thought was out of my reach. I didn’t think someone like me, without any athletic background, could get up and run 26.2 miles. The day I committed, I almost had a panic attack thinking about all those miles and my ongoing process of recovery from my injury earlier this year.

There was also the fear of telling the world that I was going to do this and possibly being unable to get it done. But I started my training and committed to the runs, the time, and the continuous work of recovery. I gave myself the goal of simply finishing the race without injury.

Training shifted my priorities. I had to make clear and strong decisions about what mattered most to me and how to manage that. I had to focus on my physical and mental health because without fueling my body and keeping myself motivated, there was no way I could go onto the next run. I had a tangible goal - an action and an activity that required me to make time to for myself. 

Luckily for me, being a part of Harlem Run helped me get my easy runs and speedwork done. The cross training was a lot harder because I don’t like the gym. Eventually Talisa started her HIIT class and boom! My problem was resolved. I got my strength training in a room full of beautiful, familiar, encouraging, and sometimes very silly faces. 

For the days that were harder to get up and go, I was grateful to have to hold myself accountable and meet up with Sara for our long runs. We took our time and talked about our training programs and enjoyed the company of a friend while we struggled to get those miles in. Often times, the motivation to get up at 5am and run those long hot miles was lacking. I reached deep and then hit a wall. 

 Two weeks in a row, I couldn't get past a 10k when I should have been running double digits. I spent a month trying and failing to meet my miles for my long runs. Whether it was because I got hurt or was losing that sense of self determination, I started to feel defeated. I wasn’t where I was supposed to be at that point and I felt like I was falling behind.

Then the sky opened up, the clouds parted, and a light came through... I got an invite from the 5am crew, run with us they said. Knowing I need an external force to hold me accountable and push me through, I accepted. We ran 20 miles that day. That day I knew I was going to be ready, without a doubt, for the marathon. I was on a runner's high for over a week.

As we got closer to November 6th my anxiety grew and that horrible monster of self-doubt kept trying to push back. I continued to run with the 5 am crew. We worked through our crap in every run. Rain, heat, and sunshine we trooped mile after mile together. Surrounding myself with people who were cheering for me and knew what I was going through was instrumental to me reaching that start line.

I have to admit I am spoiled to have experienced my first marathon with an easy transition into training schedule because of Harlem Run weekly workouts and finding friends that were in it together. When race day came, we hitched a ride on a fancy Under Armour bus and began the journey. That 5 hour wait til our wave started wasn't so bad. One by one our little group went off to their corral and start times, wishing each other luck and getting excited to see them on the other side. 

The race itself was incredible, but training was the real journey. As I start my training for Paris, Marathon #2, I know now that I truly can do anything. My body and mind are capable of so much more than I ever thought. Here’s to the New Year and all the smiles and miles it brings!


Amir FigueroaComment