We're celebrating some of the women of Harlem Run who took on the streets of Paris just a few weeks ago to run the Paris Marathon. We are still inspired by these ladies who brought the movement overseas. Here are some more of their stories.
I signed up for the Paris Marathon on a complete whim. I didn't get into London through their lottery and wanted to make up for it. I was planning on going alone and just taking in the sights; I've traveled alone before and I'm all about those types of experiences. I was all about my #MarathonTrifecta2017.
Winter training was going swimmingly and the only anxiety I had was about learning enough French. I was excited to start racing again in the new year and was ready to run when during the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half, at approximately the 10K point, I felt a pain in my foot and barely finished the race at a trot ... I went to the doctor the next day and was thrown in a CAMS boot and diagnosed with a stress fracture the following week. How in the world was I going to run a marathon in April?
I listened to my doctor and did no running for 6 weeks, worked out with my coach, and slowly started run/walking again. I was able to run the NYC Half, slowly, but without incident ... so I knew I was ready as I'll ever be for Paris. Two weeks before the trip, I found out that one of my running boos was ALSO going to Paris for the marathon (she kept it a secret!!) and was immediately connected to the ladies of Harlem Run. My life has been forever changed because of this.
The trip to Paris was amazing because of how welcoming and open everyone was to spending time as a group. We managed the trains, crises, going out to eat, AND that marathon as a team. The race was not easy for me post-injury: I was not adequately trained, I was dehydrated and it was 80 degrees ... but I did it. I would not have finished if it wasn't for the team: no woman left behind, literally.
They say that traveling with people creates a special bond in the group, but for me it created a family. Thank you lovelies!
I never thought realistically about traveling anywhere that wasn't the Caribbean, an area that felt familiar, financially accessible, and comfortable, being with lots of "brethren" aka black and brown people who spoke either English or Spanish. Paris, on the other hand, felt so far away, expensive, and held little interest for me. If I wanted to see the Eiffel tower, I just Googled it.
This is one of the many ways running has changed my perspective about many things in life, including traveling. Traveling now means a potential run-cation, a reason to visit a place out of my comfort zone and push through a new set of challenges and obstacles.
You would think my biggest obstacles for Paris would be the warm temperature, the water stations every 5k that didn't have Gatorade, or trying to figure out getting around due to my poor French ... But my biggest challenge was getting to the gate at JFK. I spent the last month trying to update my documents in time, after realizing that my green card and passport had both expired. Since 45 was elected president I was nervous to travel because he's anti-immigrants, anti-black and brown people, anti-women, anti-humanity and I fall neatly in all those boxes.
After several trips to the Dominican Consulate, I got a new passport and stopped by 26 Federal Plaza for a stamp that said "Yea, she's good" ... But not even one day later, I stood at check-in, in tears because the foreign airline did not recognize the stamp on my passport. Devastated and in shock, I dragged my baggage back home. I got up the next day and realized that I now had the proof of permanent resident status I need to get my American passport. Worse-case scenario, I miss Paris but I get my passport.
As I waited for my passport, Alison by my side keeping me sane, I was keeping in touch with my team already in Paris. I wasn't sure I was going to get my passport that day or get a new flight out but at 5:20 on Friday, they called my name and I had my passport in my hand. The wonderful ladies already in Paris worked magic - some kind of marathon miracle - and texted me to head to the airport ASAP. My flight was leaving in 4 hours and I had a little over an hour to get my luggage and make it to check in.
Nine hours later, I was at the expo in the Salon Du Running meeting up with my team and picking up my bib. I got the best tour of Paris because I ran past the monuments like the Place de la Concorde, Hotel de ville and the Eiffel tower but the best part of it was running most of the marathon alongside my friends and seeing my team on the course; like Karen and Ma for the first 7 or 8 miles and Isabelle by mile 11, Talisa and Jazmin around mile 15 and Denise and Karen around mile 20.
Seeing Lisa on mile 3 and 18 gave me a reason to smile, while Karen and I stayed together as I was grinding my teeth miles 18 to 26. It was an emotional rollercoaster getting to the start and I felt every single emotion all over again in those 26.2 miles. My sleepless nights, the jet lag and the emotionally draining week before finally caught up to me. I saw the 40 kilometer mark and heard Karen yell "Go! Raydime Go!" Somehow I mustered the ability to sprint to the finish. I did that... but I didn't do it alone.