I didn't think I was special because I got in on the first try, but I did see the race as a chance of a lifetime. And I saw it as my opportunity to qualify for the Boston Marathon. How cool would it be, I'd thought, to qualify for the world's oldest annual and arguably most prestigious marathon at the world's largest marathon?
Training for New York in 2012 was rough, to say the least. The heat and humidity of the summer months in Boston made running frequently a challenge. I knew what to expect from the weather; I had trained for and completed a fall marathon the year before, but I also had a significant amount of base training from a triathlon I'd done in August of 2011 to carry me through that marathon. In 2012, I only had running because, though I had completed another triathlon, I wasn't diligent enough with the training and struggled through most of the race. Still, on some level, I guess I felt ready for New York in 2012. I had logged most of my schedule long runs with a few other runs in between.
Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast a week before the marathon. The days that followed were a stressful back and forth--weighing options, gathering facts, determining how bad it might be in New York City, checking the New York City Marathon's Facebook updates incessantly, considering how selfish I might be if I still made the trip to New York anyway. In the end, after an emotional breakdown in the server station at the restaurant I work at, I decided to pack my bags and go to New York. Amtrak had resumed service by the start of the weekend, though lower Manhattan, my hotel included, was still without power.
I had been in New York City for maybe 5 hours when I heard, from my roommate back in Boston, that the marathon had been canceled. I was aware of what the community response had been, that the city was still recovering and unable and unwilling to host over 40,000 runners in a race through a city desperately needing resources. I knew my roommate wasn't lying, but I didn't believe her, didn't want to. I was at Whitehall Terminal in lower Manhattan when I heard the news. I had wanted to see where I would go to take the shuttle to the start. The entire area was desolate, like something out of a zombie movie where buildings streets are left barren and filled with debris and garbage. We clearly didn't belong there.
I don't go out for these early morning runs just because of the dorky, ill-fitting vest I wear to feel safe as I run before sunrise. I do it because of the feelings of happy nostalgia that overwhelm me. Because even though running that early means going to bed around 9:00 p.m., I pull my sneaks on because those dark runs remind me of running through the pitch black night during RTB-NH. Because I can pretend that I'm somewhere in the middle of New Hampshire, or North Dakota, or anywhere. It's simply dark and quite. I can even see the stars peaking out behind the tree-lined streets of Somerville. The only sound anywhere is me. My feet crunching through leaves. My breath. My thoughts, which today where only of New York and what it's going to be like.
I tried to picture the course, the map I've studied so many times I have it memorized. I pictured running across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn. I keep thinking about mile 23, well into Central Park, where the course increases in elevation. I wondered how that would feel on fatigued legs and how running would have nothing to do with muscles by then. It would purely be a matter of heart. I thought of how it all contrasted the solitude of my morning run and contemplated if I was ready for it all. How I could possibly be ready for this experience?
In the end, it was easier to focus on now. How it's cold enough outside that I need long sleeves and long running tights. How I could see my breath and how I liked it. I thought of how I learned to be a distance runner in cold weather, how that's the kind of runner I'll probably always be, how it's part of my identity.