After watching the 2015 NYC marathon, I decided to sign up for the race so I could experience it myself. I knew I would have to raise money to get an entry in but I figured that would be worth it. It would be more special knowing I was helping others and not just thinking about me. I joined Team For Kids and immediately realized this was an awesome decision.
What happened was me getting invited to the private Team For Kids running group allowing me to meet some amazing and encouraging people. Some that I honestly wish I could have got in touch with to included in this. I was reminded that running is not just about weight loss. It’s about staying active, staying healthier, staying in shape, staying happy, enjoying your surroundings, etc.
So what I am doing here is sharing my most memorable experience and a whole bunch of other stories from my Team For Kids teammates. Why? Because running should be fun. It should have those moments of encouragement, motivation, inspiration, and again, FUN! We take it too serious sometimes. After interviewing multiple elite athletes I’ve realized that we need everything we can to keep us going. So instead of boring you with my whole NYC Marathon experience from 2016, I want to share others experiences.
Whether good, average, bad, or even horrible. We’ve all experienced almost every scenario possible. Stop trying to hide and lie about the truth of running. For the average person, running sucks sometimes, but what we experience over time makes it easier or at least better. I loved the NYC marathon but like training runs or other races, there were moments of wanting to quit, being miserable, hating the hills and elevation, hating everything. So don't think running is supposed to feel perfect all the time.
So here are the experiences I was able to capture. I hope they encourage you to push no matter the circumstances and conditions. You can plan for a perfect run but the body will not always agree with that. You’ll have to work with the body and do what it takes to push through and accomplish your goal or at least finish and still feel happy with the effort
“Since I made a recent return to running, I chose to use run/walk intervals for the marathon. That meant from early on in the race, many spectators thought I had “given up” since I was not running the entire time. Thankfully, I was able to stick to my plan to start slow and finish fast (well, fast for me)…and the strategy was working! As I made my way through Central Park, I found myself passing so many people. Mentally, I was tired, but my legs were finding new life. Spectators in the Park were freezing as it was getting close to sunset. Many looked as tired as the runners and were halfheartedly clapping as runners came through. I stopped using my walk intervals and started running as hard as I could. I noticed that some of the spectators noticed that I was pushing hard and they really started cheering as I went by. This made me run even harder. The look of surprise on their faces and the renewed energy we found in each other was so remarkable and memorable for me. Back out of the Park and onto 59th, the crowds were still amazing even though it was starting to grow dim. I was thinking about my family that would be in the grandstands and hoped that I could keep up my pace through to the end. I wanted them to see me and be proud that I was finishing strong. Then, I remembered that Coach "Skinny Vinny" said to watch out for the curb when the course turned back into the Park…and it was just in time. If it weren’t for him, I probably would have face planted. As I got to mile 26, I knew I had just run my fastest mile. I was exhausted and knew the next 0.2 miles would be tough, but I knew I had succeeded and was thrilled beyond belief. Now, where is that finish line?!”
“Thoughts of my three children whirled in my mind during mile 11. The crowds had been enormous up until this point. I knew that there was no way I would ever be able to pick them out in the crowd. I was not expected to live on April 17, 2016. I was unconscious for 5 days and in hospital for countless others, during this time my children did what they knew I would've wanted them to do. School and homework as usual, try their best to support each other, and pray for me were important principles. When I talked to my children about running the New York City Marathon before I could even walk; they told me I could do it. My daughter looked at me and said, "Mom, you set a goal. I know you can accomplish it!" At that moment, I knew I had to run the NYC Marathon! My recovery would not have been possible without the support of my family! At mile 11? I saw my children!”
“2016 was my first NYC marathon. I entered mile 15, a run over the Queensboro Bridge without knowing it was going to be a gradual incline. I don’t have hills in my area so my training was always a flat course, but I did not find the bridge particularly challenging. Because the incline is gradual, you would not even notice you are climbing up. It was a lonely kind of run, because there are not spectators while running the bridge. The walkway is narrow and I saw a lot of people stopping to catch a break or dropping off the course. In general, if you don’t need the time to classify for Boston or any other marathon, take your time, 10 or 15 minutes difference in your final time are not going to make a difference. Enjoy the surroundings, take pictures and embrace the fact that you are running THE NYC marathon. The best part of Mile 15 is toward the end when the hill is completed and you find yourself descending into Manhattan.”
“Mile 15/16 was the hardest mile for me. I've ran longer distances but this is probably where I felt like giving up most. Going over the bridge it felt never ending; I ended up walking most of the Queensboro bridge. I ran a little but every time my foot hit the floor it would get a huge spasm and I was thinking for sure this is over. My wife had written my name on my shirt and people started screaming my name "Arthur you can do it" from behind and I never looked back but I wish I did just so I can see who was giving me those words of encouragement. I didn't have the energy to turn back. My wife, who met me at 3 different spots of the marathon was waiting for me right after the bridge before the turn to first avenue. Knowing that, I got my energy together and started running, hiding the pain, to see her.”
“I started falling asleep during the race. Literally. I Made it to Mile 11 to take the bus back to Central Park. I felt very sad, but I knew that I could not continue. It was the weirdest experience ever in my entire life!”
“So many miles meant so many things to me, however reaching mile 15 was most memorable. I was looking for my 2 young daughters who were to be at the base of the bridge. The streets were jam packed and I hoped that they would see me. I was anxious and starting to get a few knots in my stomach. I had no idea what side of the street they would be on, I just knew my sister said they would be there. This kept me going, I couldn't wait to see my girls knowing I was past the halfway mark. I saw the bridge coming up, and thought, this can't be, where are they? I quickly became disappointed but then, there they were! They're tiny faces peering out of the crowd. They didn't see me...I saw them. What an amazing feeling to stop and hug my girls. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. They gave me the strength to push forward, which I needed uphill on the bridge to finish mile 15.”
“Prior to signing up for the marathon, the most consecutive miles I had run was 6. “If you can run 6 miles, and follow our training program, you can run the marathon,” a TFK coach encouraged me over the phone. That very same day, a leisurely afternoon in May, I laced up my sneakers and ran 6 miles. It was not easy; I had a few stomach cramps, the arches of my feet were hurting, and my legs felt like they were carrying bricks after mile 5. But on November 6th, 2016, when I passed the mile 6 marker, I could not have felt more powerful. I had just seamlessly run my way over the Verrazano bridge and through the roaring streets of Brooklyn. I was confident, energized, and excited. I had 20 miles left to go and they were going to be No Big Deal. Because of Team For Kid’s credible training program, committed coaches, and supportive teammates, I felt prepared to conquer the next 20 miles. It was at this exact point in time, approaching the mile 6 sign, is when I felt the marathon was a true testament to how much progress I had made. It was a sign that all my commitment, focus, and sacrifice, paid off. The rejuvenating feeling I endured after passing mile 6, paired with dedicated training, energized me to gracefully stride the next 20 to the finish line. Thank you Team For Kids for helping me get there.”
Dorothy Yankou Evans
“My favorite mile begins on McGuinness Blvd. We jump on bridge #2, the Pulaski Bridge, with both a perfect view of Manhattan and that wonderful 13.1 marker. Coming off the bridge we enter Queens, my home borough. I know everyone talks about coming off the Queensboro bridge, but I love those rowdy cheering Queens crowds. Queens pride shines brightly! Personally nothing tops the very end of the thirteenth mile on the 44th Drive turn, where my friends and family wait with signs and a much needed hugs and kisses. Now I can start counting down the remaining miles.”
Anna Maria Del Monaco
“I ran NY in November after having my second child 10 months before. It was my very first marathon ever. It was the best and worst experience of my life. Miles 15-18 were tough as I was having back pain and some stomach issues. The week prior I was laid out because of a back injury from carrying my baby in the baby bjorn. I was stretching my back out at mile 20 when a boy around 10 years old handed me a pretzel rod and said "you can do it!" with such sincerity and hope. I ran with that pretzel rod until the finish line.”
“After staying with the 5:00 pacer for the past 10 miles I couldn't take it anymore and had to stop at a porta potty around mile 19 1/2. As I exited I realized I had to tell everyone I was OK because I was certain that the 50 people that were tracking me were wondering if I had "hit that wall". However, the exact opposite happened. I was pumped full up adrenaline and excitement because I was about to hit mile 20 and only have 6.2 miles to go! I went over the bridge into the Bronx, hit mile 20 while trying to call my husband so he could post on Facebook that I was doing amazing but I just had to stop for a bathroom break. He didn't answer so I called one of my best friends Mishele who was coincidently with my other best friend Kelly. I just remember screaming into the phone with them about how amazing I felt and how happy I was because I only had 6.2 miles to go. All I can remember is that the three of us were gleefully shrieking with excitement over the phone while I ran through mile 20. I asked them to post on Facebook so all my friends knew I was good and was going to kill this race. I continued to feel amazing for the next couple miles. I can't say I ever hit the wall during this race, I bumped up against it but it never stopped me. I was the most happiest at mile 20 during the race. My heart was full of marathon joy.”
“As you exit the Verrazano Bridge and enter Bay Ridge Brooklyn, the energy from the spectators is electric. Bay Ridge is the welcoming committee for over 50,000 runners entering the borough of Brooklyn. The great diversity of Bay Ridge is reflected by the sights and sounds of people and music playing on almost every street corner. The crowds are thick and you absorb all that positive energy that will carry you for the next 24 miles with a "fugghetabouit" can do attitude!”
“I had been struggling with my right leg since mile 10 when I started getting pain in my hip flexor. The pain increased by the halfway mark and that’s when my brain took over to slow me down to a limping walk. Inclines were impossible, but I jogged the downhills. At some points, I started feeling pain in my knee and even my foot. Nine days before the marathon, I had slammed my knee into a car door and saw stars. The pain was intense. My doctor confirmed that I had bruised the bone on my knee cap, but he thought I would be good to run. My two 6 mile test runs seemed ok, but the knee was getting stiff when I would sit down. I had seen my family and most of my friends in Bay Ridge. It was at mile 8 that I had last seen my friend, Jacque, who was willingly chasing me around the city. I was doing really well then. My pace was spot on and I knew that I had it in me to finish strong. She told me she’d see me again at mile 24. Now that seemed like an eternity away as I was limping/walking/slogging the rest of the way to the finish line. Every few minutes, I reevaluated my situation and did whatever adjusting was needed, physically and mentally. I thought about everything that had gotten me to this point and how it seemed stupid to not finish, even if it took me forever. I thought about my deferral from the 2015 NYC Marathon because I was injured and how that injury lead me to discover that I’ve had a GI disorder my whole life. I had spent the past 14 months healing, changing my diet and re-training my body to burn fat as fuel. I thought about the 800 plus miles that I spent running this year to prepare for this race. Then I thought about the positives like how my stomach was doing well despite that GI disorder or how I didn’t feel physically exhausted or mentally drained. As a matter of fact, my only issue was my right leg. My personal trainer, Laurie, was texting me and telling me to go to a medical tent, but I was afraid that if I stopped I wouldn’t finish. I kept going straight down the middle of 1st Ave, the spectators screaming my name and cheering me on. They said I looked strong and that I could do it. I questioned what they saw. Didn’t they see me LIMPING? HELLO people!!! This is not good! I occasionally screamed back at them. At Mile 17 I hear my name being called from a familiar voice and I search the crowd to find Jacque. She was there to surprise me! I was so happy to see her! I hugged her like I haven’t seen her in years and I tell her my woes. I look down at my fuel belt to take some of my homemade gel and realize that I have lost my gel flask - oh no! This situation is getting worse! I can’t drink gatorade nor can I take the Power Gels that are offered at mile 18. Jacque is questioning me, “What are you going to do? How are you going to finish?” I shake my head and say, “I don’t know” then I turn from her to start running again. She runs alongside of me behind the barricades and screams, “I will see you again at mile 24 and at the finish!” I just need to keep moving forward. So I did. Somehow I knew that I would see her at the finish line.”
“Shortly after the 10 mile marker, I sat down on the curb and literally took off both of my shoes, crying and feeling defeated. After several minutes of tears, texting, looking for TFK friends, and stretching/massaging my feet to relieve my flared plantar fasciitis, a lady who lives on the block (and I'm pretty sure has for years) walked up to me and asked how far we ran already? She also asked how far we were running in total? I looked at her, slightly bewildered, wiped off my face, explained what a marathon is, put my shoes back on, and continued on.”
“So many of the thoughts of my accident 6 and a half months prior to running the NYC Marathon began tumbling through my mind, as I ran toward the crowds of people calling my name at mile 18. Being struck by a truck in April had caused my training to take on such a magnitude of effort that I could only reflect in astonishment that I was actually running the marathon, and had gotten to mile 18. It was at that moment that I noticed the effects of those countless surgeries to repair my body, so I could recover. Pelvis reconstruction surgery, countless fractures, broken vertebrates in my back, severe brain trauma because my head was split wide open, and countless muscles that would not function properly were components that contributed to my overall pain at mile 18. It seemed to me, that every single muscle and bone in my body ached beyond comparison to any other moment in my life as a runner. Then, as I forced myself to push through the pain; I remembered the triumphs. I remembered the physical, occupational, and cognitive therapy that I had to work through. I remembered the many people who had prayed for me. I remembered the training program that I had followed, even though my pace was so much slower than I used to be. I remembered that I was not expected to be able to walk, yet I was running again. I remembered it was always my goal to run a marathon. and how I was determined to complete the New York City Marathon, no matter what. I remembered my own children and my 6th grade students, who I wanted to inspire to push past their boundaries and reach their goals, no matter how difficult and overwhelming their circumstances appeared to be. I knew at that moment that I would complete mile 18 successfully. I knew that I would push through and rise above the pain that I was feeling. I knew that I had worked too hard, accomplished too many goals, and endured too many physical challenges since my accident to stop running at mile 18. I knew then that I would run through mile 18 and beyond!”
“Mile 23 was a pivotal moment for me that day. I was doing some major math in my head to figure out how the hell to PR even if it was by the skin of my teeth. And I knew Mile 23 was the now or never moment to freaking do it. I said to myself over and over again, “you did your homework, you can run these next 3 miles and do not think about the 23 miles behind you…you can do this, you can do this, you can do this…” Coach Dave Kleckner spotted me, ran a few strides with me and told me I looked great. I could of cried, I needed that. There is something about Mile 23 that just MOCKS ME. I could hear the Lesley Gore song playing in my head “You Don’t Own Me, don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to say, Just let me be myself.” I ran the last 3 miles and never looked back. Glancing at my watch I knew, I KNEW I was so close to my time last year.
I got in the TFK tent and someone told me my time. PR-ed by one minute and 31 seconds! Take that Mile 23!”
“My friends were there at Central Park south. I hugged them, got pictures and then they ran with me. They were behind the barricades but they ran with me. One of my friends videoed me while they ran with me. It was so amazing and a moment I often think of! I didn't understand the power of the crowd cheering us on until I experienced it first hand. After I saw my friends, I sprinted to the finish.”
“Mile 22 and mile 25 were the best miles for me because I saw my friends and family throughout 22, which was so encouraging and wonderful. At mile 25 I was overwhelmed with happiness about being able to finish the whole thing, and then became rather sad of the reality that the marathon would be over soon. Overall the race was so incredible. It was my first marathon and I had such a blast. I really hope that I'll be able to run it again sometime because it was nothing like I have ever experienced before, and every single step of the way was unbelievable and so much fun.”
Melissa Jackson Holloway
“Well the time was finally here. I was in my corral, hours after arriving at Ft. Wardswoth, ready to start the New York City Marathon. The road to mile 1 of what would be my 12th marathon started off great. Although I was training for myself for the first time, I was able to stick with my plan through the hot summer months and with newfound Midwest allergies. Then sometime in early fall what I thought to be allergies turned out to be something more; a bad cold, a sinus infection and then ultimately walking pneumonia. I was at the start line ready to run Mile 1 against the orders of my doctor who I saw just days before my flight to NYC. Knowing that there was no way I was going to miss the race, doctor's orders were to walk more than run and I was ok with that given my fast walk pace but of course the hype of the NYC marathon is second to none and from the very start of the course I wanted to test myself and I started a slow jog up the verrazano bridge which turned into a run by the midway point. By the time I reached the bottom of the bridge I could not catch my breath and was wheezing. During that time I noticed a woman in front of me, walking at a mean walk pace, and once I reached her asked her if she was planning on walking the entire race and she said YES. I decided to throw aside my pride at not being able to run the entire race and got in step with the NYC sister with a lovely London accent. Our walk pace 13 to 14 minute miles and our chat pace even faster. We talked about family, friends, politics, husbands, running, dancing, fitness and Zumba. She gave me a walking tour of a city in my home state that always remained a little foreign to me. Before you we knew it we were at 8 miles, then the half marathon point without a hitch. But when the wind picked up and we continued to cross bridge after bridge my breathing became more labored and she talked me through it and gave me a preview of our road to the finish. We hit Harlem and she pointed out the statue in Marcus Garvey park. She told me we would enter the park at 90th and then have only 30 more blocks to the finish. She shared NYC history (traditional and hip hop) and pointed out the places where she walked and biked while training and before I knew it she told me to look up and there was the finish line. God has always provided for me in times when I needed it most and I know that he sent me the help I needed to endure to the finish but especially during that first mile. Thank you Tina Redwood for your love and support, especially in light of the fact that we were strangers at the start but ended as sisters at the end.”
“The starting line was very emotional for me. Walking in that sea of people towards the starting line gave you a sense of how large this race was. During "God Bless America" I got the chills. There was complete silence among the crowd. At that point, you start to reflect upon everything that you brought you to this very point. What drove you to pursue a marathon. Prior to 2015, I always laughed at the idea, and thought, "I could NEVER do that." But that between 2015 and 2016, my life needed a change. I changed my job. I changed my lifestyle. Running was my go to for getting back into shape. It started with 3 miles, then 5 miles, 6, then 10. Then I pursued a half marathon. Then another. In March of 2016, after 2 half marathon’s, I told my wife, "maybe I should try doing a marathon." Her response, "Why WOULDN'T you?" The journey to the marathon was a life altering experience. I did 1 race a month in 2016 leading up to November 6th. I had come such a long way. And being at the starting line symbolized all my hard work. Running the actual race was the icing on the cake. I got choked up, but it the sense that I was truly happy in that moment and what I had accomplished leading up to the race. Now, the marathon was ACTUALLY happening.” I knew early on that I wasn't going to make my goal time. By the time I got to the Bronx I was experiencing cramps. So by the time I got to Central Park it was almost unbearable. I was almost afraid to fall over from not being able to control my legs. Along the way, I saw so many people on the ground stretching, or doing whatever they could to alleviate the pain. My goal was to keep moving and not stop no matter what. During the final stretch, I pushed as hard as I could to drain the tanks and attempt to sprint to the finish line. I was going to make it! Once I crossed the finish line, both my legs completely cramped up. A volunteer caught me and carried me to get my medal. She asked me if I wanted I a wheelchair, but I just asked her to walk with me. I started to tear up, but it was just because I knew I put everything out there during that race. To the point where I could barely run anymore. The race wasn't pretty. But I finished what I came to accomplish. And no one can ever take that away from me. I went from being a runner to a MARATHONER.”
“Mile 22 was the mile I knew that I had to push and push hard. I hadn't hit the wall but by now my legs were getting heavy. There was a woman in front of me that I was using as a focal point and trying to catch. I no longer heard the crowd, in fact I tried to block them out. The continuous cheering was hurting my head. Now it really was mind over matter. I kept going, still within sight of my goal time, I kept focusing on that woman and then, just as I thought I had a game plan, she stopped! How could she do this to me? She had stopped so I focused on keeping my head held high, legs strong, arms pumping and I did. My mind was back into gear pulling my reluctant legs with it. I was not far now and I allowed the crowed and the music back in and kept on moving”
Phil Patterson Jr
“I remember we were in the early miles of the marathon and in Brooklyn. As we approached a right hand turn I could hear a lot of noise and knew it was a crowd, but was in absolute shock when I turned that corner and saw just how enormous that crowd was. All I remember was seeing both sides of the street packed for miles ahead. Each side a good 5 rows deep with the parents letting the kids stand in the front reaching their hands out hoping for high fives. I got chills and out loud said “holy sh*t”. I was overwhelmed with adrenaline and instantly knew that I was not going to be able to stick to my plan on slowing down. With each high five, another child screamed with joy and laughter and I got more energy. I knew I would pay for it later, and I did, but it will always be worth it because that’s something I don’t think I’ll ever experience again.”