You read all about my traveling fun, and the events ASICS had planned for our team. Now I bring you to THE day, race day. The ASICS bus was leaving our hotel at 5 a.m. The evening before I had a carb full meal, I ran into my coach on the way back and he gave me some last minute words of encouragement. Surprisingly, I was very calm. No nerves, no anxiety, nothing. I had my husband tape me up with KT Tape and I went to bed. The odd thing was, I actually slept! This was the first time I actually had a good night sleep before a race. I woke up early to get ready, eat, and stretch. I headed off to meet my team and off to the bus we went.
I can’t say I was excited for an 11 a.m. start time, but I rather start late than not start at all. After the hour long ride we arrived to Mecca, aka, starters village. It was a sea of runners with the Verrazano bridge in the background. 50,000 people together with one thing in mind…crossing that finish line! While the team has different start times, Katie and myself had the same time. So we took a spot in the hay, ate snacks, and waited.
If she looks cozy it’s because she was! Luckily it wasn’t too cold. While I had my throw away clothes on, I also had a thermal blanket, hand and back warmers and my dunkin’ donuts beanie. The time came where we had to enter our corrals and make our way to the start line. I still wasn’t nervous, I was excited. Waiting for the cannons to go off, I was alone for a moment. Alone with my thoughts…I gave myself a little pep talk. I wasn’t starting the race as healthy as I would’ve liked, but I was starting. That was reason enough for me to continue. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It was my first marathon alone, without Alpha. “It’s your dream race, you’ve been waiting for this moment. You’ve been through hell and back and survived. No obstacle before you is greater or more powerful than you.” Then the cannons went off and my song started to play….Frank Sinatra brought me from training to the start line. My first reaction wasn’t to cry or sing or scream, I just simply smiled. This was it. It was the moment I realized I did it. Whatever happened from that point on…I made it.
Leaving Staten Island and entering Brooklyn was amazing. I can not put into words the energy of the crowds. The stuff they were yelling was hilarious. Music everywhere, confetti shot into the air as we ran past them. It was fascinating to see such a huge crowd and everyone cheering for a bunch of crazy strangers who run 26.2 miles just for fun.
At this point I was feeling OK. I wasn’t even using my headphones which is a good sign. I only wear the headphones when I need help distracting me from the pain or having trouble staying on pace. But I had my husband’s Military dog tags on and the clanking against each other set me up for a steady cadence. I was keeping in touch with my husband and my friend Joanna. Alpha lets me know that he was waiting for me at mile 9. I was happy to see him with my little cheer fan. It was a funny sight to see him holding an ASICS “Kick some asphalt” sign as he loudly yelled it out.
I ate a banana hugged my boys and kept going. Heading into Queens I started to have some trouble. I wasn’t breathing right anymore and I was having a new pain develop on my left side. I kind of ignored it as it’s happened before and goes away shortly after appearing. But this pain on my ribs was getting stronger and stronger. I got a little worried being that I wasn’t even at mile 13 yet. I took my first walk break to see if the pain would calm down.
As I looked off into the distance, I could see the Pulaski Bridge that would take us to Queens. I gathered myself and started to run again. The pain took off in high gear. I was fooling myself into thinking that it was nothing. Just like most other runners who ignore pain. I continued to run through it and made it past the half point.
My cheer squad was noticing a dip in pace so I started to get texts. My brother told me to keep going and keep fighting. Joanna making sure I was OK. My husband said he is at mile 15 waiting. Quitting was never an option. The pain kept getting worse and worse, but I had been through tougher pain so this to me wasn’t a big deal. I stopped at the medical tent to get Tylenol and kept going. I was still able to run but at a very slow pace. I saw my husband yelling and cheering off to the right before making my last turn, heading into Manhattan. He could tell I was in trouble. As I struggled to talk he assured me that I have the strength to keep going. “This is your dream, keep going. Your dream is bigger than your pain, you’ve made it this far, whats a few more miles?” Yes he is fluent in sarcasm. I hugged them for the last time and told them, “I’ll see you guys at the finish line.” And I took off.
The view from the Queensboro bridge was breathtaking. The city sky line never looked so beautiful. I decided that instead of beating myself up for having a bad performance, I was going to take it all in and enjoy every painful mile. I wasn’t going to let ANYTHING stop me from enjoying this unbelievable moment. So I took lots of pictures! I ate my snacks I had and made water and every other gatorade stop.
Heading into Spanish Harlem was an experience. Lots of different cultures and lots of fun people lining the streets. Being Venezuelan and enjoy good Spanish music, this was refreshing. There were couples dancing salsa and bachata. So much fun and so much energy. Making my way out of the Bronx was where I had the most trouble. I couldn’t even get a “normal” breath in, let alone a deep breath. I was walking at this point and my back could take no more. It was a battle with my mind, legs, and back. My mind wanted to run, my legs were wanting to go faster, but my rotated ribs had other plans. They were is such much stress that it started to leave a bruise under my chest. I couldn’t even touch them. With my curving spine, it pulls other bones with it, aka my ribs. My ribs are in a complete twist, 5+ on the left and 4+ on the right. My right rotated ribs were taped up because they have give me trouble before. But not my left. Regardless I kept going. I was past mile 20 when I told my friend Joanna that I wasn’t going to let this beat me. I was going to run and finish no matter what. She gave me a good kick in the butt and forward I went.
I picked up the pace as the sun set and the day grew into night. Was I really about to finish my marathon in the dark? My goal finish was 5:30 hours. That time flew out the window. On 5th ave, I had to stop again. Stretched and walked and kept going. “Did I break my ribs? Had they been misplaced?” Tons of thoughts filled my head but there was no stopping. It was dark, and I could no longer see Central Park to my right. The whole time I was hoping to beat the sun so I can take pictures through Central Park. The entire time through training, I would imagine myself running through the streets of Central Park. At mile 25 it was pitch dark. I knew I was in the park but could see nothing. I pushed and pushed and as I made my last turn onto 67th Street on West Drive, I could see the finish line.
My husband yelled and I caught him of of the corner of my eye. He was yards away with my little cheer fan as I headed for that finish line. I crossed it. I did it. My dream goal, top goal of my bucket list was done and checked off. With my head down in exhaustion, I made my way to get my medal. As I raise my head, I see my dear, close, friend coming towards me ready to honor me with my medal. She put it around my neck and we hugged. A moment I won’t soon forget. I rushed over to the medical tent and tried to catch my breath. After being “cleared” to leave, I walked the mile back to meet my husband and son.
I got my poncho and that was it. I was done. I pinched myself and realized I wasn’t dreaming. This had in fact happened. I officially made my dreams come true and I never doubted myself once. I let the determination, drive, and my heart take control and they brought me to where I wanted to be.
I turned my dreams into reality.
And for those of you wondering how I felt after the race…a week later and still having trouble walking and breathing without pain. I do see my Doctor later this week to see what my spine is up to now.
-the Scoliosis runner, who never gives up