by Paige Sirota
Team Reeve® runner Paige Sirota with inspirational friend
Running a marathon is not just about running 26.2 miles. It's a Mind, Body & Soul experience. A while back, I was fortunate enough to be taught that running a marathon is not about the time you finish in, it's about The Journey. My journey started back in August when I begun my training. On another day, I'll write about what led up to November 1, 2009. Today, I write just about my race day.
This is Paige's Marathon Race Report.
The day starts at 3:45 a.m. My alarm was set for 4:00, but I couldn't sleep anymore. I was about to embark on the adventure I'd been waiting for. I put in the intense training, I did all my work. Any fear, any self-doubt that was long behind me now. I was well prepared. It was finally, Sunday, November 1, 2009, the day I dreamt about for so long. The fun was upon me. I was on my way to run my 1st NYC Marathon.
The only baggage you can bring is all that you can't leave behind
The adventure began when I met up with the 14 people I was taking a van to Staten Island with. The van ride was fun. The people were great. People I made new friendships with, and people I just met. We walked into Fort Wadsworth and camped out for 3 hours waiting for the race to begin. Talking, schmoozing, eating, going to the port-a-potty many times! We took pictures. A bond is felt instantaneously. A bond is made with anybody that has run or is running a marathon.
My marathon partner meets up with me, and before you know it, we are standing in front of the Verrazano Bridge, waiting for the race to start. Our time to start is 10:20. In my head, I am listening to a quote from U2's song, Walk On, which is, "The only baggage you can bring is all that you can't leave behind." Then I hear an announcement something like, "Welcome to the ING New York City Marathon … Greatest race in the greatest place in the world"
I run for life
Gun shot goes off. I am running over the Verrazano Bridge and looking out and see the skyline of Manhattan to my left. The feeling is surreal. I can't believe I just started my 1st mile of the NYC Marathon. Carly Simon's "Let the River Run," comes on my ipod. We have just begun.
We get into Brooklyn. I loved running in Brooklyn. There was so much energy there. The crowds and sounds are tremendous. They've got a lot of spirit in Brooklyn. Really gets you going in the beginning of the race when you are trying to get into a groove. Jay-Z & Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind" comes on. The first lyrics sung are, "Yeah. Yeah. I'm out that Brooklyn." OMG! I'm feeling good now. Getting comfortable with my slow and steady pace.
My cousin's spirit was with me all throughout Brooklyn. That's where she lived, and I felt her smile shining on me from Heaven above. Besides Suzanne, chapters of my life were going through my mind in Brooklyn. We ran through Carroll Gardens, where I lived for a short period of time when I first got out of college. Then we ran through Williamsburg, where my parents and my father-in-law grew up.
Can't say I felt the same way about Queens as I did about Brooklyn. But guess what's at the end of the Queens part of the run? The 59th Street Bridge! We are heading for big time now, cause once you get over the 59th Street Bridge, you've made it to Manhattan, and I can't wait. I'm on the Bridge, it's mile 15, and all of a sudden, Melissa Etheridge's, "I Run for Life" comes on, and I was thinking about Beth, my friend of 30 years, my matron of honor. Beth is a breast cancer survivor. THAT is when my adrenaline kicked in.
Getting the greenlight
Marathoners before me told me there is nothing like running up 1st Avenue. The crowds & the roars are for all of us runners. It's tremendous. I thought I was in a parade. At 86th & 1st, I heard my niece, Jesika, shout out my name, "There's Aunt Paige!" I turned around and saw her, and glimpses of my sister-in-law and other nieces. Then I heard my Aunt Bev say to my mom, "There's Paige," and heard my mother shout out for joy. Tremendous pride is rushing through my body.
I was approaching The Bronx. I was told it gets a little rough here, cause the crowds die down. I just put my music back on. John Legend's "Greenlight" came on and got into my rhythm. I hit mile 20, everyone told me this is where you hit "the wall".
Guess what? There was no wall for me. Mind over matter.
Break on through to the other side
Sheryl Crow's "Sweet Child of Mine" came on, and I think about Larry, and our 3 beautiful children that are growing up way too fast. All I think about is how blessed we are and hugging Larry, Sara, Jason & Adam when I finish. I start running faster, cause I know it's under an hour until I get to the Finish, where they are waiting for me.
Then the Doors, "Break on Through" comes on and I think of my friend, Bruce, who lost his friend in the ocean last year. Bruce & I had a pre-marathon conversation about his friend, vs. my friend, Zak who I was dedicating my run to. Zak was also in an accident in the ocean, but he survived, albeit with a spinal cord injury.
I am now thinking of the wonderful cause I am running for -- The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. I am thinking of all the family & friends that supported me and told me what a worthy cause this is to run for.
Other thoughts in my head … I know someone who was running with the Achilles' Club with a blind person. I was so in awe of that. There were blind people running this race, people in wheelchairs, people with prosthetic legs …
Look at all these thoughts that were in my head when I was in The Bronx. How could I have possibly hit a wall?
I got life
Before you knew it, I was coming down 5th Avenue and Tom Petty's "American Girl" comes on. I was booking now, that is my #1 running song. I was counting down the blocks … 100s, 90s, 80s … OMG! I'm in the 80s now? I am almost HOME. I am approaching The Finish Line. I get into Central Park. I thought I was flying. My legs and feet were my wings. It was SO beautiful. The colors of the leaves on the trees. I made it. This race was MINE. The crowds and the roars again. I am a superstar.
It was miles 24-25, I was thinking that soon I was going to see Zak, who was waiting at the Finish line, in his wheelchair. I was feeling SO strong. At that moment I felt like I could run 100 miles if there was a cure for spinal cord injuries and every illness & disease that alters lives of so many. I want everyone to feel the strength and health that I feel. I wish I could make that possible.
I'm heading into mile 26. They now have signs all over on how many yards away I am from the finish line! I've made it! "I Got Life" from Hair, comes on my ipod. Larry, Sara, Jason & Adam were screaming my name. I am so sorry I didn't hear you. I was listening to the words of "I Got Life", and thinking about how incredibly lucky I am to have such a strong body, mind & soul. I was tasting the Finish Line, and I just needed to focus on getting there.
I crossed that Finish Line, SO strong. It was a dream come true. My chip was defective, so I don't have an official finish time. It's OK. I have my medal, I have my conscience, and soon, I will be getting my picture. I know what my time was anyway, which was a little outside my goal, but I am SO fulfilled. I loved every minute of every mile and was smiling much of the way through. I took it all in. I was born & raised in New York, and ran 26.2 miles in our 5 boroughs of New York City.
And now, I am officially, a marathoner.