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The Time of My Life
In November, I ran the NYC marathon - 26.2 miles. Marathon morning was great and the temperature
was heading up to about 60 degrees.
Boom the cannon goes off.
I hear the roar of the crowds Go Tonya - looking great - On the front of my shirt The words "one more mile"
are printed and right above that my name. Talk about inspirational. These people donít even know me yet
they push me. Itís like having 100,000 coaches rooting for me; my own personal cheering section.
As I near mile 8 I see the 512 foot tall Williamsburg savings bank. I feel my heart start to race and pure excitement is setting in. At this moment I feel I can conquer anything. There are a lot of people lined up on the side of the road waving, clapping, encouraging all of us. When suddenly I see a giant pink sign - GO TONYA GO - WE LOVE MOMMY!!! YOU CAN DO IT MOMMY!!! Itís my husband. He missed me at mile 2 and took a quick train ride to mile 8. Well now I am emotionally centered and once again TONYA the conqueror.
Mile 13 marks the Pulaski bridge and at this point I am feeling very good - slightly tired but still exuberant. Now I am dancing in the street, waving and yelling.
Mile 15 almost kills me as the Queensboro bridge is a real wake-up call to the muscles and remember I still have 11 Ĺ miles to go. There are no people here (except a few jumpers) and everyone is struggling up this bridge. It is a 3/4 of a mile steady climb but when you crest the bridge all you hear is the thunderous roar of the crowds as I take my first step onto the island of manhattan.
Mile 16 brings you to crowds you would not believe. I instantly see my pink sign hubby and I am on top of the world. The highlight of the race so far. There are bars lining both sides of the streets slightly inebriated, ok drunk, people just waiting to make you feel like a winner. People are handing me food, oranges, cookies, gin & tonics - I wanted to break into a full run - just feed off the energy.
The law of marathoning says that the second half of the marathon really begins at mile 20. There are only 6 more miles to go but they are equally as challenging if not more so than the first 20. At this point in the run, most people hit the infamous wall - The depletion of your available energy - the limit of your physical endurance - a sledgehammer to your knees. On mile 20 a man yells out "Hey TONYA, buck up - smile - only 2% of the population will ever run a marathon, you are part of an elite group". Silently I think to myself "that is because the other 98% of the population is much smarter than the 2% running this race.
CRASH I hit the wall. I am heading over the Willis Avenue bridge in the Bronx and I am physically exhausted, mentally spent - contemplating walking and suddenly, my lifeline beckons - the cell phone rang I answer it and on the other end is my baby girl Stephanie. "Hi mommy, Im watching the marathon on tv and I am waiting to see you. Mommy, Iím so proud of you - next time I want to run the marathon with you - I love you". Suddenly it all becomes clear- This is my goal, my opportunity, my mountain to climb. My 8 year old is proud of me. I am a marathoner I am a marathoner I can keep this up for 6 more miles as tears start streaming down my face. I decide at that point to dedicate each mile to someone important in my life, someone who has helped me in my life - perhaps someone who helped me meet a challenge, face a goal, achieve my destiny, just acknowledge them during this incredibly amazing journey.
Mile 22, Central Park, my finishing point, looms ahead. The gentle uphill climb feels like a MOUNTAIN but I remember my baby Stephanie, my 8 year is proud of me.
At Mile 23 I read a sign"If Phillippides had died at mile 20 youíd be finished by now." Suddenly, I see my pink sign again and my husband reaches out to kiss me. My mind is focusing on simply putting one foot in front of the other. And I can see the look of concern on his face - he smiles at me and tells me how amazing I am and how proud he is of me. At this point, running is simply no longer automatic, it is now taking real effort and concentration.
Somewhere between mile 23 and 24 the numbness in my legs is replaced with genuine pain, pain in my thighs, pain in my toes, pain in my back.
There is a very thin line between the bravery of continuing and the pure stupidity of it. Did I pass that line I wonder?
At mile 24 I enter Central park. It is hard to fathom just two more miles. I should be celebrating, "Only two more miles!" But the hell continues and the hills throughout central park are as painful as my second childbirth (And man was that bad!) At this point I can hardly see the crowd let alone hear them.
The 25th mile is a mile of crying, not sobbing - just a constant stream of tears running down my face- tears of joy, anticipation, sadness I donít really know. I just canít control it.
The last mile comes and the final 385 yards to the finish line is uphill. As I cross onto the red carpet I instinctively raise my hands in victory with a big smile. I have finished! The crowds, the excitement and the drama of what I have just done overwhelms me and when they put my finishers medal around my neck I am smile from ear to ear because my Stephanie helped me break through my wall.
I start to think of the camaraderie of this race - not only its participants but also with the crowds and the special people in your life. I silently realize how every mile marker after 21, each mile that I dedicated to a special person in my life, became a real triumph - a victory that I will never forget. I wonder silently if I would have finished were it not for this camaraderie. Actually, they are not only crowds, not only special people in my life - they too are participants, teammates, grabbing me by the metaphysical arms and pulling me over the finish line; a bonding like no other. As we walk to the car I am overwhelmed by the people on the street still greeting me with praise. And then I realize it is NOT 26.2 miles of pain. At most it's 6 - 8 miles of pain maybe 2 hours of pain but I now have a lifetime to savor the accomplishment."
We are all participants in the marathon of life. Opportunity awaits those with determination. Sometimes we need help but we always have the chance to seize the moment .
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