Lessons Learned November 30 2014

2014 has truly been a tremendous year, and I can definitely declare I have learned a lot.  Many of the 'life lessons' learned relate well to a recent 26.2 mile journey my friend Kandi and I made, better known as The 2014 New York City Marathon.  Here are our milestones; hopefully you'll learn from our sometimes trying triumphs.   

Be Prepared

For 22 months, I had the date November 2, 2014 circled on my calendar – it would be my third NYC Marathon and I had my sights set on racing to a personal best finish.  And for those 22 months, I planned everything from my mileage and my meals, to my race day attire and the apple I’d eat after crossing the finish.  As Scar sings in Disney’s The Lion King, “You can’t be caught unawares, so prepare for a chance of a lifetime” and far be it from me to mess with an animated lion.

The Best Laid Plans…

The weeks leading up to the big day were trying ones.  I had a cough and cold I could not shake.  Due to a packed September/October, my long-scheduled 20-mile training run occurred two weeks earlier than planned, and I was getting in meager miles whenever I could.  And, since my stuffy nose dampened my taste buds, eating seemingly-flavorless food was an exercise in futility.  When I’d lie down for much needed pre-race rest, I’d cough so much that I’d wake myself up.  Long nights were spent wondering how I was going to put my already achy body through the rigors of 26.2 miles?

Life supersedes our plans, well-thought out or not.  Does not seem at all fair, but that’s, well, life.  When faced with obstacles that take us off-course, the best we can do is keep moving forward. 

So forward I moved, and sometime between picking up my race bib at the Expo and making meatballs for our pre-race pasta party, I was overtaken by Marathon Merriment.  I was excited when my fellow marathoner and great friend, Alexandra, arrived from Boston – her soon-to-be husband, Henry, was equally excited that the turmoil of training for a marathon was nearing its finish.  I loved hearing my parents, also visiting from Boston, and my friends plan their subway strategy so they could maximize their spectator opportunities.  And, despite my nerves, I laid out my purple plaid and pocketed running skirt in anticipation of what I hoped would be a fun and fulfilling day.

Pace Yourself

Daylight Savings Time afforded me an extra hour of sleeplessness, but my friends and I were raring to head towards the start in Staten Island.  While we waited in our color-coded corrals, Alexandra, Greg, Kandi and I posed for photos and huddled to stay warm in the early morning temps, sharing stories of marathons past. 

When our wave was called and we started our march towards the top of the Verrazano Bridge, the wind slightly slowed and the sun finally shone.  We were ready and raring to go!  And it took all of our willpower not to speed across the span into Brooklyn.  We reluctantly resigned ourselves to the fact that we had to pace ourselves across those first few miles to make sure we had enough endurance for the remaining 24.

Ironically, nothing rings more true, both in a marathon and life, than the quote: “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”  Burning out in the early stages of any adventure leaves you little energy for the end.  And, in the case of NYC Marathon, we needed all the energy we could muster to counter the 21 miles of headwind and relentless hills throughout the course!

Stop and Smell the Roses

From the start, Kandi and I easily fell into a groove – a run/walk rhythm known as the Galloway Method.  The 3-minute run/1-minute walk pattern allowed for time both to recover and to celebrate with our cheerleaders spread throughout the course.  Yes, we were on a ‘time goal mission’, but we did not want to miss out on the meaningful moments that make memories.

We run through life at a pretty fast pace, and sometimes we don’t stop a second to simply stop and open our eyes to our surroundings.  There is so much in this world to see, and too little time in which to see it.

Kandi and I may not remember we ran our best on our mile entering into Queens, but we will never forget the woman who ran in a halter dress and flip flops; or the woman who wore a sign on her back reading “RIP Mom” with her death date two days before.  And I won’t forget the feeling of running through the final miles in Central Park – being caught on camera by our screaming supporters, and then surprised by my best friend who perfectly timed her run from her midtown office for a hug at mile 25.6.

Celebrate Good Times

Racing toward the finish will forever be a favorite memory for me, as will the photos of us beaming with our bling!  I am thrilled to have met my time goal of a personal best, but even more thrilled to have done it with friends.  Kool and the Gang had it right – you have to celebrate the good times, not just the good race times.  

I’m all for looking forward and setting goals – see ‘Be Prepared” – but it is equally important to look back and see how far I’ve come.  Reflecting on the journey allows us to appreciate the successes we’ve achieved.

So, in the midst of the end-of-year rush, take the time to pat yourself on the back for all you have accomplished in 2014.  You earned it!