OOPS, I did it again. Every time I run a marathon I declare that it’s my last. But then someone says, “Hey, you want a run a marathon in (fill in the city) for (fill in the charity)? My life is devoted to adventure. When adventure knocks… I always answer.
So there I was, waking up long before the sunrise in Manhattan and finding my way to a shuttle bus that takes you to Staten Island for the start of the ING New York City Marathon. This year’s charity was “Defeat the Label”, an organization working to end bullying forever. I was running with a group of school teachers from Michigan who have banded together to make a difference on the front line— inside the classroom. Their hope was that each step of this marathon carried their message a little further and inspired both students and teachers to take a stand.
This was my 13th marathon and my first marathon at 50. And didn’t I mention that I barely trained? I managed two long runs in the weeks prior to race day– a ten miler and a 16 miler and knew I would be able to finish the race. And somehow, I had more energy for this marathon than any of my previous efforts. It’s not that I ran faster, actually this was my slowest race by far. But I ran happier. I was so grateful. I love being part of a team and part of such a worthy cause. I ran with a teacher who was fun and funny and neither of us gave a hoot about our finishing time. And running New York is an absolute thrill. There are wonderful crowds lining the route from beginning to end. And the signs people hold are hysterical. My favorite: “It’s called a marathon. If it was easy it would be your mother!” For me, running a marathon at 50 or any age isn’t really about time or pace. It’s about the adventure, the moment, experiencing every mile and of course, the exhilaration at the finish line. If you have to do a walk-run, walk-run so be it. But breath it in. Notice the people cheering you on. Thank the police officers along the route. High-5 the kids along the way. And make it a picnic. Plan snacks throughout the course. I brought playlists on my iPhone but never listened. The cheering of the crowd was the best soundtrack.
Here are the 5 pieces of the marathon I was most grateful for. I list them in hopes of inspiring you to lift higher, run further and dig deeper to savor the adventures in your life:
The crowd: I didn’t count, but I’m guessing I received some 50,000 cheers from total strangers. Each was a random act of kindness pushing me to the finish line. These people don’t get anything in return. They just spread joy. True generosity.
Defeat the Label: Running for charity gives me purpose. Defeat the Label is about putting an end to name calling. It’s about creating a better society. The New York Marathon felt like that better society. There was so much camaraderie and support from runners on the course and onlookers along the way. There’s no name-calling. No bullying. The atmosphere of the New York Marathon is what Defeat the Label is trying to create in schools and workplaces around the world.
My body: I’m not a crazy health nut but I love to exercise, I love to do yoga and I try to eat things that nourish my body. Now in its 50th year, my body was paying me back. It never failed me, not for an instant. I felt strong, healthy, energized and upbeat from beginning to end. That’s something to be grateful for. It’s a healthy body, not a healthy bank account that leads to true happiness.
My husband: I’ve loved that man from the moment I set my eyes on him. But spotting him at the curve of mile 8 in Brooklyn filled my heart in a way I can’t quite explain. He has no interest in running a full marathon and definitely questions my sanity with some of the adventurous undertakings I get myself into. But he made his way from Brooklyn at mile 8 to Queens at mile 14, to Manhattan at mile 16 to Harlem at mile 22 to cheer me on before hugging and kissing me at the finish line. That kind of support from my husband is something I don’t take for granted. It’s a great reminder to support the people you love in whatever adventure they choose. He was amazing.
My Mom: The toughest part of a marathon are the first ten miles. My 81-year-old Mom, who lives in Detroit, just happened to be in New York the day of the marathon and really surprised me when, at mile 7 I saw her (standing all of 4’10”) jumping up and down with a big sign that said “GO LILA.” Her energy was contagious. People ask me all the time where I get all of my energy. I know without question that I caught it from from my Mom. We all have energy inside us. You just have to decide to use it.