Jonathan Pryce passionately sang about The American Dream in Miss Saigon.
It was a well-acclaimed performance which succeeded in painting a picture of this elusive dream for many in a nutshell.
Today, I say that I was one of the few who were entitled to have finally fulfilled what I dubbed as my very own “American Dream” — the TCS New York City Marathon (NYCM).
November 4, 2018 I penned the genesis of a stunning chapter of my life as a runner. In the same way, it was the moment where I had to rewrite my stars while looking at my running regalia and “ammos” laid on my bed at Holiday Inn which was my pre-marathon accommodation.
I blocked any doubt or fear which was trying to subdue me. With the kind of training (bordering to an insane one…ha-ha!) I did to prepare for this marathon from June to October, I knew I was armed with the boldness and dauntlessness a lone wolf must exhibit.
After a while, I did a lot of stretching and took my breakfast “courtesy” of the Abbot Dash 5-k run the day before. I would rarely take some solids before a marathon, but I could already hear my tummy’s murmur at 6:30 am. Flag-off for my designated wave was still at 11:00 am and I didn’t know how my stomach would react. It’s my first time to join a running event which started before noon.
Glancing at my watch, I decided to go down the lobby to have an early check-out and endorse my night bag for safekeeping until I return after the race. Call time for my batch was 8:45 am, but I decided to be at the Staten Island Ferry more than an hour earlier. SI Ferry is where Manhattan-housed runners would be freely transported to St. George Terminal on Staten Island from which free buses would then transport runners to Fort Wadsworth.
The NYCM organizer, NYRR (New York Road Runners), had determined which transportation options were best suited for all marathoners based on our estimated running pace which we indicated when we registered and logged in our MyNYRR account. Obviously, they wanted everything to be organized in getting 50,000+ runners to the start line, thus this vital information was also printed on our race bib. For someone who’s a first-timer in the NYCM, this assured me that I would be well taken care of from start to finish.
To be honest, I strongly felt that my Bib No. 72036 had a prophetic significance for me when I claimed it at Jacob K. Javis Convention Center on November 1.
Look closely. It bore two of my favorite numbers — 7 and 9. In fact two 9’s!
Nine’s?! Yes, dear readers. I did simple addition just to actually see the nine’s.😆You see, I had to find sources from where I could draw out all the positive energy which I would utilize that Sunday morning. The Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl at the Financial District in Manhattan, New York City were not spared.
I was relaxed and exuberant when I met two kababayans who became my companions on the ferry and bus until each of us went to our respective waves which were also assigned based on our pace. A back-of-the-pack runner, I would always find heavenly comfort from being at the last wave. Hahahahaha…
Everything was unfolding to me pretty smoothly and I got to thank the alignment of planets while I waited for our wave release. I could already feel the cold temperature penetrating my blue thermal heat jacket which I finally decided to wear over my omni-heat black Columbia running top. Originally, I planned to just have one layer of clothing only to change my mind. I wore calf-high compression socks under my running tights and three bandanas on my neck. My omni-heat thermal reflective beanie hat and running gloves completed my gear. I didn’t trust my bodily condition despite coming to USA four days earlier to adapt to the cold temperature and different time zone. But hey, this is me, having lived in a tropical country like the Philippines — talking. Looking around, I saw that there were runners who were in shorts and jersey. One male runner was even topless! Oh, well…😳
Tearing the first pair of hand warmers, I removed the two small packs and inserted each inside my glove. It slowly produced the heat which my cold hand needed to feel normal until I make it to the finish line. I was grateful for these additional running essentials which were provided by my angels, whom I’d definitely talk about in my forthcoming articles. 😊
“Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York…”
Ol’ Blue Eyes familiar voice filled the air when the gunshot was fired for the first wave up to the last wave. The upbeat music gave me light and bumpy steps as I began my run of a lifetime and spanned five boroughs of the New York City — Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Manhattan.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which stood as my backdrop before the start of the race welcomed us right after our take off.
According to an old belief here in the Philippines, one has to kiss the soil or the pavement of the place which he or she has reached for the first time. I could have done it to Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, but I was more focused on starting the race right. Had I been in a different circumstance, I would have gamely done it!
Observing my fellow runners’ pace, I spotted several whom I could use as my “marker.” A gush of cold wind hit me as I heard clanking of metals as a result of a contact with heavy objects. It was only then did I realize that we were running on the lower deck of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which is a double-decker. I found entertainment by just listening to the sounds which seemed to boost my power meter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use my Strava apps since I didn’t purchase a new sim for my US stay. Thus, I failed to monitor my pace. It was also my choice not to set my watch since it has malfunctioned for several days during my trainings. On that day, I simply relied on it to prompt me if I’d be able to achieve my target finish time of 6 hours and 20 mins. Come hell or high water, I intended to cross the finish line before its cut-off.
And so I ran on that phenomenal day!
After running for roughly 4 miles, I didn’t feel myself sweating! Kinda weird for me, but I liked it. I just thought that maybe my sweat glands, having been exposed to a different degree of coldness, became utterly perplexed. 🤔🤪
From confusion came amazement upon entering Brooklyn. Loud cheers from the waiting animated and raucous crowd met us! The placards bearing words of witty, funny, and creative encouragements (with political shades) elicited a grin from me. I reciprocated the generosity of these spectators who filled the streets in all five boroughs.
I returned the overflowing high-fives; I tapped card boards promising me of a power up; I placed my right hand on my chest and mouthed “thank you”; I approached an old woman on a wheelchair and verbally expressed my gratitude; I returned their thumb-ups; I took chocolates and even ham sandwich which they offered; I smiled, and I shouted “Salamat (Thank you), kabayan!” when I passed by a man carrying the Philippine flag on a pole and swaying it vigorously. I became emotional. (I am now actually tearing up while writing this part.)
I felt not only like a celebrity. I felt some sort of a goddess because of these adoring people of different ages and from all walks of life and nationalities. I felt very very special in a foreign land. My heart was bursting with delight! The support these strangers have extended to us eased whatever exhaustion I was in.
Raising the level of wonderment to a higher notch during the course of my run was the live performances of bands and choirs. It was a very festive street party! Hydration and food seemed unlimited.
Was there a competition among the five municipalities we had to traverse? I had no inkling, but my God, the crowd’s response was making me hyper too! I did some groovin’ and another female runner joined me in that whimsical moment. I think the laughter we exchanged afterwards did magic to us as we resumed running in a faster pace. Indeed, all the five boroughs had their own unique style of making us not forget TCS NYCM 2018. Big thanks to our cheerleaders who backed up all my hard work, discipline, focus, and perseverance.
Nighttime was beginning to crawl. Surprisingly, I could still run for three minutes straight. Each distance marker had a led screen notifier about one’s pace. It showed me that my momentum was fluctuating but it was not a bad one. I did a mental calculation about the minutes I had to hurdle to make it before 6 hours and 30 mins.
Pushing myself at 21.7 mi to aim for a sub-6 finish, I had the unexpected first attack of cramps at my right leg. A man, who I suspect was a running coach of a team, automatically handed me a wooden massage rolling stick bar which I immediately used on the muscle spasm as I stopped at the side of the street. It worked and I profusely thanked him. Checking my time, I acknowledged that my training fell short for an ambitious sub-6 PB (Personal Best).
Beside the cramp which was counteracted at once, I was free from other pains. Power walk was not even prolonged.
Then, it was Manhattan, the last borough to conquer though I already ran on it on November 3. It served as my test run which helped me a lot on marathon day.
My familiarity of the route made me slow down a bit to prepare myself for the no-drama finish.
My legs were not anymore in the right state to take another onslaught of cramps. Luckily, it didn’t come. Thus, the two kinds of muscle pain relievers which I brought in Ziploc plastic bags with me were not consumed.
Upon entering the now familiar Central Park, I took out from my fit belt the small Philippine flag which I took home from the opening ceremony on November 2.
Beaming with pride, I held and raised our country’s colors with my two arms. I silently cried in the shadows of the night while thinking about my family and genuine friends who have patiently, faithfully, and lovingly journeyed with me.
It was tears of so much relief…tears of so much gratitude…tears of so much joy…prematurely they may be.
They were shouted the loudest by fellow Pinoys.
I crossed the finish line. The spotlight was brightly illuminating me as I proudly and triumphantly claimed my victory at 6 hours, 12 mins and 23 secs.
It was a finish that briefly made me forget my mortality.
It was a finish I would never tire myself from replaying in my mind over and over again.
TCS New York City Marathon 2018 did not only reward me with a new PR (Personal Record).
Undeniably, it has ultimately moved me after fulfilling the wish I have had since 2011!