WJ’s NYCM ’18 Odyssey: Ruthie in Focus (1/3)

Sneaky.

This lone adjective aptly described me during my US sojourn on October 30 – November 12, 2018. 

It was my decision since I didn’t want unnecessary buzzing and fanfare about my latest adventure. Aside from my husband, sons, sister Cristy and two trusted nieces, there were a selected few from my inner circle of friends whom I informed about the fulfillment of this NYCM dream. Topping the list of those who were informed about my joining the TCS New York Marathon 2018/trip was Mary Ruth Uchida, nee Mary Ruth Hermoso Tatel. One of my high school best friends, Ruthie was instrumental in my dreaming for New York City Marathon way back in 2011. 
With my high school best friends in 1986 during the CAT Graduation Ceremony (Clockwise: Ma. Luisa O. Apolinar, Franarisa M. Cresencio and Mary Ruth H. Tatel; seated: me) and in 2011 during our Silver Jubilee Reunion (Franie, Ruthie, me, and Malu)
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Bicol University High School Batch 1986 Graduation Ceremony (L-R: Ruby Mendones [another best friend], Malu, WJ and Ruthie)
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With Ruthie’s family who’s as special as she is to me…
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With Ruthie, Malu and my eldest niece, a few days before I left for Manila on April 20, 1986
Coming home for our High School Silver Jubilee in July 2011, she gave me this cap as one of her pasalubongs for she knew about my being hooked into running. She then encouraged me to include NYCM, one of the most difficult courses of the Major Marathons, in my bucket list.

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Around last quarter of year 2016, I informed her of my plan to finally aim for New York City Marathon (NYCM). She had all positive and motivating words for me as she became as excited as I was in realizing this dream. She immediately sent me all the information on how to qualify for the race. Her eagerness and support were overwhelming. Thus, when I eyed TCS NYCM 2017 I was looking forward to the day when I’d see her again. Unluckily, I got denied a US Visa in July 2017 and I openly accepted my fate. However, it did not dampen my spirit so I tried again in August 2018 after getting the full approval of my husband. And everything is history. 
But my story does not end here. 
You got to hear it straight from the horse’s (or more of a cat’s 😸😆) mouth how Ruthie and her family made my New York Marathon journey one for the books. ❤️
Let me do it chronologically.

October 30, Tuesday:

Ruthie and her husband Jeffrey fetched me from John F. Kennedy International  Airport. Driving all the way from East Brunswick, New Jersey late in the evening for almost two hours, they made sure that I would be warmly welcomed upon my arrival half past midnight and be comfortable in my home sweet home for almost two weeks.

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October 31, Wednesday:

I woke up around 6:30 am and found the ever gracious Ruthie’s husband as my lone companion since it’s his rest day. I knew Ruthie still reported to work early morning and their 16-year-old only child, Kristen, went to school. Jeff animatedly conversed with me and told me to eat my breakfast. I would always be comfortable around him after our meeting in 2011.

Having learned that we’re both born on the same month, I acknowledged several commonalities between us. Talkativeness and hyperactiveness are just two of them! Hahahahaha…Ruthie was right when she informed me before I met Jeff that we’d surely click. “Pareho kamong bua-bua!” (You’re both zany!) Hahahaha… (again!) So, while Jeff was busy with technical work in their private room, I took that break to go out of the house and admire the Uchida surroundings. The landscape painted my morning with lovely hues! Everything promised a good day ahead of me. 

Time passed swiftly that morning when I returned to my room to update my family. Then, I heard Ruthie and Kristen arrive.
Now, the whole Uchida family accompanied me to New York City midafternoon. I was given the privilege to occupy the front passenger’s seat for the best view of the scenery that we’d be passing by. It was my first glimpse of the real American Dream. With dilated eyes, I took in the sights along our way. Everything was unfolding real quickly. I held my breath and told myself not to wake up if it were just a dream.

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We immediately located the NYRR (New York Road Runners) store where I’d be picking up my Abbot 5-k Dash run race kit, a treat from Dream Travel Canada’s CEO Stephen Price whom I’d also be talking more in one of my upcoming blog entries. Here, Ruthie was at work as my personal photographer.

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We didn’t stay long for we’d be watching a parade in New York. It’s a Halloween Parade! I had an awesome evening with Ruthie and Kristen! Finally, I had experienced a legit Halloween celebration. Well, I partly came to USA for it! I scheduled my flight before Halloween and I intentionally brought that shirt with me. Hahaha.

November 1, Thursday:

This was Ruthie’s off. Yesterday’s sked was truly hectic for her. She had to finish her piles of work at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to be with me on my first exploration of the Big Apple. I felt a little guilty for coming on one of her busy weeks but Ruthie’s kind, generous and altruistic heart made me feel in any other way.
On this day, we were partners for the whole day itinerary. Early morning, we took the bus from the Tower Center Bus Station which was a few meters away from their residence. Our brisk strides were synchronized and I was smiling for nothing has changed since high school days when we would walk from our school to Malu’s house in Washington Drive before going to their place. 
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The bus ride was my first as a “local.” Upon getting off at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NY our first destination was at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for the marathon bib pick-up. It’s here where Ruthie was patiently on standby while I accomplished everything — bib pick-up, souvenir shopping, marathon wish writing, MarathonFoto payment, MED (Marathon Eve Dinner) ticket confirmation, and others. In her desire to make sure that I’d carry on all the scheduled activities without any hassles, Ruthie also purchased a MED ticket to be with me on November 3, Saturday. 

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From Jarvis Center, we now got ready for the plotted leg work. Next in line was our tour of the Empire State Building. Setting foot on this structure which was the epic setting of the movie “King Kong” which I was able to watch as a child in 1976 had me gushing as the two of us followed other tourists.

It was already dark when we left the building. I could already feel the temperature  drop as Ruthie and I did the ala-“Follow the Leader” game along Manhattan. Photos of the world’s most luxurious boutiques came into life as we strutted along Manhattan before we boarded the subway en route to the bus terminal to New Jersey.

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November 2, Friday:

This was our fast and furious day.  This was also the official start of Ruthie’s one week leave of absence which she swapped with a colleague so that she could accommodate me. Leaving NJ around 8:00 am for the pick-up of the free giveaway at the NYRR Runcenter, Ruthie had systematically planned the other activities in-between my official sked which included the NYCM 2018 Opening Ceremony. 

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We arrived at the store on time and partook of the free bottomless brewed coffee and donuts while we excitedly waited for the freebie. 

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We took that opportunity to revisit some of our memorable days in high school. I could feel how happy Ruthie was while I did the recalling since some of these incidents were already partly blotted out. Before 11:00 am, the freebie was released and we had a good laugh when we found out that it was just a flat water container made of plastic (Oh well, I don’t even know how to describe it! Hahahaha…). Upon claiming it, we were like speeding bullet toward Fifth Avenue but not forgetting to document my setting foot on the famous streets in the Big A.

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Time was of essence that day! We took a light breakfast at McDonald’s and we proceeded to the Consulate General of the Philippines. And for whatever business Ruthie and I had there, you would know in a separate article. *Wink* 
We allotted only an hour to finish our visit at the Consulate. Our next stop was a realization of entering one of my dreamed places in the US — the St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
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An All Souls Day for Catholics, there were scheduled masses. We came right on time for the next Eucharistic Celebration. It was a very special kind of communing with the Lord. I couldn’t ask for more. I felt the blessing when we left that historical church.  

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From the cathedral, Ruthie informed me of our tour of the Rockefeller Center.
Ruthie brought me first to other interesting spots in the vicinity before purchasing our tickets.

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We had to wait for almost an hour which made Ruthie decide to look for a comfortable place where we could pass the time and do more photo-ops while having our tête-à-tête. 

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Topics of our conversation were far from the ones we would talk about when we were still in our teens. Gone were our mimicking of our local action movie idols and exchange of shallow jokes and stories. Ruthie is one person I would love getting stuck with in an island for her intelligence, candor, wisdom, and pure heart. 
Engrossed in our conversation, we were thankful to notice that it was time for our tour.

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Both historically interested, we derived so much satisfaction from the one-hour walking tour. It was not Ruthie’s first time at the Rock, yet it appeared she was as thrilled as I was in knowing more about the Rockefeller family who owns one of the world’s largest fortunes.  
Tour over, we navigated toward the subway to go to West 69th Street, Central Park where the NYCM 2018 Opening Ceremony would commence. I’m telling you, my dear readers. Without Ruthie I wouldn’t have any idea how I’d survive the subway challenge in NY. Hahahahaha… 
Never did I doubt Ruthie’s sense of direction. Working in NY for almost a decade and having lived in the US for more than 20 years, she had mastered its map just like the palm of her hand. Thus, when we reached the assembly area for the ceremony early, we had all the time to attract positive vibes that brought us so much fun and laughter. 
Meeting fellow Filipino runners, Dustin Dalisay and Sammy Santiago, we never thought that it would give Ruthie one of her most memorable experiences! These two friendly and warmhearted kababayan made it possible for her to be part of the opening ceremony instead of just being a spectator. This incident belied the adage that “Bad things come in threes“. 🤪🤣😂

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The colorful event ended before 6:30 pm. We left Central Park and headed to Times Square where Ruthie wanted to treat me to dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp and Co., one of the very popular restaurants in New York. The long queue of customers despite the drizzles convinced me that there’s something extraordinary in this resto. And I became eager to discover it though Ruthie had already vouched for it.
At long last, I was a witness to the incredible views of Broadway, and the prismatic billboards and marquees at Times Square. As I looked through the window, I saw the hustle and bustle of energetic crowds.  I released a satisfied deep breath.  Who wouldn’t be if all my senses had been pleasured by this episode of my life?
We reached New Jersey at past 10:00 pm. The blessing which awaited me pumped up more energy to my late night. Generously offered by another angel who I’ll be talking about soonest, these running essentials gave a tremendous assistance to me in fulfilling my New York dream. 

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Believe me, my first ever Friday in USA was truly remarkable!
Bidding Ruthie “goodnight” and not forgetting to tell her “Thank you and I love you” I retired to my now too familiar and cozy room. I had partly adapted to the time and temperature, thus I could now catch even a little sleep unlike on my first two days. I prepared my running attire for the Abbot 5-k Dash run, and the fast rewind of the day’s activities made me smile widely and look forward to another set of adventure with my celestial alter ego.

To be continued…

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