NJ Marathon… Mission Accomplished!
Yes! I made it to that finish line! Before I give you the final stats, I will fill you in on what was one of the most memorable weekends of my entire life.
Saturday morning, my family and I headed down to Long Branch, New Jersey. We arrived at about 11:00 a.m.; plenty of time to meet Coach Bill and a few of the team in training members for a 2 ½ mile jog down the boardwalk and then back through the finish line to practice our photo finish smiles. Not for one second did I forget about my injury and all of the physical therapy, chiropractic help and acupuncture that helped me arrive there that day. I was really nervous to say the least. Because of this injury, and the fact that I was uncharacteristically nervous, my husband Jeff was a complete wreck. He tried not to show it; never said anything doubtful, and spoke words of encouragement. However, being together 21 years (incredible!), if he wasn’t worried it just wouldn’t be Jeff.
After the short jog I was in pain again and there began my limp, oh no! I quickly went to the hotel room and started rolling out my muscles on a styrofoam cylinder and stretching as I was instructed by the therapist. The pain was gone by dinner and so was the limp, phew!
Going to the Team in Training that dinner that evening we were given green T-shirts to wear that read “Wanted: Heroes”. As we walked down the hall we were given a loud round of applause and cheers as we entered the dining room.
I thought, hero? Who me? They must have me mistaken for someone else! I surely don’t deserve this. The evening went on and we heard a memorable speech from an honored teammate. She was a cancer survivor who was celebrating five years in remission. It was a heartwarming speech that brought everyone to tears and made us all feel great about being a part of this incredible organization.
From dinner we went to a mandatory team meeting to recieve some tips on preparation for the next day – marathon day. The coaches told us to eat salt packets at the beginning of the race because we would be losing a great deal of potassium. I thought to myself, that sounds quite disgusting… I just might have to skip on that advice. Oh, no, Coach Bill, I should have listened! More to come on that issue later!
The Team in Training mentors stood up to give us more advice and encouragement for the next day’s event and then proceeded to give a few awards to some of the teammates. My daughter Jillian and my son David were sitting by my side when they announced the spirit award. This award was for showing indomitable spirit throughout the training period and for showing courage and strength when others would wilt under the same pressure. To my shock and emotional surprise, the award went to me. I held back the tears as hard as I could. They went on to say that this award was given to me because of the courage and determination I showed when I went to the finish at the Brooklyn Half in spite of the painful injury I suffered, and showing great strength and perseverance. I was so moved by this award and happy that two of my children were there to share this moment with me. The use of the word “spirit” in this award held a double meaning for me… my father’s spirit.
That evening when I returned to our room after decorating my running jersey, I found that the TNT staff had decorated our hotel room door. When I read the words on the door I couldn’t help but hear those famous words in my head yet again…Robert DeNiro’s voice from the movie Taxi, saying “Are you talkin’ to me?”
The Team in Training staff members are kings at motivation! That night I didn’t sleep at all. I tossed and turned. I rose at 4 a.m. and, who knows why, I decided to shower before running the marathon. I got dressed and went for a bagel at 5:30. I must have been a nervous wreck because with all that time I found myself out of time and rushing through the extra stretching that I was supposed to do because of my injury.
The race began shortly after 7:30 a.m. We wore Velcro ankle bracelets with a timing chip that would take our actual run time after we crossed the finish line. It took more than five minutes for me to get to the start line. I heard that there were in the neighborhood of 4,600 runners that day with only about 1,600 going for the full marathon. The rest were running half marathons or were running as part of a four way relay team.
At mile five I started feeling the effects of not taking that salt packet. I was sick to my stomach. At the time I didn’t know why I was so nauseous. I thought it was nerves. The race was supposed to be completely flat but when we headed up Broadway that sure looked like a hill to me! I thought, I can do this now, but what about when I come back for the second loop! As I headed up the hill I had my sweet reminder that I was not doing this without help. I looked up and saw the street sign Brighton Avenue !!! For those who are not familiar with Brooklyn, Brighton is where I was two weeks earlier, where I ran in the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and where I lived as a child. I lived in Brighton Beach on Brighton 7th Street. This symbol dispelled my moment of doubt and I knew I would finish this race. I tell you, there are no accidents!
Jeff and the kids ran themselves ragged meeting me seven times throughout the day at various points on the course. They screamed, took pictures, and Melissa even ran a mile with me up that infamous hill. When I would see them it was as though they were like an oasis on a desert. What a sight for sore eyes…legs…feet…and on and on! How lucky am I?
When I was coming in to complete the first half Coach Dave ran up to me decked out in his rainbow colored wig and asked how I was doing. I said “very nauseous! I think maybe I need that salt.” At the next corner there was Laura, a Team in Training staff member asking me what I needed and was ready with a packet of salt. I crossed the halfway mark and saw hundreds of people finishing their half marathon. The realization set in…I have to do the whole thing all over again!
I was still nauseous and tired, but I finished the first half in 2:41:42 and on track to finish in just over five hours. Jeff looked a bit worried because I started showing signs of wear, so I gave him the thumbs up and forced a half of a smile on my face.
At about mile 14…still nauseous, I was so pleasantly surprised when a woman came up to me and put her hand on my shoulder. It was my good friend Cathy Capozzi! She is a seasoned marathoner who I have always admired. She looked at me and asked how I was and could see the stress in my face. She then said “you are doing great, you will do this, and I am so proud of you!” Let me tell you, at that precise moment that is exactly what I needed to hear, with more than 12 miles left to go! I honestly don’t remember what I said to you Cathy, but thank you, you are an angel!
Miles 14 through 18 were tough, but I only needed to walk through the fluid stations. By now I wasn’t nauseous anymore, but I was having trouble taking in anything by mouth. Sorry to be so graphic, but every time I took a sip of anything, including water, I found myself burping it up for the next 100 yards. It was not lady like or pretty!
At mile 20 it became interesting. I was in pain and my injured hip, my uninjured hip, my thighs, calves and feet were all screaming at me! I have learned to laugh in the face of pain, but something else got my attention. It was my heart rate. Even though I was going at slower than usual pace, my heart and breathing became erratic. With all the ambulance noises I was hearing all day, this made me stop and take notice. I began a pattern where I would stop and walk every so often to try to calm everything down. I even went into a port-a-john to force myself to stop for a few minutes hoping that would do the trick.
For the next six miles I ran about 10 minutes and walked a minute or so. I simply wanted to finish. I didn’t then, and don’t now, care about my finish time. When I was making my way to the last two miles, Coach Dave ran up to me again to bring me on in… like landing a plane! He called ahead to Coach Bill and Coach Les to say he was with me and that I was OK and would be coming into the finish soon. He was going to accompany me to the boardwalk and then let me go to the finish alone.
A mile from the finish line he said, “Lori, you can still make it with the clock being under six hours if you push yourself now” He said it’s a big deal to be a five plus hour marathoner. I answered that all I want to do today is finish. I knew in my mind that my chip time would be under six hours and that was just fine and dandy for me. As I was coming up to the finish, Coach Les and Coach Bill ran up to me saying they simply had to take me to the finish line. They told me that they never once doubted me and knew that I would make it all the way. They are incredible!
Having started the race more than five minutes after the gun, my actual chip time was 5:55:34. Is this impressive? Not by seasoned marathoner standards, but there is one thing it most definitely is, and that is: “Mission Accomplished”.
Tired and exhausted I went back to the hotel room. My muscles were so stiff I could barely move, so I took a steamy shower (again) and soaked in a hot tub for the first time in years. When I came out, there was my entire family sound asleep. Something was wrong with this picture… now who exactly ran this marathon?
I said in December that I was going to run a marathon in memory of my Dad. With a lot of help and a lot of mazel* (defined below), I did just that! What carried me over that finish line was my Dad, prayer, all of the love and well wishes sent from family and friends and the incredible Team in Training coaches. This experience has changed me forever. The single most overwhelming feeling that I felt coming over that finish line was gratitude. I simply put one foot in front of the other and asked a lot of kind and generous people to contribute to a great and worthy cause. The rewards that I have received have been so much greater than I ever could have dreamed.
Coach Les said it well, “This is the most selfless selfish act you will ever do. When you give, you don’t give until it hurts, you give until it feels great and there is no better feeling in the world than being able to do what you are doing right now.” I could not agree more.
Thank you to my incredible husband Jeff for supporting me through a long training season when I was missing in action for much of the weekend and during the week. He watched me struggle through sore muscles and injury, but supported me every step of the way. When I saw his beaming face along with our three children, Melissa, David, and Jillian, after crossing the finish line, I just cried. I feel so blessed to have them in my life. They truly are the wind beneath my wings.
Thank you to Debra Self, my dear, dear, friend who showed up with her three sons; taking time out of her busy weekend to come see the race. Debra came to cheer me through that finish line and to take photos of me and my family. Thank you for coming Deb and sharing this experience with us. You are amazing!
Thank you to each and every one of you who helped me through this journey with your generous donations and your incredibly kind words of support. I appreciate how many of you continue to read all of my long e-mails and look forward to getting them! Thanks for taking the time to share with me a very special part of my life’s journey. I cannot put into words how your reply e-mails have touched me in a very profound way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Love and best wishes to all!
* Mazel means luck and can have an even deeper meaning. The word Mazel literally means “a drip from above.” Mazel can have different connotations depending on its context, but they are all connected to this basic definition–something trickling down from above. And aint’ that the truth!!