Sarah, Kat, Kim & I are to hosting Reverb throughout 2016 as a way to share writing prompts and providing a space for writers via our Facebook group. In December of each year, we host a prompt-a-day to provide structure and a way to close out the year.
White Elephant // What are the gifts you are looking forward to giving or hoping to receive?
Smplefy messaged me days before the NYC Marathon in early November and asked something like Are you sad that you’re not running? People had been asking me that all throughout late October and into November. People always ask me that. The year before, I had stood briefly in the middle of First Avenue as they’d cleaned up the Race and felt All the Feelings of angst and grief and failure. I had just had my knee reconstructed – there was no way I could have run even if I had wanted to – but the pile-up of injuries was breaking my heart and at the time, I had absolutely no idea what was causing my Personal Mess.
I had spent the Summer and Autumn trying to embrace my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome diagnosis; trying to say Yes to everything; however, this was a situation where I didn’t want to say Yes, but had to.
I’m sad, I admitted.
But that next day, I happened to check my New York Road Runners dashboard and realised I mistakenly hadn’t forfeited my marathon entry over the summer. I could’ve sworn I’d cancelled it around the time I had hip surgery; could’ve sworn I’d sworn off marathoning forever. But if I declined my entry for 2016, that would be The End – this year was the end of New York City Marathon deferrals. Historically, if you paid the fees, you could defer your entry in perpetuity. No more.
It was then that I sat with the heavy knowledge that I was physically healthy, largely untrained but in very good shape, and had a marathon entry.
The Friday before the NYC Marathon, I walked out of my office and went out to my colleagues. Do you guys think that I could, you know, run the marathon? I asked casually.
I was wondering if you were running, one of them said.
Have you been training? another one asked.
No, I wasn’t planning to run, and I haven’t been training. But I think I’m going to do it, I decided.
And that was that. I packed up my things and headed for the Javits Center to collect my race number. On the way over JRA called me (remember, I’m still a Phone Person so my friends actually call me on the phone as opposed to solely texting me).
What are you doing this weekend?
Saturday night, Paul and I are having dinner for our anniversary and Sunday I’m running the marathon.
Yes. I just decided. As in, I am at the Javits Center now.
Does anyone else know? Are you sure about this? Do you want me to gather Team Merethon? Should we plan a party?
I’m going to make a gametime decision on Sunday morning about whether I’m actually going to do it, but Yes. To everything.
And that was how I wound up running my final marathon.
I left on the morning of November 6th for a perfect, clear day and a slow race. I packed my bag and said goodbye to Paul, who never noticed I was leaving to run a marathon. I left the house wearing my 2011 Team Merethon shirt in honour of my friend Scott, who died by suicide a few years ago and who loved running; loved the team shirts. I stripped off my tearaway clothes at the start, left the shirt on top of the pile at Fort Wadsworth for Scott, a veteran himself, remembering the celebratory photos he and his wife would send me to cheer me on race mornings past.
Throughout the day, various friends figured out I was running, and came out to greet me on the course: Dorota and Michael at Mile 16 with signs; JRA, PB-BG and Lady H at Mile 20 with big cheers; RHJ at Mile 24 with a phone charger. I ran the slowest race of my life – a nearly a full hour and a half slower than my personal best – and arrived home to a house full of cheering friends and Thai food. I savoured every mile. I walked when I had to. I took on the Queensboro Bridge as a marathoner one last time. I put Harry Belafonte’s Jump in the Line as the “easter egg” on my playlist and it made me crack up when it came on.
I suppose there is some Big Takeaway or some Grand Life Lesson here. The gift I most wanted this year was to be strong enough and healthy enough to run my Last Marathon – to have the support of my friends and family to be able to do that. The real gift wasn’t the medal at the end – it was the truly unique experience of doing this in the first place; the unbelievable amount of support I got from everyone along the way. I got to say Yes to the New York City Marathon one last time, and I am forever grateful.