For the past 18 months, the United States has been consumed with politics via social media, news shows, telephone polls, snail mail and thankfully Saturday Night Live. I took on training for the NYC marathon, my final hurrah (so I think), in my long distance running life. Both were torture.
Living in Florida, my love of endurance training changed dramatically. Negative cruel thoughts and words were my daily mantra. Yes, move to the sunshine state, humidity, high temps, red tide, and flat terrain in 80 percent of the state -a perfect training mecca for mentally and physically preparing for 26.2 miles in NYC during November.
As for the political side, I saw Trump pop up shops, rallies for both parties, signage on every pick up truck, protestors on the corners (having to share space with the homeless), not to mention the daily banter of people discussing “tweets” across all borders. No walls included.
So what parallels am I trying to draw between the election and a marathon? Both have long hours of commitment to a goal, both require sweat on and off the road, both need family and friends for support and in the end, there is a Finish Line.
This year the NYC marathon fell two days before the presidential election. Tensions were high with the pollsters and the people speculating from every angle who was going to be the next president elect . However, for a brief snapshot of time, I was transcended to a different place.
It’s 6AM as I board the bus to the start line on Staten Island. Police escorts flashing lights of red and blue as if we were all celebrities being carried to the big event. Each runner on a different mission. Running 26.2 for the first time, running for a charity, running with a friend, running for a Boston qualifying spot, running for 9/11 victims, running to lose weight or just running to prove it can be done at any age.
The weather was glorious! Sunny, royal blue skies, light wind and crisp air. Flags from all the represented countries were waving in the breeze. The loud speaker gave instructions for each wave. Spanish, French, Italian, German -more than 11 countries were represented? I only wish I had not skipped so many French classes. All the hours and miles of training were being contained in one area. The energy was contagious. Not a thought or word of the election was on the minds of the 51,000 plus people on Staten Island.
It’s 10:20, Wave 3A was corralled for release. The double decker buses surrounded us with NYPD on guard. The only visual in front and behind me were the endless number of runners ready to explode into a frenzy across the Verrazano bridge. As God Bless America filled the air with patriotic reward, tears flowed down the faces. Not just from Americans, but from everyone in wait. We were united by love of people, love of country and love of running.
The saying, “it’s all about the journey”, ran through my mind as I ran the streets. After months of turmoil with police killings, mass shootings, election sensationalism and religious wars, I finally saw humanity on this day. We were equals, we were happy, the crowd embraced our energy and injected us with theirs. No barriers, no prejudice.
Run next to a blind person to truly get perspective on what they see. Run with a cancer survivor to embrace healing not just the disease. Run with Black Lives Matter to understand the movement’s motivation. Play witness to thousands of spectators from a melting pot of neighborhoods in NY. We were all one nation under God!
I prayed past every church, I celebrated each mile with a smile and I pushed myself through pain. Resilience helped everyone find their way to the finish line. The very last unofficial finisher was a 96 year old man who fought in WWII (Runner’s World featured his story – worth the read). The moments are immeasurable.
Two days post-race, our country elected a new president. The finish line is not in sight as the road to answers is quite long and bumpy. I’d like to think of this as our country’s marathon. Weeks, maybe months of conditioning a new leading team. Learning acceptance of what we can control and what we must accept. Trying to build each other up without continuing to thrust negativity onto the course. This calls for all Americans to release their convictions to find peace. I witnessed it for one day, I’d like to see more of that in days to come. What will you do to for America’s new marathon?