|Lily finishes the Brooklyn half-marathon|
It was January 14, 2016. It was 6 am. It was cold. It was dark. But I felt alive. I ate my usual breakfast of oatmeal, laced my running shoes up and headed out the door. Running at this time, the air felt so pure and so clean. I felt the cold air hit my face and smiled. Training for the Brooklyn half marathon wasn't so bad, for a minute..... This thought would last for a moment and then it would flee. It was hard to think about anything except for the pain. And to not think of the pain, I think of numbers. 5 miles down, 3 more miles to go. And this was considered a "short" run. I'm going to take a break after 720 meters. "I can do it, think about something else," I tell myself. Then I focus on the thumping sound that my feet makes against the ground. 1 thump 2 thump 3 thump and so on.
Some running days were better than others. Perhaps it was my diet for the week, or even if I was just too sore to go out for a run but no matter what you're feeling, you always need to push yourself when you have a huge commitment like this (unless you feel like you have an injury, then you should probably take a rest.) I trained alone for 4 months before the big race but on May 21, 2016 , the day of the Brooklyn half marathon, I ran with 50,000 other people. We all had the same goal in mind: have fun and cross the finish line without puking.
We started in the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, through and around Prospect Park, onto the highway approaching Ocean Parkway and made our way to the Coney Island board walk. There were moments where I wanted to stop and take a break but all of the volunteers who were handing out water and electrolytes and all the family members and people cheered me on for miles and I couldn't let them down. I met a volunteer by the name of Veronica whom gave me advice to take a pace myself accordingly to my training and to take deep, controlled breaths. Also, the 4 months of training made me a stronger person. "If I stop now, I'm going
to have to restart and regain all the momentum and speed again, no time
for that.l" And with that mindset and advice given to me, I crossed the
finish line of 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 7 minutes. This moment was so worth
the 4 months of hard, critical training. It was worth all the pain I've
endured. It was also worth all the nights staying up late to plan for the week
coming up and I wanted to do it again. And so I did ... a few months
I trained for another 4 months to run the New York City half marathon. This time, I knew my previous mistakes. I knew my body even more and how much potential my body can take me if I put my mind to it. And this time, I crossed the finish line in 2 hours flat.
You might think "ok big deal, she was 7 minutes faster." But those 7 minutes was difficult to achieve as an 18 year old. If I wasn't a runner, I would want to sit home all day and eat some chocolate. But because I wanted to break my 2 hour time, I put the chocolate to the side and mentally trained myself that giving up this moment would bring me a greater moment in the future.
After my second half marathon, I wanted to experience what it was like to be a volunteer. I wanted to cheer runners on and motivate them to not stop. I wanted to comfort those runners by giving them a positive pep talk because, let's be real here, running 13.1 miles is not easy. I wanted to give back everything those volunteers gave me. One day, I get an email from my academic advisor (Cheryl) asking for volunteers to participate for the full New York City marathon. I eagerly applied. The morning of the marathon, I woke up at 5 am, got some coffee and ran out the door.
|Lili and Liridona help at the NYC marathon!|
Upon arriving to the starting line, I noticed the runners waves of colors. As runners, we tend to wear colorful sneakers and attire. No idea why but I'm accepting of it. I see runners warming up and running around the Verrazano bridge. I see runners laying down sleeping because it was 5 am, and I saw runners drinking the last bit of their protein shakes. I met a runner by the name of Joey and he ran 42 full marathons and even had a tattoo of the TCS NYC marathon logo on his calf. After meeting him, I was told to arrive at my assigned corral and help the runners prepare before the gun shot went off. Lined up runners would pass (and throw) their sweaters to me for donation. It was my job to place them in plastic containers. It was also my job to hand out water and Gatorade. As I pass one to a runner, it coincidentally happened to be a girl with the name Veronica and I thought that I was destined to meet her because what are the chances that I would meet a runner with the same name as the volunteer who gave me a pep talk when I was a runner for the marathon. I enjoyed my time as a volunteer so much I was asked to go to take the private charter bus owned by the TCS NYC marathon company to the finish line for an exclusive view and cheer on the finishing runners after running 26.2 miles. They inspire me to try an attempt the 26.2 miles but for now, I want to focus on running half marathons and continue volunteering. I will be volunteering for the next NYC marathon in November. Contact me at email@example.com for more information on volunteering for an amazing experience that may change your life.