New York City Marathon 2008
I was once faced with the question: ‘What kind of goal could you set for yourself, that if you achieved it, it would literally blow you away?’
At the time I was not too sure but in March 2008, I decided that once I finished school, I would take a gap year before university. This got me thinking about what kind of goal I could set for myself and how I could possibly contribute at the same time.
Soon enough, the idea came to me and I decided that I would run the London marathon. Then I thought bigger: the New York City Marathon. However, the first challenge came of raising £1500 for a local charity: ‘Get Kid’s Going’ which creates sports dreams and opportunities for disabled kids. Remembering what I had learnt from attending Anthony Robbins seminars and coaching at his Youth Leadership Summits about defying the odds, I went out to raise the £1500 by knocking on doors, constantly emailing and facebooking. I even spent a few days making a pro-style Rocky training video which was too much fun!! (Video at bottom of page)
I was running the race with my dad at the tender age of 47 which I think is so inspiring. We flew in a few days earlier with my family and spent the days at the Marathon expo held in a huge conference centre and at the Pre-marathon pasta party held in Central Park. The city was on such a buzz especially as the US elections were only in a few days time (which Obama historically went on to win).
On the morning, we woke up at 4.30am and headed to the Central Library where a coach took us to Staten Island where the start line was. We then had to weather the 4 very cold hours in the morning where we spent our time pumping energy drinks and tablets. At around 9.30am, my wave was called up and we started the 1 mile long slog across the iconic Verrazano bridge into Brooklyn. I remember separating from our group and my dad very quickly into the race and then that was it- I was all on my own with 25 miles in a foreign city ahead of me.
The supporters and crowds were absolutely extraordinary with many kids and old folks coming out to shout for us and sitting outside their homes. I particularly enjoyed the sweets thrown at us from the balconies haha! The spirit of the American people and the welcoming atmosphere was amazing. I strongly believe that their support carried me through which may not have happened otherwise. There were some lonely moments like when crossing Queensbridge which was just an iron path with cars zooming overhead for a long 3 mile stretch, with no spectators. It was in moments like that- I had to just keep on going and give it my all.
However, it was not as plain-sailing as I hoped for… I had quite a hard strain on my right foot around the 19th mile. I lay down on the sidewalk in Harlem watching the runners go by and had my feet looked at. I took a few seconds to breath and forced myself up. This was really an extraordinary moment for me as never have I been so physically and emotionally challenged so much but I just stepped up to the challenge and put my heart and soul to keep on going. I soon realised that I was in the last batch of runners out of the 40,000 or so but I just constantly told myself that every step would bring me closer to my goal. Temporary pain but permanent gain!
I started hearing music from one of the last DJ’s that were set up along the way that started to play some great music: ‘I like to move it, move it’ which really encouraged my limping to…well…limp faster!
I met my mum, brother and sister at about 20 miles when we finally made it onto 6th Avenue, Manhattan who provided me with some much needed crisps and chocolates! I was starving!! When I entered Central Park, the final stretch, my family members, in a moving moment, started putting blankets over me whilst limping and supporting me all the way- it reminded me of the terrific support and bonds that exists within families.
On November 2nd 2008, I completed the New York Marathon at aged 18 years 3 months. My total running time was 7 hours 46 mins- a cool 2 hours after my running buddies! When I hit the finishing line, I collapsed to my knees and celebrated: Victory!!!
My original plan was to dedicate each mile to people who have supported and influenced me- as the memories and lifetime experiences kept me going and carried me to the finish line. The goal inspired me and I’m looking to take on the London Marathon at some point soon- a bit closer to home!
Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve!