Just over four years ago when my dad died I struggled to write his eulogy. The first words I wrote, and actually ended up reading to the full church were...It feels too big. How do I sum up Huck Hagenbuch? Then it came to me, the words he would say if I was taking a photo standing too far back from my subject; tighten up your shot kid, bring it in.
As I was meandering around upstairs last night, putting away remaining items from my still unpacked suitcase it came to me, tighten up your shot kid, bring it in. There is no way that I can convey the overwhelming experience of the NYC marathon. There are so many components to it and it feels so grand and vast. It feels too big. I cannot give you a mile by mile report because they all blend together. I can tell you I found a dollar bill, my first ever, and while I know it was early on in the race, I don't know if it was mile 3 or mile 4. The woman, standing outside her church, hollering into a microphone, hallelujah, hallelujah, bless these runners Jesus, I know she was there, she was to my left, and her voice and enthusiasm and uplifting energy is so vivid in my mind, but again, it could have been mile 4 or mile 6. There was a guy wearing a Portland Timbers sweatshirt and I screamed at him, I'm from Portland, and he screamed back, Goooo Portland. Maybe that was mile 7. A woman, holding a cup of coffee in her hand looked me straight on and said yes, thank you, we love Every Mother Counts, that could have been mile 17. It was the moments, not the miles. 26.2 miles worth of moments.
The crowds in Brooklyn were off the charts. The people were three deep, crowding in on both sides of the street, holding out hands for high fives, screaming while drinking from red solo cups. They held signs, jumped up and down and looked me in the eye. There was a brief moment as I ran along that my heart ached knowing that no one would be familiar, no one was waiting for me. But they held signs,some generic, some for a specific person. I soon began to insert my name when a name was written - run Krista run, You got this Krista, Go Krista we are proud of you, You sweat sexy Krista. You get the idea. It felt personal and it got me through the miles. My smile grew. Somewhere along the way, I rounded a bend, still in Brooklyn, a band was playing My Hero by Foo Fighters. I sang along; there goes my hero, watch him as he goes. there goes my hero, he's ordinary. It was the second time since crossing the start line that I choked up on tears. I was no hero, but I didn't quite feel ordinary.
Volunteers, and police officers lined the course. People filled the streets and they continued to energize me. My sister Kira and I ran along together, but each in our own space. We had decided that we were going to do what we could do to stay present, stay in the mile we were in. We knew the other was there, we ran along side by side, yet alone, each of us taking in our experience. The miles clicked by quickly, almost too quickly, we said to each other at one point.
Soon enough the Queensboro Bridge was in front of us. I knew the energy would change. The crowds would be gone and the cheering would be replaced by the sound of footsteps. Heavy, tired, footsteps, and deep, exhausting breaths. Grunts, moans, cursing. Forward motion though, always forward motion.
The bridge dropped us down onto First Avenue around mile 16 and we had a three mile stretch ahead of us before my team's cheering section. The street was wide, I ran in the middle, trying to take in the energy from both sides. My body was tired but my spirit was strong. My sister's quads started to cramp prior to the bridge and I could see she was focused on staying tough. We kept each other in sight, checked in, gave encouragement, forward motion.
Kira and I had settled into a groove where I entered the aid station first and waited on the other end for her to come through. With 50,000 other runners, it was easy to lose track of each other. For all the previous miles our flow had worked, but as I held back, watching for her to come through this aid station, she didn't. I waited longer, still no sign. I figured she must have passed so I started to run slowly, all the while searching. I felt a little like Jack Bauer, scanning the crowds for the face that stood out. Tears again. This wasn't the plan. Our plan was to cross the finish line hand in hand. For the first time in nearly 19 miles, I felt like I couldn't go on. I didn't want to go on without my sister. Reason set in and I knew that the Every Mother Counts cheering section was up ahead. My cousin Eric planned to be there too. If she arrived before me, she'd learn that I hadn't been there yet. I started running at a faster pace, anxious to see what awaited me. Soon enough I saw a Seattle Seahawks 12th man flag flying, and my sister hugging my cousin along the curb. Tears yet again. I thought I lost you, I said, which didn't feel so urgent as I spoke the words with her at my side. I hugged her, my cousin, and my cousins daughter that I hadn't seen in 20+ years and we were off. Side by side. I was afraid to let her out of my sight again.
Ahead I saw the TEAM EMC sign and it felt like an oasis in a hot desert. My singlet read Every Mother Counts and that is what people called out to me - we love Every Mother Counts, go Every Mother Counts, Every Mother DOES Count. While I didn't hear my own name, I heard the name of something that I have come to believe in and support and be a part of. It brought unexpected meaning and purpose to the race and got me to dig deep when my training got tough. Kristen, team leader who along the way provided me unlimited support and encouragement and answered every ridiculous question, wrapped her arms around me and I soaked it all in. Christy Turlington, the woman and force behind Every Mother Counts had the biggest smile on her face, she reached out and squeezed my hands. While I really wanted to stop and talk skin care with her (she is STUNNING!) I moved forward, feeling energized and renewed. Mile 20. Only a 10k left. The finish line waited.
I knew my sister wasn't feeling her strongest but her determination and resolve showed through. Keep going, she told me, I'm right here, I'll catch you. We started up into the Bronx, people were fading. Kristen had sent an email from a friend of hers who as a running coach had run the marathon numerous times. He laid out the emotional components to the race and I read it many times prior to that Sunday morning. One thing that stuck out was that as we worked our way through the Bronx we'd see people losing it. His exact words, you will start to see the strangest things. People walking, lying down, frozen from cramps. Do not look at them. Look ahead and run. A woman to my left vomited. I kept running, eyes up. I looked ahead and ran. I was suddenly really, really tired. I didn't want to stop, quitting never even entered my mind, but my legs were tired. I was surprised to see we were on Rider Avenue. Tears again. I thought of my husband and son at home and I knew they were cheering, tracking me and sending me all their love and strength. I reached into my pocket and touched the stone my 6 year old son AB had given me. For two days prior to my departure he held it tight, gave it some of his energy. I drew on that.
Then, there we were, running down Fifth Avenue. I kept envisioning my mom and Aunt Mary in the grandstands at the finish line and I kept moving forward. I continued to focus on the cheers, every, Every Mother DOES count. I could hear the shouts for my sister, go She Will (her shirt read She Will Endure All Things, but her bib covered up the last three words so all people could see was She Will. It was perfect.) Suddenly, out of nowhere, that old familiar IT pain in my right leg screamed at me. I stopped, stretched, shook it out, but it wasn't going away. I had a 5K left, I could do it. We were running through Central Park and I breathed in the trees and the colors and the beauty. I got into a pattern, run, stop, shake-out, run, stop, shake-out. I just need to remain on my own two feet. Look ahead and run.
We turned onto 59th, the Plaza Hotel to our left and my sister and I grabbed hands. We ran together, pulling each other forward, knowing the finish line was within reach. Look ahead and run. We turned once more into the park and as we passed the flags representing all the countries I knew we were almost there. I spied my mom and Aunt first and the tears came yet again. My dear mom held her camera proudly and hollered at us to stop so she could snap a photo. We weren't quite across the finish line so we smiled but ran on. Did I hear my name announced over the loud speaker? I may have, I don't know. I do know that I flung my arms out to the side, tilted my head back, closed my eyes and took a deep breath - I did it. I crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon.
The dollar bill wasn't the only #foundchange along the way.
I woke that Sunday morning a runner, I went to bed a marathoner.
to be continued......