How do you put into words something amazing?
When you spend almost a decade of your life training your mind and body to accomplish something, and it then achieves exactly what you tell it to, how do you describe that?
How can you summarize an event that took you to a new level physically and emotionally?
It is because of these questions that it has taken me a week to write a blog about the Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, or as I like to call it, the best race I have ever run. I’ll give it a shot, mkay?
A week prior to the race, I had thrown my targeted time for the 15km leg of the marathon out the window. While my training was strong, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete the race in 1:30, give or take 5 mins (always giving that 5 minute buffer). The last thing I wanted was to disappoint myself, so I told myself to get out there and enjoy it no matter what my results are (and boy did I ever!) I was excited, but part of me still had some anxiety about my time, and whether or not I could complete the race without stopping or walking. I would be happy coming in under my time from the 2009 race (1:49), a race in which I walked a lot and had suffered a lot of training injuries.
Come race day…
We started as a group of 13,000 runners, taking off in Asia, crossing the bridge over the Bosphorus Straight onto to continent of Europe. I flew down Barbaros Boulevard, passing my usual Starbucks, saying hi to Charlie as I ran past my apartment. I could hardly believe how quickly the 5km mark came, then 7km, then 8km. At 7km it occurred to me how much I was loving every second, every minute, every step. Wasn’t it just 2 weeks ago I ran a race and “hated running” at the 2km (well, when you have a fever, that’ll happen)? Wasn’t I begging for it to be over at this point? 10km behind me and I felt the one and only negative feeling: oh no, it’s almost over! I don’t want this to end. Still going on, still going strong, soaking in every moment. Running whilst trying to drink water bottles and eat apple slices (must not stop). I “ran” into the nice girl who had taken my pre-race photos and we struck up a conversation. Wait, I can talk? That means my breathing and heart rate are really strong! Gülhane Park, you bitch. The final kilometer, through a beautiful old park. Uphill. (who does that, really, it’s just mean). I remembered it well from 2009. I remember giving into that steep little mother— and walking. But not this time. With a giant, albeit semi-psychotic looking smile I ran up that park’s hill loving it even more than the 14km that came before it, knowing I had come so far, so strong, even beating my times from the race 2 weeks prior. I did not want to reach that finish line. A call came out from behind me, “YEAH JERSEY” in response to “Jersey Strong” written on the back of my shirt. A fellow Jersey Shore girl ready to cross the finish line with me. The final stretch. People lined up, cheering, supporting, complete strangers sharing the moment. The finish line came, the finish line went. As I saw the official clock read 1:33, I cried.
The high I got at the finish line took days to go down even by just a little. This race was a combination of events that made it the best running experience of my life. Strong, determined, injury-free training. Breaking personal bests. Staying focused amidst the chaos. Helping me through some very difficult personal issues, giving me strength when I might otherwise feel weak. Endorphins keeping me happy and high on my sad, stressed out days. I made some life changing decisions, some big, some small, some easy, some very very hard. But everyday I made one easy decision: go running.
Surely more races will come; maybe longer, maybe stronger. But this was my groundbreaking race. This is the race that made success in all future races possible. This was the race that combined all the previous races, the years of practice. From the “1 minute run-3 minute walk” runs, to the hills, to the parks and the roads; from the Jersey Shore, to Southern California, to Virginia, to Phoenix to Manhattan, to Brooklyn, to Istanbul, from Europe, to Asia. This party’s just getting started, folks.
Am I the fastest runner? No, but I am a strong runner. Right now, maybe the strongest.
Jersey Strong and Ready to Go!
Crossing Continents: From Asia to Europe
Approaching the Finish Line