Christine Keith, right, is ready to run the 2012 ING NYC Marathon alongside her friend and cancer survivor, left.
By Christine Keith
When you tell someone you’re planning to run a marathon, their reaction usually approximates one I heard today. It was from a doctor I was seeing to get the medical go-ahead to start my grueling training program for the 2012 ING New York City marathon. “God bless ya,” she said, and shook her head.
I understand that reaction well, because it’s one I was accustomed to giving friends who’ve told me they were going to take on the 26.2 mile run, a physical challenge I’ve always considered somewhere between extreme and insane. So what’s changed for me? Well, glad you asked.
1) I’ve gone half way. In February 2011, I went to an informational meeting at work hosted by Team in Training, a wonderful organization that trains people for an endurance event while they raise money for cancer research. Full disclosure: I only attended the meeting for the free pizza and had never run more than a few miles at a time. But I walked out signed up for my first half marathon, and after months of pushing myself physically and mentally, successfully ran 13.1 miles. It was among the hardest things I’ve ever done, and, when I crossed the finish line exhausted, I would’ve sworn to you I couldn’t run a single step farther. And on November 4th, it won’t be one step. It’ll be twice as many.
2) You can take the girl out of New York… I may have moved 900 miles away from New York last fall for a professional opportunity, but there were a few things I couldn’t fit in the U-Haul. Like the amazing friends I’ve accumulated since kindergarten who all live in Manhattan, my supportive family, and the energizing, fascinating, dynamic spirit of the City most notorious for its insomnia. While I lived there, I spent two years as the co-chair of the Catholic Charities Junior Board, so the ability to support its mission from afar by participating on its inaugural marathon team is one I welcome. On race day, it’ll be all those associations with my former home that propel me forward while I experience every part of it like I never have: by foot.
3) I made plans with a friend that day. During training for my half marathon last year, I became close friends with Katie, a seemingly normal (but exceptionally cool!) girl also running her first half marathon. We bonded over that experience before I found out that she herself was a two-time cancer survivor, giving added significance to the fact that we were running for an organization that raises money for cancer research. So when Katie set her sights on completing the NYC marathon this year and asked me to run with her, I told her that, while I fully supported her, I didn’t think I could do it. But then I realized something.
4) I can do it. Or, more accurately, I can try. Thanks to friends like Katie, and my family, and just under three decades of proving myself wrong when I didn’t think I could do something, I have enough reserves of support and inspiration to hopefully carry me through all five boroughs, and roughly five hours of my first New York City marathon. I know 2012 is the right year to do it for many reasons. The year it makes sense to go from spectating on 1st Avenue to hoofing it on the first Sunday morning in November. The year that I have the health and inspiration and free time (upside to moving to a city where you have no friends!), that I can attempt to knock this very daunting experience off my life list, all while raising money for Catholic Charities’ incredibly worthy mission of answering the desperate needs of so many in my former home city.
So to my doctor (who, incidentally, gave me a clean bill of health for training), I guess I should say, you’re absolutely right, God did bless me. And that’s exactly why, when I run the marathon in four months, I will consider every mile – from the thrilling first on the Verrazano to the brutal 26th in Central Park – an extraordinary privilege.