By Nan Pang
July 23, 2012—that’s the oldest record that I can find in the running app on my phone. Distance: just under two miles. Back then, I could probably never have imagined that I would be running the 26.2 miles of the New York City Marathon three years later.
Running was never my strongest suit. In college, I only ran a few laps around where I lived because my primary care physician told me to. Usually after I hit two miles, I was quite exhausted. Running was nothing but a chore and losing motivation was the obvious consequence. So I had become accustomed to running two miles at a time and never thought about running more. One day, I noticed that somehow I managed to complete my chore run without losing my breath. “Oh, maybe I can run longer,” I thought.
From that day, three-mile runs became my routine. When I moved to New York after college, I started to run in Central Park. It was a rather eye-opening experience. Since then, running in Central Park has become my addiction. Things like the sunrises over the reservoir, the summer fireflies in the twilight, and countless other fellow runners have kept my motivation high. It did not take me long to feel that I wanted to do something more; so, that year, I signed up for a three-mile race for the first time.
Fast forward a year. I now had a bunch of 5-10K races and several half-marathons under my belt. I won a spot in the New York City Marathon, via the lottery. Entering the New York City Marathon was partially due to my sheer spontaneity and recklessness. Actually, I was not confident at all that I could run the entire 26.2 miles, but I thought why not give it a try. Perhaps I wanted to prove something to myself that I could. Because from what I heard, running through all the five boroughs of New York City was supposed to be an unforgettable experience; and it really was.
On marathon day, I left my apartment on the Upper East Side at 5:30AM, wrapped up in my friends’ warmest words of encouragement. Nobody was on the street, but from the moment I stepped inside the subway station, spotting my fellow marathoners was not too difficult. A guy who probably was coming back from his Halloween party asked me if all the express trains were running local. I said yes. Then he asked me if I were running a marathon. I said yes again with a nervous nod.
“I could never do that! Good luck!” he said. “Thank you, Mr. Indiana Jones,” I thought.
I was supposed to take the 6:15AM Staten Island Ferry. Obviously, the terminal was packed with hundreds of runners and I had to wait to take the next ferry. I had taken the ferry a few times before, so I decided to skip being a tourist and sat in the corner to catch up on some sleep.
“Hey, are there any outlets on your side? Need to charge my iPod.” the guy next to me asked. He was probably around my age. I couldn’t find any outlets, but then we started chatting. “I’m Garrett, by the way” he said.
Garrett and I had different start corrals but it was pretty comforting and relieving to have company. It was quite a wait from the time I entered the designated corral to the starting line, but the time eventually came.
“So it’s finally starting,” I thought.
While I walked to the starting line, I suddenly got somewhat nervous and overwhelmed by the number of runners, but my nerves quickly diffused as I discovered that I was filled with anticipation for what I would discover and experience for the next three hours.