Let’s dive right in. I woke up at 2:55am Sunday morning, about the time maybe some of you were coming home Saturday night. I took the bus at 5:20am from 42nd and 5th and arrived in Staten Island at 5:50am. It was chilly, but something special was in the air. I lay around for the next 3 hours just taking it all in until it was time to head to my corral and take off. 10:15am start on the bridge. Straight up hill. The mixture of 50 Cent and “God Bless America” at the wait zone had me hyped. I was ready. It was time to man up. The 2 miles on the bridge were a breeze, and then we entered Brooklyn. Brooklyn was exhilarating. I was cruising. High fiving kids. People yelling my name. I gave a hug to my childhood friend Bess about mile 3. It was all good, but I tempered that thought. I knew it would get tough soon. Fast forward to mile 11, my calves and shins started screaming. Not cramping. Just letting me know they were there. I powered through. It was getting tough. Mile marker 13.1. Half marathon complete. Pace was 8:59/mile. Dead on. 4 hour marathon. And then my right hip went. Just gone. Mile 14 on the Queensboro Bridge, I felt like I had just been shot. Seriously. So I walked. And gathered my thoughts. 13 miles to go and a major joint was not functioning. I got to the top of the bridge and just started jogging. Mile 15 done. My friend Mary was at mile 16. We hugged and took a pic. She posted it on Facebook and said “Ben is doing great!” Little did she know, I wanted to cry. Mile 17 was where my wife Christy and son Banks would be. Christy offered her encouragement, and Banks was screaming and carrying on “Just run daddy, just run!” I teared up. We took a pic, and I immediately knew this would be the longest 9 miles of my life. My right leg was done. Bone on bone at the hip. If you downloaded the NYC Marathon app, go look at the pictures of me. Scroll down to the one where I am walking, holding my right hip, with my left hand over my mouth. That’s my favorite. I was devising a plan for the last 8 or 9 miles. I quickly learned that my body had about 1-2 minutes of pain tolerance at a time. I could walk a few blocks, then sprint a few blocks, then walk, then sprint, and so forth. Unorthodox, but my joints couldn’t handle the consistent pounding any more. I wasn’t quitting. I wasn’t stopping. I wasn’t walking the whole way. No chance. There was a guardian angel that greeted us as we entered the Bronx, and another as we left. They gave us some tough NYC love, and reminded us we were so close. Mile 20, I felt like I was running with no shoes on. Mile 23, I saw a sign that read “When you can’t run with your legs, run with your heart.” So I did. Mile 24, I was ready to quit. I had nothing left. Nothing. I knew Christy and Banks would be at mile 25, and I couldn’t let myself walk in front of my son. Not the right message. So I kept running. I was in Central Park. The crowd was raucous. I could see the end. I could hear the end. But I was still a mile away. A random stranger patted me on the butt and said “You can do it!” I wanted to kill her and marry her simultaneously. I felt nothing but pain. I had told myself leading up to the race that I was running the last mile for myself. No one else. This one was on me. If I wimp out, it’s on me. So I just kept going. And then I finished. And that was that.
I’m not a cliché guy, but this truly was about the journey. 2 journeys actually. The one from May to November, and then the one from mile 14 to mile 26.2. I gave up happy hours. I gave up food with taste. I gave up time with family and friends. I hurt constantly and am sick again. I battled for 5 months so I was ready for the ultimate test Sunday. I thought about my entire life on mile 14 Sunday as I walked. Where I’ve been and where I’m going. I had 12 miles to run with one good hip, and I knew it would be the hardest physical and mental test I had ever endured. I was right. But I did it. My finish time was 4 hours, 32 minutes, and 12 seconds. I don’t know anything about running, but according to the statistics, that makes me an average marathoner. No such thing, my friends. You’re either a marathoner or you are not. A warrior or you are not.
The thing about enduring struggle is that it gives you confidence. Patience. Self esteem. Self worth. Most of all, perspective. From the blind runner who passed me at mile 18. Or the 70 year old lady I ran with at mile 8. Or the guy with one leg at mile 6. Or the vet in a wheelchair at mile 4. Puts things into focus. It makes you stronger. It makes you want more. It makes you want to encourage others to go live life to the fullest. I hope I was able to inspire a few people along this journey. That was my goal. Be positive. Work hard. Grab life. On a normal cold, rainy Sunday morning in November, the arthritis would’ve usually kept me in bed for a while. Sore. Stiff. So on. Last Sunday? Hell nah. I had something to conquer. And I did. And now I’m going to do something else. Join me.
Have a great week.-Benj