Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Before the Miracle

Editor's note: I wrote this just after the 2013 ING NYC Marathon. It was shared on the facebook page of the marathon and received over 10,000 likes, 1,200 comments, and 600 shares. It was, and remains, a great honor. 

At mile 14 I knew. I made the rookie mistake of going out way too fast and, though I knew to slow down, I didn’t. It was all falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it. Though I was still on pace to hit my goal of 3:45:00, at 14 everything shifted. My quads began to tighten, my body stiffened, and all my fears were being realized. I started walking instead of running through fluid stations, the cheers of the crowd were starting to be replaced by the doubts in my mind.

Just past the 24 mile mark I was defeated. I just couldn’t go on. My whole physical being was wrecked and my mind begged me to just give up and give in. And for the love of God let my legs give out. It was over. Maybe next time I will listen and slow down at the beginning and maybe next time I will finish. Not this time though. It’s just too much. That’s what my mind said. The dream wouldn’t be realized this time. Let it go. No shame in quitting.

Don’t quit before the miracle. That’s what they say. Don’t quit before the miracle. Mile 25. Don’t quit before the miracle. Mile 26. Don’t quit before the miracle. Crawl over the finish line if you must, but don’t you dare quit before the miracle.

If I could put into words what yesterday was like, I still couldn’t do it justice. The crowds, those multiplying crowds, their roar as I was making the descent from the Queensboro into Manhattan. Mark Sam and Christopher in Brooklyn, my rock George and his beautiful, gracious, amazing wife Lauren in Queens. The strangers who screamed my name. The thousands upon thousands of kids and adults alike with their hands extended for a high five. The ones that society has labeled ‘disabled’ running and walking and rolling their way to the finish. The signs, the noise makers, the smiles, the bands, every single of the two-million spectators. All these things and then…

And then there they were at mile 17. My Wendy, my gorgeous Wendy who inspires me every single day to be a better person. And my Ric. And my brother, Grant. And my ineffable mom who flew my 92 year old Gran up from Texas just to see me run. There they all were, at mile 17 with signs and screaming for me. You want to know how to make a grown man cry? That’ll do it. If ever there was a memory that will be forever etched in my mind’s eye, that’s it. A tableau of love and heart, of friendship restored and life brought back from the brink of death. A young man for whom a big brother could not be more proud. A mom whose heart has mended mine, a Gran who is one of the few angels among us and who embodies the words service and godliness.

And at 24 when the whole thing was closing in, there was Quentin, whose enthusiasm and pep was what I wish every person could see when crossing their own 24 mile mark. In fact, every person on this earth should be blessed enough to have a Quentin in their lives.

I wish every human being could experience what I experienced yesterday. The marathon was life with all its ups and downs, its indescribable torment, its unbelievable joy, its pain and its overwhelming promise. I wish we all, in everything we do, would think twice when that voice is telling us to quit. I wish for all these things and so much more.

I finished it in 4:17:07, 32 minutes and woefully short of my goal. But I crossed that finish line.
         I didn’t listen to that voice.
                Indeed, I didn’t quit before the miracle.

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