Wow! What an incredible trip the 2017 New York Marathon was.
I was thrilled, honoured, “over the moon” to be able to run with Kathrine and some of her 261 Fearless team and be welcomed to a wonderful pre-marathon dinner with them.
Having kick-started the women’s running movement in 1967 by being the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon, 50 years on, Kathrine is still inspiring and encouraging women to run through her 261 social running community.
Their motto strikes a strong chord: Be Fearless. Be Free. Be Grateful.
Adidas are promoting 261 with their new campaign Fearless AF (which as I learnt means, as f***). The launch at the Adidas Flagship Store on Fifth Avenue certainly made a statement with Kathrine sitting alongside other women athletes and running celebrities, including the model Karlie Kloss.
Kathrine herself was utterly delightful, charming and interested to hear about this year’s Women Can Marathon and plans for next year, when more 261 Fearless runners from across the world will be joining us. It was great to meet some of them in New York and think about welcoming them to my home village of Tipton St John, in Devon.
Making the decision to travel so far on my own was tough. In 2011 New York was my 10th marathon, my husband John joined me for the trip and we had a fabulous time. Shortly after I returned, my dad was diagnosed with dementia, he died in 2015, my mum, who’d been in great health, died suddenly and unexpectedly in April this year, and John, having had two strokes in 2013, and now diagnosed with early signs of dementia himself was too unwell to accompany me.
So it was with a Fearless attitude that I signed up for 2017 just a few weeks ago.
I went with a sense of purpose and making the most of everything – visiting iconic landmarks, discovering hidden gems, walking the busy streets beneath the skyscrapers…
…buying pretzels and hot dogs from street vendors, fine dining, watching a beautiful sunrise, enjoying the night time clamour, taking in museum culture, watching a ball game – soaking up the city in every way and every second that I had. I think I ticked the “Be Free” box all right.
Sunday was marathon day. Myself and my lovely roommate Lea, who’s from Estonia, were never happier to get up at 4am, though clearly some preferred to sleep on.
The event is an awesome feat of planning and organisation – 50,000 plus runners, 12,000 volunteers and many thousands of the most supportive, vocal spectators a runner could wish for – creating an electric atmosphere that could not fail to impress.
My own running of the race was a thrill from start to finish. The first five miles I felt like I was floating on air, reaching halfway in a speedy time for me of 2:03, feeling strong, and managing a couple of 9 minute miles on the long pull out to the Bronx.
The hard work began heading back to Central Park and hilly mile 24, when fatigue and muscle cramp got the better of me, and fighting the inner voice of despair I slowed to a 15 minute walk. Somehow I came through it and squeezed out a 10.25 and a 10.04 for the last two miles through the park.
I crossed the finish line 7 seconds ahead of my 2011 time, in 4:18:35 – cramp, exhaustion and emotion took over and in a bit of a daze I was whisked off to the medical tent, where two expert physios pummelled life back into my aching calf muscles. They really were incredible. Thanks guys!
Too tired for photos, the obligatory medal pic had to wait until I was back in the hotel and on return the following day when I couldn’t stop smiling.
Although I travelled on my own, I felt the support of friends and family from back home, and new friends I met on the trip, and that mum and dad were both with me.
As for the final part of the 261 motto – yes, it’s been Great. It’s been Full. And for the joy that is running and all it brings to my life, I am truly Grateful.
New York you rock!