I spent more than half my life thinking that finishing a marathon would be impossible than actually training for one. That’s a long time to be trapped in that mentality but thankfully, I’m not there anymore. Even though I have been actively training for the last year and a half, I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the earlier years of my life influencing this endeavor. This is my story leading up to the New York City Marathon and why I’m finally running it this year.

I grew up in the Upper East Side of Manhattan so I’m extremely familiar with the excitement of the NYC Marathon when that time of the year rolls around. 1st Avenue is always closed off on that first Sunday of November and welcomes marathoners from all over the world. It was annoying whenever I wanted to cross the street but it was undeniably a powerful experience to grow up around Mile 17 and see people persevere through their struggles. I imagined how amazing it must feel to be a runner and have so many New Yorkers cheering. I wanted to be a part of it.

When I was in middle school, I started getting noticeably chubby so I joined the running club to get in shape. I was with them for three years and even ran in a couple of the NYRR races. I tried to continue running in high school but it wasn’t fun and supporting my family’s business became priority. When the opportunity came up to join the cross country team at my university in 2007, I went for it. If I actually thought about it, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I partly have my naivete to thank because I had no idea what I was getting myself into. (The rest of the credit goes to my coaches and the incredible team.)

If an experience could be brutally miserable and overwhelmingly rewarding at the same time, running as a undergrad would be it. I have never regretted the decision but I asked myself every single day why I subjected myself to such a challenging activity – and I still do so today. Perhaps what kept me going was being surrounded by people who truly believed in my potential and pushed me beyond what I thought was possible. My goal of running the NYC Marathon was always at the back of my mind but I still didn’t feel anywhere near ready.

After I graduated in 2011, I stopped running completely. I ran once in a while but not enough to keep up what I had as a student-athlete and definitely not enough to be considered marathon ready. After training intensively for four years, I thought I’d give myself a couple months and get back into it. That turned into five years. During those five years, I went through several jobs, traveled to different countries and found other activities that excited me. And every now and then, I thought about the NYC Marathon. I was hoping that I could get up one day and start training again but I didn’t have the discipline. And somehow, I convinced myself that it was fine because I have a long life ahead of me.

In late 2015, I started working tirelessly outside of my full time job to make a career transition into UX design (and am still working on it now). It was a time in my life where I decided I’d have to be extremely proactive to get the things I want and stay committed to the process. I was sick of being in jobs that I wasn’t passionate about so I started doing what I could to pursue a career that excites me. I had applied this to other areas of my life but still haven’t actualized my desire to run the NYC Marathon yet. I knew the logistical steps I needed to take and the kind of work that I would need to put in. But I kept delaying it.

That major turning point came in early 2016. I received the news that one of my close family members had to be sent to the emergency room after he experienced a sudden stroke that left his body partially paralyzed. It was already such a terrifying thing to hear but after I learned that it could be permanent, I was afraid of what that meant for him and our family. But I tried not to spend too much time thinking about the implications of this incident. It was the wake up call I needed. It was a harsh reminder that life is fragile and I could be in the same position too. I thought about how I could lose my everyday bodily functions and I could live a life without running. At the very least, I want to be in a position where I could say that I tried. So I got up and ran.

Everything after that, I’ve chronicled on this blog. Needless to say, the rest is history. What initially started out as excuses to write more, turned out to be a meaningful way to share my innermost thoughts about running. Writing about running allowed me to talk about my first comeback race into running, how brutal my first half marathon was, how tough it was leading up to my first sub-2 half and how far I’ve come on my major running milestones. I shared a lot of my accomplishments from the last year and a half but also did my best to talk about the struggles too, which there were a lot of. And I wouldn’t change a single thing about this journey.

Paralleling this narrative, there is also a story about how I learned to be a stronger, more sincere and a more courageous person. Unbeknownst to myself, I kept going back to running because I desperately needed validation. I needed an outlet that would make me feel like I could do something that others can’t. I also wanted to do something so I could believe in myself. That’s still not something I’ve quite overcome. Even though I’ve done numerous half marathon under two hours, there are days I struggle to keep up that pace for two miles. Doubt always kicks in somewhere.

I’m running the NYC Marathon because I want less things to doubt. I want the courage to believe in big dreams. If I spent more than half my life convincing myself that finishing a marathon was impossible, and yet, manage to pull off such a feat, I could gain the courage to do other things that I’m terrified of. I could believe in getting that dream job I’ve always wanted. I could believe in running my own multi-million dollar business. I could believe in changing things in the world that I don’t agree with.

I’m also running the NYC Marathon because I want to be kept grounded. There are so many times I got lost in the wanderlust of having big dreams and forgot what it means to take the steps toward them. I want a constant reminder of the realities I’ll face in any tumultuous journey. I need daily reminders that there are no shortcuts to hard work. I need to know the difference between working hard and working on the right things and how to harmonize the two.

November 5th is when I’m making my New York City Marathon debut. As of today, there are less than two weeks left until the big race (13 days to be exact!). I am thrilled, excited and overcome with joy while also being nervous and scared at the same time. It’s hard to describe how I feel about actualizing a lifelong goal of mine. But it’s even crazier to think that I’ve managed to train myself to cover long distances and become marathon ready. It has been a long time in the making but in two weeks, I will have a lifetime to call myself a marathoner.

Cheers,

Riri