New York City. The Big Apple. The Concrete Jungle. The City that Never Sleeps.
It’s also been my ultimate goal for the past 12 months.
One year ago I sat at home watching the New York Marathon on TV with my family and told my husband, “One day I’ll be there.”
One day later I was signing myself up and making plans.
One year later, I write this with a New York Marathon finisher’s medal around my neck. Yes, I still have it on and have no shame about that. This was a literal dream come true for me in so many ways.
Since I am writing this from my hotel room, taking in the New York City skyline, I feel it’s only appropriate to write this article Dave Letterman style. He is only two blocks away, after all.
Top Ten Reasons You Should Run the New York City Marathon
10. They have the best recovery food on every corner. Thank you Hell’s Kitchen for being so close by and offering the best and greasiest fries a runner could ask for. And burgers. And pizza. And cupcakes.
9. Central Park: I’d heard the rumors. Central Park is a must-run destination. An oasis of green in the midst of concrete and steel. It's an appropriate place to finish the race as you leave the hustle and bustle of the streets and find relief in the tranquility of the park. It’s iconic and it didn’t disappoint.
8. Touring the Five Burroughs: Times Square is great. Rockefellar Plaza is fun. Broadway is not to be missed. But if you really want to get a feel for New York, you have to run your way through it. You get a real sense of the people and the neighborhoods when you travel by foot. You don’t see families out grilling in front of their brownstones passing out hot dogs and beers to passers-by on a bus tour.
7. It’s a moving U.N. with 47,000 runners come from all over the world to run in New York. In fact, the majority of the field is made of international runners. I now have friends from the Ukraine, Canada, Spain, and France. We may have all spoken different languages, but we shared a passion for running that made the world seem just a bit smaller that day.
6. The Staten Island Ferry: The huddled masses started here in the early dusk light. We shuffled our way to start our 26.2-mile journey together. Here we were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty and bonded with our love of running.
5. Harlem: My favorite area to run through. It was a literal battle of the bands as residents set up mini stages to entertain runners with rock, pop, and rap as we made our way to Central Park. Big thanks to the guy who actually was able to read our names on our shirts and bibs and instantly rap about us as we spe — or crawled — by.
4. The Death March: Once you cross the finish line, your race isn’t done. Oh, no. You still have a ways to walk to collect your heat sheet, medal, food and friends. I dreaded this, but it turned out to be quite a highlight as I swapped stories with fellow finishers and congratulated those around me and soaked in the applause of the fantastic volunteers who seemed truly impressed by our accomplishments. This nice little stroll through Central Park is also good recovery for the legs.
3. The New York 5K: The day before the marathon, friends and family have a chance to cross the marathon finish line in a Dash to the Finish 5K. Thousands of runners turned out for a run through the city and it was incredible. All the pent up energy finally had an outlet as my friend and I ran together. To actually see and cross the finish line before the actual marathon only heightened my excitement.
2. 1st Avenue: This street is mythic. I’d been told that the crowds pour onto 1st Avenue to cheer us on, but no one told me they would give my feet wings. I felt like a running rock star. The shouting was so loud I could actually feel it in my chest. Any doubts or pain I had vanished as it seemed the whole world turned out to give me, Kim from Utah, the boost I needed to keep going.
1. The Spectators: My poor iPod never had a chance to do its work. I never turned it on. Who needs it with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers helping me along my way. Whether it was during the race or as I walked around town with my medal proudly hanging around my neck, New York made me feel special. New York made me feel big. New York made me feel like a star.
So, thank you, New York. You have a reputation for being tough and unrelenting, but I saw your soft side. I saw your kindness and generosity. I saw your spirit and energy. It was an incredible moving party, a celebration of life that I will never forget.
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York!
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and now a New York City Marathon finisher.