Be UNSTOPPABLE, that was my running mantra for the TCS New York Marathon. It is true, when you repeat something to yourself enough, you will begin to believe it. I felt unstoppable as I set a new marathon personal best finish. I was driven to tears of joy after crossing the finish line. My phone endlessly buzzed with text messages of congratulations from friends and family that were tracking my 26.2-mile journey.
While training for the marathon, my concern was the incline of the five bridges crossing into the five boroughs of New York. Yes, the inclines were a challenge, but the real exhausting part of the course was maneuvering around the sheer number of runners and spectators that would dart across the race course. During the New York Marathon, you never run alone. You are always side by side with a sea of people. The sheer magnitude of runners was a motivating factor that kept a burning desire to improve my pace.
The crowd support was phenomenal! My name was written just above my race bib. Hearing, “Go Charlotte go!” was a game changer in the moments I was feeling mentally defeated. Being a runner that uses music as a support system during my runs, I found myself turning the music off and extracting the energy from the electrifying crowd. The number of spectators cheering and the noise level of encouragement was inspiring.
It was by the greatest fortune that I was granted entry to run the TCS New York Marathon. TCS, Tata Consultancy Services, the lead sponsor of the marathon celebrated 50 years of successful business this year. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the company selected 50 teachers across the United States and Canada as part of the Empowering Teachers – Inspiring Students contest. We were each given the opportunity to run in the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon. I was beyond grateful to be selected for such an amazing opportunity.
TCS provided me a 16-week virtual training program. The program included prescribed weekly mileage and a workout regimen tailored to me. The program analyzed my running data and developed a projected marathon finish according to my running pace. The program also offered course-specific and race-strategy tips that helped me physically and mentally prepare for the marathon. With the guidance of this helpful program, I was able to take advantage of weekly mental focus while training.
Team TCS offered a true VIP race experience. Saturday carb loading dinner, private bus to the starting village in Staten Island, and pre-race tent with breakfast at the marathon start village with private access to porta potties. Outside the pre-race tent was a gorgeous view of the Verrazano Bridge and the picturesque skyline of The City. It was a perfect place to sit, stretch, and relax while sharing the experience while chatting my best friend Renee as she cheered me on from New Mexico. A special baggage check was even arranged for Team TCS Runners.
After crossing the finish line, Team TCS Runners had access to a special exit to the post-finish walk-off that lead to the coveted blue finisher poncho. At the post-race dinner hosted at the Tavern on the Green, changing tents were available. The private event also included a cool down stretching area, complimentary medal engraving, and personal pictures. I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful group from the Marriott company that made me feel more than welcome at their table. The hospitality of the TCS company made this my most memorable marathon. No other race experience will ever compare with the amount of generosity that was provided by TCS.
The Race Expo on Saturday was sizzling with energy. I enjoyed visiting more than 100 vendors and exhibitors. The real highlight of the expo was taking in the New York Marathon moments of finding my name on the wall, posting my running wish, and looking at highlights of the race course.
The Opening Ceremonies Parade of Nations kicked off the race weekend. The parade celebrated the diversity of runners from all parts of the world. Over 120 countries were represented. It was particularly impressive to see my good friend Paul Gonzalez as the delegated flag bearer for the United States. Paul has two sons that serve in the US Marine Corps.
The Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5k run on Saturday was a great opportunity to shake out some of the anticipations that had been building for the marathon. I ran the 3 miles at a comfortable but slow pace to save my energy for the full the next day. The race began outside the United Nations, continued passed Grand Central Terminal and Radio City Music Hall, and concluded at the Marathon finish line at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. It was an enjoyable three miles running with friends from Team Runners High and AREC. After the 5K, I enjoyed meeting up with virtual running buddies at the ‘WeRunSocial’ Meet up at the Bethesda Fountain in the center of Central Park.
To end the evening of the marathon, I remained at the course, exhausted, and in need of a shower to cheer at the finish line. Project Finish is a movement to cheer on the final marathon runners. It was one of the most memorable moments of the race weekend. I stayed and cheered on runners who were the final ones to cross the finish line. When you can’t run with your legs anymore, run with your heart is a saying all runners know. Cheering with others from Project Finish brought those words into a true practice. A highlight was seeing elite runners like Meb Keflezighi, Des Linden, and Shalane Flanagan along with the NYRR president and race director Peter Ciaccia as they came out to place finisher medals around the necks for the final runners.
“It Will Move You” was the campaign for the marathon illustrating how the marathon moves more than 50,000 people through New York City’s five boroughs. As I reflect on this New York Marathon journey, I can say it completely MOVED ME! I left my best marathon finish of 4:53:17 on the streets of New York. When will I run another marathon? That right now, I’m unsure of. This 10th marathon running experience will be a hard one to top since part of my heart now belongs to the TCS New York Marathon.