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Nov 29, 2022

My New York City Run

Jesse Blanco

Photography By

NYC Marathon
I wasn’t exactly sure what to say in the wake of the completion of my first ever marathon in New York City last month. It was somewhat hard to put into words. On the one hand, over a million people a year are able to complete a full 26.2 run somewhere in the world. On […]

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I wasn’t exactly sure what to say in the wake of the completion of my first ever marathon in New York City last month. It was somewhat hard to put into words. On the one hand, over a million people a year are able to complete a full 26.2 run somewhere in the world. On the other hand, that still amounts to less than one percent of the population. When you consider the population of the United States, the number drops to .05 percent of the population. Rare air, indeed.

Maybe that’s why it felt so good. Well, that was certainly one reason. There were so many—too many to get into here. But I will share a few highlights.

My journey to 26.2 at the New York City Marathon was supposed to be a celebration, and it was—a celebration of my daughter’s admission to New York University in December of 2019. Following a successful Savannah Bridge Run, I told her I’d enter the NYC Marathon if she got into NYU.

At times I wished my why was a little heavier, but that was it. It was that simple. NYU was and is her dream school, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate with her. So, I joined a fundraising team and went for it. I enjoy running, but I am not a “runner.” Novices like me don’t just walk up and say, “Hey, can I run in your 26-miler?” Fundraising for charity was the only route.

I met so many people along the way who asked me about my training—strangers who saw me running all over Savannah and later emailed me; people I saw regularly on my route and chatted with, without ever knowing their names. The support from the community was palpable, and I will be forever grateful to Savannah and the Lowcountry for that.

I spent nearly nine months preparing for the run through all of New York’s five boroughs. But I am here to tell you that if you have never done it before, nothing can prepare you for what that race is.

Fifty-three thousand runners on the course, tens of thousands more standing along the route cheering on total strangers. There were some with signs, some without, but all of them with smiles.

Yeah, smiles! Everywhere! In New York City!

That might have been my favorite part of this experience. In a city that gets such a bad rap about being “cold” or “ruthless” or “heartless” and all those other descriptors, it was amazing to see the people rallying, cheering and partying around 53,000 total strangers, wishing them well.

They were passing out candy, water, fruit and so much more. I mean, it’s New York; if you were patient, you could probably get anything along that course. It was impressive.

The other touching part was the brother/sisterhood among competitors—people from all over the world gathering in New York with a common goal, all of them supporting each other. This was my first. I met a lot of other first-timers. But I also met some veterans of 10/20/30 years.

There was one gentleman in his 70s who has run 122 marathons. He continues to do seven per year and obviously has been for quite some time. Rather impressive, no? That makes me wince just thinking about it.

My run was not at all for time. I was not competing. No chance. In fact, my family chased me around the city during the run, and at two different points, I stopped to visit with them. During the second stop, I had a slice of Patsy’s pizza and a Diet Coke while I took in the scene on 1st Avenue and 118th Street in East Harlem—my old neighborhood as a kid. That was pretty special.

I finished about 5:40 p.m. in an electric but already dark Central Park. That Sunday was the first day our clocks fell back for the season. As I crossed the finish line, I went blank. The photos say I closed my eyes. Relief, obviously, but I was done. One medal and a short walk later, and I was celebrating on the corner of Columbus Avenue and 66th Street in front of Lincoln Center. There were smiles, there was champagne, and there was joy. There was official membership into Club NYC 26.2, something less than one percent of the population can lay a similar claim to. Then there was Cuban food and beer.

A very quick thank you to my friends Karin Wilson Best and Drew Edmonds for the physical support here in Savannah and my mentor Robyn Hamilton from Parkland, Florida for always being a text away when it started getting tight toward the end of my training and through race day.

The biggest thank you goes to all of you who supported this crazy idea of mine—anyone and everyone who helped me raise the $3,000 I needed to get it together to make this a reality. It was one of the top two to three days of my life, and it would not have been possible without your support.

There are also a great many congratulations in order to well over a dozen people from our region who I know ran the race as well. I met several of them flying up to New York and on the way back. I know I am not the only one beaming with pride this holiday season.

Now, all I’m left with are memories and some slightly worn running shoes. My running will resume Thanksgiving week in a location I’ve never run before. How far will I run? I’m not sure. But I know it won’t be my last.

I enjoyed it far too much. Happy holidays to you all! See you in the new year!

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