Runners need inspiration. It is our fuel. It is like GU, a new supply always available and constantly ripping off the top and squeezing it into our beings to push us somehow through more hard miles ahead.
I am reminded of this again now as I see the ING New York City Marathon website just posted its 26.2 Miles of Marathon Stories. This is really a must-read for all runners. It is a trip to wherever you get your gels, it is the carbohydrates you are crushing 72 hours before your race.
I challenge you to make it through all of those stories without wiping away tears. It is because you probably can relate to every single one of them. It reminds you why you started running. Sometimes you need that reminder.
It occurred to me that most of my newer followers probably don't know why I am running. My story goes back to 2006. That year my Dad died of multiple myeloma. I was smoking for several years at the time, for silly reasons. On Dec. 1, 2006, a new apartment opened on NYC's Upper West Side, 112 73rd Ave., right next to Columbus. Freshly painted, I moved in that morning and said goodbye to the movers. I did not want to ruin the new-home smell. I walked outside to smoke.
My moment happened right then and it will always be the moment.
I was standing on the corner of that intersection at 73rd and Columbus, in front of Starbucks. I had a full box of KOOLS in my hand. I looked at them. I broke the box in half and threw it away. Two women next to me looked at me funny. I took the subway down to Times Square, walked into Foot Locker and bought a pair of ASICS running shoes. I literally traded a box of KOOLS for a box of ASICS.
I went online and bought a two-year membership in the New York Road Runners organization. I began carrying around a gallon jug of water each day, and I constantly ate celery, carrots, nuts and whatever would solve crave of hand to mouth.
By far, the single biggest thing that allowed me to immediately quit smoking was the simple act of running. My first race was the Joe Kleinerman 10K on a freezing day at Central Park, and the race pics will attest that I was a giant blob rolling around the running path.
The next month, I ran the Manhattan Half-Marathon, two laps around Central Park. It was bitterly cold again. Toward the end of the first lap, I stopped at a portapotty, and was bent over catching my breath as I waited in line. A woman next to me asked how I was doing, and I said, "I think I'll just call it good. One lap isn't bad." She told me: "Just go back out and try to keep running, before you know it you'll have finished."
It was that single woman's confidence in me, her expression of support, that made me realize I was not alone but part of a community. To this day, I support other runners because of her.
I went out and ran the next loop, and I have not stopped. This Sunday I will run the NYC Marathon 18-Mile Tuneup at Central Park, and it will be my 75th NYRR race and my 87th overall since that first Joe Kleinerman 10K. The November 3 NYC Marathon will be my 12th of at least 26.2 miles, having run around the world. Along the way, my fuel has been the inspiration of other runners around me, and really the inspiration of humanity. I am inspired by my three sons, Matt, Ben and Josh, who give their dad health and fitness advice and practice what they preach. My goal is to live for them, as well as my wife Lisa and her daughter Rachel, for longer than I could ever have imagined.
My goal is to pay forward that vote of confidence that I received from that woman during that cold Half Marathon. It is why I have my @Marathoner account on Twitter. Since I started, it sometimes seems that the running population has boomed by 100fold, so I am unsure who can hear me but I will always offer support. It is what I am here for, because every runner needs fuel to keep running.