A Goal, a Dream, and a Crazy Idea

Running in New York

It’s dark. I’m in Central Park. There are people yelling my name. I’m crying… and I’m basically half-naked.

Let’s rewind…

Running has become a major component of my life since I started college. I lost over 100 pounds by doing it, got in the best physical shape of my life, and I learned so much about myself and my mental capacity by doing it. Not only do I enjoy it, but it is an area of my life I can return to in order to find clarity and zen.

Me when I graduated high school to April of 2014

2016 has been a year of change in my life. I went into the year setting some pretty lofty professional and personal goals. Nearly all of which fell into place. On my personal list of goals, I make it a point each year to do one thing something on the ‘bucket list’.

My bucket list goals probably fall in line with yours… but two bucket list goals of mine are to run a marathon, and participate in a race outside of Wisconsin (a ‘destination’ race).

With my job at Eastbay/Footlocker.com, an opportunity came in the form of an email in very early August…. “Run the New York Marathon”. I was able to get a guaranteed entry, as long as I paid my way out there.

The race is a ‘lottery’ system. Meaning, you enter your name in, and HOPE you get picked. Some people wait 3–5 years to get in.

There it was… an opportunity to cross of TWO of my bucket list goals. Run a marathon… in New York! No questions asked. “YES” was my reply, and shortly after, tickets and a place to stay were booked.

“Oh shit, I am running a M-A-R-A-T-H-O-N”…. 26.2 miles. I had 3 months to train. I ran. I ran and I ran and I ran. I worked out over my lunch hours at work by running a two mile loop as fast as I could and then ran some more at night. I didn’t follow a true training plan… but I responded to how my body felt.

In between working hours and training runs I spent time researching… where to go, what to see, what to do, how to prepare, studying maps of NYC. I was obsessed. I was also told I was crazy. “I could never do that”.

… but that’s the point of a BUCKET LIST goal… being told you are crazy, hearing sympathetic replies of “I could never do that”. It only motivated me more. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

I left on Thursday, November 3rd and got into NYC. I executed my plans flawlessly. Get to the expo, see the sights, catch a show on Broadway.

Then it came time to run.

The night before, I prepared my gear… meticulously. Everything from my socks to my headphones. I packed a waist pack with gels, band-aids, and some KT tape, among other items. I put all of these items into a plastic bag along with some food, an emergency blanket, and a rain poncho.

I laid out my clothes as well, including ones to wear to the starting line and to donate just prior to running.

I hopped on a subway at 4AM (basically at Central Park) and made my way underground to Lower Manhattan and ended up at the Staten Island Ferry.

I was surrounded by other runners… from all over the world. Each with a story. Just like mine. Some sharing how they ran the Berlin, Chicago, London Marathons… but waited years to be selected to run in New York.

It finally hit me as we passed the Statue of Liberty, and I could see the city skyline in the back… “Holy Shit, I am going to do this”.

I thought about my parents, girlfriend, and all other important people in my life. I thought about how lucky and blessed I was to be in the moment I was in.

The sun began to rise and 50,000 human beings descended upon Ft. Wadsworth… this was the staging ground for the Marathon. It was a beautiful sight. I teared up. This was my moment. My bucket list goal, happening ‘for real’.

The howitzer cannons went off and I ran… for 26 miles.

The New York Marathon is more than a run. It’s a celebration of an entire city. There are literally millions of people lining the streets… there to see you as you waddle by and cheer YOU on.

For those reading that have never experienced it… Imagine people tailgating like they would for a Packer game day… some are drunk, some are out with their family, some have crazy sound systems pumping music… some are handing out snacks/candy… even beer.

I put my name on my shirt… so people were cheering “LET’s GO BEN!”. I had a whole playlist planned… I turned my music off at mile 3 to listen and be in the moment. People cheering you on is a powerful thing.

The first 18 was easy and really fun. I went slow, timed my fuel/water intake perfectly. But then it got hard. Really hard. I felt my body fading. I knew it was going to happen. I maintained until mile 22 and ended up meeting a woman from Texas and walked/ran with her for the rest of the race.

By this point in the day, it was dark. I practiced this moment in my head 10,000 times. I had dreams about it.

I crossed the finish line.

So that takes us back to the top:

It’s dark. I’m in Central Park. There are people yelling my name. I’m crying… and I’m basically half-naked.

I had just accomplished a goal, a dream, and a crazy bucket list idea. I was sore as hell, but high on life. I’ll never forget the entire trip… but that moment especially.

I waddled out of Central Park to find my Cousin Nick and his boyfriend Kamil (who live in NYC) grinning ear to ear greeting me with a huge hug. A solid reminder that there is no greater feeling in life than having family (or at least a familiar face) in your corner… no matter what that looks like for anyone reading.

Those guys are a huge part of my trip and as I tell the story of my adventures, I always speak so highly on how well they took care of me. If you are reading… You guys rock!

We shared a final meal together and I made my way back to where I was staying…. reflecting on the whole day.

If you can put your mind to it… you can do anything!