Tuesday, November 5, 2013

26.2 miles and 1611 patients

"There's a place deep within yourself you must go to finish a marathon. I run because I can't get enough of that amazing place."

-Running Thoughts (twitter.com/RunningTH)

So this past Sunday was not only the first day with an earlier sunrise and sunset, but also it was the 43rd Annual New York Marathon. I have never run this marathon myself, since after 3 times attempting to get in via the lottery, I got addicted to Ironman instead, but this year, I wanted to try my hand at being a medical volunteer for endurance racing. I have been on the sidelines cheering for friends the last 8 years, and I have to say that there is nothing like the magic of this race and how all of New York comes together to welcome elite and amateur runners from across the globe. 

Last year, many runners were devastated that all of their training seemed like a waste as the race was cancelled due to resources needed to help our tri-state area recover from Hurricane Sandy. I know what it's like to train for 15 months, travel half-way across the world, and then have your race cancelled because I was in New Zealand for the Ironman in 2012. But, as much sympathy as I had for last year's runners, I have to say that the city made the right decision in cancelling the race. Since then, our endurance community has had to recover from even more tragedy, after the bombing at the Boston Marathon last April. 

I think that's why this year's New York Marathon seemed even more triumphant. I didn't cheer on the sidelines this year, but I was working in the P5 medical tent, the most acute tent that sees the most runners each year and handles the race's ambulance transports. We saw 1611 patients on Sunday in P5, including 6 runners who were very ill requiring ambulance transport and acute medical care in our tent. We are so proud of you runners and what you have accomplished and were happy to help make the hobbling home through NYC streets a bit easier...be it with crutches, with warm chicken broth, salt packets, bandages, Zofran, fluids, or other medical care. Thanks to all the volunteers and their support of this great event. 

There are so many great marathon stories each year, but I wanted to share a brief bit from a runner's story included in this week's JackRabbit Newsletter.

"This Sunday, I became a marathoner. Alongside tens of thousands of runners, I traveled 26.2 miles through the streets of New York from the Verrazano Bridge, through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan, to the storied New York City Marathon finish line in Central Park. After crossing the finish line, a runner next to me started sobbing and, not knowing what else to do, I hugged him. We didn’t speak to each other, I don’t know his name and odds are we will never see each other again but in that moment I knew we were both feeling the same rush of emotions: shock, disbelief, gratitude and finally a deep sense of calm: it was over, we’d done it, we were marathoners.
I don’t know what brought that runner to the starting line Sunday morning. Maybe he was raising money to cure a disease that had struck a family member, maybe he was a survivor of the Boston bombings, maybe his journey to the marathon was cut short last year by Hurricane Sandy, or maybe he was just in it, like myself, to prove that he could do it. While we all have our own reasons to toe the starting line—or to buy our first pair of running shoes or sign up for our first training program—we can only get to the finish through a combination of dedication, faith in ourselves, and a supportive community."
~Karen's marathon story, from JackRabbit Newsletter, 11/5/13

[As an aside, if you're in the NYC area and are not a JackRabbit member, this might be something to consider, especially to get going this winter. They send out email newsletters with upcoming local races, group workout events, options for training schedules, and so on. It could be a great way to stay motivated this winter! Also check out their stores for triathlon, running, and yoga apparel. Check them out: http://jackrabbitsports.com/]

I completed my first marathon 3 ½ years ago in San Diego, and I can't quite remember what my thoughts were crossing that finish line. All races blend together after a while, but I remember that I had a sense that I had gone to battle and that I had survived and done something that I never thought I could do before that moment of accomplishment. I think I likened it to graduating from medical school, although at that point I had not yet graduated, and medical school felt like the longest endurance race of my life. It seems to me that every time you take your training to the next level, you experience that kind of sentiment and philosophy where you feel you have gone to battle, survived, and come out stronger than you thought you were when you started.

I have to say that in the P5 medical tent on Sunday, with stretchers lined up everywhere, volunteers wheeling and transporting patients on wheelchairs and stretchers, and runners coming in sometimes too weak to stand, teeth chattering, pale or blue, screaming in cramp agony or looking pre-syncopal and woozy, it looked like an endurance battle field to me. 
This was during set-up. Things got too busy for pictures as the day worn on.
It was like the New York Marathon version of MASH. Our soldiers didn't have open bullet wounds or amputated appendages, but they were bleeding from gutsy abrasions won from falling and getting up to complete their 26.2-mile journey; some had broken bones in the form of stress fractures; and others had hobbled along on injuries earned during months of training. These were our soldiers who had come to race for their respective countries, and we were proud to care for them and get them safely home.

What a great day! If that doesn't make you want to do an endurance race, folks, I don’t know what will ;) Set a goal for yourself that is reachable but requires work this winter, and see how far your journey can take you, what character you build, and how many wonderful people you have in your life who will support and encourage you along the way and be so very proud of your accomplishment at the finish.