Meet Me At the Finish Line: A Dream, A Plan and My Running Shoes.
A chapter of EmpowHer: Adventures and Accomplishments.
Written by: Donna Gomes
It popped up in my news feed on Facebook saying that the TCS New York Marathon was going virtual due to the Covid-19 virus. So I said ‘what the heck, let’s do this.’ I signed up for the free entry to get in and then looking around, I found the NYRR and joined that and so I signed up to get the medal. Now I was saying to myself, ‘self, are you kidding me, are you really going to do this? …. and I said HELL yes I am.’
Let’s get something straight, I really didn't train like a mad woman for this. A few years ago I started running marathons (and doing spartans! But that’s a story for another day). I think a lot of people were shocked, as that wasn’t really something you would picture me doing. So, over the past years I have done a lot of races, traveled to some, counted my steps everyday and in general, tried to eat better, to fuel my body. Before the New York Marathon, I was doing runs here and there (mostly 5Ks). As it was getting closer and closer to my run, I was getting more and more nervous. I mean, some people train for months - and I hadn’t. The weather was getting a little warmer than what I wanted it to be. I learned, for me, running when it is hot and humid isn't really good and it slows me down and I really don't get a good run out of it. All these thoughts and doubts were humming around in my head, and I started to doubt myself and wanted to back out completely.
The morning of October 18, 2020, it was a cool fall day and the temperature was around 55 degrees and I said ‘it is now or never.’ Off I went, at 8:20 in the morning. I put my headphones in, pulled up the app from the TCS NYC Marathon, to give me strength and courage to run this 26.2 miles. I checked my shoe laces. Stretched. And took a deep breath.
As I took my first stride, the app gave a cheer and gunshot (I think) and off I went. I wanted to keep a good pace so I wouldn't tire out too fast. When the coach announced, at the 3 mile mark, that I was doing a pace of 12 minute miles, I felt more reassured. I knew that was a good pace for me and I'd be fine at that pace.
The 5Ks that I previously ran, I would run the entire 3.1 miles to the finish. When doing 10Ks and Half Marathons, I usually will stop running and walk a bit just to catch my breath. But this time? This time I was going to run all the way to 13.1 miles, just to prove to myself that I could do it.
Hearing the cheers and stories from some of the marathoners, within the app, was really uplifting and really gave me strength to keep going. My husband, Lou, surprised me by running with me for a few miles. It was nice to have some company and to have my biggest fan running with me. He ran with me until mile 11 and then home he went. He continued following me on the app and he told me he was so PROUD of me. Which, meant the world to me. And gave me even more strength to finish what I had started.
Running around my neighborhood was fairly flat, with a few hills here and there. I was greeted with a few ‘Hi there’ and a few looks, that seemed to say: ‘You’re still running?‘ Mark my words, another couple of years, and I'll be called the crazy running lady, in my neighborhood.
My pace was between 12 and 14 minute miles, but I was still running which was really a big shock to me. My legs kept saying please stop, but my brain said NO and so I kept running, one foot in front of the other. I was feeling good; a bit tired, as my legs were getting sore, but other than that I was feeling pretty good about myself.
As I went up and down the streets and blocks of my neighborhood, feeling like this is never going to end and why did I do this and what the hell was I thinking and etc, etc...... I heard the coach come on the app.
She said ‘You are at the 20 mile marker and right now you are feeling like you ran into a brick wall and feeling all the aches and pains in your body (not the exact words but you get the point). Just think you only have 6 more miles to go to complete your Marathon.’
In my mind I was saying ‘Shut up!! Why did I do this? Dear Lord, get me through this please.’ Looking at pavement and streets and trees and cars I kept whispering ‘I got this’! I started to cry a little, because I was by myself and really had nobody to high five or smile at or look for much-needed encouragement (as I would have, had it been the actual marathon) Here I was running along, feeling lonely and thinking what the hell I was going to eat for dinner.
My legs and feet were now crying in pain and I was feeling like I was going to drop to the ground. My hubby found me and stepped up next to me to match my pace. I was just getting to mile 23 when again the coach came on and said ‘You have 3 more miles this is like a 5K and you got this!’ The tears came down like the 4th Of July and I was so emotional, that I really couldn't see my steps or even too much in front of me, because I was crying like a baby.
At mile 24, I started to walk because at this point my legs were jelly and the running was really hurting my feet. I know my body was telling me to start walking or I’ll drop you like a pancake to the ground. (Plus, I was getting hungry. Ha!) I started walking with my hubby and he was cheering me on, not letting me give up. I almost passed out when the coach came on and said you are at ‘Mile 25 just 1.2 more to go and share your victory with everyone.’ I started picking up the pace and was just waiting to hear that finish line crossing.
When it finally came up that I hit mile 26 and I heard the crowds cheering (on the app and in my head) I started to run my victory run. My hubby got a video of me running into my .02 and then it went off ‘YOU HAVE FINISHED THE TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON!! Congratulations!!!’
I, Donna Marie Gomes, 57 years old, accomplished something I thought I would never do, I completed The TCS NYC Marathon on October 17, 2020 in 6:29:45. There were so many emotions going through me, my body was literally drained but all I could think was: ‘I did it!’ This was a dream come true for me. I can't believe I ran 26.2 miles anywhere. The things you can do when you put your mind to it.
To anyone out there that wants to do something and they feel like they can't do it, just do it!! You won't know until you try! You can’t be your biggest doubter, you have to be your biggest fan (and surround yourself with people who support you). You have to try - you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and commit to do your very best. If anything, take my story to be one of self-doubt but also self-love, self-encouragment and refusing to give up on myself. Literally, I took one step at a time, one step in front of another. So whether you walk, run or crawl - go after your goals and dreams. Because when you cross that finish line of your goal, just know, I will be proud of you! I will be there cheering you on! Just remember, you can do anything you put your mind to, and I will meet you at the finish line!
Our ‘EmpowHer: Adventures and Accomplishments’ series is written by strong, everyday women. Women who embrace adventure, accomplish goals and choose self love over any and every obstacle that dares to step in their way. Interested in sharing YOUR story? Email us for submission guidelines at email@example.com