Deep Breaths at the New York City Marathon

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Deep Breaths at the New York City Marathon

Photo Editor, Kevin Stoltenborg, waves hello during the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4, 2018. (Courtesy of Dom Lido)

Photo Editor, Kevin Stoltenborg, waves hello during the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4, 2018. (Courtesy of Dom Lido)

Photo Editor, Kevin Stoltenborg, waves hello during the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4, 2018. (Courtesy of Dom Lido)

Photo Editor, Kevin Stoltenborg, waves hello during the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4, 2018. (Courtesy of Dom Lido)

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By Kevin Stoltenborg

Deep breaths, each passing through the cold air. Sweat droplets accumulate on my cheeks to splash against the concrete, while the cheers from the crowd raise spirits every step of the way. Through Staten Island, through Brooklyn, through Queens, through the Bronx, through Manhattan. Five boroughs, one shot; this is my journey to the 2018 New York City Marathon.

Running. Most people hate it; some people deal with it; others thrive doing it. For me, I just always seemed to be running. Sometimes it was for sports; other times it was for fun, and a few times it was for fear of being late to class. Nonetheless, I have always had the running gene.

On November 1, 2017, I woke up and felt a desire that was equal parts inspirational and crazy. I was going to run the New York City Marathon. After finding out I had missed the deadline for 2017 by about six months, I shut my laptop and tucked that dream away for another day.

About two months later, at our annual family Christmas Eve gathering, I talked to my aunt about marathons. Before I knew it, I was telling her and everyone around the table my ambitions to run the New York City Marathon.

I was instantly met with a lot of laughs followed by, “Okay, Kevin” and “Sure, me too”. But the word was out, and I planned on keeping it.

Within a few weeks I guaranteed my entry in the 2018 New York City Marathon, with one small catch. I had to raise $2,620 for my charity of choice, Team for Kids. But, like any good college student, I procrastinated for as long as possible.

Around July 2018, there was no more time for procrastination. I quickly began training, running 7 miles, then 11 and eventually 13. By the end of August, I topped out at 16 miles and raised almost all the money I needed to through website donations and fundraising outside my local grocery store.

When summer ended, I headed back to the great Fordham University. At school, training was a different beast. Balancing school, clubs and a marathon can be a lot. A few nights were spent tossing and turning unsure if I had done enough to cross that finish line. Not to mention judgement day was peaking its head over the horizon.

It felt like it was only a week and a half ago, probably because it was literally a week and a half ago. Nov. 4, 2018. The New York City Marathon was here, and I was ready. Anticipation filled the air as every person at the starting line seemed to be running for something greater than themselves. For some, it was cancer awareness, for others it was their communities, but all ran for a purpose.

The cannons fired and Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York filled the air. From miles 1 to 19, I embraced the crowds. Music filled the streets along with smiles from ear to ear.  I could not help but give a high-five to each hand reaching out as I passed by. Never have I felt such a sense of unity between so many people. It did not matter if you were 12, 90, male, female, white, black or anything in between. Everyone had one goal in mind; to cross that finish line!

By mile 20, the water stations seemed further and further away. I had entered the part of the Marathon when downhills turned into flat roads, flat roads turned into hills and hills turned into mountains. Finishing was a matter of will, not skill.

Then came mile 23. So close to the finish, but just far enough to make it interesting. The pain started to creep in. First, I realized my toes were pointing sideways. Then, my calves tightened up. Before I knew it, everything from my hip down began cramping.

Here is when giving up seems so reasonable. Every step you take brings pain and every thought you think screams “Stop!”

But something from deep inside pushes you forward.

I begin to remember all those rainy days of training, all the people who thought you could not make it and all the people who knew you would. Step by step you move closer to your goal, then you look up and finally see the finish line.

Mile 26.2. It was over, I had done it. I had finished the 2018 New York City Marathon in 3 hours 53 minutes and 8 seconds without walking a single step. As my legs wobbled beneath me, I took a second to looked at the faces of those around me. All their bodies were worn and beaten down as if coming out of a long war. But their eyes and smiles told a different story.

Sure, our journeys are tough and, more than once, we will want to quit. But the New York Marathon taught me to stay tough and to move forward. Thrive in your uphill battles; stumble in your downhill defeats; take a few wrong turns and then make a few right ones. Most of all, enjoy every moment you have because life is fleeting and you only get each second once.

Take a deep breath in, then out. Now go.