By: Airais McCoy, Black Girls RUN! Hampton Roads
My path to the ING Miami Marathon impacted me in so many that will last a lifetime. I will definitely be on the journey another time or two or three! The things I come away knowing are surround yourself with positive people, people are good in general, be ready to adjust your plan when necessary and listen to what people are really saying to you.
The experience started for me on Jan 23 12 when I started Scott's Makeover Boot Camp. A co-worker and friend, Johnetta Cook, told me about the boot camp. The next time it was available I signed up. Johnetta signed up as well. Sigh, I would have support-two peas in a pod. After orientation I said to myself I would do everything except the running. The Friday before we started, Johnetta said "I guess I'll start my running Monday morning." The power of positive talk! If she was running why couldn't I. The boot camp was so successful I enrolled for another that started a month later and this time Angelique Mitchell was joining us-three peas in a pod. When it was over, I realized I love running. Right about that time, Johnetta started talking about BGR-three peas in a pod running together. In some ways I became obsessed with BGR. I read through all the documents on the FB group page. I came across Joy Richardson Golston's first marathon experience. Dare I say I want to run a marathon? After all, these ladies looked just like me. And they had a positive vibe. I GOT THIS! Surrounding myself with positive people carried me on the marathon course. At mile 13 we 26 milers separated from the pack and I looked around me for a team, fill-ins for my peas in a pod and BGR. I noticed 2 middle age
white woman and a young sister. Instinctively, I paired myself with the sister. That was a BAD move. She had a negative attitude and disposition. After a few minutes of talking, I ran pass her because I didn't want to be in her presence. Right about that time one of the middle age white women came by me, smiled and said "we can do this". For the last 13 miles as we passed each other we said kind words to one another. Support comes from all sources to include those who don't look like you.
At the ½ way mark, 4,000 of the 20,000 plus runners continued on the full marathon. That is when the BGR support ended. I had seen BGR support among the spectators up until that point but there would be no more. The crowd of uncommon faces became my BGR family regardless of color or gender. I have always known that regardless of race and gender most humans are good. The most supportive group on the route was at mile 10. I was a Jewish synagogue. They had at least 30 people out there handing out water, Gatorade, GU, pretzels, orange wedges, words of encouragement and other things I'm sure I missed. My uneducated guess would be that 5% of the runners were Jewish, proving once again that people are good and they were willing to do this for 20,000+ runner of which few were Jewish. This girl who is a germaphobe started taking orange wedges, cookies and even a small drink of COLD beer from total strangers. WHY? Because people are generally good and they wanted to see me succeed. Let go and let God. He would protect me even though I was thinking when I get home I'm getting a tetanus shot
I had this marathon planned in my head. I would get into Miami early Saturday morning and eat 3 carb loaded meals for fueling, do a slow pace mile and a 10 minute soak in the hot tub. Our flight was diverted and I got to Miami with only enough time to pick up my bib and have one meal. I would do the first 1/2 in 2 hr 40 min leaving me over 3 hr to finish. That is the only thing that went as planned with a time of 5:57. I planned on running non-stop for the first 20 miles. After all I had successfully run 20+ miles when I was training without stopping. At mile 9 I
started overheating. I called my husband for words of encouragement. He asked "are you pulling out"? This man has been with me over 20 years. Does he not know me? Have I ever quit anything I started! Breathe, Airais breathe. That brat in me came out and I hung up on him without saying another word. By mile 15, the plan changed. I walked a little over a mile to cool down. My face was covered in salt. I had never experienced that before. Right at that time we got an overcast so I started running again and ran until mile 22 at which time the sun made another appearance. Let it go and walk Airais! I walked for approx 1.5 miles. Shortly after I started running again, the sun came out and there was an overpass in front of me. Are you
kidding me? I started walking again. Everyone said it was a flat course but I had already crossed several bridges none of which were extremely steep but collectively they had done a number on my legs. At the point a Police Officer blocking traffic looked at me and said "you didn't come 25 miles to walk now get back to running"! I decided in spite of the sun I would run it in and that is what I did to mile 26 with only .2 to go. The finish line looked like it was a mile away. Dare I walk to the end? Yes, and I did for maybe 10 seconds and then I heard with that officer had
said to me. At that point I saw my husband with a huge smile. I went to high five him. It seemed every one along the finish line fence wanted to high five me. I obliged. Why? Because people are generally good. I picked up my pace as I crossed the finish line.
After mile 20 I had several other runners and spectators tell me you look great. The vain part of me thought they were talking about my appearance. It took me until after the race to understand why so many people were saying that to me. Throughout the race, even at mile 26, I was smiling and when people cheered for me I cheered back. I felt blessed with every stride. It was my attitude they saw the beauty in. When people first meet me they often think I'm "mean" because I don't smile a lot. I now realize running has made me smile more.
When I crossed the finish line, I cried tears of joy. When I looked up the middle age white woman who became my BGR sister for the second half was the first person to congratulate me. I thought it was so appropriate. I now wish I knew her name. We were good peas in a pod.
In closing, I would say that if I can run a marathon anyone without physical limitations who has the desire can run a marathon. Stick to the training plan but be flexible when necessary. And the last thing that just entered my mind was the one negative. At mile 1 when we were crossing a long bridge a drunken brother on a bicycle came up and started sexually harassing me. I didn't see any officials or officers. Very little frightens me but this guy did. It was the look in his eyes. I was verbally paralyzed with fear and kept running. Finally, a fellow runner, via a verbal confrontation, was able to get the guy away from me. Out of the one negative, it came to light again that humans are ultimately good. The fellow runner put himself in danger to help a nameless woman in a sea of many. I wish I knew his name too!!!
Airais McCoy is a married mother of 3 and grandmother of 1. She works as a Subcontracts Manager for the top defense contractor. In her free time she enjoys running, working out, gardening and spending quality time with friends and family.