running with giants
Running With Giants
Welcome to the road to excellence podcast, I’m Laura Doughty, your host. Today, we’re going to talk about Running With Giants. And that’s because I’ve just come back from the big apple and what an amazing trip it was!! New York is a special place for many people. For me, it’s where I learned to dream big. My parents took us there when I was in middle school. You know that time in your life when you have no clue who you are. My eyes couldn’t take enough of it in. From the noises, to the constant moving here and there and all the wonderful things to see, and of course, the magic of Broadway. New York City is a giant to some people. For me, it was like putting gas on a fire. I lit up from the inside with big dreams of what was possible.
So, it’s always such a treat to go there, no matter what time of the year it is. This year, my family came along with me to celebrate my 50th birthday and me running the New York City Marathon. I know, that doesn’t sound like much of a birthday present to myself, but I assure you, it was the BEST gift I’ve ever given myself.
I was doing some research as I normally do for my podcasts and I learned that only .5% of the US population has completed a marathon. Having just completed my 6th, I can understand why. 26.2 miles isn’t a logical distance to think about running, I’m aware of that. But with that said, don’t let a statistic keep you from doing something bigger than you.
This leads me to my first point in today’s podcast on Running With Giants – Don’t be afraid to do something for the first time. I was like many of you, many years ago. I was living in Atlanta, GA and my boss was training for a marathon she was running in Hawaii. Her knee was severely swollen because it had fluid on it – I know gross, right?!?! I thought she was crazy!! Jump ahead a little over 6 years and a friend asked me if I wanted to run a marathon in Venice, Italy to help raise money for the arthritis foundation. Well, come on – who doesn’t want to go to Venice, Italy and dang it, I had a family member who was suffering from arthritis at the time – so, I said yes. Funny thing is, I ended up being the one that trained and she didn’t even go. But, even though it was my first time, I had done the work. I was ready and there was no way, I was backing out just because she decided not to go. Venice, Italy is amazing without the marathon, but to run through those streets overflowing with people who have no idea who you are, but yet they are screaming out your name in Italian (because it’s on the front of your bib number) and cheering you on. Holy minoly – the thrill and the energy is just infectious!! They actually create a manmade bridge from the cathedral across the water to take you down the last leg of the marathon which ends in St. Mark’s square. So, as you may know, there are many bridges you have to go over because of all the canals in Venice and those bridges are at the last mile of the race. So, you’re legs are pretty much done at that point. For me, I thought I had nothing left and I had begun to walk. I’m walking by this older Italian man (who I found out later was 74 years old); he grabs my elbow and in Italian says, andare corsa non camminare, translation – go, run, don’t walk. I was so moved by him pushing me and inspiring me to keep going. Even in strange places and doing something for the first time, there were people there so much bigger than me. Their hearts inspired me.
One more quick story about this race – I was at a point in the race where I was running and walking and when you do that, you run past people and then you walk and then they pass you. I happened to notice this girl who we kept exchanging places and that her shoe was covered in blood. When I asked her about her foot, she said, I don’t want to look at it. I know somethings there because it hurts, but if I look at it, then I have to do something about it. So, I start talking to her and find out, her and 2 other US military officers were running in honor of one of their comrades who was killed 3 days before in a training mission. It was his dream to run a marathon. So, 3 of them – with zero training stood in for him in this race in his honor. Running with GIANTS – I’m telling you!
Marathons have taught me so much about myself and others. In marathon lingo, there’s a point in the race where runners hit what is referred to as “the wall.” I can remember my first marathon. I can remember exactly where I was when it happened. I broke down in tears. I had no idea why. It usually happens somewhere between mile 16 and mile 21 or 22. That first race, it was mile 18 for me. All my demons were screaming in my head, “what are you doing, have you lost your mind, you can’t finish this race, what were you thinking, just stop, stop now.” It’s torcher!! But, you keep putting one foot in front of the other and then you hit a big crowd and their encouragement pushes you forward and then you just keep going. When you Run With Giants, you learn even pain, negative self-talk, nothing will stop you. You don’t give up on your dreams even if they don’t start well. You don’t give up on your dreams even when the journey doesn’t go as you had planned and you definitely don’t give up on your dreams if it takes you longer than you expected to realize them. They say that life is about the journey, not the destination. I say it’s about all of it. The training, the preparation, the beginning, the strategy, pushing through the pain, pushing through the unexpected, enjoying the excitement, the going up and the coming down, the flat areas and the exhilaration of the finish line and then the medal and then the celebration of the completion and then the memories you’ve created that last a lifetime. Your dreams keep going, just like you do by putting one foot in front of the other.
For this particular marathon, clearly it had special significance for me. It’s not every day that you turn 50 and it’s not every day you run 26.2 miles over 5 bridges and through the 5 boroughs of New York City. But it was so much more than that this time. I seemed to notice everything. The nice man in the subway that kept me and my dad from freaking out because we had gone to what we thought was the wrong subway station. The brother and sister that I met on the ferry who were telling stories about the races they run together. The brother is an ultra-marathon runner (meaning he runs 100 mile races), so he had many interesting stories to tell. I’m standing in my starting coral and 2 people over from me a gentleman has a seizure before we even get started. There happened to be a pregnant (yes, pregnant) ER Nurse from Long Island standing behind me, who immediately took over and got people to move so medics could help the man. Remember what I said previously about your journey not starting off how you expect? How’s that for a visual to starting a marathon. Thankfully, he was okay and taken care of. And it got better from there.
If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge animal lover. So, I made sure to love on all the pups along the way. I even got a few kisses. But the major moments, weren’t at mile markers for me. They were when complete strangers would run by me, tap me on the shoulder and wish me a happy birthday (Ha – that’s probably because I had it on the back of my shirt, but still they took the time to bless me). There were people in wheel chairs doing the marathon. A lady with a prosthetic leg. Another lady who had a kidney replaced and was running. But the one that almost did me in was as I had just passed mile 25 and my parents were there for the 2nd time to cheer me on. And as I pass them, I see a lady who was surrounded by 3 aids and on the back of her shirt it said she was blind. I put my hands up in the air and tears came to my eyes. Running 26.2 miles may not be done by too many people, but for someone who has – running by a blind person with the same goal as you, it makes you realize that there are giants among you always. You just have to look for them.
So, yes, I know that some people may be inspired by my accomplishment but that’s not why I’m telling you about this race. I’m telling you because I want you to see that you can make a difference. Every single one of those people from the girl I met in Venice, Italy 12 years ago to the blind lady running up Central Park South, they made a difference in my life. There’s a giant in all of us!!
It may seem like I’m steering off course here just a wee bit, but bear with me – what does a rainbow represent? According to scripture, it was God’s promise that there would never be a flood that destroyed the earth. God made that promise to Noah, who had definitely done something for the first time ever – he built a freaking arc. He definitely didn’t give up on his dream even when it didn’t start out right or go as he had expected. And because he chose to make a difference, we now have a rainbow. So, when you see a rainbow, remember that one person can make a difference and that’s you.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey today!! The road to excellence is paved with many stories and it would make my heart sing to know that you spending time with me today has in some way helped you see the gift that you are to this world.
If you’d like to see highlights of my New York City Marathon experience, please go to my YouTube channel Laura Doughty with Live Excellence. Thank you for joining me today and until next time, Live Excellence.