What training for the New York City Marathon taught me about America

This week we want to thank Annalisa for allowing us to repost an excerpt of her training for the NYC Marathon previously published on Quartz.

I always hated running.

img_2966In middle school, growing up in Italy, I couldn’t pass the basic endurance test of a kilometer run (just 0.6 miles). I’d be out of breath after just 250 meters—a lap around our school’s courtyard. I was the nerdy girl who was the last to be picked for any team sport. Every single physical education class was a reminder of my unpopularity—and running was the embodiment of my athletic shortcomings.

“At the right pace, anyone can keep going for a long time,” my PE teacher would try to convince me. I just never believed that was true for me.

And yet, on Nov. 6, I ran the New York City marathon.

I decided to run the marathon mostly out of an angry, rebellious desire to prove myself wrong. Even as an adult, I still believed that I couldn’t run far—or accomplish much of anything, really. But what actually made running a marathon possible—what made me even conceive of the idea and then helped push me past all the hardships and self-doubt and weeks of training—was America.

From couch to 5K

For years—decades, really—just talking about running was a kind of Proustian madeleine. Whenever the subject came up, I’d profess that I hated the activity and was terrible at it. I felt like my early teen self, again: unimpressive, unpopular, and scared. Other things—professional goals, relationships, and body image—held a similar power over me. (Some still do.) At times, life seemed like an exhausting exercise in fending off thoughts of all the things that I am useless at.

img_2959A few years ago, when I felt like I was drowning in my own ineptitude, a wild, redemptive idea came to me out of the blue: What if I ran away from that feeling?I downloaded a couch-to-5k program. It was daunting. I lived in India at the time, and almost every day I would go to a gym inside a mall, get on the treadmill, and start my workout. Walk one minute; run 30 seconds. Then run one minute and walk one minute. Run three; walk one. Just run. Run some more. Not being able to complete a workout would often bring me to tears. But when I finally was able to run a 5k in 38 minutes (a pace known as “running backward”), I felt like I had defeated a small monster.

A year ago, that was the farthest I’d ever run. And a 5k is one thing—a marathon is quite another.

Read the rest of the story of how I became a runner, and what I learnt training, here. It features the Whippets being really fast and really nice to me: your support was so instrumental, I can’t thank you enough for that.

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More about Dashing Whippets Running Team

The Dashing Whippets Running Team is a New York based running team that is founded on, and driven by, the diversity of our team members. With team members from all over the city, the country and the world, and with greatly different running goals, we find unity in recognizing and appreciating each others differences and our mutual enjoyment of running and participating in the New York running community and beyond.

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