I signed up for the Shape Women’s Half Marathon – untrained – a week before the race because I was afraid I’d spend the weekend entirely in bed moping about my mom (it was the anniversary of her death). This was a very beginner-friendly race in Central Park with a four-hour time limit, so come on. You could walk this.
Flash to that morning: I’m 3.5 miles in and plotting the best place to drop out. My stomach is a mess. There’s no way I can do 13.1 miles this morning. I think I’m gonna cut the race short at 6 or 7 miles in.
So, I’m huffing up Harlem Hill just before my mile 4 and the course marshals on bikes go whizzing by, blowing their whistles, that the lead first place runner is coming around to pass us. (This is a loop course.)
It’s Deena Kastor.
My marathon hero, after Meb Keflezighi. Star of “Spirit of the Marathon.” Olympic medalist. Has won Chicago Marathon twice. Deena.
She’s running this race.
I’m running this race.
I’m about to SEE her.
She is powering up Harlem Hill, grimacing, pumping her arms, speeding. I mean, this is her mile 10. It’s my mile 4. She’s a beast; I’m a bust.
Other (fellow, slowish) runners clap and whoop as she comes past.
I alone croak out in a half-sob, half-cheer, “Yuh-yeah DEENA!”
She twitches into the slightest of smiles as she continues grimacing up the hill.
I did that!
She’s so close, I could touch her.
Then she’s gone, a blur of muscled legs and arms pumping smooth as silk. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a bit, that one of my heroes was just thisclose to me. And she heard me.
She wins the race. Two hours and change later, I cross the same finish line Deena did.
Did I say something about dropping out?