Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.

Some experiences defy description. For those we reserve the daunting $5.00 word “quintessential”. “Quintessential” meaning the epitome, the greatest, the top-of-the-heap, mind boggling type experience. Outstanding in that category is the New York City Marathon. New York threw a 26.2 mile party and invited me! (Well, kinda, I threw my name in the lottery and was lucky enough to be picked.) A record 36,000 runners were privileged to participate in the city wide extravaganza that is the New York City Marathon. This year’s race was dedicated to Fred Lebow, the man with the vision who orchestrated this athletic endeavor 35 years ago. Designed to connect the myriad cultures and nationalities that comprise the Big Apple, the marathon starts on the Verazzano Bridge and runs through all of the boroughs; Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem, and Manhattan; to finish in the famous Central Park near Tavern on the Green.

It is impossible to describe. The magnitude, the organization, the energy, the very tangible electricity of a city psyched. They are so happy to have us there, so positive and so exuberant and so proud of their metropolis. “Run like you just left Queens!” and “Welcome to Harlem…Kick Ass-phalt!” and “You’re in Manhattan! Run the Canyon!” are just a small sample of the signs that line the course. And the people! Twenty-six- point-two miles of roaring humanity yelling names and numbers and even, “Hey! Lady in black! Keep smiling!”

My daughter, Erin, flew in from Nantucket and we “did” the marathon scene together. She from VIP seating at the finish line, and me in the trenches with a cell phone in my fanny pack to keep her apprised of my where-abouts. (She called me when the winning woman crossed the finish line; I was at the half-way point. Hmmmm.) The night before the race we had a pasta dinner at Tavern on the Green, and after masticating a mountain of spaghetti watched a spectacular fireworks display through the glass roof of our seating venue. Sponge-Bob-Square-Pants watched near us…cute dude; and Greta Waites sat by the door signing her name to a variety of paper products for runner fans.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of this event, the bus contract alone was $1,000,000! And that was just to get all the runners to the starting line… we ran back.

The crushed cups, splashed water and spilled Gatorade made it nearly impossible to run through the aid stations... VERY SLIPPERY! The line to the Porta Potti’s in our ‘village’ was over an hour wait. Security was everywhere. On land, sea, air, and even in the race. We were protected from everything but fatigue.

And the things you see. Two Elvises (Elvi?), Luke Skywalker, Mickey Mouse, tee shirts with every kind of message; “Running for my mom!” “In memory of my son.” “Are we havin’ fun yet?” My favorite shirt was on the back of a big Brit…as he lumbered along, looking slightly disgruntled, I read on his back, “Born to Run…But Not This Bloody Far!” I had to concur.

As every body type and shape and age trooped, swooped, shuffled or sped past us, I marveled at the cross section of humanity that chooses to pit themselves against this distance. But I considered also; everyone in their lifetime does a ‘marathon’. Some already have, some are in the process, and some have it ahead of them. But we will all…literally or figuratively…’do’ a marathon. So it’s good to remember that the marathon is not incredibly difficult, it’s impossible. But we do it anyway, one mile at a time. Just like we do life.

The message today is…don’t limit yourself. If the quintessential experience is out there, and you want to do it, let there be no impediment. You have a right and indeed an obligation to grant yourself greatness. Why not you? No matter what it is, if you want to do it (and it’s legal!) for heaven’s sake, do it! All things are possible all of the time. Put your dream in the present tense, “I am a runner, climber, writer, singer, etc., etc., etc….” and then set about doing it. Small increments of desired behavior…set your goal and the steps to the finish will present themselves. Then all you have to do is follow the course and celebrate the victory. I’m not a gifted runner, but I have now completed 105 marathons. That’s not the epitome of greatness, but it’s what I wanted to do and I did it. Forget excuses, ignore nay-sayers, listen to your heart, and trust your desires. Dreams are for having.

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