Editor’s Note: Paulette Holomis is a 53-year-old, self-employed Vernon runner. She recently completed the New York Marathon. This is her story.
Running the New York Marathon…at last.
A few days ago, I received an e-mail. It was from Mary Wittenberg, the president and CEO of the New York Road Runners and Race Director of the TCS New York City Marathon.
It said “Paulette, congratulations – you did it! Unstoppable. Amazing. Indomitable. Together. You Got Your New York On in grand style.”
Wow, I thought…you did this, you actually did this. You and 50,564 runners did it…amazing!
It had been quite a journey to finally run the New York Marathon. From the time great friends who are marathon maniacs (run at least 50 marathons a year) had put the bug in my ear seven years ago, to going through the New York Marathon lottery system (a four-year process) to cancelling my entry in 2011 because our daughter was getting married as well as being in the midst of building our new home, to finally accepting to run in November, 2012, then to have New York hit by one of its biggest, devastating storms in history.
We flew to New York only to find out the next day that due to public pressure the marathon would be cancelled. My heart sank. I was upset and sad…the training, the sacrifice, the time spent away from family because I was training.
Finally in January, 2013, I received an e-mail saying that the New York City marathon would offer all runners a full refund to compensate for not running 2012, or the runners could choose to run either 2013, 2014 or 2015.
By this time, the lottery entry had completely changed. The memories and injuries were still fresh in my mind and so I decided no, I wouldn’t run 2013 but I would run 2014.
In early 2014, we went to warmer climates and I did do some training but in the warm and humid climate it was extremely hard to run for long distances. I did have the privilege of running a marathon relay in the Caribbean with three other fellows, but running part of a marathon (10 km) is far from running a full marathon (42.2 km).
After 20 weeks of serious preparation, on Oct. 30 we left for New York, my husband and his sister…my cheerleaders. My kids were always telling me they knew I could do this and I felt really ready. The run would be Sunday, Nov. 2 and I had been monitoring the weather for a couple of weeks.
The temperature at the time indicated 18 degrees, but as the days passed, the temperatures continued to get colder and on the Friday before the run, it clearly showed that it would be cold and windy….not a little wind but a lot of wind like 40-60 km winds…erggghhh…how I hate the wind.
Saturday before the run it was cold, windy and raining. We had gone to the 9/11 Memorial and man, just walking a short distance to get to the museum, we had faced harsh winds and rain. This was not good as I could envision marathon day.
Early Sunday morning, Nov. 2, I got up at 4:30, got ready and caught the subway to the New York Public Library where runners would be bused to Staten Island, the start line. I was feeling calm and relaxed. As luck would have it, one of my very best friends had also gotten entry in the New York Marathon. It had not been part of my plan to have a close companion with me but what an amazing feeling to have one of your very best friends with you on this journey.
Off the bus we went and through security. Since the Boston Marathon, all security at major events was heightened and there were over 4,000 police officers working throughout the 42.2 km journey.
We sought shelter at one time in a UPS truck where some of the runners’ clothing was being brought to the finish line. We managed to seek refuge in the truck for about half an hour until a security fellow cleared us out…of course, being obedient citizens, we left when told…few others did. We made our way to our Blue Wave, Corral 4B area and grabbed a coffee, a piece of cardboard and proceeded to sit down and try and stay warm and dry as well as fueled up for the long journey ahead. I had a stick-on Canadian tattoo on my cheek and fellow Canadians were asking us where we were from and high-fiving us.
Finally, around 11 a.m., we lined up for the run. I still remained calm, and ready to go. My friend and I looked at each other, hugged and wished each other luck…we would run our own race and see each other later. God Bless America was sung by a fellow runner, then the Frank Sinatra song New York, New York played and the big cannon blasted, indicating it was go time.
Off we went on the highest part of the elevation, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The elevation didn’t seem so bad. If you train in Vernon and run up some of the hills around here, the New York elevations are quite manageable, but the darn wind was pushing us around, and with a strong northwest wind, it was pretty well head on. Nothing was going to throw me off. I had waited too long for this moment, I had trained too hard to worry about wind and other distractions. I was going to enjoy this run at all costs.
Even in the cold and the wind, you cannot believe the spectators that came out, the signs they held out with words of encouragement, the high-fives, the smiles, the shouting of your name (which was on my shirt). We would run through all five boroughs – Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan (Central Park in Manhattan was the finish line).
Along the way, a very bad blister would form on my left upper foot. It was only eight miles into the run and I had feared that either blisters or other injuries could plague me during the run as they had during my training. I don’t know if it was God protecting me or adrenaline that took over, but I overcame both the nagging blister and lower right back issues until my run was complete. My bloody shoe at the finish line would be evidence of the blister that had tried to haunt me.
With each passing mile, and each passing borough I tried to really absorb the run and take it all in. I had also dedicated a kilometre to each member of my immediate family….you see between my parents, my siblings, their spouses, my husband, my kids, my nephews, my nieces, their children and of course our grandson, there are 43 members in my family (including me), and so I focused on each member during that one km. I really felt their presence with me all the way and counted my blessings.
As I approached mile 25, a young volunteer gave me a cup of water as so many of the volunteers had throughout the run, and as he handed it to me, he said “You’ve got this Paulette, finish strong, finish strong”…his voice and words of encouragement followed me to the finish line.
Even when I saw so many others walking, I kept running and running until I had crossed that proverbial finish line…4:37:32…there it was displayed on my phone as I was ready to text my husband to say I was done…sore, tired but so elated I was done…my seven-year quest was finally complete… a beautiful 2014 New York City marathon medal placed around my neck…so worth it, so many memories and so much fun.
I had finally done it! This was ultimately to be my only marathon and truly it probably will be…but as they say, ‘Never say never.’