On November 6th, 2017 I ran my first marathon in NYC, which was both a challenging, and a truly amazing experience. I am ready to share how the 26.2 miles really felt.

From the moment I got up and took the NYC subway to the South Ferry, I carried a smile on my face to bless the day from inside out. It was amazing to see many people smiling back, expressing their cause for running with signs on their t-shirts, and hats, and to hear the parts of their stories that they told each other while waiting for the start. I felt surrounded by a great energy and support each moment of this special day. I was at wave 2 which started at 10:15 am on Verrazano Bridge, the sun was shining beautifully and as soon as we took off and I saw the view of Manhattan Island I felt so comfortable and confident. There were probably 5-6 helicopters flying above us, I noticed many runners cautiously pacing themselves and others carried by the atmosphere trying the pass people hurriedly. I used the Nike Running app which did a good job notifying me about my pace until the end which I cared about the most to make sure that I am not going under 9 min miles during the first 6-8 miles. Here is the summary of my experience:

1. I started 10:15 min mile for about 3 miles, and picked up to 9:10 min miles by the 7 mile. I continued the second quarter of the run with 8:47 min miles and it went mostly like this until mile 20. I was able to enjoy the hills, all the bridges, cheers, the wind, the quiet times, the sunlight, the shades and the live music. I was enjoying the easiness and unhurried way of putting one foot in front of the other with a smile and admiration. By mile 19 I saw Jesse and my brother in law which boosted my energy, and reminded the celebration that we planned afterwards. I stopped a minute to give hugs, get pictures taken, sip from the smoothie Jesse brought for me. It was a great moment.
2. By mile 20 I started to feel my legs and shoulders getting heavier, followed by the mental stuff that hovered over my positive vibe like a dark cloud. I slowed down to 10 something minute miles for about 3 miles and I started to have thoughts of collapsing, not being able to finish, wondered if I should still pick up my pace at some point etc. Feeling fatigued is not something I often experience so it also clouded my motivation. I don’t think that I was smiling at those moments. I started to walk, decided to use the toilet on 5th ave which was the only time I needed during the whole run. I knew I needed sodium although my appetite was gone and was so dehydrated. I had a few pretzels from a spectator on the way, thinking what I need is always provided for me when I really need and that made me smile again. I started to run but much slower, probably on a 10:40 min mile pace. I wished that the finish line was much closer.
3. I saw many people walking, some stopped, some receiving medical help, I wished them strength to deal with what they were going through and brought my focus back on how I need to proceed to the finish line. I decided to keep a slow pace and walk if needed to. The most challenging thing was that I did not know how much energy I had left, but I did know that I wanted to finish on my feet, standing up and smiling.
4. Hearing spectators say things like “This is the cool down” ,” Keep going, you got this”,”You came this far, do not stop now, run, run,run”. All were no use when I was noticing that I was at a critical point with my energy levels. It did not matter even if I said to myself ” You can finish less than 4 hours, you got this far, push it a little.” So I let go of the timing goal and focused on a strong, uninjured finish line experience and to be kind to my body that carried me this far. At that point my Self, my Truth influenced my decision and I was able to enjoy the corridor of people cheering, birds flying, the asphalt gently responding to each step I took. I let go of sprinting to the finish line. I let go of expecting MORE energy, MORE power, MORE this and that and just kept going without knowing how fast I was. All I cared was to be happy and healthy at the end. How humbling this was!
5. I finished the Marathon in 4 hours, 22 mins, and 55 seconds with a smile and as soon as I crossed the finish line and got my medal. I felt a little sadness for asking too much from my body, I thought maybe I could have trained better, or could have started training sooner so that I did not feel this weak at the end. Then I thought that all these could haves did not matter either because even with training sooner or longer, each day has its own presentation that provides what we need to see about ourselves. What makes these presentations rich or poor is our awareness and expectations. And a better fuel management during a marathon 🙂

Are we available to expand our view or insist on an agenda that is limited to a rigid perspective, limited to “what” and not caring about “how”? We choose what comforts us and avoid what gives us discomfort but we also like exploring new things and expand into the possibilities of life which often happens to be outside of our comfort zone. If we can expand our expectation zone into the zone of present moment’s presentation we can figure out what the right decision is and how to proceed for each moment. This embracive approach helped me find harmony within when I felt out of balance during my last 5 miles. I had to accept that I had low energy so close to the finish line, and needed to slow down so I could finish consciously, and I was able to celebrate upon finishing with the people who were waiting for me.

The streets of NYC was flooded with supporters which made my run so special. I am blessed to have my partner Jesse ‘s support before and after the Marathon, and to have a special celebration of another great journey at the end with him! My friend Gamze who came from Istanbul to cheer me up, and celebrate with us after did amazing job supporting me. Thank you Gamze for being there and capturing the special moments of my run, as well as informing my mother about how I was doing ?  To many friends and family, to the people who don’t even know my name that looked into my eyes and said “You are amazing” I want you to know that YOU ARE AMAZING! EXPLORE WHAT YOUR HEART DESIRES, AND CELEBRATE IT!