The alarm blares so much louder than I remember setting it. Startled from a dream I’ll never remember, I fling my head from the warmth of the comforter to be met with darkness and a cold crisp chill in the air and blurt out, “Hey Google, snooze the alarm!” My heart is pounding.
“Sure,” She obediently responds. “Snoozing for ten minutes.” And then I quickly bury my chilly head back underneath the comforter and I lie there, desperately trying to keep my heart within my rib cage and chest wall. I consciously breathe in deeply and exhale fully in an effort to regulate my heartbeat. Once my heart rate returns to normal, I contemplate my morning ahead.
It’s 4:00 am and it’s race day. I’ve trained for this. I laid out my entire race outfit- the singlet, the running pants, the bib, socks and sneakers- the night before. My post-race change of outfit is also ready. A ‘scrumptious’ oatmeal breakfast is microwave ready. My energy drink (caffeine) is already packed. The metro card is ready for the swipe. And I know most of what I’ve already prepared the night before will probably be second guessed and changed before I walk out the door but it’s my process.
In about an hour and a half, I’m meeting the team on the subway platform where we discuss the previous night’s pre-race dinners and brag about the special socks, sneakers and even mascara we’ve chosen that will help propel us through the finish line (real conversations). We wonder if the trains are running on time and review the logistics of the racecourse and the use of the porta-potties. When the train arrives, we pile on while passengers already on board watch curiously for a few seconds. Immediately, they realize that a team of runners on their way to a race in the city have taken over the car in a completely caffeinated state. Whatever rest they hoped they might get on their morning ride to wherever is defeated.
But I still have to get out of bed! Why did I even sign up for this race? Half of New York is probably stumbling into somebody’s bed in a drunken stupor as Google alarms me a second time that it’s time to wake up and run! So why again, am I doing this? I’m waking up and schlepping into the city before sunrise just to run? Just to complete an activity I can simply knock out at my local park less than a mile away?
Some of you may be aware of the magic that exists in organized sports. I call it magic because it is often a completely inexplicable energy that’s generated within a group of teammates. I didn’t get a chance to experience or indulge in its magic as a child. It wasn’t until I started running 7 years ago as an adult that I would learn of this magic. Sparked by the announcement of an upcoming race, that magic ignites in the days approaching the race as we coordinate our subway platform meeting and trek to the race start. On race day, we are greeted by the energy of thousands of other runners burning their very own flames of magic. These fellow runners- who perhaps have gone through the same challenges in the months, weeks, days and hours preceding that moment- like us are defined by the blood, sweat and tears (not to mention muscle sprains, pulls and cramps) that we’ve endured. We become consumed in the energy of that magic. And the magic found at the finish line… well, that’s what’s so satisfying and addicting.
The blaring of the alarm is something like that friendly (yet obnoxious) reminder that I will have completed a race and headed home before half of New York is even awake! It’s a reminder that there’s a race to be completed- a race that starts long before I even reach the start line. It starts with a decision, then ignited and fueled by determination, tenacity and a willingness to power through training, so that on race day I can confidently pull back the covers and go make magic.