My race began…
on the dusty softball fields of Marine Park, Brooklyn. I loved the game: catching pop-ups, throwing people out (heh heh) and most of all, not having to run for ninety minutes straight. Let’s be real: softball isn’t the most cardio-heavy sport. (There’s a reason why I quit soccer at age 8!)
Running and I have had a love-hate relationship for a long time. When I got to high school, I tried out for the outdoor track team on a whim. I got cut. Nobody got cut from outdoor track! We had to run a mile up and down the Hudson River as part of the tryouts. Easy enough, right? By the time I got back to my school building, I was tomato red, out of breath, and had finished last. (Ah, the teenage years.)
In college, I thought I might fare better with running so I joined the ultimate frisbee team. Surprise, surprise: it was mostly a drinking team with a frisbee problem. (Oh, college.) I didn’t feel the least bit in shape until I actually started running at the campus gym. Goodbye baby fat, hello cheekbones! But I couldn’t bang out more than 1-2 miles at a time on the treadmill. (Yikes.) Still, I did my best to keep up with a troupe of fit, toned girls. And I could chug an entire frisbee disc full of beer, which was all the accolades I needed at the time.
After graduation and reluctant entry into the Real World, I struggled to consistently run. New York is a playground when you’re 22, and I usually chose drinking and karaoke over running. (Whoops.) And when I did run, there was no rhyme or reason to the madness.
Case in point: one scorching summer day, I pushed myself through a 10K without any kind of formal training. In case you were wondering if this was a good idea, it’s not. Heat exhaustion and fatigue nearly sidelined me, and it was the last 10K I’d attempt for five years. (Womp womp.)
Then, bang, I encountered several life changes at once. Cue: Breakup. Moving out of my parents’ house. A new job. All in a few months’ time. Call it a life reboot. I had to sink or swim. (Quickly.)
As I was changing gears (and living in my completely unaffordable Williamsburg apartment), I signed up for a few 5Ks. McCarren Park was down the street, and I treasured running on the track at night; the tall, bright lights and the new Phoenix album blasting in my earbuds kept me going.
That spring, I finished the McCarren Park 5K and the Brooklyn Pride 5K. That fall, I turkey trotted in Prospect Park. I did all three again the following year. It was the first time I’d established anything resembling a running routine. Life felt like it was finally back in my favor.
I had no idea the best was yet to come, because that was right around when I met my girlfriend, Mattie. (Thanks, OKCupid!) Not long into our relationship, the two of us began running together in Manhattan. We’d cross over the Upper East Side to Central Park, run along the Jackie Onassis Reservoir and back to her apartment. We covered distances I wasn’t used to—4 miles felt rough. But Mattie challenged me, and in spite of my occasional (okay, frequent) grumbling and moaning, I was grateful.
With Mattie’s encouragement, I completed my second ever 10K in Prospect Park on my 29th birthday. It was the opposite of that awful one five years prior—no headache, no sunburn. This time I felt prepared and ready. 6.2 miles later, my parents met us at the finish line. (You can see their smiling faces up top.)
I took on the Queens 10K a few months later. When the alarm went off at 5am, Mattie and I dragged ourselves from Ditmas Park to Flushing Meadows on a frosty, clear blue morning. The Hamilton soundtrack fueled my race as the howling wind cut through my clothes to my bones. I froze, but I also finished and set a personal record (PR in runner lingo) to boot.
Flash forward to the beginning of 2017. I knew I wanted a personal challenge, as my 30th birthday was coming up in April. 3-0, the big one. The “ #dirty30.” After numerous 5Ks and three 10Ks, I was determined to sign up for a 10-mile race: the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. (Yes! Go me!)
When the actual race date was announced, my heart sank. I had a conflict and couldn’t be in Philly that day. Ugh. No ten miler for me.
That’s when Mattie turned to me and asked, “Why don’t you just run the Brooklyn Half?”
I snickered. What?! She was the one who ran multiple half marathons, not me.
But then I paused and thought for a second. Why shouldn’t I try? Why was I instantly dismissive, assuming I’d fail? Truthfully, I’d accomplished a lot over the past four years. So why couldn’t I do this?
Last year I’d heard the race filled up quickly. When the registration opened on January 27th, I signed up immediately and waited nervously for the confirmation email. The subject line said it all: “You’re Running Brooklyn on May 20th!”
I was in.
I’ve been in the thick of training since then. I got my gait analyzed, invested in a new pair of sneakers and hit the pavement. Mattie set up a running calendar for me—she landed a spot in the race too—with a mix of shorter and longer runs and we’ve been doing the long ones together. I couldn’t believe it when I finished 8 miles for the first time, tired, but not totally wiped out. A year ago, I couldn’t do this. (Sheesh, three months ago I couldn’t even do this.)
Mattie had run the 2016 Brooklyn Half Marathon and I had stood on Ocean Parkway with my homemade sign, cheering her on before rushing to the Coney Island finish area after she passed me on the Parkway. I have to admit there were tears in my eyes when I spotted her at MCU Park with her medal. (What can I say? I wear my heart on my sleeve.)
I can only imagine what my reaction is going to be when I’m the one who crosses the finish line on the Coney Island Boardwalk, my home turf. Delirium. Disbelief. Tears. Smiles. More tears. (Especially if my weary bones don’t get a seat on the Q train ride home.)
I almost can’t believe I’m about to run a half marathon, but I know I can do it; especially with Mattie by my side. More than a running partner, she’s been a sounding board, a coach and a calmer of fears. While I’m proud of myself for what I’ve already accomplished, I seriously doubt I’d be at this point without her guidance. I won’t forget our shared training experience and I hope it’s not the last time we prep for a half together. We’re in it together on race day. And this time, it’ll be my family instead of me standing and cheering on Ocean Parkway, signs held high.
See you on May 20th, Brooklyn.
Race To 30 would like to congratulate Brigid on finishing the 2017 Brooklyn Half Marathon in 2:14:36!!!