Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lessons from a Marathon

I set out this morning for my daily walk in Riverside Park. As often is the case, I ended up meandering off my intended path, happily adrift in my thoughts.

Fortunately, you're never really lost in New York... all roads lead to somewhere interesting, and you generally return home better for the unexpected places you've been. The same is certainly true of life.

After picking up a bagel (I often get hungry during my wanderings), I strolled over to Central Park, where I found myself in the midst of the NYC marathon. I arrived just in time to watch the leaders in the wheelchair/handcycle division cross the finish line. To see men and women who've lost their legs or the ability to use them completing a 26-mile race is something I'll never forget. Neither will I forget the beauty on the faces and in the voices of those lining the course... people cheering on complete strangers as if they were family.

After a time, I started walking uptown through the park, pondering what I'd just experienced. The runners were coming soon, and I was eager to find a good spot to watch Paula Radcliffe pass by.

The sound of whistles and yells brought me back into the moment, and I glanced up to see, off in the distance, two racing cyclists coming down the street. As I was trying to figure out what they were doing on the course, my heart leapt in recognition as my mind put together the pieces in instant slow-motion:

...the cyclists were slightly ahead of and on either side of a handcyclist... the handcyclist was wearing sunglasses... the cyclists had whistles in their mouths... at each bend in the road, one would blast out a signal...

The man competing in the race, who had no legs, was also blind.

Just when I thought the day couldn't be any more inspiring, I was given one of the most powerful gifts I've ever received. Here was a man, who looked to be in his late 40s, without legs, without sight, racing in the one of the greatest, most challenging marathons in the world.

At that moment, I made three vows to myself: to never take a single moment for granted, to never forget how blessed I am, and to never complain about anything... ever, ever again.

I did see Paula Radcliffe run by, as well as the man and woman who ended up taking first place in the marathon. It was indeed a sight to behold. But for me, there was no competition... the real winner had already crossed the finish line.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Jennifer, I concur that we're never really lost in NYC, and that the marathon has soooo many inspiring moments. Even the people who travel from around the world, to our next door neighbors, remind us of the power of what it means to be human.
Phil Alexander

November 3, 2009 at 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer Hamady said...

Indeed, Phil. Thanks for sharing. We missed you at Lincoln Center Friday; hope to catch up soon!

November 3, 2009 at 5:14 PM  

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