On Sunday I participated in the NYPD’s 13th Annual Memorial Run, which honors fallen police officers. It brought me one step closer to my goal of completing at least three 5k runs this year. My timing in the Bronx Zoo Run for the Wild averaged about 34 minutes in total, a pace of approximately 11.5 minutes per mile. This time, I wanted to complete the run in 32 minutes or less but didn’t know if I could.
That morning, we ate bagels for breakfast to keep our stomachs settled. We donned our racing bibs and my dad tied the official chip timer to our sneakers’ laces. The omens seemed in our favor: on the subway ride to the Financial District, a fellow commuter wished us luck, and the sun gleamed in the cloudless sky when we arrived. We stretched and prayed and wished each other luck as we lined up on the West Side Highway.
During the first mile I tried to keep a slow pace so that I wouldn’t burn myself out too quickly, even though I felt a little disheartened to see everyone else dash off into the distance. By the second mile, I picked up the pace as my playlist got more upbeat. The third mile hurt the most. I stopped a few times–only for a few seconds at most–to swig from my water bottle and try to breathe through the stitch in my side. I nearly gave up, but when my Nike app told me I had reached the three-mile mark, I knew I had to push on. So I sprinted to the finish line, legs burning, air coming in and out of my lungs in ragged gasps, soaked in sweat because I had decided to wear a jacket and didn’t want to stop to take it off.
I crossed the finish line in 29 minutes and 53 seconds. That’s not very fast, especially not compared to winner Luke Mccambley, who ran the same distance in 15 minutes and 41 seconds. But I beat my goal time, and I felt proud of myself and my boyfriend and my parents and my uncle and my cousins and everyone who raced in the shadow of the Freedom Tower and in New York itself, this great city that will always continue to rise up from any challenges that it might face.
As my mom said afterward, “We are proud, we are strong, we are resilient, we remember and will never forget! Seeing the Tower during my run added to my strength and inspiration!”