Dr. “Schlumpy” Scout Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity A Project of The Fenway Institute
Wow, What An Experience
There are few times in my life when all the fluff all the dross gets burned away and the real core of living is exposed. I’ve waited a few days to even talk about the marathon because it was so overwhelming it was hard to even figure out what I felt. But a few days later… that first thought sums it up. Sunday was living at it’s very best. The makings of a memory that I know will stay with me forever. And even more importantly… one I hope won’t stand alone, but I hope the start of a new level of trying to stay in shape for me.
No, It Wasn’t Easy! It Was Endless.
Liz put it best in the middle when she said “I have no idea even what time it is, it’s like we’ve been here forever and this is all that exists.” The very length of a marathon helps make it a time out of time, with worlds of living in the middle of that sliver of your life. There was the odd silence as we found ourselves alone for miles at the beginning (between packs of stagger start runners), wondering if that would be a harbinger of our whole experience (we’d been warned late start walkers can end up being quite alone as all the cheerers go home).
Then there was the oddity of having the millions of spectators (2 million actually) start cheering our names as we got further into Brooklyn… almost embarrassing since we were so alone and not even running. Then we got further into Brooklyn, more runners caught up with us, and we were swept away by the power of the crowds, the energy. I was high fiving the kids and smiling big. We loved the international cheering squads, like a whole United Nations tour. Kept smiling as we entered the tree lined streets later, then onto the cheering of Queens. It’s the 10 mile mark and guess what, we’re doing so well we start to break into a jog! (which nicely helps us use different muscles). Gotta stop to put some tape on one heel and luckily, it helps, the pain fades back away. It’s the halfway mark now and while plenty are breaking into walks, we are still motoring, smiling, jogging at times, even singing when the (great) bands are playing songs we know.
Then over the big bridge into the long stretch up first avenue in Manhattan… the crowds roar, still feeling good, but boy the water stops, with their piles of cups, spilled water, and banana peels are getting to be perilous. We are still motoring and smiling and loving the cheers all the way up Manhattan. Now for the first time, I am starting to think “yes, I might make it”. But now it’s mile 20, the famous “wall”, right as we enter the Bronx. It’s quiet at this bridge, more runners are walking, and even though walkers aren’t supposed to hit the wall, I’m starting to fade. But Bronx welcomes us with more bands, more DJs, and the music carries us onward, slingshotting back down into Manhattan as the miles crawl by more and more slowly. More around us are clearly suffering but Harlem bands and crowds keep us moving. We are blatant now about swinging wide to the side of the street more, I need to hear my name shouted more to keep me going. Harlem doesn’t hold back, “Scout, Scout, Scout” rings out everywhere. I’ve still got a big smile on my face, but it’s getting thin.
Central Park is spotted in the distance! Unusually… we now are so far into this otherworld of the marathon that neither of us are yet willing to say with certainty we’ll make it. We’ve learned that anything can and does still happen. We’ve been on the road over five hours and we’ve got over and hour left. It feels like an eternity.
After flanking Central Park for too many blocks we finally swing into it. I’m coming up on the place I used to watch the marathon from years ago, dreaming of being in it. I revel in the feeling, pretending I can reassure my younger self “yes, you will make it”. But pain sets in, my right hip appears to be separating from my body. Only three miles left… will we make it? Liz slows up for me, as I clearly start to wince more with the pain (if only I’d known a post-race stretch realigned something which made it all disappear!). Can I jog now? A bit, but the hip still wants out, off my body. The finish still seems so far off.
Wince, grit, wince… we can make it, this world of a marathon can end, and it will end with a finish line I’ve dreamed of crossing for a decade. We round the last curve toward the finish, see the signs 400 yards left, still seems so far. 300. 200. Hold on. 100 yards and finally we see the finish… this can happen, I break back into my lope… it is happening. Liz grabs my hand and we cross the finish together! Dream achieved!
And It Was Wonderful
Yes, I had some hip hell for a few miles… but that was just one sliver of it all. Overall, it was so much more fun than I’d even imagined. And I’m so proud of myself. I loved that we got faster in the middle, that we were naturally enjoying ourselves so much almost every photo has us with big smiles. There’s no way to describe the love of 2 million spectators, so many calling your name out with encouragement. No way to describe the pride of achieving a lifelong dream. Of feeling strong, powerful… able to do things I hadn’t previously imagined I could.
So Proud of Our Teammates & Supporters
What Did I Learn?
Marathon’s are an interesting sport. Unlike I thought, only the smallest bit of them are dominated by excellent athletes. Most of the people on that field were regular folk… some chubby, some cancer survivors, one guy’s tshirt proclaimed he’d had a heart transplant, another a double lung transplant. So many people were running for someone else or for some cause. The marathon really isn’t about athleticism, as much as it’s a personal and deep journey for so many people. Like our friend Sasha we met at the start, who had trained as a way to end the chapter of her life where she was battling chemo and breast cancer… the marathon isn’t about super athletes, it’s about regular people, proving we are strong survivors. Able to face huge tests and endure, even thrive.
Walking v. Running? Perfect!
Some asked, “Don’t you feel like you are cheating to walk?” Hmm, fair question, do I? Well I’ve had plenty of miles to think about that now. Nope… actually I don’t. I felt like walking was a great way to achieve this big goal while also building life habits. The more I thought about it, sure I could run a marathon, but if I just ran one, it wouldn’t build those healthy habits I really want. Now walking… I could see maybe walking 2, 3, maybe walking marathons regularly. And if that could be, then that’s the real win for me. If I could inspire other LGBT folk to maybe get out and put some regular walking into their lives more, then that’s the superwin.
Note: Every picture in this post is copyrighted by Brightroom, Inc. They did a really great job of taking millions of pics of folks in the marathon and somehow sorting them by bib numbers so we can see them all. Kudos to Brightroom!