I know, I know, you've been patiently waiting for the rest. Here's some more...
Mile 13 was staring me in the face. Honestly, when I was at this point, I thought, Wow! I'm at the halfway point and I would've been finished by now. I'm gonna rock in the White Rock Half! High five to myself!
When I came upon the Pulaski Bridge , runners all around me were taking separate assessments. Some were struggling to walk, others were running their pace, and the rest of us were simply walking and taking the whole experience in. All of the bridges were really quiet. They didn't allow people to linger on the bridges to cheer on the entrants, so all you could hear was shuffling feel and the conversations from the runners.
I took this time to open my pack and pull out a few index cards. Immediately I recognized Lindsey's handwriting. She wrote two thoughtful notes and I remembered that just two evenings before, on Halloween, she and Hayden were hanging out in our living room. That moment seemed like an eternity ago! Next up, was Danika's note that Don had printed off. Oh no...not the waterworks just yet! I fought them back and read the notes from Don. He actually put together a couple by proxy from Carol and Will. My legs were impatiently wanting to run, but I told myself to hold off until the end of the bridge. I read his notes that he'd written on behalf of Guapo and Mari. Tears flooded my eyes and it became very difficult to breathe normally. My nose was running, so I carefully tucked the notes back in my pack and pulled out the next set from Julie. Julie, thank you so very much for your thoughtfulness. I was so very, very blessed to have read your words and the effort you took to put together that packet. Well, needless to say, I've dug out my hole punch to make a booklet of your notes and they are going in my marathon shadowbox! Each note was laminated with packing tape. She'd printed off pictures and mounted them on lavender paper. On the back in colored ink were quotes and verses. Each pictures was carefully selected with a specific purpose in mind. They were sweat proof, but more importantly tear proof! The tears were falling like fat rain drops from a cloud on a sunny day. That last picture of Don and I in shadow...well, you were right: Don was waiting for me and I had to get to it!
Two women stopped me to ask if I was ok. I smiled at them and just nodded my head while pointing at the letters. Simultaneously, they let out a huge, "Awwww....!!!" I tenderly held the notes to my heart and waved goodbye to the women. I tucked the letters back into my back and opted to save the rest for the next bridge. I noticed the photo of Margie that I wore in the Komen 5K a few weeks earlier. I said a prayer for her, and her strength flooded my entire being and in true Margie fashion, my body got going. She's not one to rest on her laurels to wait for something to happen. She makes things happen.
Mile 14 came along. Only 6 more miles until I see my family. I felt so alive and carefree. I had wings to fly and my legs felt so lightweight. Next thing I knew, my arms were outstretched like JET from the Mavs and I was fly-running just like when I was a kid, playing in Grandma's garden. Whoosh, whoosh were the sounds in my head as I glided side-to-side (where did all the people go?). This was just the stretch I needed! I saw a little abuelita and abuelito on some steps waving. I waved back and hoped that my greeting flew all the way to El Paso. I was in Queens, the 3rd burrough of 5.
Mile 15 was filled with lots of turns in an industrial area. This is Daddy's mile and I feel good. Run Bianca Run! I focused and it was during this mile that I saw a small gang of homeless people cheering from the sidelines. Even the homeless can make time to cheer! How awesome is that? There were more water stops that usual and I wasn't sure why, until...
The Queensboro Bridge, aka the 59th Street Bridge...mile 16. This bridge broke some people. Seriously, it was long and eerily quiet. Lots and lots of shuffling feet. I paused at the top of the bridge and snapped a photo.
See my shirt? I've managed to lose the "I" along the way. Oopsie! After this shot, I read more letters! I looked over the words I'd written down from Ashley. Earlier in the week, I had an IM conversation with Catherine M. and I'd written her words down on an index card. She gave me a really great quote that I had to have! I read all of Ada's notes on red construction paper. They made me cry and I didn't care. This was 100% raw emotion, this is what living is about. And my favorite: BIANCA FIGHT NEVER DIES! I didn't know it at the time, but that phrase became my mantra. I opened my sister's letter, but couldn't read it. I knew it'd break me down, heck, just looking at the pictures made me tear up (and makes me tear up as I think about it!), but just touching it, I knew I had her strength. I put them all back in my pack and I was upon the descent, so time to run some more! I saw a large pile of hay bales and wondered, man, I could be running so fast that on that turn, I'd NEED those hay bales. LOL! Not really, but I was traveling pretty fast. And then it happened. The quiet went to REALLY loud hoots and hollers! We were in the city! So very, very many people cheering and I thought of my friends. Cheers to all of you guys!
The bottom of the bridge was mile 17 and it flew by like a blur, much like the time that I spend with Jeev. You have such a great time with him that 3 hours passes like 5 minutes!
At mile 18, there was the First Avenue Baptist Church choir in dress robes singing a BEAUTIFUL gospel tune. My Lord Jesus filled my soul and I gave praises to HIM. I mean c'mon!! How often can someone say that they've been serenaded by a full choir while running in one of the greatest cities in the world. Talk about surreal!
At the end of Mile 19 was another bridge: Willis Avenue Bridge. This one was interesting because it was comprised of grate like materials and covering the grates was orange carpet. It was a strange feeling on my legs, but I didn't mind. I actually ran this bridge because it wasn't much longer that I'd see my Beloved and family. Fly feet fly!!
"Welcome to the Bronx, Bianca!!" Mile 20, where is Mari-moo? I saw the giant TV screen at the Robin Hood block party. Everyone was wearing bright green shirts and pounding their thunder sticks along to the beat as Eye of the Tiger blared in the background. Yes, yes, yes!! But where was my family??? I paused to whip out my cell phone and called Don. His familiar voice ignited my already palpitating heart. We're just around the corner, babe. Come find us. Sure enough, there they were. Don didn't see me, but I flew into his arms. Unaware of the tears streaming down my face!!! I love you, was all I could say when I gave him the hug. I swiftly kissed him and my baby.I ran over to my mom gently perched in her wheelchair, rocking her white sunglasses! I hugged and had to go. I was a ball of tears and happiness. I waved goodbye, while the police officer in the following picture beamed at me. He hollered, GOOD LUCK BIANCA!! I glanced down at my watch. I was one minute off pace from coming it at under 5 hours. Holy cow! I think I can do it. I can make up 1 minute. ONLY 6 MILES TO GO!!!
Seeing my family ignited something inside of me, because I started to open it up. This is just like my early morning runs. I can to this. Time to run with my heart! I crossed the Madison Avenue Bridge into Harlem. Mile 21, I was in Harlem and let me tell you that the smell of BBQ coming from the white tent in the distance was HEAVENLY. I secretly wished that someone would hand me a chicken leg. ha ha! Harlem was my 2nd favorite place to run in!
Mile 22 was a long, wide, and beautiful downhill just upon Central Park. I felt the love from the city and I was on a HIGH. People all around me were starting to waver. I felt like I was in a good place and I knew I could meet my goal! Loudly, people were yelling, Go Bianca! You can do it, Bianca! Looking good, Bianca! I swear I heard Ada screaming from Dallas.
And then there was mile 23. I told myself, only 3 more miles to go, but everyone around me was falling, stumbling and fading. This woman next to me was hyperventilating and out of nowhere came someone who loved her. He struggled to carry all of the signs and cameras, but he ran next to this woman. He was lovingly yelling in her ear. "Don't you give up! Don't you give up! You only have 3 more miles. This hill is NOTHING! Only 3 more miles. Think about your kids. Think about how long you've been training. You can beat NY!" I needed to hear that. I was fighting that hill. And so I picked up my legs and mustered up the energy to yell outloud (because frankly I didn't care who was listening), BIANCA FIGHT NEVER DIES! I bared down and focused. This is the last 5K. After this, I will own the streets of NY. Bianca Fight Never Dies. Bianca Fight Never Dies. Bianca Fight Never Dies. Over and over I repeated it in my head.
All of mile 24, I said it over and over in my head. I prayed for strength. And then I saw the Texas flag, it reminded me Ashley. I threw up my guns up! And this woman called out to me. You're from Texas, right. I saw your Double T earlier. I reached up to touch that worn out piece of athletic tape that still dangled from the safety pin. She was from Lubbock, running in her 8th marathon, but her first NY. She told me that I looked good and was surprised to hear that this was my first marathon.
We hit the drink stop at Mile 25, but kept running. Together we chatted, when she told me: "Take off. If you can run, then run!" Finish. I glanced at my watch and I knew it would be close. I asked her if she minded and she said "No, go run your race!" It was a bit of a downhill and the fall foliage in Central Park was beautiful. The oranges, reds, and browns passed by in a blur. I waved bye and came upon these two friends.
One was struggling and the other was encouraging him. They were African American and looked like they were football players. I jokingly punched the one guy in the arm and told him, "Don't you give up on your friend! You get him going!" I glanced over my shoulder and stared at the one who was struggling. "C'mon! Don't you let me beat you! Don't you let me beat you!" He picked up the pace! And that's how it went for the last bit. Us leapfrogging.
400 yards to go! Bianca Fight Never Dies. My legs are screaming at me. I look at my watch and I can do it. I have 6 minutes before the 5 hour mark. Get it in gear, Bianca. Run Bianca Run. 300 yards to go. Bianca Fight Never Dies. Bianca Fight Never Dies. 200 yards to go...Bianca Fight Never Dies. I'm running against the clock. My buddies open her up and they sprint like gazelles. 100 yards to go. They throw up their Kappa sign to the cameras. Bianca Fight Never Dies! I throw up my guns! I cross that finish line and tears are streaming down my face! I did it. I did it!! I did it!!!!!!
4:58:37...officially. 1 minute and 23 seconds to spare.
Someone draped the medal over my neck and directed me over to the photo booth. I smiled, face puffy, and I felt this accomplished just 9 months before when I met my daughter for the first time.
Then, they draped the foil around my shoulders and I felt like royalty, no, like supermom and this was my magic cape. It truly was a magical experience, unlike anything I'd ever done in my entire life. I could write more, but this is where I'll finish the race portion. I heart NY and I love you all who supported me!
An epilogue to come...