My Saturday-night half-marathon tale actually begins on Friday night.
I was wrapping up my BlogHer 2014 experience, at a table with great friends, new friends, and fantastic food. I was originally at the conference to host a cooking demo in partnership with the amazing team at Microsoft for Nokia, and we were wrapping up the experience with a dinner at Citrus at Hotel Valencia.
In San Jose.
In fact, we were having such a good time, that I didn’t want to leave. Didn’t want to leave at all, to the point where my flight was scheduled to leave at 11:05, and at 9:55, I was still at the table.
I eventually got up, passed out hugs and kisses, grabbed my luggage – which I had the foresight to bring with me instead of leaving back at the hotel – and Jason, one of the Microsoft team members, escorted me down to the street level, where he waited for me while we fought for a cab. A process that took twelve minutes.
If you’re counting, the time is now 10:13.
We finally flagged down a cab, and I told the cabbie, “Look – the faster you can get me to the airport, the more of a tip I can give you.”
“What time does your flight board?”
At which point, all I heard was tires screeching – a difficult task to accomplish without causing an accident in the ever-populated Santana Row. There are so many cars and people in this space, that it took us almost five minutes to get out of there.
The time is now 10:18.
The cabbie hops on the highway, and the engine is revving like nobody’s business. He’s clearly done this before. He tells me that if I’m going to be paying by card, to get it out now. He can barely even look back at me, because he’s doing 90 miles an hour.
I’m not quite certain this was what I was asking for… but if it’ll get me there in time, I’ll take it.
8 minutes later – the time is now 10:26 – we arrive at my terminal. I ask him for the “swipey-thing” and he hands it to me while he grabs my luggage out of the back. I grab all the cash that I had in my wallet, which was a lot – certainly more than my fare – and lay it on his arm rest. I ask him to wait, just in case I’ve missed my cut off period. He obliges without hesitation.
I look off into the terminal, and there is not a soul to be found. No one, other than two JetBlue representatives.
I make it through the doors, and take off running towards the counters. One of the representatives spots me coming.
“ARE YOU GOING TO JFK?” she yells.
“WHAT’S YOUR LAST NAME?”
“GET YOUR ID READY!”
Luckily, I’d learned to use my Banjee when it comes to airport travel, because I have a tendency to cut it close. No one’s got time to dig through a giant purse when you’ve only got a moment to spare.
I make it to the counter, ID in hand, and she’s already got my tags printed out and ready to go. I hand her my credit card as well, for my bags, when she stops me.
“We check the first bag for free.”
She hands me my boarding pass. “Where am I going?”
“That way, through security, and to your left. It’s right there.”
Instinctively, I take off running, shouting “YOU LADIES ARE AWESOME!”
Before I could get to the escalator, I heard one of them shout “OH, AND I LOVE YOUR HAIR!”
“THANKS! IT’S AERODYNAMIC!”
The line through security was non-existant. Dead silent. There were three bored and lonely looking TSA agents, who clearly were ready for bed time. They quickly scanned me, and sent me on my way.
If you’re keeping track, it’s now 10:33. I arrived at my gate at 10:35, and the first group was being called forward to board.
My red-eye to New York was actually incredibly pleasant… for an upright sleeping experience. Complimentary eye-cover-thingies (help me out, somebody), ear plugs, comfy seating, complimentary orange juice – I’ll have the water, thanks – at sunrise, helpful staff who clearly are pros at managing overnight flights… whereas my sleep was interrupted by the random bout of turbulence, I did arrive at JFK feeling like I could at least survive being awake until I returned home.
But. When I returned home… oy.
After being pummeled by my dogs, I realized that I’d need to eat something at least 12 hours prior to my race, and set my sights on some cold pizza that Eddy and Mini-me had left in the fridge. (Apparently, the eating gets a little suspect in the house when Mommy’s not home.) Whatever, I thought. If I cared that much, I’d go make my own food. And, right now, ain’t nobody got time for that.
I passed out, half covered in dog fur and still wearing my clothes from yesterday. And, when I tell you that sleep was magical… believe me. I slept so hard, that at one point I thought I was Rachel True in The Craft and ran to the mirror to see how the hair color looked on me in real life.
Yes, it was that delusional kind of sleep.
Four hours later, I woke up realizing I’d need to eat something, or I’d continue to sleep right up until my half-marathon that night, and perform horribly. And so, the devouring of the pizza commenced. You know that orchestral doom music that plays in the background of epic movie trailers? You should hear that in the background as you envision me inhaling this pizza… because it was epic.
Hot, fresh out the oven, light cheese, not too oily – I see why they ordered it! – tomato sauce tasted like tomato and not kool-aid, thin crust… it was good. Not quite good enough to keep me awake, but good, nonetheless.
Hours later, Eddy and Mini-me came home with hugs and “I missed you!”s, and all felt right with the world. That is, until I remembered that I’d slacked on my fundraising efforts for the half-marathon, and realized I’d need to come up with something fast.
The Walk the Walk Foundation puts on a series of events each year – power-walking marathons and half-marathons, mainly – in support of breast cancer. The MoonWalk NYC, the event I participated in, was engineered to support breast cancer prevention and care in Harlem – the Breast Examination Center of Harlem provides services to women who are most underserved in this arena, and oftentimes most likely to develop the disease and have it go unchecked. Underprivileged communities are often reactive about their health instead of proactive. This center helps change that for Harlem.
Immediately, I jumped on twitter and did what I always do – I told people that they could ask me anything about health and fitness, and in-between answering questions, asked people to donate. Every dollar counts, but if they couldn’t donate, re-tweeting helped a ton. I took questions about everything – from shoes to loose skin to quick-cooking meals and more. And, after every question, I asked people for money.
And, lo! Before you knew it, I’d raised $600 in two hours, bringing my total to $750! Yay!
Except, my goal was $2,009, to commemorate the 5th anniversary of A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, which passed on July 17th. Imagine how disappointed I was.
I headed out to Icahn Stadium around 9, on Randall’s Island, where I found multitudes of women dressed in bras so well-designed and decorated, they’d put your sparkly Victoria’s Secret situation to shame. Beautiful people of all genders were out, sporting sports bras and bustiers and demi bras and push-up bras and full coverage bras and bras painted every color of the rainbow – some, all at the same time – with feathers and glitter and tape and charms and capes and foil and beads and bedazzled with every kind of jewel you could imagine.
— Erika Nicole Kendall (@bgg2wl) July 27, 2014
But the Afro Fairy put everybody to shame.
She was just so cute!
I’d never been to a MoonWalk before – this was only the second annual – but the energy was intense. So many teams assembled all to share in support of fighting this ridiculous disease and how it breaks up so many families and changes so many lives. We all want it gone, and if our presence in this space – at 10pm, no less – can help make that a reality for someone, then we were all happy to miss a night of sleep.
After an amazing run of the Star Spangled Banner, we counted down to the start of the race. And, once that 0:00 hit, a high school drum line – Harlem’s babies, no doubt – started playing the illest beats ever. The energy intensified.
Shoulders started bouncing. Hands started making their way to the air. Clapping commenced. Let’s get this show on the road.
The race is mad hilly. I mean, mad hilly. It takes you around Randall’s Island, over the Randall’s Island footbridge, down alongside the FDR highway, eventually across the FDR to the streets.
And we all know how hilly Manhattan can be.
Because the race is both a half and full marathon at the same time (lovingly referred to as a half- and full moon), there is a point where the full mooners split off from the halfers and make their way south. They meet up with you eventually, but that’s usually hours later and since it is almost 3 am when you finish, you’re not likely to wait around to see the first once cross the finish. The best part about this? As power-walking groups reach the point in the map where the half and full mooners split, there are tons of cheers, wishes of good luck, fun, and speed… and then everyone heads on their way.
— Erika Nicole Kendall (@bgg2wl) July 27, 2014
You get gorgeous views of everything New York has to offer. The Randall’s Island footbridge gives you a glorious view of the East River, Central Park and Columbus Circle – two of my absolute favorite sights in Manhattan – give you lots of “Oooh” and “Ahhh” time, and a trip along Park Avenue shows you how the people making ten times what you make are living. Curious doormen leer out of their gilded front doors, and give you high-fives as you power-walk your cause onward. They’ll cheer you on, and even tell you “Thank you!” likely because you’re probably out there walking for someone they know and love.
Make no mistake about it, power-walking – especially for endurance distances – is grueling. It’s one thing to do an endurance event while running – it doesn’t feel like it’s dragging on. You can run faster, move quicker, and so on. With power-walking, you can only go so fast before you’re basically running… and that’s not allowed.
The race had fueling stations – Kind Bars and bottles of water – as well as resting stations for those of us who needed to stretch or sit. Every time I spotted one, I gave myself some time to sit, stretch, breathe, wiggle my toes, perform a yoga pose or two, and then hit the road again. Porta-potty stalls would line the streets, and – thanks to all the fiber in those Kind bars – you’d be glad they were there. (This means, yes, I overcame my fear of the dreaded porta-potty.)
Once you snake back north, you start to hit the trail back home, and boy, are you glad you are. By this point, it’s been hours of trudging along, and it’s probably somewhere around 2-3AM. But. When you cross that bridge back onto Randall’s Island, and you hear the announcer going loud and strong, and all of a sudden, you’re focused. You know you’re somewhere around the 11-mile mark, now, and it’s time to make magic happen. It’s time to pull some energy out of, err, somewhere, and make it happen. And you’re happy to do it.
Once you approach that final finish line, there are bright lights, pink balloons, and a DJ blasting “Stronger” by Kanye West. You feel a burst of energy shoot up your spine. You exhale deeply, and as the air leaves your body, it forces a well of tears up to your eyes. You throw your hands up as you cross the finish, and you start to cry.
Well, I mean… I did. I bawled. Full on ugly cry.
One of the volunteers ran up, gave me a hug, and gave me my medal. It couldn’t fit over my ‘fro, but that’s okay – we both laughed it off, as I wiped the tears from my eyes.
“I’m so sorry I messed up this moment for you!”
“Nothing could’ve messed up this moment for me!”
Would I do MoonWalk NYC again? Absolutely. I’d wear better socks, pack a utility pack, make my own energy drinks and probably carry a portable charger. I’d also sign up much earlier in advance, so that I had a team to
suffer make it through all this with instead of doing it solo and playing tag-along with other groups. Don’t get me wrong – other groups will definitely cheer you on, ask you how you are, and – in those moments where the groups get segmented (because you are required to abide by the pedestrian crossing signals), will keep an eye out for you – but there’s nothing like having someone who knows you cheering you on in ways they know you respond to best.
Eddy met me – yes, at almost 4AM – down in Midtown, and practically carried me to the subway and helped me limp onto the train, where we sat for what felt like forever. We didn’t get home until the sun came up, but he hugged me and offered his lap for me to lay in and use as a pillow. I tried to fight it – seriously? who falls asleep on the train at 4AM if they don’t have to? – but, by the time I lost the fight, we’d arrived home, just in time to see the sky fade from purple to a stunning orange.
My MoonWalk NYC experience was unforgettable – from an exhausting conference schedule to a flight across the country to do a middle-of-the-night charity half-marathon power walking extravaganza – I pushed myself in more ways than one, and got a polite reminder that I’m much more capable than I ever thought I was of going beyond my wildest imaginings…. annnnnd, I received a medal for it.
Please consider donating on behalf of A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss! There’s still time to donate to help achieve the ultimate goal of raising $2,009 for the Breast Examination Center of Harlem, and I’d love to make this happen! Click here to visit the Walk the Walk Foundation’s website directly, and donate there.
You can check out my training log – daily videos of how I trained for the #MoonWalkNYC combined with my video recap of how I think my training affected my performance as well as my tips for how to have the best MoonWalk NYC experience you can have, both coming soon! Check my YouTube playlist for more details!