|About to cross the finish line|
By mile twenty-four, I was struggling up 5th avenue, running like one of the mummies in Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I passed around 86th street. The crowds were intense, cheering and yelling words of encouragement, “Push it - You can Make it!” It was like that the entire race, and while it was it something I had heard about, I never understood what people meant until I stepped off the Verrazano Bridge and entered Brooklyn four hours earlier. I now know why people believe the New York Marathon is one of the greatest sporting events in the world. The fans are out of this world and I felt like I was in the US Open and the World Series combined. But I’m no Serena Williams or Derek Jeter; I’m just Gia.
Last Friday I drove myself to the Portland Jetport to fly to New York City for the marathon. I decided a few weeks earlier not to take the five-hour bus ride, and pay the extra fifty or so dollars for the luxury of an hour long flight to New York instead. But on the short drive to Portland, as I switched stations on the radio, I learned of a shooting taking place in Los Angeles at LAX. I was already anxious about my trip, just ask my roommate. The airport was quiet and tense. You knew everyone working there; especially the TSA agents were on edge. I sat next to a charming and chatty slightly older gentleman. We talked about Maine, traveling, birds, and other common interests. I helped him take a few photos out the plane window as we traveled at four hundred miles hour and twenty-five thousand feet above New England and watched the sun disappear on the distant horizon. He was meeting with his son for their annual fishing trip and showed me the flies he was going to use to catch stripers off Montauk. We wished each other good luck as we parted ways at baggage claim.
|Waiting for my Ride at JFK|
We arrived at my destination for the weekend, an Airbnb in the West Village. I had never used this service before, but it seemed like the best option. I was slightly nervous. I wondered if my host, who was planning on staying on her couch in the living room while I was there, knew I was a trans woman, and if that mattered. I pressed the doorbell and announced myself, “it’s Gia, your guest for the weekend” buzzzzz “do you need help?” buzzzz “I’m fine” Standing at her door and now out of breath, I realized why she asked to help. Navigating three narrow flights of stairs with luggage was a challenge, but I was here to run a marathon, I could manage a few extra steps, right?
A smiling woman, about my age, met me at the door holding a fluffy black and white cat, “this is Harry,” she said. Inside, I put down my heavy bags in the living/dinning/kitchen room and reached out my hand to introduce myself, “hi, I’m Gia…” I don’t think she was expecting that. We politely talked, feeling each other out. She’s been renting her space for a few years, so this wasn’t new, but it was for me. I was her first marathoner, though, that’s cool I thought. She had done some scanning of my Facebook page, who wouldn’t, and after I mentioned my transition, she asked, “so you’re…” and waited for me to finish, which I did. Apparently I was her first transgender guest as well.
|Picking up my Number at Expo|
I did manage to lie down for a short nap and rest my legs later that afternoon. With the night arriving and dinner plans also on my horizon, I needed to arrange my items for marathon morning. My alarm will be set to 5am, and I plan on taking the subway to the Staten Island Ferry for a 6am departure to the camp at the base of the Verrazano Bridge. I was planning on a cool morning, that included sitting on the grass for 2 or so hours until my scheduled wave start time of 10:05am. I had chose not to have my bags checked and delivered to the finish, so I could exit Central Park expeditiously after my run. So any items and clothes I wore in the morning that I wasn’t going to run with would be left behind as a donation to Goodwill. It’s one of their best clothing drives of the year. Lying on the floor was everything I was wearing and taking
|Items for Marathon Morning|
The ferry to Staten Island takes only 30 minutes. After disembarking, we were herded onto a fleet of waiting buses to bring us to the staging area. I sat next to a charming woman visiting from New Mexico. We talk about races, the Southwest and qualifying times for distinguished women like ourselves. We part ways as we leave the bus and walk to the state park, but not before wishing each other well and a good run. Through another security check, and I miraculously end up in the right staging area, which is the blue zone. We’re all given bright orange hats from Dunkin Donuts, and I immediately look like everyone in the camp. I find the free bagels, coffee, water, and Gatorade, then settle in for the next hour and half, leading against a chain link fence across from my entry point, for #’s 23-000- 24,000. Our small group of 3-4 people passed the time by sharing stories about other races, lack of sleep, traveling, and food. Suddenly a large explosion rocks the camp. The first wave is off! It reminded me of an earlier race this year in Portland, Maine. The usual cannon used at the start the Maine Marathon, was silenced in respect for the Boston Marathon Bombings. Things are different in New York.
With 30 minutes to go, we were moved to a holding pen. I used the Porta-Potty, and then sat on the asphalt for 20 minutes, trying to rest my legs and feet. But I was too nervous, and I stood and listened to music instead. My warm-up play list included Madonna's Lucky Star, Katy Perry's Teenage Dream, Kate Bush's Running Up that Hill, Lady Gaga's Applause, and Kylie Minogue's Get out of My Way. We walked towards the bridge, passing the empty tolls booths, and waited our turn to go. A stirring rendition of America the Beautiful, sung by Miss New York Amanda Mason,
|Amanda Mason Sings America the Beautiful|
The next four hours and thirty minutes were staggering. At 2:33pm I was welcomed into Central Park to the sound of Salt-N-Pepa’s Push-It. Smiling the last half-mile, I raised my arms triumphantly as I crossed the finish line, then nearly collapsed from exhaustion, pain, and an overwhelming wave of emotions. While it wasn’t my first marathon, I ran the Las Vegas Marathon three years ago, New York was my first openly as a transgender woman. I hope it’s not my last either, I still haven’t run Boston yet, but I think it will have to wait a little while, or at least until I can forget some of the pain and find a reason why.