As I made it to the last 200 meters, I remember what it felt like to see the finish line in the darkness with lights lit up all around it. It was like coming upon the red carpet at the Oscars. It was the final stretch of a dark winding tunnel that left 26 miles behind.
All you see when you are 200 meters from a finish line is the timing mats on the floor, the giant time clock and the big finish sign. If you’re as fortunate as I am, you see the glimpse of your parents to your left sitting in the bleachers screaming your name with tears streaming down their face as you are about to accomplish something unimaginable, something indescribable, something that only 1% of the population will ever personally experience.
I will never forget the last 200 meters of the NYC Marathon. I will never forget what it felt like to have my mind go blank as I entered the last 200 meters – - all of the pain in my body that I felt went numb, and all of the thoughts of fears of not being able to make it simply dissipated. I was incoherent but so alive and felt the glory of something I never thought I could accomplish. My thoughts were simply focused on crossing the finish line and saying, I did it, I really did it. Nothing else and nothing more.
I once read, “If you are ever losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” That statement was written by Kathrine Switzer, who happens to be the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.
I remember after NYC , my parents both reflected on watching the marathon, watching millions of people struggle with faith in their bodies and hearts to run 26.2 miles. It was after I ran NYC that my parents truly understood the commitment of training, the struggles and obstacles I went through and what perseverance meant to me. It brought me closer to my running group and more appreciative of the belief of never giving up no matter how tough times may get.
But today, I feel I have lost faith in the human race and its respect for the pure sentimental beauty of the marathon. Every runner, whether fast or slow has dreams of running the Boston Marathon. For me, it is still one. A marathon is a dream come true for the 1%, especially for ordinary people like myself. And, when you are running one, the first thing on your mind is finishing, and the last thing on your mind is running for your life and seeing lives crumble around you. I wasn’t at Boston when the bombs went off, but I feel very affected by it knowing that my coach and members of my running group were there just feet away from the tragedy. Some saw it from their hotel window and others were less than 30 feet away. I feel even more affected knowing that I am signed up to run one of the big 5 marathons this fall.
This could have happened at any big marathon. To fear going to the mall, to school, or to a marathon in the greatest country in the world is beyond disheartening. Running a marathon has been a very big exciting thing for me in my life, and to see it desecrated by pure evil and heartless acts is beyond comprehension to me. To know that my friends were in the finish line chute so close to the carnage just feet away sends chills down my spine. I can’t stop thinking about where I would have been at 4:09 on the marathon clock since I am a back of the pack runner. I would have been around mile 18, far away not knowing if my family or friends were alive or dead. Maybe that is too morbid of a thought for some, but for me it is a thought scarier than any fear I have of not finishing a marathon. The fact that this thought is even implanted in my mind is simply unfair. Boston will never be the same, nor will any person who runs a marathon in the future, including myself.
My heart is heavy today, and I am truly devastated by what became of the Boston Marathon yesterday. It was a day to celebrate the glory of the best runners in the world. The last 200 meters of a marathon should only be glorious and include tears of pure joy.
Within my running trials and tribulations, every race that I have run has had a different purpose and a different story. Some races have been about conquering a mental or physical obstacle, some have been just about the experience, while others have been about a better time. To this day, only one race has included someone waiting at the finish line for me, in the pouring rain.
I stood at the start of the corporate run completely miserable. My shoes were already drenched from a 30 minute monsoon that seemed as though the gates of hell had opened in the sky. My plan for a new PR was thrown out the window. Had I not been the team captain for my company or had him waiting for me at the finish line, I would have driven home. I abhor running in the rain. I’ve done it and it royally sucks. I can’t see through my glasses, my feet slosh and I slide everywhere. Oh and I’ve also chafed on my sports bra line, which is the worst pain ever.
The race was horrific in every way. The start was an abomination. 95% of the people I was surrounded by were not runners. They were walkers, and I mean slow ass walkers. I think my grandmother walked faster than these people. I can’t remember the last race I ran where I was faster than the people around me. In fact, I don’t think there has ever been any such race. I was pushing through bands of people for a good 7-8 mins, exerting more energy elbowing and swerving to get around the crowds. I think I may have even screamed “Move!” at a woman instead of a polite, “Excuse me.” The course was flooded, the bridges were beyond slippery and I just wanted to get to the damn finish line. I was bitching to myself the entire time and cringed at my Garmin.
Before I knew it, I turned the corner and the finish line was in sight. Love was there, smiling, sans umbrella in his dress shirt and dress pants, completely soaked. My heart melted when I saw him. I still replay that moment in my mind. The sweetest kiss ever at a finish line.
I never expected that a few months ago, the guy I was blindly set up with while sitting at urgent care on a Friday night would wind up being the one, sitting in traffic for 2 hours ready to stand there in the pouring rain and wait for me at the finish line of this utterly dreadful 5k. Life works in the most mysterious ways and everything happens for a reason, at the very precise moment it is supposed to. And, sometimes, very unexpectedly, you discover that the worst races transcend into the best ones with memories that you will forever cherish.
It was my last morning run there. The wind brushed against my skin and the big beautiful trees wrapped their arms around me like a soft blanket on a cold winter night. There were very few cars on the road at the time. I remembered that distinctly because it was then that I started to dream while running. I will never forget that last 4 mile run. My music was louder than ever and every part of me was soaring.
It was October 14, 2012. I had run 39 miles in a period of 9 days with just 1 day of rest in between. I was about to make that 43 miles with this last run. It would be my highest mileage week ever. I was 4 weeks away from running the NYC Marathon for the second time. I finished my 18 miler just 7 days before in San Francisco. I was fearless. I was unstoppable.
My runs began in the darkness of morning dawn and finished in the bright sunlight. I took pictures during each run because I wanted to remember it all. I wanted to remember the minutes when the tears ran down my face in the dark, when I felt lost and unsure and I couldn’t see past it, and I wanted to remember when I ran up the hills of the trails into the light.
I healed my broken heart and learned more about myself in those 8 days than I knew ever existed. I realized what it was I wanted and deserved in all aspects of my life. Everything else was secondary because what mattered was that I was finally living free, finally living for me. I had rediscovered myself and reorganized my happiness.
My life changed that day. I got back on the plane and returned to Florida, a new person, a better version of myself. I never looked back. I stopped wondering if I made the right decisions all these years and I stopped questioning where my life journey brought me. I knew who I was, where I was and where I belonged. Some people search their whole lives and never find it. I knew with confidence what I had to offer myself and to the world around me. It was a mental list that I programmed into my psyche.
My dreams grew brighter when I returned. They weren’t new dreams, just more vivid depictions of the dreams I was already living. I forgot about all of the in-betweens, the days when I wondered whether I was meant to be a lawyer and not just a writer journaling in the big apple. I stopped thinking about why my health problems didn’t just correct themselves without the need for medication. I stopped wondering when I would find the effortless love that my parents found in one another. I stopped wishing for a fairytale fantasy. I abandoned it all during those 43 miles of running in 9 days.
Sometimes you need to stop thinking about what you want and begin to think about what you truly deserve. Sometimes you need to take a vacation from the life you have to appreciate what you feel in your heart about your life. Sometimes you need to photograph it all along the way so that you can reflect. Sometimes you have to stop listening to the voices that negate yours or the feelings you have within.
I would never settle again for one good moment in a sea of bad moments. I would never second guess my desires or my passion. I wouldn’t stop until I had the best in everything – - life, love and the pursuit of happiness.
I am a dreamer. I always have been. My dreams have been filled with good things and bad things. Sometimes in my dreams, I am running towards an object or a person, and sometimes I am simply running away.
Yesterday, I dreamed for 2 hours while running. My iPod was blasting in my ears, but I didn’t hear the music. It was as though I was running with my eyes closed, yet they were wide open and focused on the road.
My dreams took me back to one of the most memorable times in my career as a writing professor. I thought about him, how I changed his life by teaching him how to open up and express himself through his writing. He was the student who touched my heart and instilled an everlasting impression. At first, he was full of nothing but anger and rage. He came to my class late every time. His negative attitude was obvious. He hated the world and everyone in it.
I asked him one time after class why he was so hard? When you ask, they answer. Cancer did it to him. His mom went into remission and then the cancer came back. He couldn’t open up about his emotions. He didn’t know how to. He was the one who took care of his mom. His dad walked out on him and his siblings when he was just 2 years old. As his mom was living her last few months in an at-home hospice, he went to class in between sitting by her side.
One day I brought in a blank journal book for him.
“I am giving this to you. This is yours and yours only. If you want to share it with me, I will read it. I have one rule: you are going to write in it every day. Every emotion you feel, whether it’s anger or happiness, I want you to write it down. It doesn’t matter. Put on headphones, blast your music and just write.”
We had 10 journal entries that semester. Every journal was applicable to his mother, and that was okay because he was writing, because he had finally opened his heart up and he was living. The big essay of the semester was the autobiography. It became the most cathartic one for him. He wrote about how the only love he ever had was from his mom. She was a single parent and a teacher for over 25 years. He was in school because of her. She prevented him from living a life on the streets selling drugs. Everything he had was because she was there for him.
On the day of our final exam, he walked in and looked at me. I knew. His mom had passed that morning. I asked if he wanted to postpone the final.
“My momma would want me to take your final. I told her about you and how your positivity made me come to class. Will you please come to her funeral and read my autobiography?”
It was the first time I would step in a church. In fact, when I walked in, the pastor asked if I was at the right church. There was gospel music playing. It was his mom’s “homecoming.” It was magnificent. There was singing, laughter and a lot of family togetherness. It was unlike anything I could have ever imagined.
I took the podium and introduced myself as Keon’s writing professor. I told the 200+ people sitting in front of me that he was my most special student and that his writing didn’t just touch my heart but it allowed him to open his for the first time. He had rekindled his estranged relationship with his father. He was able to process the emotions he had about his mom. In between the tears that streamed down my face, I stood and read his essay to the entire congregation. When I was done, he came up to me, with his 6’4 lean stature. He hugged me, weeping like a 2 year old boy who was lost in a store and couldn’t find his mom.
Many months later, he called me up just to ask if he could visit me at the college campus. He came to my Saturday morning class. While the students were doing a timed essay, he turned on his laptop and showed me his journals. There were over 100. Before my class, he never wrote, and afterwards, it was all he could do.
We kept in touch for a few years, and then I stopped hearing from him. I thought about Keon yesterday as I was running and dreaming, simply wondering how he was doing, and if he was still living free and writing.
Life has a funny way of revealing that limits are simply bullshit. We think we can’t do things, and then we fool ourselves and we do them. Sometimes, the true test is proving to ourselves that we don’t fit a mold and that we are truly limitless.
For a long time, I had my focus entirely on my eating regiment and the scale, because hey, I already had the exercise down packed and isn’t all weight loss 70% diet and 30% exercise? It’s all I knew or seemed to know. Take my daily supplements, mentally count my calories, count my ounces of water, eat every few hours to keep my metabolism going. It was tedious. It consumed my every thought. I weighed myself in the morning and at night. I moved the scale around on the floor in different positions and spots. It was almost a year-long battle that drove me to insanity. I was doing everything right, but the scale didn’t say so. I was switching carbs around (complex carbs to gluten free), drinking more water, eating one sushi roll now instead of two when I went out. I could go on and on. The endo told me it would take time for the medication to kick in and I had to be patient. Me, patient? I am the antithesis of patient. You work so hard every day at this and it’s still a struggle with a shit ton of frustration. No one seems to quite understand it except the doctor when he says, “I am frustrated for you. You are doing everything right. It isn’t under your control.”
I realized that because had no control over what was going on internally with me and it was consuming and overwhelming me terribly, I needed to channel my focus on external things that I had control over, particularly better running time. I decided to take intervals of time and give it my all on that particular day. Whether it was a 30 minute run or a 45 minute run, I was going to push as hard as I could and just run balls to the wall. I learned that I can run a 10:36 minute mile because I have the fitness level to do it. That’s all it has ever really taken to be a runner: determination and a will to succeed.
This weekend I learned that limits truly are a façade.
I stood in line at the expo waiting to meet Bart Yasso, the Runner’s World guru. He was one of the nicest running celebrities I have ever met. I actually hoped that Kara Goucher was going to be running this race as she was originally supposed to. But, meeting Bart Yasso couldn’t have happened at a better time. He asked me about my races. I told him that the NYC Marathon changed my life, almost twice. He laughed and said I needed to play the real lottery, not just marathon lotteries. He then gave me an autographed copy of his new book, “Life On The Run.” I was one of the first 25 lucky people to wait in line to meet him. He wrote this message: “Never limit where running will take you.”
It was brilliant and so apropos to my theory on life and running.
Race morning was an absolute nightmare. I waited in the traffic for over an hour to get off of 395, and I had worked myself up into a frenzy of stress. Once I got in the corral, I relaxed and stretched. I ran the race last year so I knew the route and the number of bridges. My plan was to jog up some of the bridge, and walk down the steeper parts so as to not put pressure on my low back. The first mile I crossed in 12:09. I knew it was going to be a good race. I had reached just over 4.5 miles in an hour. I was on track for an estimated 2:59-3:01 finish time. I then reached 9 miles in 2:02. Normally in races, at 9 miles, I would be at 2:15. I was literally a mile ahead of my usual time. I knew I was going to PR, the question of being just how much.
Mile 10 was when the bridges and heat began to take their toll. I had to slow down. I was talking myself through it, flipping through different songs on my iPod, thinking to myself, 3 miles is nothing. Hell, I eat 3 miles for breakfast.
That’s what certified badasses do. The mental ping-pong plays with you a bit. Your body is telling you to slow down and yet your mind is saying, fucking run, just do it, you can do it. It’s hard to listen to your body in those final few miles. You want to finish, minutes even seconds faster, but you are starting to fall apart physically. I realized in those last few miles that while my fitness levels are higher than ever, I was completely dehydrated and covered in salt. It was the first race I ran without a fuel belt and relied on small sips of water at the aid stations. It was foolish as I didn’t drink enough for the heat levels that day and the medication I take dehydrates me, so I had to change my goal of the sub-3.
Run a few minutes, walk a minute or two. I was starting to see stars and felt faint from the cramping. Just a little bit longer I told myself. I thought about mile 22 in Central Park. The moment when you’re alone, and only you can find the tunnel of light.
You do a lot of talking when you’re running. Sometimes it’s all you can do. Push. Slow down. Push a little more. Just a little bit more. The pain is agonizing, but the glory of finishing pushes against the pain like a rubber band.
I turned the corner and saw the crowds in the stands. It was like running through the streets of Brooklyn. People were cheering. I looked at their faces. The glory overwhelmed me. My mind and body then went blank. The pain paused. I just saw the finish line, the clock, and heard my iPod singing back to me, “Don’t stop believing….hold onto this feeling.” I felt the beats of my steps moving in sync.
I crossed, looked down at my Garmin, hit pause. 3:07:20 it read. But I couldn’t focus yet. My legs suddenly swooshed with muscle cramps and brought me to a screeching halt. I had just enough gas left in me to cross the finish line.
3:07:17 official time. 14 minutes off of last year’s race time and 11 minutes faster than my best race time. 35 seconds faster each mile and I would have run a sub-3.
There are no limits to what you can do. Never limit where the run or your dreams can take you, for we are all limitless.
When I began running in 2010, my motivation was to simply lose weight and fix my metabolism issues. I never thought for one minute that it would take me to where I am today — running marathons and half-marathons, raising money for breast cancer research, inspiring others to jump on the running bandwagon, or bring me to celebrity status.
My love for running developed over time. It has never been easy, especially since I am not naturally thin or athletic and I have low back problems. But, I just get out there and give it all I’ve got. That’s been my motto from day one and my motivation has truly derived from the world I have encountered with running. I will never again be the girl crying in a fitting room at Bloomingdales on my birthday because nothing fits me in my closet. Instead, I am the girl who walks into H&M, grabs a size 10 dress and shakes my moneymaker in the fitting room.
This journey of mine has brought me more personal happiness than I can ever have wished for – - a life that I always dreamed of where I wake up excited everyday to be where I am and for who I am. I am truly living my dreams in every way.
I am deeply honored that my company decided to write a story about my Running for Rotem marathon weekend. As I perused the story, I realized how much I have grown in 2 years and turned my life around. I thank each and every person who has watched me and supported me along the way. The journey has not been easy, and there have been many roadblocks along the way. But what matters is the journey, not just the destination. Here is the story as written by my company:
After Sandy, Attorney Holds Marathon to Raise Cash at Home
In the days after super storm Sandy, Wendi Weiner weighed her options.
On one hand, she wasn’t sure she should run in the New York City Marathon so soon after Sandy left so many suffering. On the other hand, she’d made a promise to a friend.
“I realized I shouldn’t be running the race,” Wendi said. “There are all these people who didn’t have power or lost their homes. How am I going to run through these streets and take a cup of water from volunteers who may not have a home, or have water?”
But Wendi had already accepted marathon pledges for her friend’s target charity, Bright Pink, which helps fight breast cancer. Her 34-year-old friend had just beaten the disease.
So, Wendi decided, she needed to run, but she didn’t need to run in New York. An associate trial attorney in our Miami BLO, Wendi decided to sit out the NYC Marathon — even before organizers and city officials cancelled the event – and run her own marathon in her neighborhood. She divided it into four legs over a weekend so friends and family could run with her.
Wendi ran the first leg on a Saturday morning with her running club teammates, some of whom dressed in pink to mark the cause.
Later that day, her family joined her for the second leg. By Sunday morning, she had only nine miles left. She ran five by herself and then walked the rest with friends that afternoon before going out to dinner.
After Wendi raised $2,975 for Bright Pink, the organization agreed to sponsor her in the 2013 Chicago Marathon. But most importantly, she served as an inspiration for her friend.
“It feels incredible,” Wendi said. “There are so many people out there who suffer from breast cancer. When you find out it’s your childhood friend in her mid-30s, and she has to shave her head, go through radiation, and have major surgery, you want to be able to honor her.”
It’s almost a miracle Wendi even had a chance to run. NYC Marathon participants are selected from a lottery of about 200,000 people. In 2011 – her first year entering – Wendi’s number came up. She finished in 7 hours, 32 minutes after suffering an injury at Mile 20.
She entered the lottery again in 2012 and, amazingly, got the call again. That’s when she knew she had the perfect opportunity to raise money for Bright Pink.
Since she got into running in 2010, Wendi has greatly improved her health and eating habits and conquered obstacles she never thought she could. She’s become an inspiration to those around her, including her friend, who recovered fully and was married in late December.
“Here’s someone who was fighting for her life,” Wendi said. “I watched her go through chemo and have reconstructive surgery. I didn’t know how I could inspire someone who has been through all that.”
I remember when I was 15, I couldn’t wait until I was 18, and when I was 18 I couldn’t wait until I was 21. When I was 21, I couldn’t wait until I was 25. You get the point. We always wish to be older when we are younger, and when we are older, we wish we were young again. Now that 2013 has drawn in, I thought of 10 things I suggest everyone to do this year to keep us feeling vibrant and make it the best year for all.
1. Be Inspired Everyday. Whether it’s a quote or a photo, find something that inspires you daily. The only way to be a better version of yourself is to constantly be inspired.
2. Clean Out Your Closet, Often. I mean this figuratively and literally. Never be afraid to remove someone from your life who isn’t adding to the happiness in it. You create your own reality. Time is short. Surround yourself by the people who matter and weed out the ones who don’t. And literally, cleaning out your closet is just as cathartic.
3. Weigh Your Lifestyle. Don’t judge yourself by the numbers on the scale, but instead weigh your lifestyle. Focus on a healthy lifestyle. Switch to grilled chicken instead of fried chicken. Ask for vegetables on the side sans the butter. Buy portioned out snacks so you don’t overeat. Make exercise part of your lifestyle so that it doesn’t feel like a chore or work. A healthier lifestyle equals a happier you.
4. Make a Daily Goal and Abide By It. Maybe it’s 20 push-ups or 20 squats. Maybe it’s drinking more water. Or maybe it is putting your shoes away in the closet instead of leaving them stacked up at the front door. Make a daily goal and work toward achieving it.
5. Go For a Walk Just to Clear Your Mind. It doesn’t have to be a fast walk or a run. Take a stroll through your neighborhood and take in the sights, sounds and smells.
6. Wear Something That Makes You Feel Fabulous. Maybe it’s a new pair of shoes or maybe something as simple as a new lip gloss. Whatever the accessory, revel in it.
7. Listen to Your Favorite Song At Least Once a Day. Enough said.
8. Stay Home at Least One Friday or Saturday Night a Month. Appreciate the relaxation that comes from lounging in your PJ’s and making it a Blockbuster night. Sometimes the best thing you can do is have a quiet night at home, alone.
9. Have a Cheat Meal At Least Once a Week. Allow yourself to have that bowl of ice cream or side of French fries. Life is too short not to enjoy a gluttonous meal at least once a week. Just don’t make it a once a day cheat
10. Live Your Life. Life your life to the fullest extent possible. Maximize your potential EVERYDAY. Time is moving faster than ever. We can’t turn the hourglass and start the timer over. You want your dream career, propel towards it. You want to run a marathon, register for one. Do the things you want to do to reach your goals. Nothing is unreachable. Be unstoppable. Make sure to live your life for you and do the things that make you happy.
Let 2013 be your year in every way possible.