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How Nike’s Project Moonshot helped me conquer the 2019 NYC Marathon

It came and went, all in a moment.

Months of grinding away had resulted in 3 hours, 11 minutes and 15 seconds. I had crossed the finish line of the 2019 New York City Marathon. It was the end of the race and the completion of a journey covering a spectrum of emotions.

This 17-week journey started during the long, summer days of July. I walked into Nike’s NYHQ to take part in Project Moonshot, an immersive marathon training program for 350 of New York City’s athletes.

We all gathered on the second-floor basketball court to go through the program’s agenda which included meeting our coaches, run groups, and pacers. These were the people I would be spending my next 500 miles running with.

The main goal of the program was to take on 26.2 miles like never before. Its foundation was inspired by Nike’s Breaking2. A project that saw the GOAT, Eliud Kipchoge attempt to break the two-hour marathon barrier.

He recently broke it and became the first person in history to run the marathon distance in less than two hours at the INEOS 1:59 challenge. His experience went well. How would my race go?


Boom BOOM!

The first canons were set off and the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon was underway.

 

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Miles 0-2: There was a moment of excitement as I took off on the Verrazanno Bridge along with tens of thousands of runners. I quickly calmed down mid-way through the bridge and collected my thoughts.

Amongst a frenzy of people shedding their clothes as if on fire, I reminded myself this was my moment.

Miles 3-13: The next borough up was Brooklyn. There was a peaceful family neighborhood vibe until the course hit 4th Avenue.

Suddenly, there were thousands of cheering spectators partying on the sidewalks. I reciprocated the energy by holding a strong pace throughout the first half of the marathon.

Miles 14-15: Queens required smart pacing to avoid burning out on the Queensboro Bridge. I was quickly reminded of this when a close friend from Brooklyn Track Club popped onto the course from a group of spectators and ran with me.

He told me that I went out too fast, and I needed to slow down. He gave me some water, dapped it up, and dipped back into the crowd. I carried on.

 

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Mile 16: It was pin-drop silent on the Queensboro Bridge. I saw runners starting to fade in complete silence; pulling off to the side to nurse cramps and rest. We were much closer to the finish line than the starting line.

Miles 17-19: The silence was immediately broken by Thunder Alley, the nickname given for 1st Avenue where runners are greeted by amplified cheers. This was an unforgettable moment. There were a sh*t ton of people.

Each person was cheering harder than the next, effectively giving runners an energy boost. The crowd’s excitement motivated my steady strides along 1st Avenue.

The presence of my family and friends on the course was a double up for my motivation. The pace was solid, the body was holding up, and my energy was plenty. That would all change once I got to the Bronx.

Willis Avenue Bridge was next.

Mile 21: I powered through the uphill portion of the bridge and the initial flats of the Bronx. Although I was in the Bronx for a short period of time, it proved to be the longest moment of the race.

As I was pulling out of the Bronx I was given new life and energy thanks to the Boogie Down Bronx Runners. They encouraged me to push forward and breakthrough The Wall.

 

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The motivational words were uplifting, but The Wall had other plans. Coming down the Madison Avenue Bridge,  I suddenly caught a cramp in my right hamstring. A complete Charlie Horse. I put my right leg up on a road divider and stretched. My legs were not cooperating.

I had a brief moment of reflection and reminded myself that my family and friends can’t see me looking like a b*tch out here. So I strapped up my kicks, reloaded my legs with a final stretch and shot off. I turned the corner onto Fifth Avenue with warm legs and took on the final miles of the course.

Miles 22- 24: Rolling down Fifth avenue, the crowd picked up once again. The final stretch approached. I absorbed more motivation when I spotted my Mom and Dad. This was for them as much as it was for me. I waved, picked up a Maurten’s gel pack and proceeded forward.

I had one last planned pit stop on the way to the finish line. The We Run Uptown crew set up a Cheer Zone at Mile 22. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received.

I’m pretty sure I blacked out. The coaches, pacers, and teammates I trained with sent me off with a final push.

Harlem went by and Central Park emerged. I quickly refueled after my friends came through with the clutch drop-off. Then I tackled Central Park headstrong.

Mile 25: Almost immediately, I saw runners dropping left and right. Some more serious than others. I had the same fate. I pulled up to the side just below Cat Hill with a cramp in my left leg.

I mentally revisited the exact scenario that happened earlier in the race. Learning from experience, I made the necessary adjustments.

The marathon continued.

Mile 26: Exiting the park, I was motivated by more friends and turned on to Central Park South’s uphill climb. Through sheer will, I gritted my way up and with one last energy absorption from my friends, my Spirit Bomb was ready.

I gave all I had left in the tank and re-entered Central Park for the final time.

Then I crossed the finish line. What a moment.


My moment

There are only very few moments in life that bring an overrunning feeling of joy. This was one of them. I did it for my family, my friends, my communities, my culture, and my city.

There are too many names to name. Those people know who they are and what they’ve done. They encouraged me to bet on myself. And I did just that.

Running the New York City Marathon has been a life goal of mine since I was a child. I would wake up early Sunday morning each year to watch the race.

My eyes glistened and gleamed at the sight of all the New Yorkers who came together to watch greatness. I wanted a piece of that, I wanted to be great.

Tough times never last, but tough people do. That was one of my mantras throughout my training cycle. The pain of training was only temporary.

I adapted my body, mind, and spirit toward being comfortable with being uncomfortable. It was made easier due to the fact that I was sharing this with my running teammates, who have now become my running family.

 

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We went through some absurd moments in training. From speed workouts in the pouring rain to tempo runs in the blistering heat and pushing the body to consume more miles. There is no other group of people I would have wanted to experience this with.

The most important lesson I took away from this experience was to play the long game. Greatness takes time and always needs to start at some point.

It takes much experience and time to capture a moment. And if I can capture enough moments, I’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

Until then,

In the words of the great Nipsey Hussle,

The Marathon Continues…

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