Last year I ran the New York City Marathon … and thanks to social media, with a supermodel. It began back in 2012 when scrolling through my Twitter feed I saw that avid runner Christy Turlington Burns had tweeted about the London Marathon. We swapped a couple of messages, including one mentioning that my dad Roger had just run his 715th marathon (he’s currently on 792!)
Three months later and I meet Christy at a conference near where I work in Central London. I wander over to say “hello” and imagine my surprise when she actually remembers the Twitter conversation we’d had just a few months earlier. I guess hearing about someone running that many marathons is quite memorable. So we chat for 10 minutes during which time she asked whether I’d like to run for her ‘Every Mother Counts’ charity team (EMC) in the 2013 New York Marathon. After politely dismissing the idea, a few days later I think “why not”, send her team an email, get accepted, and I’m part of the team!
Fast forward 11 months and I’m in New York counting down the days to the marathon. This countdown included a 10 mile training run the weekend before with a handful of the EMC team from 59th Street via The Bronx and Harlem to the finish at Central Park. It was great to finally say “hi” to the rest of the team as well as the charity’s marathon organisers Clancy and Alex. I was surprised how heavy legged I felt towards the end – maybe my body already knew what was in store for it! We must have all been thinking the same thing though – let’s hope we see this finish line in seven days’ time.
Part 2 involved popping into the EMC office during the week to pick up my team running bib and designer ‘Every Mother Counts’ hoody. As luck would have it both Christy and Clancy were there finishing off a team meeting so we talked about the looming big day, pre-race jitters and last minute injury niggles. I was lucky – I was just running it. They were having to organise us all AND run it!
Next was the customary pre-race pasta party meal on Friday evening which happened to be at a rooftop bar in the Meatpacking District. There was definitely a personal battle of ‘carbo-loading vs nerves’ going on and I just picked at my food even though we were still 2 days away from the start line! I can’t remember anybody drinking any alcohol either so the bartenders must have been wondering what was going on. Towards the end of the evening Clancy and Christy ran through arrangements for the big day – the most important of all being where to meet the team bus on the Sunday morning and not being late for it!
The final part of the team experience was boarding the team bus in Tribeca on race day – Sunday 4th November at 5:30am! Even though my start time was 10:05 we all had to leave early to get over the Verrazano bridge on to Staten Island before it closed to traffic at 6:45am. I arrived unfashionably early (setting two alarms to make sure I woke up in time) with a cup of coffee, via a quick “selfie” at the ‘Ghostbusters’ firehouse building. I was all track-suited up in the clothes I’d bought from a charity shop a day earlier (all the discarded clothing at the start gets recycled and sold on again). Getting on a team bus took all the stress out of the alternative of taking the Staten Island ferry with the rest of the hordes! It was a bumper attendance this year too with 50,740 starters, due to 2012’s cancellation because of Hurricane Katarina.
‘Team EMC’ all gathered next to some netting near the start, doing our best to shelter from the wind and keep warm. This is one good reason to get all that warm gear from the charity shops! Dunkin Donuts were kindly dishing out coffee and free woolly hats which I somehow managed to miss. One enterprising member of the team even managed to smuggle in an air mattress past the rigorous security to increase his pre-race comfort levels!
So running a marathon is possible and if you think I’m super fit I wasn’t! On the first day of training 16 weeks earlier I could only manage 3 miles of my first 5 mile run. Secondly everybody in the UK has heard of the London Marathon but there are hundreds of marathons taking place around the world every year so if you’re going to do one why not apply as an international runner and have a holiday at the same time (the big six are considered to be Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Chicago, London and Boston – the latter involves qualification so probably leave that one out for starters).
Finally I got to run for great charity, raised over $3000, and had the pleasure of meeting a true fashion icon who I’d seen in numerous black and white Calvin Klein magazine adverts over the years. Christy and her team were incredibly welcoming, friendly and clearly wholeheartedly behind their charity work. Find out more at http://www.everymothercounts.org
NB. By the way I finished the 2013 marathon in a Personal Best of 3:43. Check out my list of 26.2 top tips for running the New York marathon if you fancy giving it a go yourself! 🙂