Marathoner from the Spa World
Anni Hood, group spa director and creator of Talise, the Jumeirah spa brand, flew in from Dubai to run this race – her first marathon. A friend of hers, Maria Keeley from London, joined her. Both had begun training about nine months ago for the 26.2 mile race, which begins on Staten Island and winds through all of the five boroughs before finishing in Central Park.
Anni trained in the heat of the Dubai desert and Maria trained mostly indoors on a treadmill in London. The night before the race I was happy to join them for the typical pre-race-carbo-loading meal…pasta, bread and dessert.
Bob Henry, renowned spa architect, and his lovely wife Nancy planned the post-marathon celebration. After all, their apartment is right across the street from Central Park and just a short walk from the finish line. Along with their two young children, they headed over at the appointed time to hopefully get a glimpse of Anni and Maria finishing. I too had made it into the bleachers at the finish line arriving hours earlier, camera in hand, and had the chance to watch thousands of smiling runners complete the 26.2 miles to the backdrop of fall foliage just slightly past peak. Pride was what I saw on the runner’s faces and admiration from the cheering crowd – and certainly from me.
Paula Radcliff from the U.K. won the women’s division, finishing in approximately two hours and 24 minutes, and took home the $165,000 in prize money (I watched her cross the finish line from home on my TV.) It would be at least another two hours before Anni and Maria would trot across the finish.
And finish they did. Never mind that Bob and I couldn’t find each other or them until much later…(It isn’t easy to navigate through 2 million spectators and all those runners, although the organization of the event was superb.) We did all finally convene at Bob and Nancy’s flat.
I didn’t realize until later when we were at Bob and Nancy’s apartment snapping photos of the two of them in their mylar wraps (they give each runner one when they finish which serves as kind of like a blanket) with medals around their necks, that I learned that Bob had run the New York marathon five or six times in the past. I, too, have crossed two marathon finish lines, albeit 20 to 25 years ago – the Fiesta Bowl Marathon in Arizona (the only down-hill marathon in the country) and the San Diego Marathon in California.
I remember the excitement of getting the t-shirts that they handed out back then, thinking I might frame them or at least I would keep them forever.
Well, I don’t really know what happened to those t-shirts, but in time they weren’t really that important. Just knowing that I persevered 26.2 miles amidst pain and suffering was enough. And so as Bob said, Annie and Maria have now joined the “fraternity” of those of us who have completed a marathon.
A lot has changed since my marathon days. Runners now wear computer chips so everyone can keep track of them at all times. Times are automatically recorded, photos are snapped, when they cross the finish line. I suppose, you can get an accurate count of those who don’t finish…and those who are hauled off in ambulances.
What hasn’t changed however is the pride of accomplishment. It shows a certain amount of perseverance – more to yourself than to others I think. While one of the people at the after-party said that it seems stupid to put your body through this, I think that Bob, Anni, Maria and I know that it doesn’t feel stupid to us.
We also realize that there is no point in trying to explain it to someone who hasn’t run a marathon. It is satisfying enough to know we had completed that journey. And the memory of having learned how amazing the physical body is, and what your mind has pushed through…well, it gives you a little oomph in life when things get tough. Congratulations to Anni and Maria.