T.J. before running her first-ever marathon in New York—11/2012

T.J. before running her first-ever marathon in New York—11/4/2012

by T.J. Stephens on Sunday, November 4, 2012 at 11:40am

Like many of the residents of New York City, I wasn’t born here. In a move that barely makes sense to me to this day, I came here for college, but really on some level, I came here to run away from something dark that happened to me back home.

Every day since I’ve moved here has made me a better person than I was when I left, and maybe that change would’ve occurred naturally anywhere, but when I look back on the six years I’ve spent here so far and on the people I’ve spent them with… I know that I grew up to be as strong and brave as I am today because of this city and what it’s given me as well as what it’s put me up against.

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon. I have proof, in fact – a list that I made when I was 14 of things that I wanted to do before I died. Four years ago, I entered the lottery for the NYC marathon for the first time. I wasn’t really much of a distance runner back then, but I was hell-bent on becoming one, and I entered the lottery again every year after that for the next three years until I finally got defaulted into the race.

I used to live in Alphabet City, and my very first “long run” was a trek down by the FDR, across Battery Park, up the West Side Highway, and across 12th Street again to my door. It totaled something close to 8 miles, which after training for the last year in the double digits, now feels like a leisurely stroll, but back then, I felt like I’d achieved the impossible.

All of my training runs this year have followed a similar route along the water. I did this on purpose because every time I feel like I can’t possibly run any farther, I come across a landmark that I saw on that first long run – one of a hundred NYC sites that reminds me who I’ve become here, and how far I am from that little girl in Texas who wasn’t brave enough to stick up for herself. I think “I can definitely keep running. I made it here after all, didn’t I?”

The friends I’ve made here are all beautiful people. Some are real New Yorkers who carry the city’s history on their backs; others are immigrants, like me, who shared their part of the world with me as I made Texas a part of theirs. Some are growing into doctors, dentists, filmmakers, playwrights, entrepreneurs… I met my tall, outstanding sisters here. I found a family of Argentinians who brought me in and taught me what it means to work hard. I now work for a company that sent me back to the land of my childhood, introduced me to one of my very best friends, and brought someone I love dearly into my neighborhood. I think about all of these people that I found here every time I’m running down the waterfront and about how eternally grateful I am for this place. When I’m running, I’m not running away from anything anymore; I’m running in homage to New York and to a future where even bigger things that once seemed impossible come easily.

When the marathon was canceled, I completely understood. It’s hard to explain to my friends that are out of town, but there’s a sick feeling on the ground here. Read the rest of this entry »

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