WHEW!!! I have been avoiding writing this post all week because I knew it would be long…but also, once I recap it, I feel like it’s admitting that it’s over. I had the most AMAZING race weekend in NYC, I still feel like it was a dream. I will be recapping my race separately, so I’ll focus this post on race weekend and my recovery week. This is LONG but worth reading to the end to see my visit to Memorial Sloan Kettering, so please kick back and enjoy.
We flew up and landed mid-day into Laguardia. We met up with a friend of mine for lunch at The Smith, where I had a delicious kale salad. After lunch, we checked into our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Times Square. I got 2 nights comped at this hotel due to my fundraising with Fred’s Team, which was so nice! There were a lot of other Fred’s Team runners staying here, so I felt like it was a good “home” for the weekend.
After we dropped our bags, we took a cab over to the expo. I gave Brian my phone and asked him to take photos – he did a good job!
I picked up my bib, some swag, met the Fred’s Team staff and got some Fred’s Team gear, and then walked around and checked things out. We didn’t stay here too long as I wanted to get back to the hotel and rest.
That night, we had a NYC date night! We went out for a steak dinner at Quality Meats where I had a ridiculously delicious bone-in filet, and then saw Aladdin on Broadway. Brian had never been to a major, Broadway-style production….so he had low expectations. He was totally blown away! We both really loved this show and would definitely recommend it.
Saturday morning, we found a great breakfast restaurant right by our hotel – Friedman’s. They had a very extensive menu and could make just about anything on the menu Gluten Free. I had the pancakes, of course. (BTW, the sweatshirt I am wearing is so cozy, I got it as an incentive prize for raising over $10k!)
We then walked over and met Jessie and Kim for some chatting and coffee in Central Park. It was great to meet these ladies in person after a couple of years of “talking” through our blogs and social media.
Next, Brian and I went to check out the World Trade Center Memorial. The last time I was in NYC was in 2006, so I hadn’t seen this memorial yet. It was breathtaking and an beautiful way to remember such a dark spot in our history. (We weren’t sure how to pose for photos here, so we settled for slight smile.)
Saturday evening was the Fred’s Team dinner!! It was such a cool event and great motivation for the night before. There was a buffet that had a wide variety of food – I loaded up on mashed potatoes and grilled chicken. We heard from some doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering, as well as some former patients turned fundraisers. One woman, Luisa, ran the marathon that weekend on the 3 year anniversary of her life-saving treatment at MSK…it was her first marathon! She shared her story and then sang for us, there was not a dry eye in the house. You can read more about her story here. Below is her song, “Go the Distance”, adapted from Disney’s Hercules.
We also heard from Aubrey Barr, who was treated at MSK when she was 4 years old, and who the Aubrey Barr Pediatric Fund is named after 20 years ago. She’s been very involved in fundraising for MSK for many years, and her description of what happens when you fundraise was spot on. You can read more about her here. She says:
“We have to remember that no one person is as effective in their personal mission, as when a number of people come together. We see this in the diagnosis of cancer itself….the energy the patient has gives the family strength, the energy that the family has gives the patient strength, and there’s this synergistic, beautiful, positive effect, and strength, and hope. So we then take that synergy and energy and look at it in terms of fundraising, and how when we’ve gone out and asked people to support our runs, how a family can sometimes come to you with a gift and say ‘This is all I have’. It’s $25, it’s $50, but you know for them it’s a profound sacrifice. That energizes you. You’re grateful for the gift they have given you, you are encouraged to ask other people for support. When people support you, they transfer sometimes some of their own grief, from having lost somebody, onto you, and give it joy for your run and motivation for your run.”
It was exactly what I experienced this year, but so clearly articulated in a way I hadn’t been able to sort out. You can watch the full video below if you are interested:
I also got to meet a fellow Fred’s Team runner who I had been connected with all year on Instagram, Fiona, which was pretty cool!
Some more photos from the evening:
We ended pretty early, so I was able to be back in the hotel by 8pm. I packed up my bag and laid out my gear, and then headed to bed.
Sunday (Race Day)
Race morning started early with a photo in Times Square with all of Fred’s Team! Not a bad looking group. And the billboards were changed for us (you can see on the right of the photo).
After the photo, we headed to the buses that took us to the start village. I’ll recap my full race day experience separately, because it’s long! I had a bit of a struggle in the second half of the race due to a fueling error and subsequent digestive issues, but it was still one of my favorite races to date. An amazing experience!
That evening, I didn’t feel like venturing far, so Brian and I went down to the restaurant in the hotel and sat at the bar. There were other Fred’s Team runners down there so we chatted with them. I had my cider and burger, and then promptly crashed hard.
We got up and I finally felt up to eating my apple pie!! Apple pie in bed is a marathon tradition for me. It started when I ran my first marathon on March 14th, also known as “Pi day” (3.14). It’s been a tradition since and one of my favorites! I ate about half of this pie, and then we went back to Friedman’s for breakfast. My legs actually felt pretty good, considering.
I intended to go to the finisher’s village for Marathon Monday, but when I got an email that the finisher shirts were available online, that sounded so much more appealing to me. I was on a tight timeline and tired, so I ordered my finisher’s shirt online and rested in the hotel for about an hour.
I capped off the weekend with a visit to Memorial Sloan Kettering. I got invited to tour the Pediatric Floor with other top fundraisers.
I’m not sure anything I could write here would do this visit justice. To be honest, I was very nervous for this visit. I tend to be very empathetic and emotional (ie I cry a lot) so I wasn’t sure if I could hold it together. However, the visit wasn’t sad at all, unless you really thought about it. The floor was a very positive, uplifting environment. We spent the first hour in the giant playroom they have for the kids in the center of the floor. The playroom had everything from video games to puzzles, crafts to board games, blocks and legos. There were activities for all ages, and it was designed as a “safe space” for the kids. We got quite the welcome! The kids were wearing Fred’s Team shirts and had pom poms, cowbells, and cupcakes. They had made signs for cheering the previous day, and had decorated the walls with them and photos of us running.
One thing we learned while we were there is that MSK really strives to do as many of the treatments as outpatient procedures, so that the kids can go home to their own beds and homes each night. As such, there weren’t too many kids staying in the hospital. We split up into smaller groups and visited a few patients. I met patients ranging in age from 10 months old to about 12 years old. Many were too young to really comprehend what was happening. They were excited to talk to us and see our medals, and many of them were down cheering the day before, until the rain started. One little girl, who was about 6 1/2, talked to us for a good 10 minutes about sweet potatoes. She described in great detail what makes her Aunt’s sweet potato casserole the best in the entire world and offered to mail us some. She then lit up when she realized that it was the same colors as Fred’s Team, and maybe we could make a Fred’s Team shirt out of mashed sweet potato and marshmallows? She had such an imaginative, spunky way about her that made me smile, and I was so glad to see that she was still able to be like any other kid her age. I will think about her when I eat sweet potatoes now!
The parents were there, and talking to them was so moving. The parents radiated gratitude. Gratitude for the care their child was receiving, gratitude for MSK, and gratitude to us, which was hard to accept if I’m being honest. It was just so humbling. The one time I got really choked up during this visit was when one of the mothers looked us each in the eyes and told us how much what we did meant to her. (<–I just started crying writing that!). It was a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
While I was at the hospital, I got to drop off some of the hats I made! I got the contact info for the coordinator there, and she said they would love to have more. So as I make a bunch more I will be sending them up there for the kids.
After the visit, it was time to head home to Atlanta. It was a great weekend and it was everything I wanted from the experience. Running with a charity fulfilled me in a way I didn’t expect when I started on this journey, and I plan to continue to be involved with Fred’s Team in the coming years.
As a side note, my fundraising page is open through the end of the year. I’m just shy of $17k, and would love your donation. You can click here to donate.Read about @jessrunatl 's amazing NYC Marathon race weekend experience with @fredsteam and @sloankettering here: Click To Tweet
Tuesday – Sunday
Nothing to report here. I took recovery very seriously this week, as I was just beat from such a packed weekend. I got a massage on Tuesday night, and then just rested and slept as much as possible. Brian was out of town for work (poor guy), so I managed to watch an entire season and a half of Grey’s Anatomy and am fully caught up. I did an easy 3 miles Saturday to test my legs, and they felt good. I am looking forward to getting back into a routine next week!
Link up on your week below!