If Running The NYC Marathon Taught Me Anything, It’s That We MUST Cheer One Another On, Even If We Don’t Know The Full Story

If this year’s New York City marathon taught me anything, it’s that you never know what someone else is going through. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t going through it, or they don’t need your support and love.

When you sign up for something as massive and intimidating as a marathon, you are generally still months away from the big event. When my co-workers and I agreed to run the marathon in support of the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, it was the middle of April. We had seven months to train—we had plenty of time.

Move forward three months and I’m sitting in my third doctor appointment for the month, trying to figure out what the heck my body is doing with itself. In July, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome—later changed to “Advanced” Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome due to my body’s lack of obedience toward medication. This post isn’t about PCOS, so long story short: PCOS is an autoimmune disease that surrounds reproductive and hormonal health in women. Yes, correct, it is a party.

Being diagnosed with PCOS four months before the marathon — at the beginning of my training — meant that I couldn’t just not start treatments because of an upcoming race. I sure tried to convince my very patient doctor of what an amazing idea that would be, but she didn’t bite. So instead, my marathon training progressed, while undergoing multiple, painful hormone treatments that tore down my body in attempts at building it back up.

In September, we had to sign our final registration for the marathon. We had been steadily fundraising for the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, but now we had to pay the $300 registration that actually allowed us to run the race. Why someone wasn’t paying ME $300 for 26.2 miles is still beyond me. As I clicked the “race insurance” addition to my checkout cart, I got a little nervous. I never even expected to have to think about the possibility of my body NOT doing the race for medical reasons, but here I was, still knee-deep in hormonal hell, taking a gamble.

Throughout this entire process, I had been training. Some days were better than others. Some runs had to be cut short, some had to be canceled altogether. Some went swimmingly and I felt like a Roman god. Mirroring my hormones, running was up and down. Completely unpredictable.

After my last run before Marathon Sunday, I was on the phone with my mom. I had just finished a 6-mile loop in Central Park, soaking in the beautiful fall day. She mentioned that, while my training had multiple curveballs thrown into it, the fact that I ran a 6-mile loop, casually, on a weeknight, showed how far I had come. Even before PCOS shenanigans had begun, April 2018 Lily would not have been able to do that. She was right (per usual) — even if this race didn’t go as planned, I was doing it, and I still had milestones to be proud of.

On the day of the race, I was excited. I didn’t have to use my race insurance! I was planning (and, spoiler alert, I did) on crossing the finish line! YAY!

Lining up with thousands of runners, all of whom varied in class, creed, and color—I was awestruck. I saw people with the names of loved ones—loved ones who had passed this same calendar year—on their backs. Cancer survivors. Immigrants. Army vets. People who had fought the uphill battle to get to that start line, and continued fighting to get to that finish. Then you had people, like me, who didn’t have a name or specific cause on my back. Just a black dry-fit, black leggings, and frizzy red hair. You couldn’t physically see the “hills” of my marathon road—to many, I just looked like a 23-year-old who decided to get a little more exercise.

Having these hills of my own increased my compassion for the others who, by outward appearance, were “just getting more exercise.” The reality is, everyone running the race had obstacles that came up between the moment they registered to run and the moment they crossed the finish line.

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We don’t always see the hills people are facing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Sure, it paints a lovely picture for a marathon story, but it’s so true in our day-to-day life as well. We never truly know the full story of what someone is battling. We just don’t, as much as we’d like to. That’s fine—we don’t need to stop everyone on the street and ask them for their high and low of the day. But we do need to be kind. We need to be supportive. We need to cheer one another on to victory, whether we know the whole story or not. We need to bring a marathon-like compassion to our everyday lives.

Happy running, friends. xoxo