From 30 Hours of Labor to Shalane’s Victory Roar: How the 2017 Race #MovedMe

 
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The 2017 TCS New York City Marathon was a yearlong countdown for me as a runner, but it ended up being more memorable than I could have imagined—despite the fact I never made it to the start line.

On Sunday, November 5, I was set to celebrate my 33rd birthday. And what better way to start the day than running the New York City Marathon!

Months of training. Done. Bib in my possession. Yes. Obligatory expo photos posted on social media. #Indeed. Spectators lined along the course, ready to cheer me on, and wish me a happy birthday. Check, check, check!

 
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However, leading up to race day, I was a bag of nerves. And these weren’t the usual marathoner nerves about false injuries, tapering, or the weather. Instead, there was a bigger narrative at play—something bigger than 26.2 miles.

On Friday, November 3, my wife Frances was eight days overdue with our first child. My participation in the marathon was in doubt—even after a doctor assured us that baby didn’t look like she’d be arriving until the Monday after the race. On Saturday night, I was set to make a judgment call—my fear being that Frances would go into labor as soon as I set foot in the start village at Fort Wadsworth.

Things changed dramatically in the very early hours of Saturday morning when Frances went into labor. As night turned into day and labor seemed to be progressing, Frances urged me to run the race if our baby arrived safely that day. Her logic: “You’ll be on such an emotional high, you’d probably PR!”

As the hours went by slowly, running wasn’t on my mind. Day gradually morphed into night and, with every passing hour, my chances of running a birthday marathon slipped away.

At 11:58 p.m. I officially canceled my entry to the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon—as baby was determined to arrive on her dad’s birthday.

That she did, shortly before 8:00 a.m. on marathon Sunday. With her arrival, Lyla made her dad miss the race, instead putting her mother through a marathon of epic proportions with a 30-hour labor.

 
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For months, I had envisioned running through the five boroughs, celebrating a birthday and being a new dad (Lyla’s due date was October 26), and taking a victory lap after months of training. Instead, the marathon didn’t even cross my mind as I sat there gazing into a new set of eyes.

Around noon, as mother and baby were being tended to, a nurse told me that I would be waiting around for a while. She put the TV on for me, hoping it would distract me. By chance, the default channel was ABC7.

And then the date came flooding back to me: November 5. I looked up at the TV just in time to see Shalane Flanagan striding into Central Park, one minute ahead of her nearest rival Mary Keitany. Seconds later, she unleashed her famous “[email protected]#K Yeah” victory roar before crossing the finish line. The moment sent a shiver down my spine—a reaction echoed by the millions who watched it unfold live on TV or later on social media.

 
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That day, the theme of strong, courageous, fearless women was top of mind. For 30 hours, Frances displayed mental and physical toughness I could never replicate on the streets of any road race. When it was over, a little girl arrived in our lives and as I held Lyla, I thought about her future, hoping that she can be whatever she wants to be. Hours later, when Shalane broke the tape in 2:26:53, she was the embodiment of everything I had thought about earlier and wished for my child—no matter what path she takes later in life.

The creative around the 2017 NYC Marathon was It will reward you. It will push you. It will celebrate you. It will test you. It will surprise you. It will move you. I didn’t get to run the 26.2 miles, but those words, especially it will move you, perfectly summed up November 5 for Shalane, 50,000-plus runners, and myself.

This year, with a new little spectator on the sidelines, I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity run the five boroughs of New York City in what is the greatest race in the world. And Shalane is back this year, too! Going in, I’ve put no pressure on myself as regards time—this one’s for fun. And after last year, I will certainly not complain to Frances about being in pain afterward!