New York City has always been a magical place to me. It all started in 1996 on a Sunday morning. My dad and eleven-year-old-me were getting ready to start our 45 minute drive into Philadelphia for church as usual, when he asked me, “Why don’t we go to New York City instead?”
We drove northeast as the sun and mist rose, the iconic skyline and Statue of Liberty popping into view, and the funneled chaos of taxi cabs, buses, commuters, and tourists swept us into the Big Apple. We made our way to Times Square, shivering in the cold as we braved the “TKTS” line for half price seats to the musical Grease!. The entire experience blew my mind, and from then on I was positive that there was no greater aspiration than being a Broadway star and no greater place in the world than New York.
We made the trip up to NYC an annual tradition, sometimes my dad taking me and sometimes my mom, each time seeing a different show and exploring a little more of the city. While looking back is a bit of a blur now, some memories that stick out are climbing up and down the boulders of Central Park, the sweet and savory scent wafting from honey roasted peanut stands on a frigid day, and visiting a market in Little Italy and taking a bite of fresh mozzarella as if it were an apple. And the shows themselves- I savored every single second!
Fast forward to today: okay, maybe I haven’t won a Tony Award, but my most recent visits to the city have been performing with RAC for hundreds and even thousands of people at amazing venues like Terminal 5, Webster Hall, and the newly opened Brooklyn Steel, each concert more energetic and thrilling than the last. During our last visit, as the band was bouncing from the headquarters of Nylon, to Billboard, to Paste, I couldn’t help but think about how cool it was to go from being a wide-eyed kid way back when, to being back as a real performing artist—a “somebody”—even if in the niche world of indie electronic pop music, and however fleeting.
This weekend I’m heading to NYC again, to perform on one of the world’s biggest stages- the New York City Marathon! The first time I took interest in NYCM (or really, marathons at all) was when Kara Goucher made her marathon debut there in 2008. She inspired me to run my first marathon in Portland the next year, Kara-style arm warmers and all.
I’ve shied away from the idea of running New York in the past, partly because I’ve heard how challenging the course is with the big climbs and wind gusts over bridges and the hills of 5th Avenue and Central Park. However, in my 11 or so years of running, some of my best performances have been on challenging courses in less than ideal conditions. I’ve never been a machine-like speed demon, but positivity and strategy can go a long way when the elements are against you.
Training-wise, this year has been incredibly challenging with some setbacks due to an injury. I took most of May, June, and July completely off. When I gradually resumed running again in August, it was hard to trust my leg and believe I was healed. Every day that I’d run a little farther than the one before, but each time imagining that would be the time my leg failed me and I’d be out for another who-knows-how-many-months. Somehow over time, ten miles turned to eleven, 17 turned to 18, and a few weeks ago I made my way up to 22 miles, just like that.
Two weeks ago I entered what would be my only race leading up to NYC, a challenging 4 mile cross country meet on a cold, blustery, rainy day in Portland. As soon as the gun went off, I found myself flying with the front pack and surprised myself in the end by placing third. A few days later, I ran a 10 x 2 minutes on/1 minute off fartlek with two of my Rose City Track Club teammates. Our “on” portions averaged at 5:51 pace, flying as fast as 5:30 per mile toward the last intervals. That might be just about as fast as I’ve ever run in a speed workout.
I’ve gone from having zero expectations for this race due to my own shortcomings, to a glimmer of hope for what could be. I may not be at 100%, but I’m no slouch either. Among the 50,000 entrants, will there be a little race day magic for me?
Follow my NYC adventures this weekend on Instagram, plus you can track my race progress Sunday morning by downloading the NYC Marathon app and searching for “Liz Anjos”. Best of luck to everyone racing!