Marathon for Mom - Mile 26 NYC Marathon 2014 October 24 2015

 With just a little over a week to go before running this year's NYC Marathon with Team Fox and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, I'd like to reflect on last year's race and share what an amazing day it was and how Mom joined me at Mile 26. 

For those of you who know me, you know I lost my mother on February 3, 2003, just one day before her 70th birthday. At the young age of 50, she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system. Little by little it affected the quality of her life. 

It is pretty safe to say, there isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about mom in one way or another. It might be when I look in the mirror and realize how much I look like her, or when I do something and realize I learned it from her or when I recall one of the many amazing memories of our moments together and am thankful for every moment we had and what a special person she really was. 

Mom always told me and made me believe I could do whatever I set my mind to. Until last year, I didn't realize that meant being a marathon runner. When Mom was sick, I felt so helpless because there really wasn't anything I could do to help her. I couldn't fix it, like she had done for me so many times as a child. There was no cure and for her, overtime, really no medication that made any difference. It was in the last 20 years of my mother's life where I observed her amazing strength and courage. She never lost her humor, zest for life and never gave up hope that one day a cure would be found for Parkinson's disease. 

Deciding to run the NYC Marathon last year and joining Team Fox to help find a cure for Parkinson's disease was a way to honor Mom. 

As part of last year's race, I wanted to run every mile in memory of loved ones who had lived with PD and were no longer with us and for those living with PD, so I put out a request and a chance for folks to donate and Dedicate a Mile. I am so thankful for everyone that Dedicated a Mile last year. Nine out of 26 miles were dedicated to someone! It gave me such strength to know when I hit those miles I was running for someone. It certainly helped take my mind off the pain and the challenge of running and allowed me to push through. 

Right from the start I knew I would dedicate Mile 26 to Mom. The last .2 miles were all hers. What I didn't expect was for Mom to be there running with me!

When I run, I almost always listen to music. I had put together a playlist with about three hours of my favorite motivating running songs for the big day. I decided I wanted to add the one song that made me think of Mom, Helen Reddy - You and Me Against the World. Admittedly not a song on most runners playlist but it was a song she had sung to me many times as a child and it always gave me strength.

I went through the playlist and after it ended I decided to run for a while without music and take in the sounds of the race and the fantastic crowds and cheering teams. At around mile 20, I turned my music back on and hit "Shuffle" on my playlist. Just 6.2 more miles to run with random music playing and I would officially have completed my first marathon!

At around Mile 23, I started to come into Central Park and make the climb that lasts all the way to the end. Hundreds of people were lined up along the side for as far as one could see. I was hurting and wondering why I was doing this.  I knew I would finish but didn't expect to feel as exhausted as I did. At Mile 25 I could hear the crowds cheering and chanting different things so I decided to turn down the volume on my music so I could really take it all in. Just then, I heard someone yell, "Nancy!". I turned my head to the left and saw my family cheering me on among all the people standing behind the barricades. It was awesome to see them there. It gave me a boost as I continued to head toward Mile 26. 

I looked at my Garmin watch and it said 25.5, 25.6, 25.7....... I could see the big 26 MILE banner just up ahead. I was so exhausted and so happy to see the banner. The noise at that point from the crowds was so loud it seemed even deafening, but just at 25.9, I faintly heard a familiar melody playing.  No way! How could it be? Was it possible? I had hit shuffle an hour ago on a playlist of three hours of music. I quickly hit the volume control on my headphones and turned up the music coming out of my phone. 

Just as I passed the MILE 26 banner, I heard it loud it clear ........

Tell me again, mommy
You and me against the world
Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world
When all the others turn their backs and walk away
You can count on me to stay

At Mile 26, the mile I had dedicated to my Mom, she joined me to make that final journey and cross the Finish Line. I started to cry with joy! She had always been my rock and once again was there when I needed her. 

  Follow in your mother’s footsteps, 
You will learn to walk tall.
Walk beside your mother proudly,
You will learn to run swiftly.
Run ahead of your mother’s shadow,
You will learn to fly boldly.