Running the New York City Marathon - Brittany Hayes
My real passion for running as a sport began in late 2013 when I participated in my first timed race in New York City. Although growing up I played sports all seasons and ran recreationally to stay in shape, I left school in 2006 and was feeling a void in sense of community around athletics. I had been living in New York since early 2008, and my father who used to compete in races of all distances convinced me to sign up for a 10k distance race on an autumn weekend. Without any training, I managed to place quite well in the race but more than that, seeing everyone participating with their friends and teammates genuinely made me happy.
From then, I was hooked. I spent the rest of the year focusing on running and extending my mileage, including running my first half-marathon distance. In October of 2014, I had finally built up enough stamina to attempt an 18 mile race along the New Jersey coast where I would vacation over summers. Something in the last 4 miles of the race went horribly wrong, and while I made it to the finish line, ended up with a serious stress fracture on the base of my right foot and had to spend 6 weeks in a walking boot. It just so happens that during this incredibly frustrating time of recovery (and NOT running!), the New York City Marathon was also occurring. It was my first time attending the event and my friend and I posted up on 1st avenue Manhattan somewhere between mile 16 and 18.
I was absolutely blown away as a spectator; first by the elite women who seemed to effortlessly float by us, and again by the powerful elite men and again and again by the thousands of runners who were achieving such an incredible physical feat and all the while, smiling, laughing and high-fiving their way through. I think I cried - it was astonishing to watch! I said to my friend “I have got to be a part of this race next year!”.
Once recovered from my foot fracture, I invested a lot of time and money in training smart to avoid future injury. I joined a club team through New York Road Runners and was participating in races almost every weekend – anywhere from 5k to half-marathons. I became a stronger runner and competitor thanks to the community I had around me. Running gave me an outlet to focus on my mental and physical health but also socialize in a healthy and productive way – which isn’t easy to do living in one of the biggest (and busiest) cities in the world!
I was accepted to the New York Marathon in 2015 through a charity spot and fundraised with a breast cancer awareness not-for-profit. My mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor, so as you can imagine it was a very emotional day for me. The energy in New York is unparalleled and I found myself exactly like one of thousands of runners that I witnessed the prior year - smiling, laughing, and high-fiving my way through the 26.2 miles! To this day, I can’t think back on the day or talk about it without a huge smile on my face.
Fast forward to this past September… I had relocated to London for work the prior fall with the intention to run the New York Marathon again in 2017. This time around, I qualified for guaranteed entry to the marathon, meaning no fundraising necessary. During my training, I was separately looking for an organization local to my new London community to volunteer with. I stumbled across the Mini-Mermaids and couldn’t believe how much the messages of the club spoke to my own sentiments on the benefits of running and importance of community.
Unfortunately due to crazy work and training schedule, I had been unable to commit volunteer time to the club in the months leading up to the marathon; however, they became my unofficial sponsor for the race and subsequently I was able to fundraise on their behalf. I’m extremely humbled to be able to help such an amazing cause. The New York Marathon passed about 4 weeks ago now, and was again a day full of smiling, laughing and high-fiving, not to mention such a great homecoming for me at the one-year mark of living abroad.
I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to offer my time volunteering with the Mini Mermaids in the coming months. Physical movement has been a fundamental component of my own development from childhood and beyond and this message is very important to me. I know first-hand the incredible sense of pride that comes with setting and accomplishing goals, even (and especially) when obstacles are in the way. Through MMRC, I hope to be able to positively influence the lives of younger women through the teachings and curriculum. I honestly can’t wait to join this community and share my own journey with everyone!