Sunday April 15th was a special day. Not because it was Tax Day (we did get a 2 day reprieve thank goodness). It was special because it was the day of the More/Fitness All Women’s Half Marathon and it was the birthday of female heroes.

I’m happy to say that all of the women in my Athleta running group finished, and finished strong. When we started Jan. 1st 2012, most were newbies, having never run any distance, let alone a half marathon. Sunday April 15th, 2012 they officially became runners, and in the process heroes to themselves and to so many others.

I had a great race in spite of having been overcome with the flu the prior week. I finished 1hr 38mins and 8th in my age group.  A good time for me in general, but especially considering I was a little phlegmy (unsexy but true) that morning due to my seemingly never-ending flu symptoms.  I was determined to get a good time and really hauled the last 2 miles, laying it all out there the last few yards.  Needless to say, I was happy and super done when I crossed the finish line, but that finish would be a mere footnote to the true upcoming highlights of the day.

After I finished, and before I could cramp up and/or pass out on the grass, I went to the Athleta tent, scooped up my video recorder, and headed to mile 12 to wait for my peeps. I would have gone back farther in the course but my legs simply didn’t have it. I waited and waited, and then… there was Teresa.

This was a woman whose longest run had only been 4 miles prior to training for this half marathon. She was excited but a little hesitant about this distance. The first time she ran seven miles, she surprised herself. I recalled it had been a major milestone.

And there she was…CRUISING at mile 12! I jumped in and ran with her.  It was so fantastic to see how far she had literally come in this race and in becoming a runner overall.  Since she was doing great and my legs were still a little wobbly, I ran a bit with her, then doubled back to see who else of my girls would be coming round the way.

I waited and I didn’t see any more of my Athleta crew. I later realized I had missed them in my zigzagging back and forth. Then, there in the crowd was a woman, Danielle, who I teach in my fitness classes in Harlem. We had only discovered serendipitously in the last week we were both running this race.

I screamed her name.  Her stride looked good but her face was showing the mental fatigue of starting yet a third loop of Central Park. As an aside, I must say the course was TOUGH. Not just because of the endless hills, mentally it’s a killer –  2 full loops of the park, and then you start a third loop before you are finally done.  You’re like, “Haven’t I seen that tree before?!” The answer is YES. LIKE TWO OTHER TIMES!

By the time you get to the third loop… seriously?! You’re over it. And that’s what I saw in Danielle’s face. “Come on girl, let’s run! Follow me!” I said. And together we bobbed and weaved through the traffic. I said polite “excuse mes” to get us through the crowd. We didn’t want to be rude but we had a finish line to cross! I was only going to take her a few yards, because remember, I was super done, but the universe sent me energy and we ran that last mile together and finished together!  We hugged and cried. It was MAD COOL. Just as so many people had helped me finish over the years, I could not have been more thrilled to have the opportunity to pay it forward and help somebody else.  AWESOME.  But wait! There’s more.

I met up with my girls at the Athleta tent. Jennifer, who showed up to the first training run in a wind-breaker, the equivalent of Keds, and a Charlie Brown scarf, stood before me a Half Marathon finisher! She looked amazing and was brimming with energy. She also had a secret.  She shared that 10 years ago this very day she had undergone major surgery. To run this race, on this day, was incredibly special, emotional, and personal.

Then there was Liz, today a half marathon finisher, who had been the queen of short runs on the treadmill prior to training, and had become the queen of the bridle path in CP (my personal training philosophy ingrained in my crew to always run on the dirt J). Also energized and talking about the next race.

And Tasneem, who was a runner before, but became and even better, faster runner and had a great race. I’m convinced there’s a cross-country runner in there just raging to come-out. Come-on out, girl! You’re faster than you think Tasneem J

Katie, Susan, Christy, Teresa, Jennifer, Tasneem, Liz,  Ivy, Danielle…to all the ladies I had the pleasure of running with, to all the women who ran the race, to all the women who accomplished the perceived impossible April 15th 2012, CONGRATULATIONS! You are heroes. You inspire me and most importantly, you inspire yourselves and others.

Some of you have the running bug and are already planning your next races. This is not the end but the beginning of a whole new life for you.  In your journey, if you have the chance to run with someone, run. If you have the chance to help someone, help. If you have the chance to lead by example, do it. It all comes back around and makes you and everyone around you, stronger.

Power to the She.