When I received an email from NYRR stating that there was going to be a 5K at MetLife Stadium with the finish line inside at the Giants End Zone, I squealed with glee, signed up immediately, and forwarded the email to His Lordship, and my dear friends Amanda and Stephan. I knew it was a long shot to gather the troops for an early morning journey out to Rutherford, New Jersey, but I didn’t care. It was all so clear:
Run your first 5K. Sprint through the field of the New York Giants (ahem, Super Bowl Champions).
I was elated when Amanda, who does not run, exclaimed that she would race. Stephan was in as well. His Lordship, however, had to bow out due to IM training. His loss.
On race day, the Walkers and I met up at Penn Station, only to realize that we had all read the website wrong and that we had to make the 7:43 train at Secaucus Junction to New Meadowlands in order to be early. This now put us on the 8:43 train, getting us to the stadium right gun time.
My nerves were spiking something fierce. I had race jitters, a bag to check, and wait—where exactly was bag check, anyway? The Walkers were also jittery with excitement, and yet somehow kept me calm throughout our journey. The previous night, His Lordship gave us all tips and tactics for racing a 5K. “Go balls out,” he said, “And when you think you can’t go any faster, push forward.” This was all ringing in my head as I watched the clock move closer to the 9 a.m. hour.
Our train arrived at New Meadowlands, I wished my friends good luck, and sprinted to find bag check. I asked the first volunteer where I could find such a place.
“Huh?… Oh, I’m not sure…”
Lady, we have no time for this. This is a train filled with late runners/walkers alike, so you should know what you’re doing. I saw a fellow in a blue bib with a bag running toward me. He signaled that I needed to turn around, bag check was in the opposite direction.
Mr. Blue Bib shouted expletives—he, too, was frustrated that no one knew where anything was.
What seemed like 75 minutes later, we found it, and sprinted across the parking lot to the start. It was now three minutes past 9:00, and I forced my way up to the front as best I could, knowing that today was not going to be my finest hour, but jumped in head (and feet) first all the same. I spent the first mile maneuvering around people, and sprinted on the gravel paths on the outside of the course. I found my stride and started pumping my arms. Anytime I found a wide stretch where I could sprint, I used it to my advantage. And just as my wise coach said the night before, the first mile was done before I knew it.
It was hot. We were running 3.1 miles in a concrete jungle. I felt terrible when we crossed over our first hill—I told Amanda it was a flat course (it’s a parking lot for Christ’s sake). I saw a misting station and used it. I repeated things in my head: fleet feet, swing the arms, watch your breathing. I focused on that immensely. Mile 2, done. I wish I had turned on my Garmin. I had no idea what my pace was—I just know that after doing some quick math, my first mile was over 8 minutes due to weaving in and out of people.
We passed over another hill (sorry, Amanda). Runners were drenched in sweat and getting tired. I kept swinging my arms. And that’s when I saw the beauty and glory of MetLife Stadium. We were running directly to it, and it was time for that moment of sprinting down the field.
As we started running the perimeter of the stadium, I saw a man in front of me slow to a walk. A fellow runner and myself lit a fire under his ass and told him not to quit—just get inside the stadium and finish. He started moving his feet again.
And, just like that, we were inside Giants stadium and greeted with friends and family members all wearing Giants blue (and some were in Jets green, those jerks) cheering us on.
The jumbotron was on, filming everyone running through the finish line. I threw my fist in the air and shouted, “GO GIANTSSSSSS!!!!!” at the finish. Flipping brilliant to sprint down the field, just as our friends in blue do every year. I had a new sense of respect for them after my body came back from ‘warp speed’, and I realized just how hot it was. I walked to the water station and drenched myself. I walked across the field to the finish area, and cheered on the runners. When I saw Amanda coming down the field, I started shouting obscenities. It was her first race, after all.
After numerous photos were taken, we got our trusty bananas and bagels, and shared our race stories on the train back to Manhattan. Then our race results came in.
I told His Lordship that I wanted to run until I hurt. Mission accomplished. And although we endured a bit of a cluster at the start, it was a great race, and I’m so happy to have been apart of it with two of my best friends.
And, there’s always room for improvement. I just need to sign up for another 5K. Suggestions welcome.