This past weekend I ran the 2022 New York City Marathon and it was an experience that I’ll never forget. With a few days to process, I still can’t put things into words but I tried on this podcast episode. This is a brief account of what went through my mind during the race as well as what I’m feeling on the other side of the finish line.

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The night before the marathon, I asked my wife to write the phrase “do hard things” under my left collarbone in sharpie. It was a reminder close to the heart that strength comes through struggle.

The morning of the race was an anxious one (as to be expected). I connected with a good friend for the first time in person before getting to the start line and from there, things became real. The first mile of the race was smooth and surreal – running up the Verrazano Bridge with thousands of other runners was unlike anything that I’d ever experienced before. We soon entered Brooklyn and the shirt came off as I realized that the humidity was going to be a big factor in how the race played out. Below is part of the journal I wrote the morning after the race:

Starting around mile 6, I realized that things were going to be even harder than I thought. By mile 8, my legs started to feel heavy and by mile 10, my quads started to seize up. I had a moment where I realized I had 16 more miles to go and my heart sunk into my chest. That was the first moment when I realized this was going to be the hardest thing that I ever did. From there on, each mile was an absolute battle. I did my best to keep a consistent pace, but the conditions made that very hard. I felt like I was overheating at times and throwing water over my head was the only thing that kept me from shutting down at moments.

The energy of NYC was out of this world but I was in pain and for most of the race I wanted the noise to stop almost as much as I wanted the pain to stop. Somehow I made it to the Queensborough bridge (mile 15) and it was eerie – running uphill on the lower level and all you can hear is the footsteps of the thousands of runners struggling to make it over the bridge. With quadricep cramps looming with each step, the downhill was almost worse than the uphill. Coming down the bridge, you were able to see the spectators on First Avenue and hear the roar of the crowd – that was both exhilarating and daunting.

With 10 miles still to go, the race was just beginning.

There were moments over the next 10 miles where every single bone in my body wanted to stop but something kept me going. That something was the people in my corner – everyone who I felt like I couldn’t let down, including myself. I struggled very hard at times but continued to think of the words, “most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out that they’ve got a second.” Seeing Michaela and my parents at Miles 18 and 23 kept me going and the energy from the crowds helped me finish strong – the last half mile was one of my better stretches – I ran with everything that I had and when though  my legs were tired and hurting, I ran with heart.

Looking back, I realize that the energy and the experience of the New York City Marathon was one of the most special things that I’ve ever experienced but in the moment, all I could feel was the pain. There were moments during the race where I felt like a little kid wanting to go home from school because I missed my parents. There were moments during the race where I wanted to pull out my phone and tell Michaela that I couldn’t finish. There were moments during the race where I felt so sad and even discouraged.

However, with another series of  steps, those feelings faded and endurance was uncovered. I thought about how good it would feel to finish the race knowing that I had given it my all and that’s what I did. I crossed the finish line and took a series of wobbling, staggering and dizzy steps to get my medal. I walked (what felt like a mile) to get out of the park and another few blocks to meet my parents and Michaela. On the walk back, I wore a blue New York City Marathon poncho over my shoulders while my quads almost gave out over and over again. Climbing up the subway steps and back to the car was almost as much of a challenge as the race itself, but it felt good.

Between injuries, weather and other factors, the race conditions were far from ideal BUT those are not excuses. I set out to run 3:30:00 and ended up at 3:48:26. If you had asked me before the race, I would have been disappointed with that result but sitting here on the other side, I couldn’t be more proud. While I didn’t get the outcome I wanted, I got the experience that I needed.

I don’t feel proud of myself often – I set high standards and live with the expectation that I’ll hold them. I’m so proud of myself for the first time in a long time and the pain I’m wearing this week is better than any medal I could have gotten. I have a renewed sense of purpose and I remember why I started Project Endure. This is the start of a beautiful chapter and I’m so excited to keep living it. I couldn’t have done what I did without God and that’s something that Joe from a few years ago would have left out.

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Before ending this blog, I want to extend a HUGE THANK YOU to the family, friends and strangers who sent messages, tracked me online and came out in person to keep me going – I couldn’t have done it without out! ❤️

“The pain that you hold is yours. There is not a single pain quite like it. Nobody else on God’s green earth can feel this pain, or have the indescribable feeling of pride you will have when you overcome it. This pain is not your curse; this pain is your privilege.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Here’s to whatever’s next.

Joe Rinaldi

IG: @joearinaldi

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