My First Experience Running A Marathon

Lizette Romero
Before I started running I often asked myself "what do people think about while they are running 26.2 miles?" I had run sixteen 5K's before my knee gave out, and I was able to focus for those 3.1 miles, but I don't know if I could keep that same composure for 26.1 miles. I tip my hat to those that can.
I had the privilege to interview Lizette Romero a first time marathoner. I really wanted to hear about the path that led her to such a journey. 

First l want to congratulate you, Lizette, for this amazing accomplishment of running your first TCS NYC Marathon on November 5, 2017. By no means is this an easy task to accomplish.  I know it takes perseverance, patience, determination, consistency, endurance, focus and mental strength. I am eager to know how you did it.

So please Lizette take us through your journey...

HG2HG:  Have you been running for a long time? When did you decide you were going to run the 2017 NYC Marathon?
LR: I started running about 2 years ago. I hated to run at the beginning (LOL), but then I fell in love with it, and I decided to run the NYC marathon late 2015.

HG2HG:  How was the process to get a spot in the race?

LR: In order to qualify for the TCS NYC MARATHON you have to run nine qualified races, and volunteer for one event for the New York Road Runners.

HG2HG:  Why the 2017 NYC Marathon and not another one in the city - there are so many?

LR: The NYC Marathon is the LARGEST marathon ever. I spoke to many of my friends and they told me how amazing it was.  I really wanted to push my limits, so what better way than to run the five boroughs. 

HG2HG:  Can you tell us about your training--How long did you train for the race? Did you join a training/running group?

LR: Sigh!! Well 2017 was rough for me, so I did NOT train the way I should have. I was definitely stronger and faster in 2016 compare to 2017. 
However, it is a mixture of diet, strength training, and long runs to make sure your heart and body can stand up to the test. I had downloaded training apps, ran all 5 boroughs individually. Two of those races were half marathons, and that really prepares your body. I mostly worked on my legs because I knew they would be the pillars that would be carrying me. 
HG2HG:  Who supported you through your training and/or your vision?  Was this support important for you to have? Did anyone you know run the race with you?

LR: Many people supported me--my children, my best friends, my parents, and my younger brother. If I may, I will tell you the role they each one play.
My children are always my motivation for everything I do. Every medal I received gave them bragging rights to their friends. They have cheered me on at different sidelines.  They have seen me wake up super early on the weekend for races knowing how exhausted I was from the work week. They've seen me say NO to cake and other delicious foods.  They really kept me on my toes, and to have had their support gave me an amazing feeling. 
As a result of seeing my journey, my son is SUPER health conscious, and loves his protein shakes in between meals, and my daughter became the Health Ambassador in her school this year, she is only nine (I am so proud). 
My three Best Friends - Yari, Michelle & Melody - well, where would I be without them? They are runners and workout fanatics just like me, and we have all set goals together as well as individually. 
On the Friday before the marathon I called Yari crying telling her how overwhelmed I felt in general. I told her that I felt I couldn't run the Marathon.  Of course she talked me out of it. I thought she was going to choke me through the phone. 
Michelle is the one that I've known the longest.  She looks at my achievements like a mother would look at their child.  She knows my mind and soul, and can really feel and share my excitement. 
Melody is so strong, and the one that gives me spiritual lift and encouragement.  When we run together people look at us when we stop to pray before each race. Even though each race is dedicated to God we like to call upon His name before each run and ask for protection. 
My parents they are so funny, especially my dad, but they see my vision. They see how happy this makes me. They are always so proud with my every achievement. 
If you would've seen my mother's face when I saw them at the marathon you would have cried too, she was standing waiting at 138th and the Grand Concourse. They believe in me, even if they don't say it, I know they do. I feel it!! And last but certainly not least, my younger brother Ivan. He saw my love for working out and running and although it is not his thing, he made sure he was a part of my journey. This year he gave me so much emotional support and that meant so much too me. He made sure to see me twice during the marathon, he ran from the East side to the West side of Manhattan to catch me.
As far as people running the marathon with me -Melody and a dear friend Tanya ran this year with me. It was Tanya's second NYC marathon, and Melody's first time like me. Melody and I ran and trained for most of our races together.  Unfortunately, we had to split up at the marathon. She is faster than me, but we always manage to find each other along any course, but not for the Marathon. There was a lot of anxiety for both of us behind that.

HG2HG:  Race Day is here - How did you feel??? Were you nervous, anxious?

LR: OMG there were so many emotions. I was nervous getting up and getting dressed and then I said yo myself -"Lizette this isn't anything different than any of the other times. Why are you worried? It is just going to be longer!" So I went about getting ready and headed out. 
Everything was fine, we were joking, laughing, and stretching before heading to the start line.  I heard the cannon going off for the first wave, that made my heart beat fast. Then I heard the cannon for the second wave, and I am like "oh man." Then the cannon for wave 3 went off and I said "Tanya is off."
I started heading to the start line for wave 4 with tears in my eyes, I even texted my family saying "OK its about to go down." The National Anthem was being sang for wave 4, and then we START running.  At first I felt like any other race I had done, except there was WAY MORE POSITIVE ENERGY!! You could really feel how happy everyone was.

HG2HG:  Can you take us through the 26.2 miles?  What was on your mind?  Did your mind or body hit a wall during the race and if you did what or how were you able to push through?

LR: The first thing I thought was "God why is it raining?" It wasn't a heavy rain but just not what I wanted.  It is actually easier to take you through the Boroughs:
       Staten Island - The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge felt like forever, but I was pumped and telling myself I can get through this, the time spent in SI was nice.
       Brooklyn - What a party!!!! The energy out there was amazing, everyone cheering, the signs, the kids, they fed you along the way towards mile 10. It was awesome, Brooklyn flew by!!
Then there was the Brooklyn-Queens Bridge and that wasn't fun. I thought "OMG! another bridge," I slowly rolled my eyes, but  I pushed on.
The most I ever ran was 10 miles straight.  I had a game plan I told myself this is 26.2 miles you don't want to quit and you don't want to injure yourself so at mile 6 slow down. But being in Brooklyn had me so happy that I kept going and I reached mile 10 and right before mile 10 I said to myself "you should slow down because you still have a long way." Mile 10 came and went, and I still had tons of  energy so I kept going.
       Queens - was exciting as well, DJ's everywhere and crowds. I recall the POLKA section that was playing music, it was phenomenal even though I had no clue what they were saying.
       Then came the next bridge shortly after mile 15 and that's when I decided to walk some. I had not hit that wall yet, but I was still aware I had more to go.
       On the East Side of Manhattan I felt like a superstar, there were people shouting my name in encouragement because I had it on my tank shirt. That's where I also ran into my little brother, he was standing on 110th and Tito Puente Way waiting for me with a softball and Excedrin.
I stopped and rolled out some of the cramps I had in my quadriceps took 3 Excedrin, and kept going. By this time it was hard to really have any sort of stride, I was jogging, but it felt like baby steps.
      Then came the Willis Avenue Bridge and I was pumped, not only was I in my neighborhood, I knew my family and friends were waiting for me on the other side.
      At the beginning of the bridge my friend, Damaris, coached me through the first part of the bridge, and kept saying how great and strong I looked and not to worry because there were many people behind you. My response was "you think I still have a shot at 1st place?" of course she laughed.
      On the downhill of the bridge there were the Latinas in Motion group, and they rolled my muscles some more, also giving me words of encouragement, and I was able to continue.
      At 136 Street and Alexander my friends started popping up for hugs, and there were many tears.  Rose, Yesenia, Lizbeth - it was so great, then my Titi Sandy and Cousin Chastity were at the corner, they were so proud they had been tracking me the whole way.
     Then I finally made the turn onto 138 Street and the Grand Concourse, I could see my dad searching the crowd for me. Now the issue here is I am 5'0" tall so it is slightly difficult to see me, as I am waving my hands and yelling "Daddy I'm coming" he still couldn't see me. Finally BAM! they got a glimpse. OMG my parents, my children, my best friends, and a dear friend Ricardo and his brother were there. So many emotions and lots of hugs, kisses, and more tears.  Then I was ready for the final 6.2 miles.....oh so I thought.
 Mile 22 I HIT THE WALL... it was getting dark, Melody had finished, my knee was starting to lock, and the last 4.2 miles seemed so far. I texted the girls and my family, and said "I JUST DON'T KNOW IF I CAN," and they kept telling me how close I was. 
Then I see the Mega tron and I am telling myself "Lizette this is it."  As I see the finish line, tears of joy are running down my face.

HG2HG:  What went through your mind when you saw the FINISH LINE?

LR: I remember thinking I did it! I'm a marathoner!! I reached my goal. Everything is going to change right over that line.

HG2HG:  Who was waiting for you on the other side?

LR: Honestly no one. It is different for the Marathon, because there is so much security, and then there is a whole mile to be able to get out the park. So unless you purchase tickets for the finish line seats you couldn't be there.  It really didn't make any sense to have anyone there. Plus even the people at the seats cant get through security. And you know what Patti? trust me when I say, after the year I had, I was so OK with not having anyone at the  finish line. The people I NEEDED to see were exactly where they were supposed to be.

HG2HG:  Describe the day after the race?  How did you feel?  What did you do?

LR: HA!! I could barely move. Everything from the waist down hurt. Physically
shot, emotionally ecstatic and amazed. I am still in shock and amazed at myself, and I think I always will be. I slept as much as my body let me, and then went to breakfast with Melody at IHOP where we stuffed our faces. Neither of us could remember when was the last time we had pancakes before the marathon. Then we traveled downtown to get our medals engraved. After that I jumped in my car, and surprised my mom at her school, and I surprised my daughter as well.

HG2HG:  Can you give us three words to describe your overall running that day?

LR:  Phenomenal, Unforgettable, and Epic.

HG2HG:  What would you do different , if any, if you were to run another marathon?

LR: So life happens right? Good, bad and indifferent. But, next time I would make sure that the bad situations won't take over my mind, and make me slack on doing what I love the most. I would have been way more on target for the marathon had I kept what was in mind my top priority. Oh and for the record, I am definitely running more marathons.

HG2HG:  What's next for you? Would you be running the 2018 NYC Marathon?

LR: Next is the United Airlines Half Marathon in March 2018. And Yes! I am definitely doing the 2018 NYC Marathon. My goal is to have a better time now that I know what to expect.

Wow, what an experience.  Thank you Lizette for sharing your experience with us.  Congratulations again for this great accomplishment.  I am really proud of you.  You showed so much strength, and you are blessed with a wonderful family and amazing friends.  Kudos to you.  
May you continue your journey whatever that may be.  I know that you will conquer anything you set your mind to.  Wishing you infinite health and joy. xoxo

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