How I Became a Marathoner — Even With Sarcoidosis
A columnist takes readers mile by mile on his journey through New York City
I’m a marathoner!
On Sunday, Nov. 6, I ran the TCS New York City Marathon, my first 26.2-mile race. And I did it with sarcoidosis-affected lungs. In the end, each mile was like a race of its own.
Miles 1–2: I’m on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, leaving Staten Island. It’s the biggest climb of the race and a huge release of energy, to be taking the streets with tens of thousands of others. After months of training, I’m in the race!
Mile 3: Brooklyn! My home of the past three years welcomes me with a twitch in my Achilles tendon. It usually takes a few miles before my legs loosen up, but this twitch is odd. I keep moving forward.
Mile 4: Loved ones! My girlfriend, sister, niece, and nephew are there to cheer me on. They each have 3-foot cutout images of my head. It’s quite a sight, and easy to spot — just look for my huge face in the crowd. We’d planned all the cheering places, starting here. After quick hugs and kisses, I keep moving forward.
Miles 5–7: I’m still in Brooklyn and suddenly hit a wall. My legs feel so heavy. My pace slows down, and I’m hoping that the feeling will go away as I keep moving forward.
Mile 8: Loved ones! My girlfriend, sister, and the kids took a subway ride from mile 4. They’re right on time. Another set of hugs and kisses, and I keep moving forward.
Miles 9–13: Brooklyn is taking its toll. I have to switch to a combination of running and walking. As I approach the Pulaski Bridge, the halfway point of the marathon into Queens, I keep moving forward.
Mile 14: Loved ones! Thankfully, shortly after I enter Queens, my girlfriend, sister, and the kids are back to lift my spirits. I walk up to them, hopeful that I have another 12 miles in me. Then I see three friends from Peloton with signs — for me! I’m three hours into my race. But I keep moving forward.
Mile 15: Now it’s the tough 59th Street Bridge (also known as the Queensboro Bridge), which almost made me quit during training. This marks our transition from Queens into Manhattan, and I’m proud to say that I somehow ran the entire bridge.
Mile 16: Manhattan! My legs feel like they’re stuck in mud, but the people here are cheering loudly. It’s badly needed, as I keep moving forward.
Miles 17–19: I’m on First Avenue. This is tough! I’m walking more than I’m running, but thankfully, I have single-digit miles left. I just need to keep moving forward.
Mile 20: The Bronx! Every step is now a new personal best. Despite the sunset approaching, the loud Bronx crowds don’t know it’s getting late. With their strength in me, I keep moving back into Manhattan.
Miles 21: I pass through Harlem as the sun sets. I tell myself, “Just keep moving.” Wait. I can still breathe well enough to talk! Despite running 21 miles with sarcoidosis, I can still breathe. It might not be “normal,” but if I can breathe, I can keep moving forward.
Mile 22: Cheer squad! Another group of friends see me, this time before I see them! Walking slowly up Fifth Avenue, I hear “Calvin!” followed by loud cheers. I’m so tired that I can barely see who’s in the crowd, but I give high-fives and hugs to everyone. Then I keep moving.
Mile 23: Loved ones! My girlfriend, sister, niece, and nephew found me once again. Thank goodness! At this point, even after six hours, I just can’t quit. I have to keep moving forward.
Miles 24: The race has entered Central Park. It’s dark and much quieter than when we started. But I’m not alone. There are others, like me, running. Maybe they have a rare chronic disease affecting their lungs like me. Maybe they’re recovering from injury or sustained one during the race. Maybe they’re just having an off day.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. Today we’re all marathoners. Today we’re running our own race.
Mile 25: The end is near. I’m exhausted and in total pain. I’ve been told that I have a high pain threshold, yet I don’t think I’ve ever hurt more. But I’m too close to stop.
A marathon is technically 26.2 miles. I look for signs showing how many meters are left.
It’s 800 meters. I think about the five months and 500 miles of training it took to get here.
It’s 400 meters. I see bright lights in the distance and think about how my doctor at Johns Hopkins Sarcoidosis Center said “Listen to your lungs” when I first said I wanted to run a half-marathon. And now, I’m doubling that!
It’s 200 meters. I think about my girlfriend, sister, niece, and nephew, and all the friends who cheered for me along the way. Every time I started to fade, they were there to keep me going.
Now it’s 100 meters. I can see the finish line and feel the tears forming in my eyes.
The finish line is close. Just keep moving.
I raise my arms to the sky. I’m going to do it!
And just then, I hear my late mother’s voice saying “Well done,” and I look up to the sky in thanks.
26.2 miles: I cross the finish line! I’m a marathoner!
Despite sarcoidosis. Despite pain. Despite six and a half hours of movement. Despite the odds against it. I’m a marathoner.
I ran my own race.
Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.
AWESOME! I am doing my 3rd half marathon in January and you have inspired me to sign up for a full next year! Thank you!