A chance encounter on the Queensboro Bridge at Mile 15 of the New York City Marathon changed one runner's motivation mid-race.

new york city
The writer after finishing the New York City Marathon.

For my first marathon, my only goal was to actually just cross the finish line (preferably uninjured). I wanted to run my first marathon in Los Angeles, because it’s where I live and where I also became a runner. For my second marathon, I knew that I wanted to run in New York City. I’ve had a life-long love affair with that city and have visited it at least once a year, spending all day roaming the streets and getting lost in the crowds of diversity. In between visits to New York, I binge watch Sex And The City repeatedly. When I didn’t get into the lottery, I signed up to be a charity runner with Team For Kids, determined to float through the five boroughs in a sparkly Tiffany-blue running tutu that I had already purchased for the occasion, figuring that if Sarah Jessica Parker was ever to run the marathon, she would certainly do it in a tutu as well.

As marathon day started approaching, I had all kinds of visions of what my ideal second marathon would be like. For one, I’d beat my Los Angeles time of 4:36. Also, while I’m at it, I might as well beat Oprah’s time of 4:29. And since this was New York City, with all the sights and sounds and crowds that I have always loved, certainly this run was going to be fun and easy throughout—it wasn’t even going to feel like a marathon and the time would fly by.

The marathon morning started out great. The weather was perfect with my tutu sparkling in the sun. The first two miles of the race were breathtaking, as I ended up on the upper deck of the Verrazano bridge with amazing views of the city I loved. I thought to myself, I really will float through this whole thing. I felt fantastic for the first eight miles, and then slowly the wheels started coming off. For a variety of reasons fatigue, stomach upset and muscle cramps came on pretty early, and by the half-way point, not only did I know that I wouldn’t be beating my time, but I had serious concerns about whether I would finish. Despair and panic started to set in.

At mile 15, just when I had started the uphill portion of the Queensboro Bridge, I saw a girl in her early twenties running with a sign on her back that said, “Never forget….9/11/01….in memory of dad.” I started to cry. I remembered that this was New York City. This wasn’t just the city featured in Sex And The Citythis was where 9/11 happened. I decided right then that I was going to finish the rest of those miles—no matter what it took—in honor of this girl’s dad. My miles would be for him as well. For the next 10 miles, every time I wanted to quit, I pictured that girl running on the bridge.

After the race, I posted on my Instagram about it not being the race I dreamed of and of the girl on the Queensboro Bridge getting me through. Through the power of social media, she found me. She told me that she ran in honor of her dad, James Waring, and to raise money for an organization called Tuesday’s Children, which helps families of people who have lost loved ones to an act of terrorism. I immediately went to her Crowdrise page and made a donation in honor of her dad.

In the end, I finished in 4:44. I did not beat Oprah and I did not PR. I kept my tutu on for the entire 26.2 miles, but I certainly did not float through. Yet I wouldn’t change my New York City marathon experience for anything. I learned about an important organization, I ran and donated in honor of James Waring, and I will never forget 9/11 or the girl on the Queensboro Bridge.

To learn more about Tuesday’s Children, please visit their website.