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Nina In New York: NYC Marathoners Run Straight Into My Heart

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Runners participate in the New York City Marathon - Nov 1, 2009 - Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Runners participate in the New York City Marathon – Nov 1, 2009 – Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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By Nina Pajak

My heart is bursting with pride. Go, marathoners, go!

I am not into sports and don’t generally relate to most forms of athletic achievement. I watch the Olympics and am usually impressed but unmoved (unless there’s a spotlight on some heartbreaking tale of overcoming an obstacle, in which case I’m in tears). I’ve never even watched an actual marathon in person. But when I see those exhausted, skinny people walking around under mylar capes looking like they both conquered the world and aged twenty years in five hours, I just want to hug each and every one of them. I want to run—wait, no I don’t. I want to walk down the street high five-ing everyone and telling them how amazing I think they are. I can’t explain it. I just love those crazy bastards so much.

PHOTOS: 2011 Marathon

The best part is, I hate running. Hate it. It’s painful and unpleasant and it makes my throat burn and I get all wheezy and purple-faced within two blocks of my starting point. My husband enjoys running and does it on purpose quite frequently, though not at marathon distances. He runs very moderate distances and sets sufficiently impressive yet generally achievable goals. As a result, he now owns no fewer than three different knee braces and has rotating and enduring pain in all of his lower joints.

I’ve tried to love it, believing the hype about how “anyone can run a marathon if you train for it.” I’ve never made it past day three and am constantly tormented by a memory of a 100-meter dash race at my sleepaway camp’s color wars. Actually, they called them the “Maccabbean Games,” and I was on team Isaac Bashevis Singer, because I went to a weird socialist Jewish camp which was not actually filled with budding young Jewish socialists. It was, on the other hand, filled with bratty, competitive, athletic kids. So even though I was strictly a Newcomb girl, I somehow got placed in this track event. I made the best of it, mustered my team spirit and, at the whistle, started running my little heart out for Team IBS. I was doing it! The wind was blowing my hair back and everything around me was a blur. My feet were pounding and my legs and arms were pumping hard. I could do this! I could win this! My teammates were cheering me along as I ran, and suddenly their chanting crystalized for me as I passed by a group of them.

“Go faster! Go faster! You’re supposed to be running!”

Oh.

Darn.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve known for so long that my body is not built for speed or endurance. Perhaps it’s because all those years ago, I realized I would never be the kind of kid who won, or even ran, races. I’m a little jealous of runners. I’ll admit it. Completing a marathon is a life achievement which I will never know. And that’s okay. I’ve made my peace with it. There are plenty of other things which I can do that don’t involve skills like stamina or athleticism.

Luckily, I’m really good at feeling happy about other people’s marathons. That’s good enough for me.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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