My wife and I first decided to run the New York City Marathon after watching our brother finish the race in 2010. Since then, it’s been a long journey to get to the finish line. After running nine qualifying races in 2011, the 2012 marathon was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. And last year, I started the race but had an ankle injury that forced me to stop at mile 16. While I had a lot of personal reasons to finish what I started this year, I also recognized that the marathon is bigger than any individual achievement.
I was drawn to raise money for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF because of my experiences as a public health professional. My career has taken me to some of the most resource-poor settings in the world, from Zambia to South Sudan. The most agonizing aspect of my work is seeing how poverty, weak systems, and a lack of basic services affect the most vulnerable members of society – children. Once I decided to use my marathon journey as a vehicle for good, choosing the U.S. Fund as my charity was an easy decision based on UNICEF’s excellent track record when it comes to impact and efficiency.
Raising $3,500 seemed like a daunting task, but I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends and family. To reach my goal, I simply sent regular emails to my contacts asking for their help. I also included information about UNICEF’s work around the world and updates on my training progress. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I discovered I had raised $5,080 by the fundraising deadline.
Race day was both literally and figuratively a whirlwind. After spending the morning with my fellow Team UNICEF runners in the charity village, I started the 26.2 mile course battling through brutally windy and cold conditions. Though I felt good through the first half of the race, the weather started to take its toll on my body on the 59th Street Bridge, the same place where I decided to drop out of the race last year. But this year, I knew that nothing was going to prevent me from getting to the finish line. I was injury-free, and I had the moral support of all my friends and family that had generously donated to my cause to propel me through the last 10 miles of the race. I also had a small army of family members waiting for me in Harlem, which helped, too.
Crossing the finish line in Central Park was an amazing moment. I had struggled through the last several miles and finished nowhere near my goal time, but I didn’t care. I had finally achieved my dream of finishing the New York City Marathon! And knowing that I was also able to do my small part in providing children with the clean water, food, medicines, vaccines, and protection they need to survive made it that much more special.