My 2021 New York City Marathon
by Paul Semendinger
November 8, 2021
Let me begin by saying that New York City, all five boroughs, are amazing, awesome, inspirational, supportive, and, just plain wonderfully great. I love all of it. Every person, every borough, every street… All of it.
New York is the greatest city in the world.
It just is.
Every person should have the chance to experience what I did yesterday. Wearing a Superman shirt, I ran through the five boroughs and had the most wonderful day. It was so special.
For over four hours and thirty minutes, the people of New York yelled encouraging words to me. “Go Superman!” “You rock Superman.” “Yeah Superman!!!”
It was so special and wonderful and uplifting and…well, sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t find the right words to express the emotions and the experience I lived through. I had run the NYC Marathon with a Superman shirt once before, years ago, and felt the love then as well, but yesterday was even more wonderful.
In short, to the people of New York, from the bottom of my heart, “Thank You.” Thank you, sincerely and deeply. Thank you for making me (and 30,000+ other runners) feel so special and loved. Know, please, that I love you right back.
I can’t wait to see you all next year!
It had been three years since I last ran the NYC Marathon. Three long years. I last ran NYC in 2018. I wanted to run it in 2019, but the tears in my Achilles made that impossible. I remember a long run at the beach in October of that year, with my lovely and wonderful wife by my side supporting me on a bicycle when I realized that I just didn’t have what it took to run the race. I remember the tremendous sadness I felt when I made the decision to not run the race. That long run proved to me that I wasn’t in shape and that I wasn’t physically strong enough to run the marathon. The limping, the pain, the struggle… it was just too much.
The NYC Marathon has become part of who I am in a way that I also can’t really explain, but to give up something you hold so dear is difficult and painful.
A few months later, in January 2020, I had the necessary surgery to repair the Achilles. I remember walking into the surgery center and saying to the receptionist, “I am here to sign-up for the 2020 Marathon.” She smiled and I did too. The surgery went well, as did my physical therapy following. Of course, in that time, Covid also hit. It was a strange time. My PT became virtual. It wasn’t easy to try to heal over a computer screen and without the manipulation on my surgically repaired heel. But I pressed forward.
By April, I was able to run a quarter mile, and then a mile… The progression was steady, if slow.
When we want something, or need something, we will do all we can to get there. I did all I could to get back.
And I’m back.
In some ways, I am stronger than I ever was before. I have changed my diet a bit, I exercise a lot, sometimes twice a day, I push myself daily. I had a goal – to get back to that race and to do well, and I worked feverishly, and with a laser focus to get there. It has not been easy. Even people who love running know how hard it is to get out there and run on many occasions. But we’re driven, and we do it, even if it’s not easy.
Maybe we do it because it’s not easy.
(Still, that doesn’t make the daily effort that much simpler. It’s a daily grind, like the days that come and go, it’s a relentless pursuit, never ending, ever.)
My NYC Marathon always begins with the opportunity to share God’s word at the Religious Services tent in the Start Village. Through my dear friend, the Rev. Ed Hasse, I have become a part of those services each time I am there to run. It is a very special, inspiring, and uplifting moment, to share the love and inspiration of the Lord with others as we set out to cover one of the biggest physical challenges we’ll ever face. I deliver my sermons and I also pray with many people there. We hold hands, and ask for God’s love and strength, and blessings.
I can’t think of being part of the NYC without also being part of those special moments of inspiration and prayer.
It’s always cold there at the start, by the sharing of God’s love brings a special warmth – a very special warmth. I tell the runners that God will be with them as they cover the miles, as he always is.
And he was there with me yesterday, again, as always.
The race itself was magical. It was so so so wonderful.
I think I was much too excited to be running because I went out way too quickly.
WAY TOO QUICKLY.
At 5K, I was at 27:12 (8:46 mile pace)
At 10K, I was at 55:09 (9:00 mile pace)
Even at 15K, I was too fast (1:25:55 or 9:35 pace)
This was great, and not great at the same time. I did most of my training runs at 10:00 or 11:00 minute miles. My fast training runs, even most of my shorter ones, were not this fast. I was simply flying…
Even my half marathon time of 2:07:57 was solid.
I guess I was fired up and loving it too much. Maybe with thousands of people yelling, “GO SUPERMAN,” I thought I should run fast.
I knew by 9 or 10 miles in that I’d suffer for most of the rest of the race, and I did. It was hard, but I also knew I could cover every mile and that I’d finish. It was just a matter of how fast I’d get there.
The crowd, at times, carried me. With their shouts and encouragement, I found the energy, time and again, to raise my arm (or arms) in victory as I ran. That always brought even more cheers.
Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to cheer us on. It was like old times. They were there to scream, yell, make noise, play music, and give us their love. Each time when I’d high five them or thank them or engage with them the best I could, I felt lighter and faster and stronger.
This is why New York is such a special race.
This is why.
There are no fans like the fans of New York. They make this race what it is.
I love the people of New York.
I tweeted that last night.
Hey New York City! I LOVE YOU!!!! Thanks for carrying me over the 26.2 miles. Thanks for yelling, "GO SUPERMAN" for 4:39:32. You made my day. I LOVE YOU ALL. I LOVE YOU ALL!!! pic.twitter.com/U0DakNRx6L — Dr. Paul Semendinger (@DrPaulRSem) November 7, 2021
I love you New York. I love you passionately and deeply. I love you all as if I know you all because you are all so very very very kind and encouraging and wonderful.
You inspire me.
Of course, there were times in the race when it was a true struggle. I don’t think most people know how hilly that course is. It can be brutal. It seems like it is always uphill. I don’t know how that’s possible.
I also took time to pray for strength and to pray for others and to ask for strength from God. Without that strength, the strength He gave, I would have never made it.
When we give love, we get love.
The love we get is also always more, in profound and meaningful ways, that whatever we gave.
The love we get is always love in abundance.
I was 50-years old the last time I ran this race, or, really any race. In many ways, the older we get the more difficult this all becomes.
I’m now 53-years-old.
I want my body to move fast and stay strong over the 26.2 miles, but it’s not easy.
I’ll have to train better next year. I want to still get stronger and yes, get faster.
My finish time of 4:39:32 was solid. I am very pleased. I wanted to be sure to stay under five hours. But it was my second slowest marathon time ever. (My slowest was 2018, the previous race, when I finished at 4:47:47. Those tears in my Achilles had something to do with that.)
Still, life is about setting goals, and pushing hard to attain them no matter how old we get. There’s always a new mountain to climb – a new challenge to overcome.
We won’t always get there. Sometimes we’ll fall short. But the glory comes in daring to begin.
Impossible is an Illusion.
See you next year New York.
I can’t wait.
I love you!