Risa Ran NYC

I. DID. IT. I ran a marathon. Can you believe it? Cause I sure can't! It's been three days and I'm still in shock that I actually crossed the finish line. Well, until I try to get up or have to take stairs, then I think "Oh. Yep. Definitely ran a marathon."

Sunday was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but I'll never forget it. And I definitely don't regret it. As most of you know, because I've said it so many times, I'm slow. I'm really not fast. I wish that I could tell you that I totally went for it and finished way faster than I ever thought I could. But the truth is, that isn't the case. I actually finished slower than I had anticipated. But that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy myself or that I'm disappointed in my performance.

A photo posted by Risa Xu (@risaxu) on

So the question that needs to be answered is of course, how long it took me. I ran the course in 6:32:11 – in other words, slow. But I was able to complete before the course closed, which I'm extremely proud of. I had two fears coming into this marathon; one of them being that I was so slow that I would finish after the official cut off time. Because, as you all know, just go ahead and say it with me (or rather, let's let Baymax say it for us):

baymax i am not fast gif

Forgive me if this post isn't the the most organized one – there's lots of thoughts in my head and I have to curate which ones are the best ones to share with everyone but I'll try to make it as organized as possible.

Looking back on the race, one of the things I definitely wouldn't have done was go so fast at the beginning. I went against everything I read and gave it my all right at the start. Rookie mistake right?

The crowds in Brooklyn as you come down the Verrazano bridge are hard to beat and I really couldn't hold back. No matter how much I wanted and tried to. It also didn't help that I knew I'd have family and friends waiting for me there. So I was constantly on the lookout for them. My amazing fiancé and future mother-in-law even chased me around Brooklyn because they missed me at the first place they were waiting.

risa xu nyc marathon brooklyn 2015

Can I be honest for a second here? I've shared these thoughts on my personal Facebook as well as a short version on Instagram but I wanted to have this written down somewhere - even if it's for my own reasons.

Going into this whole thing, I was nervous. To say that I wasn't would be a lie and unfair to anyone who's ever trained for, ran or wants to run a marathon. But my nerves were really concentrated on two things, one of which I mentioned above: 1) My legs giving out and 2) Getting to the finish line too late - and by late, I mean crossing the finish line after the cutoff time.

What I didn't anticipate was how badly the wall would affect me mentally. And it was pretty bad. Around Mile 18, I was burnt out, my legs felt like they'd been dipped in concrete, my watch had stopped working and my mentality was shot. I was preparing myself to find the next volunteer to help me get on the sweep bus to the finish line. I slowed down to a walk and texted my fiancé - I told him that I had hit my wall and I "wanted to die." He knew what I meant immediately. He knew I wanted to quit.

A photo posted by Risa Xu (@risaxu) on

After reading those first four texts, I put my phone away and kept going. He had been tracking me all day on the app and as I came back into Manhattan, he sent me that "Welcome back to Manhattan!" text.

The next time I stopped to text him was when I finally gave in and stopped at the med tent at around Mile 21.

I've never had a blister popped before and I definitely wasn't prepared to be asked to sit down and have it popped immediately (with lots of rubbing alcohol, anti-bac cream and a sterile needle) and sent on my merry way. So I kept my mouth shut about the other one I felt starting to form on my other foot because I didn't want to go through that pain again.

risa xu 2015 nyc marathon
risa xu nyc marathon 2015

At mile 24, I thought one of the above two fears that I mentioned was becoming a reality. The NYPD came around and started blaring out of loudspeakers: "The New York City Marathon has now concluded. Please for your safety move to the sidewalks. The roads will be opening soon." The girl next to me and I both looked at each other and said "What did they just say?!"

To have run all this way only to see an empty finish line, no medal, no anything. I ran past barriers and saw that the staff were beginning to roll up the banners that lined them. The only word I can use to describe how I felt is "DEFEATED." I wanted to sit on the sidewalk and cry. I knew I was so slow but damn it. Damn my watch for crapping out on me and damn these legs for not taking me fast enough. And damn my height - why am I so short with such short legs?!

As I slowed down to walk, I heard people yelling "Don't listen to [the loudspeakers]! They're lying! Keep going! Get your medal!"

It was at this point that I realized there were still people lining the streets. Runners that have already finished, volunteers, NYPD, spectators - they were all still here and still cheering. In my head, I said "F*CK IT" and went for my last two miles. As I rounded where Columbus Circle is, I realized the stage was still up, the music was still playing, and the MC's were still there. It wasn't over yet.

risa xu 2015 nyc marathon finish

During training, I thought I'd cry at the finish line. I imagined myself crossing the finish line and turning into a blubbering mess. But I didn't. Instead, throughout the course of 26.2 miles, my eyes welled with tears multiple times.

I wanted to cry on the bus ride to Staten Island when 'Sweet Caroline' came up on my playlist. Tears formed when someone ran by me in a MR8 singlet and I thought of the eight tiny letters that are the initials of Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi and Officer Sean Collier I had written on my singlet. I got emotional when volunteers and strangers looked me dead in the eye and said "YOU GOT THIS!" I wanted to cry when I saw those texts when I hit my wall. Even now, I want to cry just typing these things out.

risa xu 2015 nyc marathon run oxfam

Six hours, thirty two minutes and eleven seconds. That is a long time to be running and walking. I left my apartment when it was still dark out and I came home when it was dark. It was a long day and aside from the two bagels in the morning, the bananas, pretzels and candy that were handed to me by kind strangers in the street and my gel packs, I hadn't really eaten all day. But this was an experience that I wanted for a long time. To say that I had the mental endurance and stamina to beat my own biggest critic, myself, and complete a marathon. I would never trade Sunday for anything - no matter how tired, hungry and in pain I was. It was worth it.

I want to also take a moment to thank all the people that don't get the medals but are just as important and meaningful: the NYPD, the volunteers and the spectators. Thank you all for being such amazing cheerleaders and keeping me and everyone else going, even when I felt like I wanted to quit.

The volunteers that stayed late even after your shift ended: Thank you, thank you, thank you. You all made my first marathon an amazing experience and I don't know what I would have done without your smiling faces.

And the spectators, all two million of you. TWO. MILLION! Of course I love my family and friends that showed up but all other two million of you - thank you for cheering for people you never met doing something you might not understand. 

Well, that's really it. It was an emotional roller coaster from before I even started at the finish line. Thank you to everyone who's been on and supported me through this crazy ride. And before I go, I want to answer the question I'm sure you're wanting to ask me: Yes, I would do it again. And yes, I want to do another marathon.


Special thank you to all those who donated towards my fundraising - you are all the superstars! I wouldn't have made it this far without you all. And special thank you to Oxfam America for having me on your team and representing your amazing organization in the marathon this year.