Wait. I don’t think you understand.
Prior to 2013, she did not run. Like ever. In fact, she had the same pair of white Reeboks from high school for about 20 years. She’s naturally skinny and can eat whatever she wants and yes, you’d loathe her for this if you didn’t otherwise know her. The year she got engaged, she decided she was going to get in shape and went running with me around a large lake where we vacation. I’d always been the runner in the family. That day, I think she made it a third of the way around before I invoked the mercy rule on her behalf and we went back to the lodge to eat chocolate chip cookies.
So when she called me a little over a year ago and said she was going to run a half-marathon in D.C. because her company was a major sponsor, I burst out laughing. Then I realized she was serious. Then she did it, and I sh*t you not, she barely broke a sweat. It turns out that she is really, really good at this.
My siblings and I have very different personalities. Where I’m the creative hellraiser, she’s the controlled business exec. Where my life was a somewhat winding path of “hey, maybe I’ll do this now and I’ll care about this thing more than anything I’ve ever cared about!” hers has been laser-focused on ambitious, clear goals. She’s a superlative mother, a great cook, and in an age of oversharing, refreshingly discreet. All good things.
There’s a type of perfection in her first marathon (and her last, she swears) being the New York City Marathon. At this point she’s lived in this area longer than anywhere else. For more than 20 years, she’s worked in its heart and called the area home. It’s in her blood as much as anyone born out in Queens or representing Brooklyn.
She’s not looking to set any records today, just to finish. She’ll get to wind through the five buroughs at her own pace on her own terms. She’ll make her way into Manhattan at mile 16 and have 10.2 more to go in the shadow of that iconic skyline.
A few days after the Twin Towers fell, she told me that they’d been the symbol of the possibility the city held for her when she’d first arrived. A proxy not only for the entire physical, sparkly jungle, but for the spirit of what she wanted to achieve there — be big, own it. By the time they fell, she was successful in business and today, has even more: a husband who’s one of the good guys — one of the great guys — and two adorable tykes with the intelligence and cheery disposition of children from a 1920s English storybook.
We went together to pick up her race packet at the marathon expo. These things are always all high energy and free GuShots and moisture-wicking shirts, but this one was powerful, too. Because this was my big sister about to run the New York City #*%ing Marathon. She got her bib number and I held up my camera to take a picture and instantly started crying.
I can’t recall being more proud of her. Ten years older than I am, for my entire life, she’s looked out for me and cheered me on. When I was little, at church, she’d give my hand a little squeeze pattern during the Lord’s Prayer when we were both supposed to be busy praying for lost souls to sympathetic saints. A fashion exec, she spoiled me in high school with my first cashmere sweater and my first piece of Tiffany & Co. jewelry. When everyone else thought it was goofy that I was going to rush a sorority, she bought me my first set of real pearls.
For the past five years, in the most stressful moments of motherhood, I’d call her sniffling from my kitchen table… or the car… or curled up in the fetal position in a closet… and she’d listen, advise, and then pat me on the butt and send me back into the game ready to play another series.
Today, I’ll make sure she stays in the game. At mile 16 I’ll be cheering like a lunatic at the base of the Queensboro Bridge. At mile 20 I’ll be in the Bronx. At mile 24, I’ll be in Central Park. But she’ll cross the finish line all by herself. She’s the runner in the family now. I’ll be the one happy-crying on the other side of the camera.