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NYC Marathon 2018: Achilles Guide

This past Sunday, I ran as a guide for Achilles International [1], an organization for disabled athletes. Although it was my overall 12th marathon, it was my first marathon as a guide. It was an incredibly difficult, overwhelming, emotional, and beautiful experience. I was paired with a 25 year old blind runner, Eddy, who I had met with twice beforehand. Before our marathon together, Eddy showed me his spirit of positivity, gratefulness, and sincerity, so I knew that that would help carry me through our run together. And it did.

 

 

Me and Eddy after the marathon (and after the shower) at his family’s apartment on Roosevelt Island. Yes, I took a tram after running a marathon, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

This is what I wrote to my instagram account yesterday, so I apologize for the double post on it, but I think it clearly explains my thinking around my whole experience…..it was unbelievable and oh so hard.

 

To say it was hard is an understatement. Every step I took, I searched to see if Eddy could also fit in to that box. The path was congested and there were people EVERYWHERE. Eddy did not wear a shirt anywhere that marked he was blind or disabled, and we were not tethered together as many blind runners are with their guides — therefore my guidance was my voice. So I was constantly telling him about the people next to him or in front of him and we created our own system where I would yell out “GOOSE” and he would file in back of me so we could squeeze between people and then we would get back together in our formation. I was weaving in and out of the crowd not just calculating my moves, but Eddy’s too.

 

We wore matching Achilles shirts. It was the most perfect day in NYC; sunny, crisp and oh so beautiful. I was proud to sport the bright yellow tee and be a part of this organization.

Coffee and oatmeal was my first breakfast at 4:30 am. Not the best looking meal.

Throughout the day, I was bombarded with texts and calls from friends and family wishing support and love. I felt all of it — thank you. This text was from the security guard of my daughter’s school — yes the security guard — and boy, did it help give me energy and strength. Thank you.

 

Throughout the difficult moments of actually running the marathon, being responsible for Eddy’s well being, being concerned of his safety and happiness, and just trying to get through the miles, I was extremely grateful for all the support along the way. Not only were there thousands of people on the street inspiring us to move forward, but all the texts and calls made the biggest difference. And of course, seeing Eddy run a marathon, was inspirational. It was not easy, nor was it pretty, but man, was it beautiful.

 

As part of Achilles International, we met at 38th Street and 5th Avenue to take a bus straight to the start line. We met at 5:30 am and got to the start at 8 am — it was a long ride and I thought I was going to pee in my pants, so I didn’t say a word except that I needed a bathroom every two seconds. Thankfully, it ended well.

At the start, the AWD (athletes with disabilities) were in a separate area with our own tent and bathrooms. This was incredibly helpful and useful for the athletes — Eddy and I were both in awe of so many of the athletes — many had to have help to get to the bathroom — and yet here they were running a marathon. Unbelievable.

Pre start in our throw away clothes eating our second breakfast of the day.

My favorite picture of the day. Thank you, Jenna!

 

I was so focused on the course and helping Eddy navigate that I barely looked at the people on the sidelines. Normally, I look at everyone and wave back, but this time, my mind was on Eddy. So although I had many friends out on the course, I didn’t see the majority of them. Here I did, and I was so happy to see someone I knew.

 

A friend saw us on TV. Look at the bottom left corner — so funny. We started together, ran together, and finished together. A true team, thank you Eddy.

Smiling at mile 23. SO happy to be in our homestretch — entering Central Park is my own backyard where I knew every corner, crack, forwards and backwards, so I was SO happy to be in the homes final stretch.

#FamilySupport

Coming home from the marathon was a whole new battle and obstacle — it took me over an hour to get home — and I had to walk another 3 plus miles all around as I couldn’t get from the west side to the east side — I was so emotionally tired and just done with moving……but then I got home to two orders of nachos and was happy. I ate them before I showered (and I really needed to shower).

The beautiful sunset on the beautiful day.

 

Thank you for letting me share this experience with you. I spent yesterday processing the day and feeling all the feels. It was an extraordinary day and I know that I will forever be touched by Eddy.

Anika Yael Natori, aka, The Josie Girl
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