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My flight to New York City was scheduled Friday, March 15, with the race being held on Sunday, March 17.

While I had been training at home and working hard for this race, a few other things were going on in our community. Two days before we were scheduled to drive to Omaha, flooding was starting to occur. By Friday morning, roads were impassable to the north, south, east and west of Columbus. My husband and I researched driving routes and were not having success finding a way out of Columbus. We called the Columbus Municipal Airport and initially were told that there were no flights available to Omaha.

My suitcase was packed full of essentials for running in cold weather and then my vacation in New York, but it did not seem like we would get to go.

About an hour after we called the airport, the airport manager called us and said that a plane was coming to Columbus from Lincoln. This flight was taking one person from Columbus to Lincoln and there was room for us! The flight company offered to take us to Omaha, as well, but it was much more economical to take a rental car so that was the option we chose.

We had an hour to get to the airport and we were off! From the plane, we were able to see the devastation the flood was causing. I traveled to New York City with my husband and daughter, Emily, who attends Hastings College. She had no travel issues as Hastings had snow while we had the flooding, so she met us at the airport.

We arrived in New York uneventfully and spent Saturday with my family. We did go to the Race Center in Manhattan and picked up my race bib, went to a presentation on the race course and shopped for those important race souvenir clothing items. I learned that I was wrong about the number of race participants. There would be 25,000 race participants, not the 10,000 I had thought would be running- more participants than the population of Columbus!

Race day came early. I was up at 4:50 a.m. to be sure I was ready. My wave didn’t run until 8:30 a.m. but I had to be at the starting area 90 minutes before the race. At 6:30 a.m. my husband walked with me to the train station. My daughter who lives in New York had carefully mapped my subway route onto my phone so that I would get there on time.

I took the Q train from Manhattan to Brooklyn and arrived about a block from Prospect Park where the race was to start. I rode with many runners. I talked with runners from New York, Holland, Denmark and New Jersey on the train. After walking to the park, I had to go through a security area, complete with police officers and bomb-sniffing dogs. Some runners were searched carefully, but this Nebraska gal was just motioned through security with very little fuss. Next stop was an area where foil blankets were distributed. I tied mine on as temperatures were about 20 degrees with the wind chill.

After the blanket station was a water station, then portable toilets. This line was long and took me 45 minutes to complete. While there, park officials were urging runners to use the toilets despite the lines as using trees was illegal. That gave me a chuckle as I waited to get into my corral of a thousand runners. In our corrals, we placed our foil blankets and extra layers into recycling bins.

All of this took 90 minutes or a little longer but then I heard those words ... "On your mark, set and go!" I was off! First, we ran in Prospect Park, about 3 hilly miles, woody areas. Then, down to the Manhattan Bridge and up that 4-percent grade for almost a mile! That was my favorite part of the race, although hilly and difficult, the view was outstanding. We ran on the highway, not the pedestrian bridge. Later on this bridge, I learned that one of my fellow virtual training group would fall, fracture her foot and not complete the race.

Next, we ran down FDR Drive. This was rolling hills, views of skyscrapers and many runners. Times Square was soon to follow. My family was positioned near our hotel and it was an awesome sight to see them there. Shortly after that, I was in Central Park, with its hilly miles to finish the race. Although the race was challenging I felt strong and prepared. My time was not fast for me, but it was a difficult race. I was surprised to learn that myself, an average gal from Nebraska, ran a steady race and finished in the middle of her age group of 500 runners - some of them elite.

After the race, I walked out of Central Park with many runners. Central Park was not open to the public at the finish line for security reasons. Although my meeting place was on my phone, I was tired and unable to find my family. So, I found a Starbucks, coffee and waited for my family to find me!

The rest of my vacation went fast. I was tired for a while, but not too exhausted to enjoy myself. The night of the race I went to an excellent show with my family but I know I fell asleep the minute my head touched the pillow after the show.

I have been asked if I would run this race again. My answer will always be the same - Yes, Yes, Yes! It was 13.1 challenging miles but the race and experience of a lifetime.

As I have said many times, I am just an average gal from Nebraska who happened to run the New York City Half Marathon once! The race and getting to New York was an experience I will always cherish.

Marcia grant is a wellness coordinator, personal trainer and fitness instructor at the Columbus Family YMCA.

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