The Kindness of Strangers Matters More Than We Realize

It stayed with me, reminding me of how much it can achieve.

Merre Larkin

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Words in chalk on pavement: “YOU GOT THIS”
Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

I was running the New York City Marathon for the second time. I’d performed well my first time, although not quite the sub-3:30 I’d hoped for. This second time, though, I was coming back from a series of injuries and hoping to qualify for my third Boston (a sub-4:00).

The NYC Marathon is normally held the first weekend in November. You never quite know how the weather will be. Sometimes it’s temperate, sometimes it’s not. In 2008, when I was running the marathon the second time, it was bitter cold, colder than I’d expected and was dressed for.

Since I was a faster runner than the rabble of participants who make up the marathon’s majority, I was assigned to a corral towards the front, with an earlier start time. However, it was so cold that I waited with a few other runners whom I’d just met, talking to pass the time more quickly. Usually I preferred solitude, focusing on my game plan.

After missing important announcements being made, I ended up in the wrong corral. I was furious that I had to start further back than I was trained for, and my fury threw me off my game. As the miles went by, though, I settled into a rhythm and was doing okay time-wise.

The frigid conditions began to wear on me after the halfway point, and by the time I hit 19 miles, I felt more sluggish than I usually did at that point in a marathon, which may have made me more susceptible to what happened next.

Just shy of the 20-mile mark, while crossing a bridge connecting one part of the city with another, I lost my footing on uneven pavement, and then my balance. The next thing I knew I was up in the air, heading forward, with enough time to think: I was going to land, I couldn’t stop it, and it was going to hurt.

I tried to protect myself by landing with my hands first, but my left brow bone followed suit, smacking against the hard ground with a thud. My knees slid along behind the rest of me. The runners around me continued on as if nothing had happened. I got up as quickly as I could and moved off to the side of the bridge, where a few spectators were sporadically positioned.

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Merre Larkin

Writer. Life coach. Educator. Marathoner. Survivor. Avid reader. Here to share, here to learn.