Losing steam while running the NYC marathon, a humbling finish for L.A. therapist

red line

red line

The author, a physical therapist from L.A., looking just about ready for the race.

The author, a physical therapist from L.A., looking just about ready for the race.

By Yvette Sardillo

The November 5 NYC Marathon is my 2nd World Major, my 9th full marathon, my 72nd official race with 13.1 and 26.2 mile distances.

The weekend started with a red-eye flight from California. It was to be a quick getaway for my husband and I, and a “runcation” with my running friends. The three days leading up to the big day was packed with activities. There was a marathon expo, banquet at the Philippine Consulate, meet-up with friends from grade school, and of course, shopping and sightseeing. Everything was non-stop action, and it was amazing, just as I expected.

However, I noticed how I wasn’t keeping up well. I’d go back to our hotel room and spend the evenings laid up with fever and chills. I’d caught a bug. I didn’t let it faze me; after all, I have run two L.A. Marathons with bronchitis in the past and did just fine. In my mind, all I needed was more rest, plenty of fluids, and a can-do disposition.

I woke up at 4 a.m. to get ready. Despite feeling under the weather, there was never a point where I doubted myself. It’s what runners do. It took what seemed like forever to get to our start corral and finally step on the start mat at the Verrazano Bridge.

The energy was exhilarating; it’s all I needed to get me the initial boost. Instead of picking up my pace as we were running downhill coming off the first bridge, I started slowing down. This was when I realized I was in a serious predicament. I still had 24 miles to go and I need to keep on pace, not just for me, but for my friends who I promised I’d pace to finish with their best time. By mile 7, I knew I’d lost any hope at achieving my time goal. My mind was willing, but my body had limitations – and it slowed me down.

A quick donut for fuel.

A quick donut for fuel.

I tried to focus on the sights mile after mile to distract me from giving in to physical weakness, but after the street parties on Lafayette in Brooklyn, all I could remember was powering through the rain and feeling a sense of relief at the sight of each mile marker after the 15th.

The Queensboro Bridge was my kryptonite; it sucked all the energy I had left. Every time I tried to run, my back would spasm and cause stabbing pains through my torso. By this point, I was running on sheer will power. That ran out too by mile 19. I must have asked my friends to catch an Uber ride multiple times as I kept hearing them tell me that was not an option, and that I just needed to keep moving. And I did. I just had to refocus.

Unfortunately, the beauty of the sights along First and Fifth avenues was all just a blur as I kept a tunnel vision until the finish line was in sight. And it was done. 26.2 most difficult miles I have ever done. But I didn’t do it alone. I had friends who made sure I crossed the finish line. It was surreal, and simply humbling.

I’m 48 years old. Running for me started at 40. My oldest daughter, who was 13 at that time, came home and excitedly announced that she had signed up to be part of the school’s marathon team and that they’d train for eight months to run the L.A. Marathon. My answer was NO! There was no way I was going to let my little scrawny 8th grader go through that physical torture. I am a physical therapist by profession and I take care of people’s injuries, and there was just no way I was going to allow that.

My husband and daughter did not take no for an answer. Fast-forward a year later, both my husband and I took on volunteer positions as leaders for the school’s SRLA (Students Run L.A. Marathon) team, which is part of a bigger group of 3500 middle and high schoolers in the L.A. area that have been running for almost 30 years.

Childhood friends from St Paul Pasig, from left: the author,  Issa Castro, Sarah Tambunting, Lori Punsalan, and Edel Fang. They all ran the full marathon.

Childhood friends from St Paul Pasig, from left: the author, Issa Castro, Sarah Tambunting, Lori Punsalan, and Edel Fang. They all ran the full marathon.

Life has changed for my family since my little 8th grader decided she wanted to run. I signed up for my first marathon only to prove to my children that anything you set your mind to, you can achieve. It was going to be a one-time, check-it-off-the-bucket-list deal.

I came to the U.S. in 1992, FOB after graduating from physical therapy school. My true ambition was to be a famous fashion designer in New York City. Instead, I landed a physical therapy job in upstate New York! Close enough, in my opinion! Location, not career-wise.

I moved to California to start a family, and we settled in a quiet suburban town called Apple Valley northeast of Los Angeles. The town has grown tremendously in the last 24 years. My husband and I are deeply rooted in this community, having opened our own Physical Therapy Clinic and Aquatic Center.

Running has touched my life in so many ways. I have met the most inspiring people, worked with many whose disposition about perseverance and fortitude was infectious, and have associated with individuals who go after their aspirations. I have created the best friendships and rekindled relationships with childhood friends who I have inspired to run. I have motivated and coached many to take the first step and cross the finish line of their first race. The passion to run comes from all of these, not the medals, not the mileage.

My NYCM experience not only moved me, but it humbled me. I was privileged to walk the last seven miles with people who do this feat with passion. I walked alongside seniors who could barely stand straight, people in crutches and prosthesis and people who were morbidly obese. They inspired me to keep moving forward. I have every reason to want to come back and do this all over again!

PT Yvette Sardillo is married to Tony Sardillo, another avid runner. They have four daughters Tori, 21, a junior at UC Berkeley; Lexi, 19, a sophomore at UC Davis; Bea,15, a high school sophomore; and Toni, 13, an 8th grader. All of them have participated in the L.A. marathon as early as age 12.

© 2017 The FilAm

With husband Tony Sardillo raising the Philippine colors

With husband Tony Sardillo raising the Philippine colors

One Comment

  1. Gerald Tabios wrote:

    Beatufully written Yvette! Thank you for sharing your life journey and NYC experience. Indeed you are a true inspiration to your family and to us.  Congratulations to you and your friends finishing the NYC marathon. I hope we will bump into the roads someday.

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