New York City Marathon: Sunny Days Sweeping the Clouds Away

Photo by Marzanna Syncerz ©

Photo by Marzanna Syncerz ©

BRISTOL, R.I. — Six weeks down, 10 to go.

Today’s column is brought to you by the letter ‘P’ and the letter ‘R.’

I earned a pair of them on Sunday. It was a fantastic week of training for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 7; a week that reminded me what it feels like to be a kid on summer vacation, and made me grateful for all the running I’ve enjoyed.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love vacation. Who doesn’t? I love to travel and explore—as I child I used to pretend I was like Bert and Ernie searching the vast African jungle for Dr. Livingstone.

But my vacation this week felt a bit more like summer vacations of yore—running around the neighborhood, buying ice cream, hitting the pool, watching movies at night, and generally killing time in the most pleasing ways imaginable; basically, by doing a whole lot of nothing.

But remember what the end of summer felt like as a kid? A new school year is quickly approaching, and you know you have to make every single day count. You’ve got to run and play and swim hard. Because before you know it, you’ll be sitting in a stiflingly hot classroom staring out the window at a sunny patch of grass, remembering better times. And I was a kid who actually liked school. But I still liked unfettered summertime better.

Running a race in Rhode Island reminded me of those old summertime days. It was in fact a sunny day that swept all the clouds away. The air was sweet, the sky was an unbroken streak of blue, and not even a temperature of 80 degrees could slow me down.

I was really looking forward to the 3rd Annual Brandon Motta 5K Run. It was a small charity race for a great cause, as I wrote about in my last post. But it felt more like a block party worthy of the big yellow bird himself.

But after a lethargic training run two days earlier, I was dubious that I’d be able to PR. It didn’t help that I inhaled a gigantic lobster BLT the night before with a healthy—and by healthy I mean large—helping of French fries and fried clams. I was not unlike Cookie Monster in one of his famous carbo-loading binges.

I did pause before committing to shellfish as a pre-race meal. There are just so many things that can go, you know, wrong. My stomach has certainly had its disagreements with crab legs, scallops and other crustaceans over the years. But you know what they say, “When In Rhode Island….” I embraced my iron-stomached inner kid and threw caution to the wind. Well, I should fuel up with lobster rolls more often.

The race was setting up to be a scorcher—it eventually hit 93 degrees that day—and nearly the entire waterfront course was exposed to the sun. But I just chugged along on the completely flat run—one of benefits of running right at sea level.

I remembered being young; I’d run willy-nilly and play and sweat and run out of breath, but that never got me down. I don’t ever remember complaining that it was too hot or the water in the pool was too cold or that I was too tired or anything else. As a kid, I was always game for whatever was going on. So with that same gusto, I attacked my vacation race. I’m on vacation! I get to run! I get to play! I get to splash in a pool afterward! Yay!

And I did. After the race—as I sat on a patch of grass overlooking the Narragansett Bay with a Del’s Frozen Lemonade in my hand, pondering which bathing suit I would wear to the pool—I had a moment. Every now and then we have a chance to step outside of ourselves and take a look around us. Here I was on a cloudless sunny day, on vacation, in a state park, eating frozen lemonade after running a race on one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever seen.

The irony was not lost on me that I had just run the race in honor a local 8-year-old boy who can’t run himself, who has never known a wild and windy childhood summer of unfettered carefree freedom. Living with CMT, a neuromuscular disorder, Brandon Motta is confined to a wheelchair and uses an apparatus to help him breathe. Brandon can’t run, so the rest of us had to run for him. It was a humbling moment that sharpened everything into focus.

With 110 participants, the 3rd Annual Brandon Motta 5K Run is the smallest race I’ve ever run. And with no time chip or finish pad—just a red painted line on the ground—it was up to a team of volunteers to time everyone as we came across the finish.

Yes, I set a personal record (thanks letters P and R) on the 3.2 mile course, and finished 10th out of 65 women (ah-ah-ah, says the Count in me)—far better than my usual 719th out of 2601 women at any given New York Road Runners Race. Plus, it was my very first top 10 finish. My boyfriend came in second—his highest finish ever. But all of that was just icing on the summer vacation cake.

Running a solid effort gave me a lot of confidence going into Sunday’s OASIS Montreal Half-Marathon on Sept. 5. I needed that after my disappointing last race. I needed a reminder of what it feels like to run hard, run fast and run well. But I also needed that moment of perspective—the one that told me no matter how badly or how well I run, I’m still lucky that I can run. I’m lucky I had wild and windy childhood summer days. I’m lucky I can remember what they were like.

So with my confidence and newfound perspective packed in my suitcase, along with my Passport and some BodyGlide, I’m on my way to where the air is sweet—Montreal. Will the air be sweet with the smell of success? Will next week’s column also be brought to you by the letter ‘P’ and the letter ‘R’? I don’t know, and right now, I don’t really care. To quote my good friend Cookie Monster, “C is for Cookie…and that’s good enough for me!”

To read more about Brandon Motta and to make a donation to the Brandon Motta Fund, please visit

Karla Bruning is an award-winning journalist and running nerd. She has completed three marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning. To listen to an interview with Karla, check out The Marathon Show, available for streaming or download on BlogTalkRadio and iTunes.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


09 2010

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  1. Amanda Williams #

    Sounds like the perfect day! Referring to your top 10 reasons to run, I find on the days that I notice everything is also beautiful, I also have these out of body experiences where you remember to be ever-thankful for the ability to run. I’m glad some money was raised for Brandon and congrats on the PR!


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