How I Got into the Greatest Marathon in the World

Dori Manela

This coming November, I will do something that most people around the world could only dream – I will be running the ING New York City Marathon.

I was never a runner. I never even considered it. In fact, I live along the Marathon course and never even thought to go out and watch the thousands of people push through their 16th mile on the road to 26.2. I simply had no interest.

That all changed in the summer of 2009, when the thought of exercising inside when it was beautiful outside was suffocating. I wanted to be outside in the sunshine, enjoying the beautiful New York City summer. After a bad experience the year before involving rollerblades and Central Park hills (let’s just say I hope you all never have to make the game-time decision on whether it would hurt less to crash into a metal fence or into a wood fence), I decided to give running a try.

It wasn’t easy at first. I almost gave up a few times, deciding that I was just not a runner. But I stuck with it, and before I knew it I was running my very first 5K race in September 2009.

I was hooked.

By the end of the year, in 2010, I already had five races under my belt. Turned out that even more than running, I adored racing. So it was only natural that I would decide to devote 2010 to qualifying for the most awe-inspiring athletic event in the world.

While an ultra-competitive lottery system and nearly impossible previous race time-requirements weed most of the world’s running population out of the New York City Marathon, we have an incredible advantage as New Yorkers: the ability to gain guaranteed entry.  All you need is basic cardiovascular ability and some extra cash – about $375 when you include NYRR membership, race-entry fees and the actual cost of the marathon.

New York Road Runners (NYRR), the organization that holds the New York City Marathon each year, offers a 9+1 Program for Guaranteed Entry to the NYC Marathon.  Any person who is an NYRR member as of January 31, runs nine qualifying races and volunteers at one event will be eligible for automatic entry to the following year’s New York City Marathon.

I joined NYRR and in February 2010, I ran my first qualifying race, the Gridiron Classic. I finished this four-mile race (with separate running paths to show which Super Bowl team you support!) on a bitterly cold day with a time of 41:32. 

I ran one race a month after that. The most special one for me happened March 21, when I not only turned 27, but ran the New York City Half Marathon -- my very first half-marathon. I cried at the starting line and sobbed as I finished the race. Never in my life did I think I would run 13.1 miles, much less through the center of Times Square.

It all came full-circle when I ran my final race of the year in November – a four-miler, just like the first one. At the Race to Deliver (which raises money for New York City charity God’s Love We Deliver), I came in at 33:55, knocking a good seven-and-a-half minutes off my time.

As part of NYRR’s final requirement for the New York City Marathon, the volunteer credit, I decided to get into the marathon spirit by volunteering at the 2010 ING New York City Marathon Expo. There, I assisted soon-to-be marathoners as they entered the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The excitement was contagious, and volunteering at the Expo got me revved up for the Expo I’d be in myself next year.

The following day, for the first time in my life, I stepped out of my apartment and spent four hours cheering for the runners at the New York City Marathon. The entire time, as I made a point to shout out as many runners’ names as I could read (many racers write their name on their shirt), all I could think was: Next year, this will be me. I will be grateful to hear my name being screamed out as I run past more than two million spectators.

The process of securing my entry to the 2011 ING New York City Marathon was an incredible experience in itself.

While there are other ways for to qualify – including a wonderful charity program – we really are fortunate as New Yorkers to have the 9+1 Program at our fingertips.

Dori Manela is a writer, content manager and social media consultant. Raised in Queens, Dori now lives in Manhattan, taking as many exercise classes in NYC as possible in search of the perfect workout. She started Dori's Shiny Blog in November 2007. As her passion for fitness grew, DSB turned into a health & fitness blog. With the help of her favorite social networking site Twitter, Dori has connected with other bloggers, boutique fitness studios, companies and readers to share her love of working out.

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