TCS New York City Marathon—done and done.

Part of me can’t believe that the marathon is over. Hell, part of me can’t believe that I can still walk (on flat surfaces, that is—the stairs are a no-go). True story: In a past marathon, I had to be pushed through the airport in a wheelchair (on the return trip). It gets better—I was on crutches for 48 hours after the race. But this is a new day! Maybe I should thank the fact that I (somewhat) stuck to the training schedule for my mobility? Or that I sought the help of a fantastic physical therapist (shout out to Sam at Park North Physical Therapy) who got me all-the-way together? Or could it have been the Brooks?

Who knows? But, what I do know is that if one had to theoretically choose a day to run through all five boroughs of New York City, Sunday would have been that day. The weather was perfect.

The sun was beaming, and the air was crisp. I’m that person who is always cold, but the chill in the air was invigorating. I wore a sweatsuit (like an actual suit that makes you sweat—one of those plastic sauna suits that people wear to really break a sweat during a workout—don’t ask me why I own one), and it worked like a charm. I kept that bad boy on until immediately before the race started—and once the cannon sounded, it was on. Apparently, there was a breeze on top of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, but I couldn’t feel the cold. My adrenaline was going.

The blue suit
Photo: Deborah León

The excitement and energy from the runners and spectators was palpable. Don’t call me a defector, but I must admit that Brooklyn’s spectators held it down in a very grand way—I’m talking bands, DJs, little kids, aunties. It was glorious. It is so powerful to hear your name being called in an encouraging way. There were so many moments when folks screamed my name, and it perked me right up. And when spectators couldn’t read my name (which was written on my shirt) they called me “Sis.” I couldn’t get enough: “Go, Sis!”, “You can do it, Sis!” and “Almost there, Sis!” Shout out to the spectators, for real.

But nothing’s quite like having a group of friends and family to make a personal cheer squad. Kiran is a work friend and the first person I saw calling my name in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. She’s a sharp-shooter (with a camera) and got all the angles when I passed by. G/O Media’s Victor Jeffries II ran up on me—literally ran immediately beside me—like the paparazzi in a multicolored unicorn snowsuit (Take these pictures! Yaaas, Victor!), and showered me with love. Linsey, one of my closest friends, also ran along with me, and we later FaceTimed for 2.5 seconds (gotta preserve the battery), and her husband Lance and mother-in-law cheered me on. I felt so special. Cece, a queen from Queens, waved and yelled as loudly as she could on the streets of Long Island City. And my mother and brother flew like angels throughout the city to see me at multiple locations, holding signs to remind me of my source of strength.


Bless you, all.

I was so hype to see Victor. Can you tell?
Photo: Victor Jeffreys II

The cheers of encouragement kept me going for most of the race, but 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles. Furthermore, crossing over five bridges is no joke. Fortunately, I had my coach from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society run with me from miles 14-17. I didn’t say much, nor did he, but it was nice to have his presence alongside me for those few miles. I caught a cramp, he told me how to deal with it—and it worked!

But soon after he left, the race got real.

The mileage hit me in the Bronx. By this point, I was about 20-21 miles into the race. I started to feel spurts of sharp pains in my calves, and my knees were holding on for dear life. Jesus, take the sneakers! What I’ve noticed is that there’s a point in the marathon when it’s less painful to walk than to run. It’s as my legs went on autopilot. Without fail, that has happened to me during every marathon that I’ve run. Here’s a take: This auto-pilot phase is deeply spiritual. It is literally my will power that pushes me forward and kept me going. It reinforces my belief that we are beyond our bodies, but our souls are the true supreme forces. Deep, huh?


Before I knew it, I was finally at Manhattan’s Central Park, the very place where over 30 years ago, a white woman was raped and beaten while jogging, and five innocent black boys were said to have been guilty of the crime. The irony was not lost on me.

Before the race, I consulted two of my colleagues, Genetta Adams and Anne Branigin, who helped me devise a plan: We decided that when I crossed the finish line (in Central Park) I would wave a t-shirt with the names of the Exonerated Five (men formerly known as the Central Park Five) like a flag. Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. And in victory, I was to wear their names proudly across my chest.

Running buddy and me
Photo: Felice León

My moment crossing the finish line was triumphant. The plan was perfectly executed. My race was done.


Be clear: This marathon wouldn’t have happened without friends, family, and YOU the readers. Run team, you all encouraged me, offered advice (especially with the sneakers) and even donated (thank you emails coming soon—assuming that I have access to your emails through the fundraising site). I am supremely grateful.

You fill me up. Angels—in heaven and on earth—ran with me on Sunday. It’s been some ride, but y’all, victory feels so sweet.

MapMyRun said I ran 27.04 miles in five hours. But according to the official results, I finished the 26.2 miles in five hours.
Screenshot: Felice León
The official results. Didn’t quite make my goal of coming in under five hours, but I’m damned proud of myself.
Photo: Felice León

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About the author

Felice León

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.