YORKTON - The New York City Marathon is one of the world’s most famous marathons.
Each year thousands – as many as 98,247 applicants for the 2017 race -- take to the course which winds through the five boroughs of New York City.
The race is held on the first Sunday of November and attracts professional competitors and amateurs from all over the world, including this year Saskatoon’s Tarrant Cross Child.
I first met Cross Child when he spoke in Yorkton earlier this year when he was the keynote speaker as that Yorkton Tribal Council hosted a Suicide Prevention Walk in the city.
In talking to Cross Child he mentioned he was readying to tackle the NYC Marathon for a second time -- he participated in 2017 -- and he was looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere of the famed race more this time.
“Absolutely I think it was more enjoyable,” he said in an interview after the run, adding it started with simply being more familiar with the course, and what to expect.
That included just being ready for the race start, or as Cross Child noted “all the logistics of getting to the starting line.”
On race day some 53,000 runners were all making their way through New York to the designated start line, some being up for hours just to get where they needed to be.
It was easier for Cross Child as New Balance was a sponsor so he rode a VIP bus “right from the front of the hotel to the start line.”
So why take on the race again?
Cross Child said when it comes to running marathons it is generally a very personal endeavour.
“Each of the runners will have a diffident story of why they are there,” he said, adding some are highly personal like that of a Regina runner who was raising awareness and dollars for a disease that had hit her father.
Running is very personal for Cross Child too.
When in Yorkton earlier this year Cross Child said he was raised well, and had been a good father, coaching his daughter and doing other things a father does.
But, the drinking started, and he stopped being a good father. He wasn’t at parent – teacher interviews. His 10-year-old daughter would lay in front of the door begging him to stay home, but he’d just move her and go out and drink again.
Then the gambling followed.
“The more I drank the more I gambled. The more I gambled the more I drank,” said Cross Child.
By the time he lost the battle to open that beer, and the others that followed that day, Cross Child said he came to a conclusion the only way to help “my wife and kids was to take myself out of the picture.”
He said at this point “I felt absolutely helpless.”
Cross Child began to write his letters of good byes, begging his sons to not grow up to be like he was, for his daughter not to marry a man like he had become; that life for his wife would get better because he would be gone.
The letters written Cross Child went to his garage and found a rope, trying to hang himself.
“I failed three times,” he said.
Eventually, Cross Child said he “woke up in the hospital,” adding his first emotion was anger. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this . . . I wasn’t supposed to wake up.”
It was in the hospital though that the course changed for Cross Child.
“I realized I needed help,” he said. “I just knew deep down inside my gut of hopelessness I needed help.”
Four days later Cross Child was on his way to a year-long treatment centre.
“I was scared at first . . . But, I knew I needed to do something different,” he said, adding it worked. “Pretty soon from the deep dark pit I could look up and see the light.”
A year later Cross Child was out, and restarting his life, renewing vows with his wife, finding a way to save his home from foreclosure, and restarting his flooring business with about $200.
Cross Child also took up marathon running, something he said became something of a personal symbol of renewal for him. He said he recalls crossing the finish line of his first race, and realizing for him it was “a brand new start to a brand new life.”
Now running is something of a self reward for Cross Child. He explained he has had a hectic year speaking to students at 24 different schools, doing other speaking engagements such as the one in Yorkton, and still running a business, but the marathon was sort of the carrot on the stick to keep going.
“I knew the New York Marathon at the end of the season was my prize,” he said.
So with a bus ride to the start line, Cross Child said he was relaxed and ready to more fully enjoy the run.
To start he was sharing it with his wife Celeste who was also running, but while she took off and would finish with the better time, he took a more chill approach.
“I took it slow. I took it all in,” he said, adding there are so many great sites to see on the course if one isn’t too focused on the run to soak them in.
And there were the people, the millions lining the course, many with signs encouraging the legions of runners to simply keep going. Cross Child said he tried to acknowledge as many as he could.
“The spectators are there for the experience as well,” he noted.
For example, some carried placards with a button motif encouraging runners “to tap for more energy,” like you might in a video game, said Cross Child, adding he tapped several on the course.
Other placards were inspiration with messages such as ‘you can do this’, ‘keep going’, ‘believe.’
Cross Child said he became aware of how special it was for millions of strangers to be there encouraging runners they did not know to continue on toward the finish line.
“It dawned on me the power of our minds,” he said, adding one must be able to interpret the messages to act on them in a positive way “to understand the power behind the words.”