“This was about helping another runner to the finish line”

Calgary's Catherine Fah was less than 1K from the 2016 New York City Marathon finish line when a man was on the verge of collapsing right in front of her

October 30th, 2017 by | Posted in NYC Marathon, Runs & Races | Tags: , , , , ,

New York City Marathon
Photo: Catherine Fah.

Hundreds, if not in the thousands, of Canadians make the trip to New York City every year for the world’s largest marathon.

Ahead of Nov. 5, we’ll be looking back at Canadian runners’ memorable experiences as well as those who are racing this Sunday. In 2016, one Canadian, Catherine Fah, was able to snag a Boston Marathon- and New York City Marathon-qualifying time, but not without drama.

This is how the Calgarian recounts her experience at the 2016 New York City Marathon:

“I didn’t have a perfect race. I was by myself, I found the village confusing, I found the crowds too big, I couldn’t get my pace right, I found it to be a tough course and I was feeling stressed. Throughout the race, I had to tell myself, ‘get a grip, this is New York, you qualified, you are so lucky to be here, so just enjoy it.’ I started to relax and take in the amazing crowds, volunteers and scenery. I ran better because of it.

“On social media, you sometimes see those amazing photos and hear about heartwarming stories of runners helping runners. Well, I found myself in that kind of situation about 800m from the finish line. I wasn’t a hero. I was actually cursing the guy saying, ‘no, not now and not to me.’ He looked heavy. He was about to collapse in front of me and I had to catch him so he wouldn’t hit the pavement. I tried to find medical staff or someone to help me. I encouraged him to try to keep running and then I tried to find someone to pass him off to. But every runner was in their own world, chasing a PB, chasing a Boston qualifier (BQ). I would never forgive myself if I didn’t help. I wasn’t after a BQ and it wasn’t a PB race. This was my 10th marathon…I was the chosen one to help.

“This was about helping another runner to the finish line. I found out his name was Mike, according to the scribbled writing on his race bib. He was pale and had symptoms of being very dehydrated. I got the crowd behind me, yelling at them for support, they cheered and clapped him on. With 400m to go, while struggling to hold his weight with his arm over my shoulder and my arm around his waist, a man asked if I needed some help. Through bib search, I found out we were helping a 24-year-old with the assistance of a 63-year-old, both from the United States. (I reconnected with the runner in distress weeks after the race and he thanked me and couldn’t remember what happened.)

“Crossing the finish line we handed him straight to the medical staff, who placed him in a wheelchair. The other runner and I hugged, laughed, collected our medals, and went on our way, with a runner’s high and a story to tell.

“I didn’t even know my finish time. Turns out my time, 3:43:44, qualified me for Boston and New York.”

Got a memorable moment from a past New York City Marathon? Get in touch by emailing tim@runningmagazine.ca