Jackie Fagan enjoyed running, and did so, mostly, to stay healthy and social. The most she would do is run the entire Long Beach Boardwalk once a year, about 2.2 miles.
Her husband, David, was a much more competitive runner. He’s run the New York City Marathon four times, the last in 2019. She’s been to them, to see him run, but never ran one herself.
Fagan, 56, belongs to a local triathlon club called LandShark Endurance. She’s been involved with the club for nearly a decade, going to the marathon each year to cheer on her clubmates. She entered the lottery herself a few times in the slight chance she got chosen, but she never did.
“This year, in June, the tri team was given four entry spots by New York Road Runners to raffle off,” she said. “So I threw my name into the hat. I got in.”
She was already in the middle of her training for the Half Ironman Triathlon at Jones Beach on Sept. 23. The Ironman triathlon, which has participants run, swim and bike, was Fagan’s first crack at that as well. Once she finished the triathlon, she began marathon training, running at least four days a week, and sometimes up to seven, following a plan she found online.
“I was supposed to run at least four days a week,” she said. “So I would run Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Thursdays would be my long runs and I would run the boardwalk and then over the bridge and go into Island Park. So, I’d get between seven and nine miles on a Thursday morning. And then on Saturdays or Sundays was the really long run.”
The really long runs would be between 13 and 16 miles. She also wanted to eventually do 18 and 20-mile runs while training, but never got there. So, her longest training run was 16 miles before the marathon. The marathon was 26.2 miles, but she didn’t care.
“I knew I would finish the race,” she said. “I just didn’t know how I would feel after Mile 16. Everybody talks about hitting a wall at Mile 20, so I didn’t know how that was going to go. Then by the time Saturday night came around, I said, ‘okay, I just have to get it done tomorrow.’”
When the day finally came, Fagan was excited. When she got to the start line on the Verrazano Bridge, the emotions started flowing. The Star-Spangled Banner played loudly, cannons went off and then, suddenly, there was a wave of people running, all trying to reach the same end goal.
When she got off the bridge and into Brooklyn, she started to hear the spectators. The level of humanity and support from people she didn’t even know overcame her, helping her along, giving support.
“People are out there, and they may not know you, but they’re out there and they’re cheering for you,” Fagan said. “I had my name on my shirt and they were calling out my name. They are all out there encouraging you.”
Her friends, LandShark clubmates and her husband David and children, Jack and Meredith, were all there cheering her on at various spots as well. One of her friends, also named Jackie, was there to greet her at Mile 4. Then her family, LandShark pals and other friends, Karen, Nancy and Marty, were at Mile 8. She knew she then had to go just the next eight miles before seeing a familiar face, her husband David, again. He was there with her brother-in-law, niece and some other friends.
Fagan had some other people there for support, scattered around at other points throughout the run.
“I knew I had people all along that course,” she said. “I knew I had people; I knew I had support. I knew I had my family and my friends out there cheering for me and I couldn’t wait to get to them and see them. It was fun and I would do it again.”
Once she made it to the finish stretch to the finish line, the reality of what she accomplished began to sink in.
“It was euphoric,” Fagan recounted. “I couldn’t believe I did it. It was wonderful and it was everything that everybody says it ever is. It was a wonderful experience.”
Fagan said she wasn’t the fastest runner out there, finishing just over 5 hours and 47 minutes, but she conquered it as her first-ever marathon. Going back to the turnout of support she had from friends and family, she said she couldn’t have done it without them.
“You can’t do these things without support,” she said. “Whether it was David and my family or it was my Long Beach friends or my team, you can’t do it alone. You have to have support and people that will encourage you and share their knowledge for marathons or other trainings that they’ve done. It’s good to have all of those relationships and partnerships.”