From Frank Sinatra and memories of her late grandmother Dorothy Beyer; to Robert Plant, Mick Jagger and memories of late father Lars; to her posse of family and friends; to drawing on the intestinal fortitude that made her a standout swimmer at Hopewell Valley Central High School, Paige Anderson had everything she needed in order to finish her first New York Marathon.
On Nov. 3, Anderson tackled the nation’s most prestigious 26.2 mile race and made it across the finish line in 4 hours, 37 minutes, 34 seconds. That placed the 25-year-old 29,872nd out of 53,518 overall runners, and 1,914th out of 3,607 runners in the 25-29 age group.
But where the 2013 HVCHS graduate placed was secondary to actually completing the race with a grin.
“My main goal was to finish, but I also wanted to smile through it, and find my friends and family at the points they told me they’d be cheering me on,” Anderson said. “I wrote down my time as four hours and 30 minutes before ever having done a marathon and I finished at four hours and 37 minutes, so I’m glad that I was able to pretty accurately guess my time.”
The race begins underneath the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island, moves to Brooklyn, comes into Manhattan, goes up through Queens and the Bronx and curves back down into Manhattan’s West Side into Central Park.
When it came time to start running, Ol’ Blue Eyes got Anderson’s engine revving.
“They started us off with a countdown and then the cannon goes off and they played ‘New York, New York’ by Frank Sinatra, which was one of grandmother’s favorite songs,” Anderson said. “She passed two years ago, so that just really made me feel like she was right there with me at the start, and I knew I had her support throughout the whole race.”
From there, it was a different genre of music and a different family inspiration that kept her going.
“I also played a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones to keep me pumped up when I needed an extra music boost,” Anderson said. “They were some of my dad’s favorite bands so to have him by my side as well helped. This year will be 10 years since he passed, so doing activities that I feel would make people like them proud and bring me closer to them always keep my spirits high.”
She was also inspired by the massive crowds that lined the streets, which included her mom, Donna, boyfriend Ray Mastroianni, and six close friends who spurred her on at the Mile 16 marker, which was right after the Queensboro Bridge.
“Right when we got into Manhattan I could see their signs and heard their cheers which catapulted me towards them for hugs and encouragement,” Anderson said.
As she entered Central Park for those grueling final three miles, where the mindset must be at its strongest, Anderson harkened back on her successful days in the pool.
“The crowd there was awesome,” she said. “Probably the loudest part of the race since they knew all of us were so close to the finish line. It was like the last race in the finals of a swim meet. By Day Three, you’re exhausted and ready to just sleep but it’s the most important race because that’s going to be the part that you really remember since it’s how you finish that shows. Staying mentally and physically tough was hard, but being able to look back, I’m proud to say I ran those last three miles and right when I saw the finish I was able to sprint home.”
So ended a journey whose seeds were planted several years earlier. Once Anderson realized a qualifying time was not needed to enter, she began researching and discovered she could try to get in through a selection lottery, or by raising money for a charity.
“I joined a gym and started taking classes and running outside,” she said. “But ultimately I felt that I needed something to be training for, much like going to swim practice every day for 12 years did for me.”
So she told her mom she would try the marathon.
Asked if distance-running genes run in the family, Donna said, “No! I have run a few 5K’s but that’s enough for me, I could only wish to have that accomplishment. Her father didn’t run but was athletic and if set his mind to something, he could do it.”
Since she was too late to enter the lottery, Anderson went the fundraising route. She opted to raise money for Dress For Success.
Required to raise $3,000, Anderson garnered $4,200 “with the help and amazing support from my family, friends and co-workers. That’s a huge accomplishment.”
Then, of course, there was the conditioning. After googling “how to train for a marathon in five months,” Anderson began her training 25 weeks prior to the race. She did four runs per week, three weekday short runs (2-6 miles) and one long weekend run (16-18 miles). Since she now works as a Global Communications Specialist for Chubb Insurance, Anderson lives near Gramercy Park in NYC and was able to train along the downtown running path along the perimeter of the city. She also ran at her grandfather’s shore house.
It all paid off for both Anderson and Dress For Success.
“I’m just so proud of her for taking this on and finishing the way she did—happily with a huge smile,” Donna said. “She will never forget the experience—we’ll see what’s next for her.”