November 3, 2015

Cultural Care au pair finishes the NYC Marathon: “This is one of the biggest achievements in my life so far.”

4 minutes
Au pair stories

Congratulations to German au pair Dana Hirsch who just completed the NYC Marathon. The idea to train for and run the marathon popped into her head after she attended a class near the marathon route, and she spent many months afterward training for the run and raising money for her charity. She tells us more about this life-changing experience below. 
How did you decide to run this marathon? I am in my second year as an au pair with my wonderful host family and last year I happened to have class in Harlem, right by the marathon route. So I thought: “I could do that, right? Run the NYC Marathon?” A few months and lots of research later, I signed up and started training. I like challenges, and this marathon—fundraising and training and everything in between—has been one of the biggest challenges in my life so far.
Had you ever run a marathon before? No. The longest race I’ve run (competitively) was a 5K. But you have to start somewhere, right?
What was your training like? I trained on my own since I had to fit it in with my work schedule. My host family was a big help, making sure I had breaks long enough to go for my run during daylight hours and supporting my plans to run this marathon. The training itself wasn’t always easy. Motivation was a big issue during the summer since it was always hot and humid, no matter how early or late I ran. Over 1,000 miles, a complete change in my diet, and many pairs of running shoes later I finally felt ready for the marathon. Even though the training was hard and I thought about giving up many times, I never did. And in the end it was all worth it.
What organization did you run for and how did you fundraise? I raised $2,633 for Team for Kids. I had a lot of help from my parents, who distributed letters about my charity in my hometown. My host parents both made very generous donations. The rest I raised by having lemonade stands, bake sales, and writing lots of essays about all the wonderful programs Team for Kids provides for children in the U.S. I am just so grateful to my family and all my friends, old and new, who donated and supported my efforts—I couldn’t have done it without them.
Were you nervous before the race? I went through phases of terror and excitement. Terror because 26.2 miles is LONG. Not just distance—but also duration-wise. It’s a physical challenge as well as a psychological challenge. Excitement because it was the NYC marathon! I trained for seven months! I was not going to give up.
Who was there to cheer for you? My host family was there and one of my kids even made a sign for me (she’s five and the sign absolutely adorable). My parents are also currently visiting so they came to watch the race as well.
How did it go? The marathon went great! My official time was 5:43:44. My goal was to do it in under 6 hours so that worked out well! I think the NYC Marathon is a great first marathon for many reasons. For one, it’s an easy course. Yes, there are some minor hills (mostly bridges) but even if it looks bad at first you can honestly barely feel the elevation while running. Another reason is that it’s the most technologically advanced race worldwide. As soon as you get to the Start Village on Staten Island, you have absolutely nothing to worry about because the staff will get you where you need to go, your bib has a tracker on it to measure your time as you pass through the checkpoints along the course, and countless volunteers provide more Gatorade, water, snacks, and medical help than you could ever need. But the most important reason: it’s an absolutely beautiful race. Running though all five boroughs gave me a beautiful view of all of NYC’s diversity—the different neighborhoods, sights, architecture. NYC is truly beautiful. And even though everyone ran their own race, we all fought together that day. When you cross that finish line at the end, all the hard work is suddenly all worth it for that one moment of victory. I’m going to cross this off my bucket list as one of the biggest achievements in my life so far.
Thanks to Dana for sharing her story and inspiring the Cultural Care community to set and achieve goals big and small. If you have an inspiring story to tell, we want to hear about it! Share your story with us.