Catherine Galda recently ran the New York Half Marathon, her first road race since last spring, and the Sandy Hook mother of two young girls called it “a great, amazing, overwhelming experience.”
Mrs Galda decided recently to run the 13.1-mile race to see how well her training has been going since a stress fracture sidelined her in October. It was the second half marathon in the career of the self-proclaimed “weekend enthusiast” who traditionally focuses her efforts on 5K and 10K races.
She also ran it, she told The Bee in March, to raise funds for The Rotary Club of Newtown’s Sandy Hook School Fund. The mother of a second grade student at Sandy Hook School, Mrs Galda was pleased to learn that the Rotary fund would be able to put money into the hands of those who need help recovering from the events of 12/14 as well as everyday occurrences that continue to arise.
“In those first days people needed money for funerals and other expenses. Since then there have been mortgage payments and other financial needs,” she said. Mrs Galda’s goal had been to raise $2,600 through pledges and donations.
Mrs Galda was able to reach both of her goals on March 17.
She had been hoping for “a stand-up, less-than-2½ hours finish,” she said a few days before the race.
She finished the race in 2 hours 14 minutes, “which is not terrible for a 45-year-old, nonrunner,” she said April 4, with a laugh. “It’s respectable. It’s not a record, but I finished, and it was really nice to be able to do that for myself, for my family, and for the town.”
She also surpassed her second goal, raising $3,251 for the Rotary fund. Mrs Galda was invited to a Rotary Club meeting and dinner earlier this month.
“I got to share my experience, and symbolically pass them off their funds,” she said. Donations were collected through the online fundraising website Crowdrise, which meant Mrs Galda never touched the money being pledged in her name. The website collections donations, and then checks are cut directly to the recipient.
Tears In Times Square
A few days after the race, Mrs Galda reflected on the experience of running around Central Park, through Times Square, and along the Hudson River waterfront before hitting lower Manhattan and South Street Seaport.
“It was frigid,” she said. The St Patrick’s Day temperature at the start of the race, according to sponsoring organization New York Road Runners, was 30 degrees. It was also windy, said Mrs Galda, one of the 14,512 runners in this year’s field.
“It took me probably three miles to warm up, so the midsection of the race was probably easier. The long run along the West Side Highway was tough. You had to just keep your head down a little bit, fight the wind, and just push through it,” she said.
Catherine’s husband, Jim, and the couple’s daughters were all home in Sandy Hook the morning of the race. Fortunately, Hannah and Meghan were able to cheer their mom on thanks to her iPhone.
“I was on just about the tail end of 42nd Street, we were making a turn onto the West Side Highway, and they called,” she said. “They spent about five minutes on the phone with me, cheering me on, just saying ‘Go Mom! Win!’”
She called the run a hard one, not only due to her recent injury, but also because the athlete was dealing with an illness.
“That winter cold that lingers, I had that. My chest hurt quite a bit,” said Mrs Galda. “It was tough. Had it been another race, I might have stopped. But the power of that race, I absolutely could not stop. I kind of felt like Sandy Hook was with me, and everyone who had contributed both emotionally and financially, they were all there with me in spirit.”
Running toward the Freedom Tower was also compelling, she said.
“It was incredible. You just kept running and running, getting closer and closer to that, and then we went through a tunnel that goes under it, which was also amazing,” she said. “It was super powerful, running through Times Square, all the billboards lit up. I cried.”
Approaching the finish line she was exhausted, and freezing, and exhilarated.
“The hardest steps were the last hundred meters,” said Mrs Galda. “I felt fantastic, and then freezing, once I finished. Brenda, my friend, brought me warm clothes and coffee. I got my finisher’s medal and I was over the moon.
“All in all, it was one of the most amazing experience of my life.”