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My first Half Marathon was a virtual race

May 17, 2020, was marked in her calendar as the date she would run her first Half Marathon, she was dreaming of crossing the finish line in Coney Island with her friends and about 20,000 other runners. Things went a bit differently but had a happy ending. Meet Federica Belletti, one of the newest members of the NY World Runners, and be inspired by her story.

Federica, when did you become a runner?

I started running in the winter of 2018. There was something I had been willing to tell a dear person for a couple of years, I was taken by a sudden determination and adrenaline and started running to that person, from Columbia University to Washington Heights, along Broadway. I had never run before, I did not like running. I believe it was New York and its irresistible energy that made the trick. After that night things irreversibly changed, I started disliking that person and falling in love with running.

What motivates you to run?

After my graduation, I felt overwhelmed, I was missing the life outdoor I was used to growing up in Italy, I was missing time for myself, and my wellbeing. After that night, I kept on running sporadically, and I slowly realized that running was therapeutic. After the initial effort, I would enter a peaceful state, as in meditation. At the time I was fighting with panic attacks and running helped me. I stopped using the shortness of breath as an excuse not to run and learned to control my breathing when running. Running makes me feel well, it is the moment I disconnect from the world and I connect with myself.

Tell us about the Brooklyn Half

On New Year's Eve 2020 I ran my first race, the NYRR Midnight Run in Central Park. There I met other runners and soon I joined the NY World Runners team, we met to run on weekends and everybody talked to so enthusiastically about the Brooklyn Half in May that I started to think, why not? I had only run 4 miles at that time and it was not an easy endeavor. Stories about crossing the finish line at the Coney Island beach and eating at Nathan's and drinking a beer with the other runners at the end, made me decide, and wait 6 hours online to get a spot!

From 4 miles to a Half Marathon in three months

I followed a 12 weeks training plan, in the last 6 weeks Claudio, a friend and trainer from my hometown in the Marche in Italy, helped me remotely with a strength training program called WTA.

I learned from him that the physical power is something you build slowly, it is rather democratic, you only need patience and dedication. The first time I ran an 8 miles long run my knees started hurting and I felt discouraged, I thought about giving up the training. After all, the race was canceled and maybe could start all over again next year. I reduced my training but I did not stop. It was time to invest in a new pair of shoes!

The Virtual Half

I did not decide I would run the virtual race until the last day. My trainer told me "No more thinking about it, just call me back when you are done". He was right, I thought, I searched a route that would inspire me, I called a couple of friends to ask for recommendations and I got ready.

I started around 10 am, it was hot and I was longing the 6-mile mark in Midtown where a friend would strategically place some bottles of cool water for me and cheer from afar.

I ran from Washington Heights to the Brooklyn Bridge. Four months ago I was the girl who always ran loops on a track near home, now I was crossing several Manhattan neighborhoods and feeling each step closer to the finish line. When I saw the Statue of Liberty I was overwhelmed with joy and when I finally spotted the Brooklyn bridge I felt emotional, is this what you feel when you cross the Brooklyn Half Marathon finish line? My finish line was Pier 16 with a view over Brooklyn!

Are you a different person now?

Five years ago I could have not imagined I would run 13.1 miles or 21 kilometers, but transforming the impossible into possible is not a new thing to me, the waitress in a small village in the Italian Marche who became a film producer in the Big Apple. The lesson I learned running a Half Marathon was that we have to be open to change - something I used to dislike brought me so much happiness and satisfaction.

It also brought me new friends and an international running community here in New York.

Will you run another Half Marathon?

Yes! Well, let me rest a couple of days... I am so looking forward to a "real" Half Marathon, with my running friends, the Italian shirt and a medal at the finish line!

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