I didn't want to run a marathon again. I had already run the New York City Marathon three times, and I felt like I had gotten what I needed from it. I'd had an amazing experience each year I'd run, and my times had gotten better with each race. I'd run a 4:20 in 2005, a 3:40 in 2006 and a 3:26 in 2010. I was happy with that.
Honestly, I didn't want to train. The ING New York City Marathon is so great, but the training just plain sucks. Running 18 miles on a Saturday morning is not exactly my favorite way to relax after a long week at work. So, yeah, I was content to cheer on my friends and have a few beers.
I had run for an amazing charity organization called Broadway Impact in 2010. Broadway Impact focuses on educating people about the importance of marriage equality and uses the power of theater to change hearts and minds. It's an issue that I feel very deeply about, and an issue that I am proud to support. My good friend Jenny Kanelos co-founded Broadway Impact with two of her friends, Broadway actors Rory O'Malley and Gavin Creel, after California's Prop 8 passed in 2008, and I've watched it grow ever since. The organization played a vital role in winning marriage equality for the state of New York, but it didn't stop there. They now have set their sights on full federal marriage equality in all 50 states and are not slowing down. Broadway Impact fundraises with a New York City Marathon team each year, and when Jenny received her allotted slots for 2012, she immediately called and asked if I wanted to run again.
"Nope, I'm good!"
This went on for a month or so. She would casually bring it up over our daily IM sessions, and I would continue to blow her off -- until May 8, 2012, when North Carolina approved Amendment 1, which made it unconstitutional for the state to approve or recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.
I was pissed off. I don't live in North Carolina, and I don't have family in North Carolina, but I was really, really pissed off. I felt helpless, and I wanted to do something, anything. So that day I decided that I would run for Broadway Impact again and do what I could do to help. I knew that the Broadway Impact folks had recently been down in North Carolina touring their play 8, which tells the story of the closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the landmark trial that eventually won back marriage equality for the state of California. They were traveling all over the state with the play, hosting readings, speaking at talkbacks, organizing phone banks, all in hopes of trying to convince people to vote against this discriminatory amendment. I wanted to thank them for their work. I wanted to run again.
My parents were among the first people to donate to my marathon fund. Incidentally, my parents were also basically the last people I came out to. My coming-out process was about 12 years long. Twelve. Years. I started with a few really close friends in high school, then more and more friends in college, then pretty much everyone after graduation when I joined the working world, then my parents and siblings when I was 29. It's all so silly, because my family is so incredible, but the longer I waited, the harder it became, and the worse I felt. My family has been behind me for my whole life, and I should have known that they'd still be behind me when I eventually did come out. I mean, it's not as if this was a giant surprise to them. When I did well on my report card in second grade, my parents told me that I could have a special present for getting straight As. I asked them to take me to see CATS on Broadway. And they did.
So my parents donating almost immediately to my charity of choice wasn't a huge surprise. However, I was surprised by some of the donations I received from college friends. I went to the Catholic University of America. (Yes, that is actually the full name, and it's the only U.S. college with a papal charter -- true story.) I had a really great experience in college. Loved it. I was involved in student government, and I was an R.A., and I was homecoming king my junior year. And as you can imagine, I went to school with a lot of "pray-a-lots." Get it? They prayed. A lot. So when several old friends from my college days, friends who are extremely religious, donated to my fund, I was thrilled!
I was also definitely defriended on Facebook by at least one person from college after I posted about running the marathon in support of marriage equality, but that's a whole other blog post.
I also have this wonderful, wonderful friend from Oklahoma. She happens to be a conservative Republican. Lindsay is Mary Matalin to my James Carville. Her whole family is super-conservative and super-Republican. I love them. I do. We disagree on a ton politically, but they are great people. Her entire Republican, Oklahoman family donated to my fund in support of marriage equality.
These are just a few examples of the incredible thing that happened when I told my story of why I was running 26.2 miles for marriage equality. It turns out that a lot of people support me and my efforts toward equality, a lot more than I had expected, and that makes me so happy. It makes this world seem a little smaller, a little more connected and a little fairer.
I still hate my long runs during training. I don't think that will ever go away. But now, when I am running 18 miles on a Saturday morning, I think about my future wedding. I'm totally single, but I think about it anyway. I think about my guest list, and I think about how my future fiancé will have to keep his list really short, because I've got way too many people already invited (in my head) to our big day. I think about what I'm going to wear, and what he's going to wear. I think about dancing with my mother, probably to some sappy country song. I think about my dad grinning, Coors Light in hand, as he watches us dance. I think about the toast that my little brother will give, and the toast that my little sister will give. I think about my future fiancé and wonder when I am going to meet him, or if I already have.
I think about how my marriage will be legally recognized here in New York and, hopefully not too long from now, in the entire United States.
And that makes me run a little bit faster.
The New York Road Runners (NYRR) is the nonprofit organization that organizes the ING New York City Marathon every year. NYRR supports and encourage runners who challenge themselves to finish 26.2 miles to raise money for causes they believe in.
To learn more about Sean's run, click here.