I was born in Yonkers, at Cross County Hospital, on April 14, 1973.  Years later, when we would pass the Cross County Mall, where the closed hospital building remained, I would tell people “I was born to shop.”   

half pint contestcakehalf pint paradeMy fondest childhood memories were these two: something called the Little-Half Pint contest, as well as our family vacation to California and Arizona.  As we were growing up my parents did not have much money.  But when kids were able to fly free, my mom decided she would take all four of us to Disneyland!  I remember when we returned home from vacation, my dad took me to kindergarten on his bicycle and I had on my “Minnie Mouse” hat.  I thought life could not get better than that!

Well it did, at a very early age.  In 1980, I had an experience that changed the way I looked at life.  It has defined how I would live my life: failure is not an option, and success is a self- fulfilling prophecy.  I then realized that Disneyland was a dream.  But I was determined to make happiness a reality

And so I began running on a local track team at the age of 7.  I loved running: I would practice twice a week, then go to races on the weekends.  One day I was watching the news and a blurb came on about a 10K race in Central Park, the L’eggs Mini Marathon.  There were 7,000 women who would gather in NYC with the goal finishing the race.  I had never been to New York City or Central Park but all of sudden I set a goal: I wanted to be better.  Local track meets were only the start.  I wanted to “run the world”:  I told my dad my dream was to run that race with the goal of being the youngest finisher to cross the line.   My dad told me it was a very long distance, and that I could not run that far yet.  I asked him how many times around the track it was equal to. He said 26 and I replied, “If you take me to the track and I can run 26 times, then you have to let me run the race!”    He agreed and took me to the track that Wednesday. I just kept running and running until the 26th lap.  I felt like I had achieved a milestone.  It was only me running around the track but it felt so good.  With a big smile on my face, and a sense of accomplishment I walked over and said to my dad, “Let’s go register for the race.” He had to keep his word, and on April 17, 1980, at 7 years of age, I ran the L’eggs Mini Marathon, along with the 7,000 other woman in Central Park.    I was indeed the youngest finisher in the race.  My Uncle Jim, who was a runner, ran through the park to keep me safe.  It was an incredible feat that changed my life.  My uncle missed me at mile 5, and thought I was missing, but I had already finished.  I got my medal, and then came all the free goodies.  I took a case of Capri Suns and found my way to a rock in the shade.  I remember sitting on that rock and thinking that anything was possible in my life.  I remember thinking that it was a huge park but I had conquered it!  Anything was possible, but if I wanted it, determination would get it. I knew it would be a journey with many challenges along the way, but success felt so good.  That day on that rock in Central Park, I knew that I wanted happiness and was determined to get it………It was later that I found out that happiness was a journey, not a destination, and that day began my journey! 

I began my competitive running career that day, running throughout high school and then college.  I was very dedicated and focused on running, and my family was very supportive of my goals.  My family took me to track meets every weekend.  Mom and Dad and my siblings were always at the finish line to congratulate me.  They felt very proud of what I had accomplished.

I’ve always been an overachiever, both personally and professionally, although in different ways.  However, having the determination to want more and do more, and with the support of my family, I’ve been able to stay the course.  Whether it was my track coach or my professional mentor, I realized that it was my life:  I could define happiness and fulfill my dreams.  I held the key to future.  I needed to surround myself with positive people, those who would support me in my quest for happiness.

Suddenly, after years and years of running, one day I decided to give it up.  I was not sure if it was the pressure or the time commitment, but I left running.  I thought I would be happy hanging with the girls, traveling, and having fun.  Well, I was happy for a couple of years, and then hit couple of bumps. Well, I was happy for a couple of years, and then hit couple of bumps.  One day when my best friend Stacy and I were watching the NYC Marathon, having -- of course -- a couple of toasts for the runners!  We made a pact the next year we would run together.  She moved on to live in Denver and with three weeks until the marathon, I was once again determined to finish: but this time it was the NYC marathon.  My only goal was to beat P. Diddy, even though at one point in my life I could’ve finished before P. Diddy.   And that I did, on November 9, 2003, I ran the NYC Marathon and beat P. Diddy.  I felt so good!  No one could take away that feeling, and I began running once again,  My family and friends said that they had never seen me happier….!  I was back, and feeling good.  I then ran both the New York City and the Paris Marathon the next year.  In Paris, my sister Margaret Mary and I ran together. Then year after year I ran New York and it was as if I never stopped running.  It was always the as when I was 7: my family cheering my along the way and meeting me at the finish line.

And once I got back to running, I had that special sense of accomplishment, of self worth, and that healthy, happy “glow”.   

The story continues and returns to that particular rock in Central Park, the scene of the happiest moment in my life!  Who would have thought that 25 years later, on November 5, 2006, Aaron and I would cross that same finish line together?  Certainly not I!  At the finish, the same finish as the L’eggs Mini Marathon in 1980, Aaron proposed to me right next to that very same rock!   The next day as I walked through the park beaming and glowing, I had realized that special rock brought me back around to what I’d always wanted: happiness.   Aaron has brought that to my life, happiness in the way that I had dreamed of.   I had found it, and on that day, the sun shone down from above and lit up that very rock!!!


All photos & artwork ©2007 Pattiann McAdams & Aaron Russell