Cancer Nearly Took His Life. But the New York Marathon Awaited.

“Everything I’ve done, every movement has been a conversation with death,” he said. He compared those conversations to ones that he imagines having with a driver picking him up from a party. “It’s like being dropped off at a New Year’s Eve party. You get dropped off at 6 o’clock and at 8 the driver comes back. It’s like, ‘No, I don’t want to leave,’ and ‘You should be grateful you’ve been here for two hours and had a great time,’ which eventually just becomes, ‘You can try to take me but I’m not leaving.’”

He decided to attempt the New York City Marathon not as a race, not necessarily as a comeback, or even an inspirational story. He entered the race because it’s a beacon, he said, something he has looked at on the horizon for a while now.

“A marathon, like any event, doesn’t matter the distance, it’s a stamp in time and space,” he said over the phone from his home before the race. “It’s like a horizontal line on the side of a door frame in our childhood home. It’s a mark that says, ‘I am here in this exact moment and in this exact space.’”

He arrived in New York City for the first time ever a few days before the race.

“I don’t think that there is anywhere on earth on that particular day that will be beaming with more solidarity and cohesion and cooperation and strength and love and inspiration than New York City on the day of their marathon,” he said days before the start. “It’s magic. If such a thing exists, that’s what it looks like, that’s what it feels like.”

On Sunday, he said, he was pulled along by that magic. By spectators who drew signs for him, with phrases like “Eyes up, Rivs,” and by people who jumped in the race to walk with him throughout the day.

He measured his progress not by mile markers but by what he said was moving “dot to dot to dot between these expressions of love and inspiration.”

In the last few miles, with Catudal joining him, he tried to wrap his mind around anything besides being entirely present. It was just too daunting, he said.

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