Some people anxiously await their email from the New York City Marathon organizers about the race’s lottery, but not Crystal Sawatzky. She was at home the evening of Feb. 28 when she decided to check her junk mail.
“On the 28th I wasn’t even really thinking about it,” she said. “I expected to see ‘better luck next year,’ because that’s what I got last year, and it just said ‘Congrats, you are running the New York Marathon.’
“Never in a million years did I expect I’d actually get into the lottery,” Sawatzky said by the track behind Charles Hays Secondary School, in between sprints. Today, she has all of the lanes to herself.
This year, the marathon had more entries for the lottery than ever before. More than 105,000 people threw their names in, and Crystal Sawatzky was one of the 15,500 chosen on Feb. 28.
Sawatzky also submitted her name last year, when she first heard of the marathon.
“I actually didn’t know the magnitude until I heard about it this year,” she said.
She filled out the questionnaire, answering how many marathons she’d run before. Sawatzky’s answer was two — this will be her third. Sawatzky, who has led the Learn to Run program in Prince Rupert for five years, only ran her first half marathon in 2013.
“I would just run for fun and exercise benefits until then. Then I was running with a friend and she said, ‘you know you should try running a half marathon’.”
At first, Sawatzky thought the distance was too far, but her friend convinced her to give it a try. Then, her friend didn’t even sign up for it, Sawatzky said with a laugh. Sawatzky went ahead with the run, and the next year she ran two more.
By 2016, she thought maybe she should try a little bit further, and set her sights on a full marathon.
“When you finish, it’s the feeling of accomplishment, like ‘I did that’,” she said.
On Nov. 4, the Rupertite will run alongside 50,000 other runners through the five boroughs of the Big Apple in one of the world’s largest marathons. One friend, who previously ran the marathon in the early 2000s, told her the race is shoulder-to-shoulder — a far cry from the wide open space Sawatzky is used to on Rupert’s trails.
“That’s going to be a bit overwhelming. I’ve also never been to New York,” she said. “It’s going to be really big. I’m really excited about it — and nervous.”
For the next seven months, Sawatzky will build up to the race, cross-training by combining different lengths and speeds of her runs with swimming to help her breathing. Her Learn to Run group told her they’re looking forward to cheering her on from home via a virtual tracker.
“(It’s) overwhelming just thinking about the day of,” she said. “I haven’t really thought of it too much. It’s probably going to be a night of not much sleep, a very early morning because it’s a point to point race.”
Of course, Sawatzky plans on wearing her signature tutu.
“It’s now in my head that any race I do I should wear it. It’s like my race attire,” she said with a laugh. She also likes to wear clothing with a lot of pockets to stuff snacks into. Gummies, granola bars, gels, she’s tried them all.
“I imagine a very early morning, but once you get there, I’m imagining the energy and being really excited, seeing all of the other people. I like to talk to other people, so I’m sure I’ll find someone to chat to. The tutu is usually a good icebreaker too,” she said.
“I don’t even know if it’s sunk in yet. I’ve never been to anything that large before.”