Belen resident dedicated NYC Marathon to fallen comrades

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As she trained for the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, Geri Lynn Sanchez kept a particular quote in mind.

Submitted photo: Belen resident Geri Lynn Sanchez finished the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6. It was her first marathon, and she dedicated it to two Belen High classmates who died of cancer, Dina Baldonado and Phillip Carrillo.

“There is a quote by two-time Olympic USA marathoner, Frank Shorter, that I kept thinking about prior to running in New York,” said Sanchez. “‘You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.’ In my own personal experience, I did not find this to be true.”

Sanchez thoroughly enjoyed her first marathon experience, especially since she was injured shortly before the 2010 race and couldn’t compete. Forgetting her 4-hour, 7-minute, 44-second journey across 26.2 miles of New York City wouldn’t be easy, even if she wanted to put it behind her.

“It was incredible; so much better than I had ever imagined,” she said. “The entire race was phenomenal — all 26.2 miles of it.”

Sanchez, 46, was featured in a June 2010 story in the News-Bulletin. It detailed how she was running in New York to honor her classmates, Dina Baldonado and Phillip Carrillo, who had each died of cancer during the year prior. She used her entry into the New York City Marathon to honor them and raise money for the renowned Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

A foot injury just before the 2010 NYC Marathon kept her out of the race, but she was determined. It helped that she was kept in qualifying for Fred’s Team, a fundraising organization for Sloan Kettering.

Joanne Silva of Belen was another Valencia County resident to compete in this year’s New York marathon, finishing in a time of 4:51.3.

It’s obvious that the wife of Gerald Sanchez and mother of two grown children, Jeremy and Shanyn, feels like the extra year of waiting and training paid off.

“There are no words to describe what running in and finishing this marathon meant to me” she said. “It was like being reborn. It was a thrilling adventure.”

The 1983 Belen High graduate said she didn’t find the course as tough as she had heard. She took in some of the sights in New York in the week she was there, and while she pushed herself in the race, her finishing time was hardly the only thing on her mind.

“When I saw the finish line approaching, when I saw the crowds in the grandstands on their feet cheering, when I thought about what an honor it was to be running in this prestigious race, I was overcome with elation and emotion,” Sanchez said. “I could have ran faster, but there was no point in pushing through the crowds for the sake of speed. Considering the massive number of runners, and the demons of self doubt that kept me from pushing my limits on this first marathon, I am happy with my finishing time.”

Sanchez plans to run in P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 15, in the Phoenix area, along with friends and former BHS classmates, Patricia Harris Dye and Tina Jaramillo Jojola.

There will be other 2012 events, such as next fall’s Duke City Marathon.

“I cannot wait until my next marathon,” she said. “My goal for the upcoming year is to run a marathon in 3:55, which would qualify me for the 2013 Boston Marathon.”

The New York marathon has several online tracking features that allowed her New Mexico friends and family track her progress through the race. One website gave live updates every time she logged another mile,. A group of Sanchez’s Facebook friends were commenting and counting down to the finish as it became evident she would finish the race. Many friends admitted they were in tears.

Anyone who is familiar with the amount of work involved in reaching that finish line was probably among those who got emotional upon seeing Sanchez had finished the race.

The thrill of crossing the finish line was just one of the week’s fantastic experiences for Sanchez.

“To get back to the hotel and read all the wonderful posts from my friends and family on Facebook was just too much,” she said. “I was reduced to tears for most of the evening.”

Training for her next marathon began almost immediately after Sanchez returned to Belen.

“There is much work to be done,” she said. “Starting now.”

 


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.