Brian Greenberg Completes the NYC Marathon with Crohn’s and an Ostomy

IIF Founder and President Brian Greenberg was on a mission this fall. Complete over 100 miles of races to benefit patients with cancer, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. This past Sunday on November 6th, he completed that mission by crossing the finish line of the New York City marathon.

His goal was to complete a 70.3 half Ironman, a half marathon, and then the NYC marathon to push him over the 100 mile mark. This benefited the Intense Intestines Foundation and the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.

It wouldn’t be easy completing such a feat for a healthy person. Brian completed it with his Crohn’s disease and ostomy. He says:

“Don’t let your IBD control you. Set small goals and then go after them. Celebrate each victory. Before you know it, you’ll go much farther than you ever would have imagined you could.”

Living with Crohn’s disease isn’t easy, in fact it can be a daily battle but with the right mindset and determination, so many things can still be done.

So Brian asks:

What would you like to do? What do you think you would have done if you didn’t have IBD? Now write it down, figure out a plan, and go after it! You’ll be happy that you at least tried.”

The day in Brian’s own words:

Wow, I completed the NYC marathon. All 26.2 miles of running, jogging, and walking to cross the finish line. I will be the first to say that it wasn’t easy. That it was extremely hard and at times, very painful. But the feeling I got when I began to head down 5th Avenue, through Central Park, and across the finish line was worth every second of the pain.

The day started at 5am. Getting up, stretching, and getting all the nutrition that I would need ready to go for the race. This goes into the planning and preparation that I always talk about when doing anything to over come my Crohn’s disease and ostomy. Healthy people still have to plan and prepare for a day like this but as a patient with a chronic illness, there are even more things that need to be considered when completing an endurance race.

Once I got all my nutrition ready and went out to meet my friends for the day, we headed down to the Staten Island Ferry in downtown NYC to get over the starting village and get ready for the day. This wasn’t even that easy. There were large crowds and they moved very slowly. This could be nerve wracking for anyone, but I took a breath, and knew that there were bathrooms around. I’d be okay and I had friends around which made it easier too.

Once over to the starting villages, there was a little bit of waiting until our starting time was called. I ate a little bit, drank some water, and stretched to get ready for the day. The waiting was one of the hardest parts. At this point all I wanted to do was run. It’s been about 4 hours since I woke up and I wanted the race to start.

Finally it was time to get ready and head to the starting line. The national anthem was sung, the announcer let us know a few things, and the BOOM the cannon went off. I was starting to run the NYC marathon. Going over the Verrazano Bridge, overlooking all of Manhattan and seeing the skyline with thousands of other runners was amazing. The energy was almost too much to handle and I had to slow myself down to not go too fast at the start. If I was going to finish I would need to pace myself right from the start.

Once over the bridge, I entered Brooklyn and was immediately taken back by the amount of people cheering all of us on. The funny and encouraging signs, the yelling and screaming for all of us, they estimated that over 1,000,000 people came out to see the runners wind there way through NYC. The first 8 miles went by in what felt like an instant. I saw my first friend cheering me on at mile 9. She told me I was just behind my friends which shocked me. Part of me wanted to try to catch them but I knew it wouldn’t be smart.

I continued to run my race. Just staying with a pace I felt comfortable with and one that I knew I could run at for a long period of time. before I knew it I was at the 13.1 mile mark. Half way done and I still felt strong. I was on a pace that was just a hair slower than I would have liked but not one that I was disappointed about. I set multiple goals out for myself this way I would not be disappointed if anything changed.

I ran over the Queenboro Bridge and entered Manhattan again. This is when things got really fun. Right away I was able to see my fiancee, her sister, and another friend. It gave me some much needed energy. I was about 16 miles in now and still had another 10 miles to go. Running down 1st Avenue was one of the coolest part of the race. I saw multiple friends as I ran all the way up to the Bronx and almost to Yankee Stadium. Each time hearing my name yelled from people I knew, gave me more motivation to keep going.

I reached mile 19 and things began to hurt. My feet, my knees, my entire body started to give up. Knowing where I was became disappointing. Yes, I only had 6 or 7 miles now but I was so close to Yankee Stadium and the finish line was all the way at the south side of Central Park. I decided to walk .1 miles and then jog .4 miles now. This would be my plan to finish the race. It was going well and I felt that I was going to finish in about 4:50 or so. Just under my 5:00 goal.

At mile 23 I hit another wall though. The course headed down 5th Avenue and it was in the shade, the sun was going down, and it got very cold, very quickly. My body tightened up and before I could try to get my body moving again, I knew it was too late. It was an easy decision to walk for a while because I knew that I wasn’t going to finish in under 5 hours now. My goal now was to just cross the finish line which I knew could be done.

I took a moment to take it all in. Some people would be upset that they were walking, not finishing strong, or making the time they wanted. I was fine with walking, just taking in all the people cheering me still. Yelling go cross that finish line to me, even though I was walking. They all knew it was mile 23, 24, 25 even. I had every right to be tired and just finishing is still an accomplishment.

Entering the park and everything turned green, orange, and red. Fall colors surrounding me, with views of skyscrapers through the trees. While I was hurting at this point and every step killed the soles of my feet, I was going to finish the NYC marathon. Just three years ago I was rolling around a hospital bed and didn’t have the ability to even walk much. Now I was going to be a marathon finisher.

I was about to get to the south side of Central Park when I made the turn onto 59th Street. A gust of wind hit me and I felt like I was skiing. I looked down and basically told my feet that it was too cold to walk, that I had to at least jog. One foot in front of another, and I began to slowly move forward again. All of a sudden I heard “BRIAN GREENBERGLER” my friend Dennis was cheering me on, so close to the finish line too. I got a quick picture and kept jogging. About 15 to 20 steps later, “BRIAN! I LOVE YOU! KEEP GOING” it was my fiancee and her sister. I gave them a quick hug, told them I loved them and headed to the finish line. Only about .5 a mile to go.

The flags of ever nation were surrounding me, I saw the grandstands filled with a good amount of people still, I was going to finish the NYC marathon. It almost felt like my body went numb, for a short amount of time the pain went away, my feet didn’t hurt as much, my medal was just passed the grand stands. It was over, I took one more step and crossed the finish line, looked around, and took it all in. Knowing that I accomplished something that was hard for even the healthiest of people, I didn’t let me Crohn’s keep me from anything. I can now call myself a “Marathon finisher”.


Here are some highlights from the final race of the fall for Brian! Click on any image to see more.

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