Cheryl Harte warming up ahead of a pre-marathon training session this week in New York. PHOTO BY KELSIE SANDOVAL
By Kelsie Sandoval
Cheryl Harte, a 24-year-old Irish native, is marking the end of a year spent in New York City by running the marathon for the first time. Inspired by post-marathoners last year and strengthened by having overcome a mental disorder, she decided to push herself and sign up for Sunday’s New York City marathon through fundraising for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Harte chose MSK because her friends and family have been affected by cancer.
This marathon journey began last year when Harte was bartending at Jack and Fanny’s on the Upper East Side and saw post-marathoners celebrating their achievements. “People were crying like they were just so proud of themselves,” she said. “I love running but I never in my life thought that I could run that far.”
Running 26.2 miles is an immense physical challenge, but the mental obstacles can be just as great, according to Harte. She used her past running experiences to convince herself that running the marathon is possible. Last year, Harte ran a half marathon for the first time. “Hey, if I can do that and I didn’t believe in myself; I can train and try to do the full [marathon] and try to prove myself wrong,” she said.
Harte returned to her home in Dublin, six weeks before the race to concentrate on training. “I can just take the time to focus on the training because it takes up a lot of time,” Harte said. She arrived back in New York a full week ahead of the marathon to get acclimated.
Before the marathon was even a goal, Harte worked as a hotel hostess and started running to cope with mental health issues. “When I got into running two years ago, I was struggling really badly with this thing called depersonalization,” she said. “I’d wake up one day just feel like nothing was there. Nothing was real, like I was living in the weird world – like nothing felt real.”
A friend suggested running might help. And once she started running three times a week, her problems subsided. “It just disappears. I have that focus – it’s like I’m distracted from how I actually feel because I have these goals,” she said.
In addition to running to demonstrate her progress, Harte is also fundraising for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She had to commit to raising $3,500 as part of her eligibility for the race and has until Nov. 19 to meet that target, adding another layer of stress to the preparation process. “When I was in New York, I was like ‘how am I gonna raise this much money?’” she said.
Despite the extra stress of fundraising, running for a cancer center is both motivating and meaningful. “I have friends and family that have passed away and people that I know that are still fighting their battles,” she said. “So it means a lot to me. That is also what’s giving me the push.”
After running the marathon, Harte will return to Dublin to focus on her career.