Last name: Bailey Quinn
Hometown: Marco Island, Florida
Occupation: Medical student at Touro College of Medicine in Harlem, New York. Beginning of residency in pediatrics in July 2023!
Execution time : 2 years
Reason to run: I am graduating from medical school in May 2023 and have set a goal of finishing the New York City Marathon after my first semester ends in December 2019. My school is in Manhattan so to do something big and crazy seemed like a great way to celebrate the end of my school years.
I grew up playing all sports: volleyball, basketball, swimming, softball, tennis. I was also always heavy. I have been overweight all my life. My first memories with my pediatrician are that she told me that I needed to lose weight. I never looked like other kids, even my siblings. But that didn’t stop me from becoming an athlete. I introduced myself. I have never missed a workout. My parents taught me from day one that you don’t have to be the best player, you don’t have to be the best teammate and the athletes that coaches want to work with.
I also have an autoimmune disease called Addison’s disease, where my body doesn’t make the hormones cortisol and aldosterone, which regulate inflammation, your sleep/wake cycle, blood pressure and play many roles in organ systems throughout your body.
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In 2009, I was very sick, sometimes vomiting for weeks at a time and often hospitalized. I was a medical mystery for years. I got so sick that I stayed in the hospital for weeks throwing up and no one knew why. (I actually tore my esophagus from vomiting so violently and so often.) I went to college at the University of Florida as an enrolled student with a disability. I thought this was going to be my life.
In 2016, I just started applying to medical school and I looked at my mom and said, “I can’t live like this.” That’s when I was finally diagnosed with Addison’s disease, after really pushing my doctors to look for a better answer. They ordered a blood test and my cortisol levels came back as undetectable. I will be on steroids for the rest of my life.
But that never stopped me. I did marching band at the University of Florida and was also on the sailing team. I call myself an endurance athlete.
I cycled across America in 2014 to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. We started in Baltimore and ended in Seattle. And in the summer of 2020, I swam along the coast of Marco Island, six and a half miles, and did it in three hours and eight minutes. I love open water swimming. I like big business. I am a go-big or go-home person. And I’m not the “typical” fitness picture either.
When I started medical school in New York in July 2019, I knew I wanted to do something big. At the end of my first semester in December, I had decided to participate in the New York City Marathon. I thought, “I bet a lot of people think I can’t do this, so I’ll do it.” I have committed to start the training and run it in 2022.
I tried running when I was a kid. My mother grew up as a New York Road Runner in North Salem, New York. I tried to get into running in eighth grade, but felt like I was a burden on my coaches. I was slow. I was the child they were reluctantly expecting during practices and meetings. So I finished the season in 8th and I didn’t even think about coming back to join the team in 9th. But I participated in softball, swimming, cycling, and other sports in high school. All my life with running, before the New York Marathon, I was told: “You don’t belong here.”
Most of my training was based on swimming and endurance cycling as I have a slightly torn meniscus at the moment (I injured it slipping in a baseball game in October 2021). So I knew I couldn’t train much with running because being in medical school I was too busy to have surgery to fix it. I joined a USA Masters swim team at my local YMCA in 2020 and worked with a coach who made personalized endurance plans for me. I was swimming two to three miles a day in 2020 and doing lots of long walks, building up my endurance.
In 2021 I started my clinical rotations, so I had less time to train, and it was more speed oriented and aerobic demanding. With my meniscus tear in October 2021, I also started doing spins for a low impact cardio workout. So last year I was doing 45 minutes a day of peloton or swimming and added more jogging and walking. I did enough training to finish the marathon, that was my goal.
I ran with Team for Kids because I really care about kids doing sports, especially since I plan to become a pediatrician. I made a giant rainbow tutu to do the marathon and had so much fun because that’s just who I am. I knew I was going to run/walk the 26.2 miles.
I finished at 8:17 p.m.; it took me 9 hours and 19 minutes. A video of me crossing the finish line has gone viral on social media. It was a video of me being pumped like hell to finish. I exuded such radiant joy and was just awkward. I was just thrilled to have reached my goal of finishing and being able to celebrate and relax.
There was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t finish. I knew my speed wouldn’t be there, but my training method worked perfectly. I felt good all the time. My buddy had water and Gatorade for me at mile 23, and he ended up with me. I had gels and Honey Stingers for the whole race.
I showed up ready for a long day. For me, everything went perfectly as planned. I did most of my jogging the first half and walked most of the second. I knew I was going to be slow, and someone who looked different. I wanted to finish for me, not for a time.
Unfortunately, bullies are everywhere, and I’ve been inundated with comments and messages about how fat I am or how shameful I am to run. People see a heavy person and don’t know about my Addison’s disease and the steroids I take also impact my appearance.
Weight is a complex thing – there is no single factor that dictates a person’s weight and it is impossible to tell just by looking at it. I’ve encountered this attitude in running since I was young, and it’s what keeps people from running. But I want to be an example. I will not give up or leave! I wanted to finish for kids like me so they could say, “I can run a marathon too. You did, and now I think I can.
On the other hand, so many people have reached out and are inspired after seeing the video. The positives far outweigh the negatives, and I’m having a blast! Now I want to do the world marathon majors.
My next marathon will be the Chicago Marathon in 2024. I’m definitely here to stay, because I think the sport needs it. People like me are intimidated not to run, and I want to change that. I want to be the person who says, “You’re done! I’m so proud of you!”
Running is so accessible and I can get the message across. I never imagined that I would be here, but I’m so happy and proud to say it.
Running and the running community made me feel like the sky is the limit. Before this year’s New York City Marathon, I thought I just wanted to do a marathon before I died – now I want to do all six major Abbott marathons and hope to help my mom achieve her dream of running the New York doing it again with it.
I really like the person the marathon has made me. To finish as I did and have fun, getting back into running despite the negative experiences of my childhood made me realize that I could do it! I will never be the fastest, but I will definitely be the most colorful. It’s all that matters! Get out, let’s go!
These three tips have made my running journey a success:
1. Organize your own race
Run for you and get what you want out of it. Ignore what everyone has to say about it.
2. Use anti-chafing creams
I ran/walked for over nine hours non-stop and had no rashes or chafing or anything while using them.
3. Listen to your body
If you feel sick or injured, test the waters, but I’m investing for the long term. So if my body is telling me I need more sleep today, I’m going to get some sleep because I want to be able to run tomorrow. You need to push yourself when you can because that’s how you get better, but listen when your body needs a rest.
Bailey’s Essential Gear
→ bodyglide: I couldn’t run without it! I’m about to be Body Glide’s number one supporter for the rest of my marathon career. It’s great for arms and legs, everywhere! Just bathe in it!
→ Theragun Pro and Theragun Mini: I prefer the Pro for regular use but to like the mini for my swim bag. They were a game changer in my pre-workout warm-ups and post-workout cool-down! They’re especially helpful on days when I can’t stretch as much as I’d like due to time constraints, like when I’m rehabbing an injury or doing back-to-back days with endurance style workouts (two to three) . one kilometer swim, four to six days a week). They dramatically speed up my recovery time; they made it easier for my leg to recover after the marathon.
Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania.
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