"We hear that Tanya has made it to mile 22."
Those were the words from the GO! St. Louis Marathon communications director, Frank Hopper, when he walked up to the tent where I was emceeing. I had the honor of being the race announcer for the 2018 race in downtown St. Louis and was prepped that Tanya Khvitsko-Trimborn was going to try and finish the marathon again this year. She is a double amputee who was trying to become one of the first women in history with her medical condition to finish an entire marathon. She had to stop early last year, which was a big disappointment for her, and all of her fans. So this was the year history would be made!
"We are pretty sure she's going to make it. Our course trackers have her getting close to the Eads Bridge."
That was the moment when I started to get excited. If she made it to the Eads Bridge, then she would soon be coming into view. There were thousands of spectators lined up along the banks of the Mississippi near the Arch waiting for their friends and loved ones to finish. But on this day, there were about to get a tear-jerking treat.
"I think I see her."
When I heard that people at the finish line had spotted Tanya, I knew she was about to make it. We could see about 400 yards down the final stretch.
"What color is she wearing?" I asked. "I don't see her."
"She's in all black. Look for the pony-tail."
I still can't see her, but I know she's there.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to witness something historic."
I think that's what I said. I'm not sure because I was starting to get emotional hearing the crowd start to get louder. The cowbells that have been clanging all day sporadically, suddenly started going off in a sustained fashion.
I've emceed dozens of races. I've seen and heard amazing stories. People who have lost hundreds of pounds.. People who have defeated cancer... People who were told they would never walk again. But this particular moment got me.
I see Tanya.
"There she is ladies and gentlemen, let's give her a hand."
The crowd, the volunteers, the race crew are all cheering her on.
"She's finishing this year. She's got it!"
SHE IS ALMOST HERE! 26.2 miles of grueling, cold running.
"She's got it, yes!"
Months of training.
"All the way through. Come on girl, you got it."
Hours of pounding the pavement visualizing this moment, about to be reality.
I can't believe I'm actually tearing up announcing a race. You can hear my voice crack several times as I'm overcome with emotion calling this finish.
"She Did It! She did it!"
Tanya crosses the finish line, wobbling on weak legs and strong blades. Medical personnel are there. The GO! St. Louis crew is there to assist. The Race Crew members in the Finish Line Tent are all on their feet cheering, shaking their heads in disbelief, appreciation, and joy for what she just accomplished.
Tonya almost collapses a few feet later, but is met with a wheelchair. We all take a moment to process what just happened. I have to take a moment and recompose to announce the thousands of other noble warriors who are fighting their own battles and winning on a chilly Sunday beneath the St. Louis Arch. All of these runners are amazing, but one overcame a bit more than the rest. Tanya proved to all of us that we can accomplish amazing things if we set our mind (and heart) to it.