Hoboken Girl of the Week {Annmarie Mercieri}

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Ladies and gentlemen, you may want to grab some tissues {and your running shoes} for this one, because you are about to be moved. This Sunday, Annmarie Mercieri, along with over 50,000 others, will be running the TCS NYC Marathon. But her journey began well before her months of marathon training, over 20 years ago when she met her friend Krista, who at the age of 10 had her leg amputated due to a childhood cancer. Though Krista is still super active {she rock climbs and skis} and is 20 years cancer free {!!}, her real dream is to run again. So, Annmarie is running the NYC marathon not only as part of her own incredible transformation, but also to raise money to help Krista afford a prosthetic running leg. We are beyond excited to be sharing this story of one badass B fighting for another. Without further ado, we introduce you to this week’s featured Hoboken Girl — Annmarie Mercieri:  

^Annmarie on the left and Krista on the right

How long have you been running and why did you start?

I have been running for about eight years – recreationally during the first few years of my weight loss journey and then competitively in my newfound love of multi-sport. For the marathon itself, I’ve been training for months!

Tell us a little about yourself and this journey.

I’ve always struggled with my weight and a few years ago made the decision to eat healthy and go for long walks. Walks turned to jogs, jogs turned to runs, and before I knew it I was running back-to-back half marathons and racing a triathlon every weekend. The strong, active community that Hoboken embodies is what initially drew me here six years ago. I knew if I was surrounded by like-minded people that I’d be more inclined to stick with my regime. I’m a hospitality publicist, so the mix of training and consistently being surrounding by food is always a test of willpower!

I’ve fundraised for different charities, mostly Paul Newman’s Hole in The Wall Gang Camp, a non-profit camp in Connecticut for kids with serious illnesses, but I wanted to have a bigger, more direct positive impact on an individual’s life. I knew in order to succeed, I needed the largest platform nearest to me – The TCS NYC Marathon. In 2016, I decided to fulfill the New York Road Runner’s 9+1 program for guaranteed entry into the 2017 marathon, and then use the marathon to raise money for a direct cause — specifically, Krista’s.

Tell us about Krista.

Krista has been my closest friend for roughly 20 years. In late August 1996 when Krista was nine years old, she was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer: Osteosarcoma. The tumor formed below her left knee, leaving a walnut-sized lump that was extremely painful when touched. Long afternoons filled with friends and riding her bike around the neighborhood were replaced with weeks spent in the hospital. She endured a year of chemotherapy, the loss of her hair, the insertion of two semi-permanent IV lines, a limb salvage surgery, an e-coli infection that landed her in the pediatric ICU, a near-heart transplant, the loss of several new friends battling cancer alongside her, and ultimately the amputation of her left leg above the knee. All before she turned 11 years old.

Each year, about 400 children and teens younger than 20 years old are diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, and in 15-20% of those patients, it has already spread to vital organs by the time of diagnosis. Rather than mourning the loss of her leg at such a young age, Krista celebrated it and her newfound freedom. She has taken that outlook and applied it in all aspects of her life, now working as an attorney to advance social justice causes as well as learning to rock climb, ski, and more. She’s fought on behalf of children with cancer and homeless veterans. She has also volunteered for more than a decade at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a camp in Ashford, Connecticut for children with serious and life-threatening illnesses, a very special place that supported her as a child.

So, why now?

2017 marks three very special anniversaries – the 20th anniversary of Krista being cancer-free, the 20th anniversary of when she was last able to run, and the 20th anniversary of our friendship. It’s her dream to one day run again, alongside me, while we raise money together for childhood cancer research. However, in order to run, she needs the proper prosthetic running leg, which runs up to $18,000. Insurance refuses to cover the cost of the leg because they deem it medically unnecessary, but with this leg she will be able to run again for the first time in two decades!

This is my mission. This is my goal. We’re almost at the halfway mark of our fundraising and while I am out on the waterfront before the sun rises, I know that I am running for her and for childhood cancer awareness. Krista will run again even if it takes me two marathons.  

What does a typical day of training look like?

A typical day for me begins roughly at 5:30AM when either my alarm or cat wake me up. It’s always a fun game of “find the sock” or “where’s my Garmin watch” now that it’s still dark before 7AM. I’m out and moving by 6AM focusing on either endurance/long runs, intensity/hill repeats, or sprints. I follow a strict training program created by my triathlon coach Kevin Hanover of HBodyLab, so whether it’s an easy no-hard-efforts seven mile run {we’re sorry, did she just say “no-hard-efforts SEVEN miles? She did, didn’t she…} on Wednesday, or 45 minutes of hill repeats on the switchback on Thursday, I’m out there doing it rain or shine.

To be completely honest, marathon training is exhausting, lonely, hunger-inducing, and takes an enormous commitment. My apartment has turned into a pharmacy of Band-Aids, moleskin, body glide, Epsom salt, foam rollers, and more. My legs have ached, I now have a voracious appetite, scars from blisters, and have chafed in areas I had no idea were capable of friction.

On the other hand, watching the sun rise over the city skyline every morning is the most humbling experience and has made for some solid Instagram photos. Befriending the die-hard early-morning runners who are already covered in sweat at 6AM, and passing them with a friendly wave, nod, or “Good Morning!” has been the biggest motivator. I’ve learned so much more about my body than ever before, having now accomplished hundreds of miles of running over these past few months, and a full 22-mile training run. I feel the healthiest I’ve felt in years and have gone sober until after the marathon, which has done wonders for my skin and sleep. I’m excited to go from solo training runs to running alongside 50,000 other people. Knowing that each individual is there for their own reason and cause is empowering. They’ve all endured the same back-to-back mornings of hitting the pavement. We’ll carry each other across the most popular finish line in the world; that’s the most incredible thing to me.

What are the highlights + rewards of training?

The support from friends, family, colleagues, and the community has been incredible. Whether it’s a colleague asking me how my long run went over the weekend, or a friend donating to the GoFundMe, everyone is involved and excited for this big moment. For every single 9+1 race I did in 2016, I called Krista so she could cross the finish line with me. Knowing that as a result of everyone’s support we will one day be able to run across it together has been the most rewarding part of this whole experience.

What do you do on rest days?

I’m a busybody so rest days make me, well, restless. Tuesdays are usually sans training, which means I get to sleep in until 7:30AM and only focus on stretching and foam rolling before heading to work. The extra two hours of sleep is a highlight of the week. I’m looking forward to regaining my weekends and not having to make plans around a running schedule.

What are some words of wisdom to anyone looking to run the NYC {or any} marathon?

You’ve got this and you CAN do this. Stick to the training, be persistent with your daily regime, eat healthy and eat enough to fuel your body for what you’re putting it through. Listen to your body and treat it with kindness — meaning stretch, foam roll, massage, and soak; whatever you need to do in order to keep it in top shape. Find what works for you — everything from the best meal to have the night before a long run to the fuel that works for you 15 miles in. Join a team, running club, or bring a friend along for the ride. GoldCoastTri is local and full of incredible folks who not only race triathlon, but also half and full marathons. I see members on almost every run and being a part of that community is the best morning motivation.

And now, a little about your love of Hoboken:

Favorite restaurant:

I’ve been a happy Hoboken resident for almost seven years now {how many more before I’m considered a native? Does having a pizza tattoo automatically enroll me?}, so this is always changing. My current go-to for the night before a long run and what will be my pre-marathon dinner spot is Otto Strada. It also helps it’s only a few doors away from my apartment. For something quick — I’ll always be a Mr. Wraps girl and now {finally!} Surf Taco. In Jersey City you can find me at Pet Shop for the fried cauliflower. Can’t get enough of it!

Favorite place to shop:

I grew up thrifting with my grandmother, so I’m a sucker for vintage stores. Mint {JC + Hoboken}, Revival {Hoboken}, Another Man’s Treasure {JC}, etc. I’ll swing by Noellery and Hudson Paperie for gifts.

Favorite thing about Hoboken:

Sometimes when you get off the PATH train after a long, exhausting day at work, the entire city of Hoboken smells like pizza. I’ve traveled to a lot of places, even lived in Italy, but Hoboken is the only place I’ve experienced this sensation. Alongside the incredible food, what original pulled me here years ago was the community and accessibility. There’s something soothing about getting off the PATH and seeing the city across the river; not having to think about it until the next day.

Favorite thing to do in the area:

Aside from swim, bike, and running a whole lot? I love checking out the restaurant scene, grabbing some beers at Cork City, Pilsner Haus, or Pet Shop {JC}, or just walking the waterfront with my fiancé. When I first moved here, I would take long walks around town after dinner every night to explore and try to find something different, new, and exciting, each time. I’m kicking that back up again but now for my walk home from the train. To unwind, I’m a fan of the $25 massages at the Cortiva Institute’s massage center. Another hidden gem of the city!

Favorite outdoor spot:

For food/drink – the backyard seating at Taqueria Downtown {JC}, Pet Shop {JC}, or breakfast at The Little Grocery and grabbing the sidewalk seats. I also love grabbing a coffee at Empire and lounging in Church Square Park. I’m hoping the city puts some funds into re-doing the grassy areas so people can lounge there again. {By the way — I’ve been following Hoboken Girl’s coverage of the upcoming election!}

For play – In those early Saturday morning hours before everyone else is awake, the Weehawken track or Liberty State Park. There’s something serene about being up and moving while the world is still sleeping and the view from both those spots makes me fall in love with the city all over again.

Favorite place to work out:

Honestly? Outside. I’m a year-round runner and having easy access to the waterfront is the best gym anyone could ask for. Also being on the NJ side of the George Washington Bridge is a huge cycling perk and makes for fun rides to the 9W Market, Nyack, and more. As for actual gym establishments, I’m a Brazen Crossfit girl all the way. Coach Anthony DiFrancesco {aka DiFranc}, keeps me both laughing and motivated in the morning. Brazen has such a kind and welcoming group of members. You can also find me at Steven’s using the pool facility after work throughout the week – it’s one of Hoboken’s best kept secrets.

Favorite spot to go with friends:

You can find me among friends at Turning Point, Cork City, Northern Soul, and Pet Shop {JC}.

Favorite thing about the area – overall:

What’s incredible about Hudson County, and Hoboken specifically, is how you can easily make it yours. There is an incredible art, music, and theatre scene for those wanting to catch an exhibit or show, delicious and diverse food and drink culture for the gourmand, adorable boutiques for the shop-a-holic, and endless active resources for the everyday athlete. It’s all at our fingertips and the majority of it is within walking distance.

Something you think needs to come to Hoboken + JC:

That’s a tough question now that we have a Trader Joe’s and Insomnia Cookie. I’m very excited for Sephora to open next spring, but think the city could really use another center like the former YMCA. Having a one-stop-shop for fitness, a pool, youth programs, community activations, and more, would be incredible.

 

Want to be featured or nominate someone for as an upcoming Hoboken Girl of the Week? Email hello@hobokengirl.com about your story!


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Michele mostly writes about her two favorite things - people and food. Though she’s been a Jersey girl since her mother danced on a chair at a Bruce Springsteen concert while 8-months pregnant, Michele’s life is anything but basic. During the day, she's a payroll specialist for small + local businesses, but on the nights and weekends, she's trying new places to write about and stopping for snacks along the way {so it's a good thing she's a marathoner and soccer player}. Aside from adding to her already extensive collection of throw pillows, Michele enjoys a good beer, nachos, and chillin’ with her kitties, Bo and Samson.