Almost 30 years ago, my husband and I stood on a corner in Brooklyn, to watch the New York City Marathon. We were essentially alone watching the runners on that cool fall day so long ago. We watched, as a trickle of runners became thousands of runners, coursing through the streets of New York City, eventually to the large fanfare that would greet them in Manhattan along 1st Ave, Central Park South and in Central Park itself at the finish line.
Since that day, I have watched a lot of NYC marathons. I live on a street that is steps away from 4th Ave, the long stretch the runners hit as they come off the Verrazano’s Bridge. I leave my house early, grab a spot next to a traffic light on my corner, I place a step stool at the base. I bring a warm drink and I sit on the stool and wait. It will be hours before the main body of runners come. I cheer and clap as the early starters pass my spot. Sporadically, a few at a time come by, often with guides by their sides. I think about the commitment it takes to undertake such a feat. Soon my corner where I have set myself up becomes incredibly crowded. Police try to hold back the crowd, as spectators lean out far into the street to catch a glimpse. I now stand on my stool and over the heads of others; I can watch the mass of runners pour down the avenue better than anyone else. I scream, clap and shout the runners names who have them affixed to their jerseys. I become overcome with emotion and sometimes my eyes tear up. The sea of bobbing bodies that is the New York City Marathon, is my favorite event of the year.
What draws me to watch the NYC marathon year after year is the simplicity of the event. It is a footrace where runners take to the streets of New York, running an incredible distance, touching a foot in each of the boroughs to complete the race in the fastest time possible. On the surface that’s all there is to it and it’s free to watch. But it is the stark reality of a 26 mile race juxtaposed against the stories of each and every runner: from the elite runners to the everyday runners, some of whom just might be your neighbors, which make marathon watching such a pleasure. I often wonder what it would be like to inch my way forward to a finish line I could not even see, even if all 26 miles were laid out in a straight line right in front of me. Roughly 30 thousand runners from all over the world take part in the race every year. And every year I marvel at the beauty of the mass of runners as they come barreling down past my lamppost where I stand atop my stool. Arms raised, hands waving, I scream at the runners to forge ahead to the end and with joyful eyes and sometimes with shouts of enthusiasm of their own, the runners answer back and in an instant a bond is formed. On that day a part of them is in me and I in them, as I cheer to heavens “COME ON RUNNERS…YOU CAN DO IT….RUN, RUN, RUN…YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!!!!”
Liz Robbins, author A Race Like No Other, presented a program on the New York City Marathon at the Mid-Manhattan Library on Tuesday October 13th. Liz revealed that the reason why the New York City Marathon is so successful and different from any other marathon is that the race is in the streets of New York, a city of people. Two million race watchers line the street to watch the runners. And runners will testify to what a joy and pleasure it is to run through the neighborhoods, with people cheering, handing out water and marching bands playing music for them. The runners feed off the good energy of the spectators. And there is no race in the world that best does this than the New York City Marathon. During the program Liz asked some of the audience members who had ran the marathon before to talk about what it is like to run this race. Feelings of joy, accomplishment and camaraderie were touched up, as well as debilitating pain. What I found interesting is some participants in the audience did not consider themselves athletes. They took up running late in life, though now they are committed runners, with some having run in hundreds of marathons already.
Lisa Peterson-de Cueva attended Tuesday night's program and posted about the event on her blog.