Monday, November 8, 2010

Run, Forrest, Run

One of my favorite things about New York is the crazy things you can see from your window. On Halloween, people with apartments overlooking 6th Avenue got to see the parade, but this past Sunday people all over Manhattan and its four sister boroughs got to see the New York marathon.

At around 11am, I stepped up to those somewhat iconic police barricades and snapped pictures of the runners as they trickled onto the street from another borough’s bridge nearby. They ran in the sunlight on the left side of the street, as if they might freeze if they ran in the shadows on this already chilly day.

Runner after runner crossed in front of us, strides long and powerful on even the shorter entrants. Their legs were unbelievably toned, one long line of definition extending from hip to ankle with nothing jiggling in between. No two runners were dressed alike, from short black shorts to full pink bodysuits.

Earlier in the morning you catch the stronger athletes, the ones who break away from the pack either on foot, or wheels for the disabled (nobody is excluded from the marathon). People fly past with their names on their shirts so people they’ve never met, like me, can shout out “Go Tony!” or “Come on, Joe!” to support them as they make their way through the marathon’s 26 miles. That’s part of the great fun of the marathon, really—cheering on people who need your support.

And they deserve it, too. You don’t just get up one day and say hey, I want to run 26 miles. You train for it for months and months, maybe even years. People come from all over the world to participate in the marathon, too. I saw people proudly displaying their flags on their running attire, from places like Australia, England, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Venezuela and Germany, just to name a few. Onlookers gather behind a giant flag and go nuts when they see one of their own, hoping they’ll win.
There’s one winner for the marathon overall in the open division (there’s $130,000 in it for the winner of the open division, $200,000 if they’ve won the marathon once before). There’s also a winner for other divisions: Age-group divisions for ages 18-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-89, New York Road Runners member divisions (open, ages 18-39; and masters, age 40+), wheelchair division, and handcycle category.
When I first started watching around 11, I saw mostly male runners and while I am not at all averse to this sexy man parade, I was a little disappointed. Where was the womenfolk representation? But then, at around 11:10, I saw the first lady I’d see for another 20-30 minutes at least. I was so proud of this girl for keeping up with, and even surpassing some of, the men.

I left and came back later in the afternoon, around 2:30, when you get more joggers and even people in costume—I saw a Minnie Mouse, some woodland creatures, a man in KISS garb, a guy in a bunny mask, and more—and of course that one guy who just walked alongside runners and took a bunch of pictures. Oh, and there was also the guy who juggled while running.
It’s incredible for anyone to do the marathon, though. Person after person ran, or wheeled, or walked, or crutched (yes, a man on crutches!) past me and I just thought to myself, Hero. Hero. All of them.

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