Sunday I was feeling tired and quiet, and so let Michael and Dov go off to church while I lazed about at home. A small piece of my motivation for doing so was wanting to watch the NYC Marathon, which winds right through our neighborhood, with mile 8 being just 3 blocks away. I made it down before the lead men came by, but after the lead women and wheelchairs had been through. The sidewalks were jammed, everyone was in relaxed celebration mode, and there was a band playing down at the next corner. After the first clutch of men tore past (about 10 of them together), there were a few smaller clumps, and then the deluge began. And never stopped. Over the 1.5 hours that I watched, the street was filled curb to curb with every kind of runner imaginable. The dedicated, strained, running-to-get-my-best-time-ever crowds gradually gave way to the lets-have-a-good-time-and-i-just-need-to-finish hordes. Near the end, there were more and more I'm-not-sure-I'm-going-to-make-it's.
The cheering section on the curbs was amazing. In the beginning, there were just the wheelchairs, hand-carts (sort of), and the "Achilles" runners in their red t-shirts, which all seemed to be disabled or challenged in some way. They limped, wheeled, walked unevenly, and even crutched their way by, often with their own support section following behind with "cheer for jerry!" signs or the like. The crowd would erupt into cheers, chants, and general hoopla for each and every one. I got that pricking in my eyes that I get on seeing or reading about any type of 'triumph of the human spirit' story, which I was seeing over and over. (Never fails, can be the most canned Readers' Digest story, doesn't matter ... thanks Mom :) for the ability!)
Once the lead groups came by (preceeded by enough cars, cops on motorcycles, etc. that I questioned whether it was a parade or a race), the cheering took on a new intensity. Many watchers were looking for friends, and a few ducked out of the race for a minute to take pictures and get hugs. Two enthusiastic women just down the curb from me cheered everyone on. Many of the runners had their names written on their clothes or bodies, which these ladies would read of and shout "Go Jan" or "Go Italy!" or "Go Mike's Dad" or what have you. Some would acnowledge it with a grin or a thanks, others had Ipods on and were in their own zone too much to hear. As things progressed, there were more cameras and things in the hands of the runners, more costumes (including complete rubber rhino suits and firefighter gear), and more talking amongst themselves. For some it was a totally social experience, and the two lovely ladies near me cheering were the icing on the cake. For others it was a torturous endurance test. I enjoyed them all.
As insane as it may be, I'm hoping to run in 2007, and the only reason it's not 2006 is because I want to fit another kid in between. Never having officially entered a race of any kind other than the 6th grade field day (though I did very well and was 'scouted' by the jr high track coach), and not having done any *truly* regular running since high school, you may rightly call me crazy. But I'd LOVE to do it, and want to start planning for it.
My new obsession with info about this race yielded some amazing things (to me).
-- A 72-year-old-woman finished in 3:46 ... that's 26.2 miles at an 8.6min/mile pace
-- 37,597 people started (and I probably watched a good 30,000 of them go by) ... and 36,894 crossed the finish line, including 7 over the age of 80
-- The wheelchair division winners finish in about 90 minutes, going over 40 mph some of the time ... the handcarts are even a bit faster.
I was inspired, and had a delightful time.