It was the longest day ever, and not just because 2am came twice thanks to Daylight Savings Time. It was the NYC Marathon today, and as I didn't get in to run, I volunteered. This meant getting up just before 2am (the 2nd one) but I was so paranoid about the time change, oversleeping, and being late, that I was more or less up from 1am (and went to bed around 10.). I dressed in my many layers, grabbed a banana and took off for the upper east side.
I arrived early, begged my way into the NYRR headquarters to pee, and then got my credentials, wimpy bagged breakfast, and hopped on the bus ... by 4am. There were about 80 of us I think that came that way, and hundreds more that arrived some other way. We were dropped at the starting line area 45 min later, in pitch black, with music blaring and crews frantically assembling bleachers, tents, and so on. It was rather like a mini olympic village, minus the housing, with 'camping' grounds instead in color-coded areas. After some chaotic shuffling and hard-to-hear directions, 10 of us were assigned to pass out bagels in the orange section. As this was one of three areas, and we passed out most of 3 pallets of bagels (about 40 boxes on each pallet with 70 or so in each box) you get a vague sense of the quantity of people milling about.
It started with just a few early souls, with their blankets, heat wraps, huddled on the ground trying to get in a bit of rest. As the sun gradually came up and and the busloads started to arrive in earnest, it was more chaotic. Constant directions being asked, banter from 2 of the people working next to me, and a permanent grin on my face. I SO enjoyed it that I couldn't help smiling crazily, despite the fact that my hands were frozen, I'd been on my feet for hours, and wished I were running instead of bagel tossing. It was a fascinating mix of people, in all mental states from utterly relaxed and having a ball to so nervous they couldn't look you in the eye or think about eating.
As the hours marched on (we arrived at 5, the general start was 10:20) people gradually got more focused and intent. Due to some crazy woman in charge of something, several of us were suddenly yanked from bagel world and had to run to the starting line (a long way away thru insane crowds) as she said we'd miss the bus back to the finish. Oh, right ... the main reason I volunteered for the early shift ... it involved a bus back to the finish line and free bleacher passes! woohoo ... I've wanted to see the finish in person for years. She was wrong, the buses weren't leaving for an hour, so we were put on duty corraling the runners in their lanes as they started ... another plum assignment in my book.
Aside from the order and relaxation of the start itself (3 separate start areas, each one letting people go in groups of 1000 at a time) the most amazing part was the trash. By this I mean the clothes strewn EVERYwhere, on the road, fences, under the buses ... it was really chilly still, but once out in the sun and on the starting line, they tossed whatever extra layers they were wearing. When our bus finally did leave (another sudden yank from the start corral, before we were finished) it was plowing through wads of clothes. I'm told they get gathered for charity ... I hope so, there were thousands.
Our bus caravan was escorted by the cops over the bridge, paralleling the route for a bit, and then up the west side to the finish area. We got there in time to get seats and see the male and female winners cross the finish line. I was cheering loudly for Paula Radcliffe from England who won, as I knew she'd had a baby in the last year and I was insanely impressed by that. She won, grabbed her 9 month old from her husband, and did her victory 'lap' down the stands. Go mama!
I could go on but it's 10pm and I'm falling over. Needless to say it was, once again, tremendously inspiring to see, and makes me more than ever want to do it. If a 74 year old woman could finish it in under 4 hours, I could at least finish it I think?!
One last thing ... the costumes. It looked like hallowe'en at times. Just a few I saw ... a towering lighthouse headpiece, chewbacca and Yoda (full masks, fur, etc.), kilts, superman, sponge bob, hotdog hats, many statue of liberty headbands, facepaint galore, bras and shorts, some dutch-looking polkadot mini dress on a male and female both, wigs, feathers ... you get the idea. It was about fun and just doing it, and the energy and adrenaline flowing around was incredible. I could quote/dribble statistics for hours as they fascinate me, but I'll stop with just one. More than 17 thousand of the runners had never run a marathon before. I better be part of that stat next year!
ps ... no pics due to no camera, some to be e-mailed from a girl I met.