41st nyc marathon
This past Sunday, I had a wonderful opportunity to be involved in the 41st New York City Marathon on November 7th, without having to run it. I’m a Red Cross volunteer and assisted New York Road Runners’ medical teams as one of the 250 or so “spotters.” We were essentially the eyes and ears of the medical teams looking for runners in distress.
It was a long day, but so much fun and rewarding. Being on the course for the whole Marathon, we got to see most of the runners. I was stationed on First Avenue around 78th Street, which is right after the mile 17 marker. At this point in the Marathon, many runners are losing steam. They are heading up First Avenue and their physical energy can be waning. Luckily, First Avenue is filled, packed, crammed with spectators cheering. I’m told the roar from the crowd as you come off of the Queensboro Bridge (aka 59th St Bridge) is thunderous to the runners and really gives them a mental boost after crossing the eerily quiet bridge.
I was lucky enough to be stationed right after a medical tent, so any emergencies could be fielded right away. Very fortunately, the *worst case* I had was one runner in need of ice wraps for cramping legs. Other than that, there was only the random runners pausing to stretch a bit and using me for stability. I did assist a wheelchair participant to the porta-potty. She could walk with my assistance. It was when I was trying to get her by the barrier that I saw how clueless and rude spectators can be. What part of “excuse me, a racer needs to get through” is so tough to understand? I had to tell an older lady that she had to physically move out of the way, instead of just stand there and stare at me blankly. Other spectators were much more receptive and helpful when I said a “runner needs to get through.” They actually parted the way and helped move barriers to let the runner by.
Being on the course (and not behind the police barriers), I thought I would have a great spot to see the runners that I wanted to (friends, elite runners, celebrities). It was great when the elite runners came by, but they were still kind of *guarded* by the police motorcade and camera crews and Road Runners crew. But I easily spotted Meb Keflezighi, last year’s men’s winner, and cheered him on. Unfortunately the reason I spotted him so easily was that he was trailing the pack. He eventually came in 6th place.
At one point, I noticed someone kind of hanging out by the barricades and this was right after a water stop. When he finally started moving and ran towards me, I saw it was Bobby Flay. I was hoping to see Edison Pena, the Chilean miner, and Amani Toomer, who was donating money for every runner he passed (the tally is still being counted). But I didn’t see either of them. A bunch of people who happened to be standing in front of the Subway store were hoping to see Jared, the Subway guy. Didn’t see him either. I only saw one of my 3 friends who were running. It was pure luck that he happened to be running on my side of the street. He gave me a hug and said “I’m so tired!” But he still had a big smile on his face and finished the race with a PR. So did my other good friend (his girlfriend).
The costumes were tamer this year. Not as many as I saw last year, or at least not as elaborate. Last year there was a guy with an Eiffel Tower contraption that stood like 8 feet tall. This year we had three guys dressed in animal costumes, Elvis, Waldo, Superman, Gene Simmons in full Kiss costume, ladies with “eyes” on their sports bras, a guy in head-to-toe green lycra, a guy in a banana hammock, a woman in a banana costume who told me that she was now a “frozen banana” because it was so cold out.
I was very bummed to learn that Haile Gebreselassie had to pull out of the race at mile 16 and then announced his retirement from Marathon life. It brought tears to my eyes watching him talk during a press conference about his retirement. All the other elite runners hailed him as the greatest distance runner ever, holding 27 world records. He’s a total class act and he will be sorely missed in the world of competitive running.
Seeing all of the runners’ faces. Watching them go by. Passing a runner on her way home, wrapped up in mylar with the medal around her neck and telling her “Congrats!” and her “Thank you!”…it makes a small, very small part of me want to do it. I’m in no way there yet, physically or mentally. I have been slacking so horribly the second half of this year with running. I have a 4-miler in two weeks, which will be tough since I haven’t really been running at all. A 10K in a month. I’m waiting for the lottery results to see if I’ve made it into the NYC Half-Marathon for next March. I think I’ll find out the end of this month if I’m in. If I do decide to do the NYC Marathon next November, I have guaranteed entry (I’ve done the NYRR 9 qualifying races + 1 volunteering event in 2010). I just need to get my butt back out there and put in the miles.