Sunday, November 06, 2011
My sister and I stood on a corner in Brooklyn this morning and watched the world go by.
The New York Marathon made its yearly pass through Bay Ridge on Sunday and you can see people from just about every country on earth competing in the 26-mile race to Central Park.
The marathon is such a fabulous event. It’s like a moving version of the UN General Assembly. We saw competitors from France, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Denmark, Argentina and Japan, to name a few.
I’ve been going to see the marathon for years and I never get tired of it. There’s nothing quite like watching a seemingly endless stream of humanity stampeding down Fourth Avenue like a herd of Texas longhorns.
It’s looks as if the residents of an entire city have dropped whatever they were doing, strapped on their running shoes, and hit the road.
There's so much going on. Helicopters crisscross the sky; photographs snap pictures, local bands set up and jam right on the sidewalk, and people like me and my sister stand along the route of the marathon cheering the runners on.
The runners move in waves so just when you think everyone has gone by, another pack of perspiring people will come blasting down the street.
Running is certainly tough, but being a fan isn’t a walk in the park either. My hands went numb from constantly clapping and high-fiving runners and I cheered myself hoarse trying to spur them on. We need a training program for fans as well as participants.
Many of the marathoners put their names on their shirts so you can add a personal touch to your cheering.
You’ve never seen these people before and you’ll never see them again, but for a few fleeting seconds you get to bond with them. It feels great to see them smile, or give a thumbs-up before they disappear into the crowd; it’s a stationary version of runner’s high.
All these people, from all these countries and each one has their own story, their own reason for being here.
On Your Marks...
I fell instantly in love with a French woman one year after she blew me a kiss in response to my spirited shout of “Vive le France!” I go back every year hoping I’ll see her again… catch her eye…and get her to slow down for a few goddamn minutes.
Marco, a young man from Italy, was a standout this year. He slapped palms with anybody who had a hand out and worked the crowd like he was running for office instead of the finish line.
Of course some of the runners didn’t hear us as they had I-pods plugged into their ears. Seriously, what is the story with that?
I would think that being in the middle of the New York Freaking Marathon would be plenty of sensory stimulation, that you wouldn’t want to block out the sounds of this incredible event. But then what the hell do I know?
My sister saw one guy texting as he ran and I saw another one talking on his cellphone. I suppose the conversation went along the lines of Hey, you’ll never guess where I'm calling you from…
I’d like to think of the marathon as the antidote to technology, a temporary rejection of all things digital and electronic in favor of the primitive pleasure of running your heart out in an event that dates back to ancient Greece.
My sister and I used to compete in shorter races back when the running craze first started. We even ran in a race that went from Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. It was quite a run, but we were somewhat younger at the time.
The pack of runners finally thinned out to just a few people and the back-up vehicles.
As I watched the stragglers pass by, I once again flirted with the idea of joining them, of finally getting off the sidelines and running with the likes of Marco, my French flame, the I-pod people and all the other mobile life stories that beat a thunderous path around the five boroughs.
I haven’t done it yet, but there’s always next year.