The Art of New York City Marathon Spectating

On Sunday, Noah ran his third marathon — the big mamma of them all: the New York City Marathon.

Back when I was 25 (two too-short years ago), I told myself that this (ayyye, 27) would be the year. At 27, I’d run my first marathon. I’d be at a point in my life where I’d have the time, the energy, the speed, and the motivation to do so. And I’d train to accomplish a feat so grand that I’d beam about it for years to come.

Well, here’s 27 — I’m staring at it right in the face. But I have to be honest, I’ve never wanted less in my seven years of running to go for gold. In fact, I’ve regressed. Today, my hopes and dreams are rooted in three- to five-milers with the occasional sevens and eights thrown in here and there. Those are my long runs; those give me the sense of accomplishment I so crave from being outdoors. And now, 26.2 sounds absolutely terrible. It’s been almost two years since I’ve even signed up for (and finished) 13.1.

Noah and I have always had very different approaches to running. He utilizes the fear of failure as motivation; it’s the impetus he needs to get out the door.

Mine, on the other hand, is more constant. I prefer to run shorter. I prefer to run every day of the week. I prefer not to feel forced, but rather to go with the flow and simply run fun.

I prefer to stop for sunrises…

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…and make lots of detours that involve rivers and whatnot.

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I don’t know why it took me nearly two years to figure this out, but here we are.

Ironically, I couldn’t run if I tried to on Sunday; I wound up with some sort of flu from Tuesday of last week through Friday, and was battling a lingering sense of weakness over the weekend.

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My week was made up of creepily photographing my cat throughout the day, something I typically can’t do because I don’t work from home. Some is very happy the heat came on.

On marathon Sunday, I was fully committed to spectating though, and spectate I did.

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As still-new Philadelphians, Noah and I actually had to travel back to New York City for Sunday’s big run, which was a strange concept in itself. I was a tourist in my own city — the city that, for the last five years, I called home.

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On the way back to Penn Station, we even passed our old apartment. (Tear.)

But I digress. Back to marathon morning.

On Sunday, I met my cousin on the Upper East Side to drop off Noah’s bags and post-race change of clothes. We set up shop on 64th and 1st, just north of the Queensboro Bridge — the famous “wall” of cheering that hits runners as they enter the streets of Manhattan for the very first time. Here are a couple of my favorites from when he ran by.

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Thanks to a buddy of ours, I was fortunate enough to get finish line passes for leg two of the day. As Noah ran north toward the Bronx, my cousin and I began to make our way over to the park. Obviously, we found time to stop for hot chocolate, a bathroom, and thicker socks at Urban Outfitters. My toes were absolutely frozen!

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Apparently NOT warm enough for that northeast wind.

By the time we got to the park, I was really anxious to see Noah approach that final hill along a path I’ve run countless (hundreds, at the very least) times before. Prior to moving to Philadelphia, the lower loop of Central Park was my go-to route during my daily morning runs. That day, I was a spectator. No running sneakers. No music. No tights.

Just cheer.

Waiting at the finish line was exhilarating. Thanks to the marathon app, I was able to track Noah each time he passed a 5k marker, and was able to estimate where he’d be within a 10 to 15-minute increment. Finally, after much anticipation, I saw his bright orange singlet approaching from the distance.

I could feel the relief of the finish line for him. Victory (and a hot shower) were now in sight.

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Watching the New York City Marathon was incredibly inspiring, but not in the way you’d expect. I think most people watch and can picture themselves on those very same streets in years to come. For me, that inspiration didn’t translate into a physical need to accomplish this same goal. Because for me, it has and always will be about the dependability of the run.

Marathoner or not, why do you choose to run? Have you watched any marathons this year? In what ways do they inspire you?

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6 thoughts on “The Art of New York City Marathon Spectating

  1. It’s ok not to jump on the marathon and half marathon (or racing at all) bandwagon and call yourself a runner! I admire that actually as I’m the type that runs for the goal and less so for the sake of running (although I do have those amazing “I love to run for the essence of running” runs sometimes ).

  2. I love your outlook on running! I am the exact same way these days! Sounds like Noah had a great but chilly race. Glad you got to go back to the city again 🙂

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