Sunday, November 4, 2012

Not the New York Marathon

The social networks have all been abuzz with various proposals of alternative New York Marathons and there have even been articles in the press. Some people tried to follow the actual course as closely as possible while others were more practical and were content to run in circles around Central Park. I was in at least two minds as to what to do so I decided to do a bit of everything. I'd planned to meet some friends at 11am (the clocks went back for the second time for me this week) to run the last 10 miles of the course, give or take the incursion into the Bronx, and I thought I would make a long run of it by starting off in Central Park and running to the meeting point under the bridge at 59th and 1st.

It was a beautiful day and would have been the perfect weather for the Marathon had the weather itself not caused the Marathon to be cancelled in the first place. I thought I would wear my race number so that it would at least have some meaning when I looked at it in the future (yes, I admit that I do do this sometimes and I rather liked an idea I saw in the Expo of turning old race numbers into coasters). While I was queuing up for my coffee, as often happens in New York, several people came up to me to ask me where I was from and if I was "bummed" about not being able to run the Marathon. I said that there were worse things that could happen. If truth be told, a part of me is glad - you run a Marathon for the experience and not running a Marathon in New York is an experience in itself and an altogether rarer one.

Central Park was rammed with people either running or supporting and there was a great atmosphere. It was so nice just to see people running purely for running's sake and not particularly to prove anything either to themselves or to others. I found myself running alongside a fairly speedy guy (2:40 Marathoner) from Mexico who I chatted to for a while before breaking off and heading towards the finish lines. As you can probably imagine, there were hundreds of people queuing up to have their photo taken at the finish: it had to be done.

Then I headed off to 1st Avenue and ran a few more kilometres up and down to make up the distance to about 17km, impressing myself by arriving exactly at 11am at the agreed meeting point. My group of friends was formed by Elaine, who I met in the Berlin Marathon and who is a curious mix of a 5K runner and an Ultramarathoner, and her friends who were from so many different countries we could have been an envoy from the United Nations. Elaine's boyfriend Tom got us all to sing our national anthems which I pathetically chickened out of because I can't remember even the first line of the British National Anthem (nor the Spanish one, for that matter) and then we set off. There were much fewer people running along our route than I had expected but what with the traffic lights, the cars and the odd righteous cyclist, it wasn't such an easy course to navigate. Still, there were huddles of supporters who even handed us cups of water as we ran past while others told us we were doing a "good job". It wasn't all smiles and positivity though: one passerby qualified us as "selfish", presumably for not volunteering in the post-hurricane clean-up effort while another told us that "Bloomberg has said that you can't run". I really don't understand why it is any more selfish to be running along than it is to be walking your dog, for example. Haven't we already made some sacrifice? Some cars also beeped at us if we caused them any slight delay but, considering that under normal circumstances they wouldn't have even been able to drive down that road today, I thought that they could have given us a little bit of leeway. On the other hand, when us bus driver beeped at us, it was in the form of encouragement.

Just as we were about to turn into Central Park for the final few miles, a man who was getting into his car said "hello" to one of the runners in our group. She informed me that he was none other than the Chairman of the NYRR (New York Road Runners - organizers of the Marathon), George Hirsch. Just as well that he was not widely recognizable as I imagine that some of the 47,000 runners might not have had such a charitable attitude towards him. Although I expect he enjoyed watching everybody taking part in the spontaneous "Not the New York Marathon". Even the cops were helping hand out water to the runners who were by now coming to the end of their run, some of whom were completing the full Marathon distance.

At last we arrived at the finish and took some group photos. Some guys had even gone to the trouble of making themselves their own medals.

Elaine's trademark is to jump for photos in any race she takes part in - even the ultra distance ones - so we couldn't call it a day until we had completed this tradition.

Everybody JUMP!

It wasn't quite the New York Marathon but the experience has been a very good one and I ended up doing a long run of over 32 km, half of it at a fairly brisk pace and the other half at a nice, relaxed pace, not a bad training session for Valencia in two weeks time.

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