After Sandy and Boston, I’d say that most New Yorkers running the NYC Marathon on Sunday were, like me, a little unsure of what to expect on Marathon Day. After re-watching one of my favorite documentaries, Run for Your Life a few days before the race, I wondered if the Marathon would return to what Fred Lebow and the original Road Runners had intended the event to be—a great day for spectators and runners alike, but also one that brought New Yorkers together and showcased the tough spirit it takes to make it in this city. My biggest fear was that the crowds would not be as thick as they had in prior years, that people would dismiss the race as flippantly as a Knicks game before Lin-mania, or before the Brooklyn Nets came onto the scene.
Thank you, New York, for proving me wrong.
As Sunday came closer, I felt excitement seeping in from people surrounding me, almost as though they were slapping me in the face with enthusiasm: “You’re running the Marathon!?! When do you start? What’s your number? What are you wearing? Where should I watch you? How can I track you?” It was almost hard for me to process at first. They were more elated than I was feeling; their eagerness to propel me through 26.2 miles with affirmation after such a tough year made me feel like a humbled rock star coming out of retirement to play one hit in front of adoring fans before going back to a normal life on a Monday. It was inspiring.
When we sludged off the Verrazono in frozen droves, we saw them—the spectators. Thin at first, but steadily growing as my Green line joined with Blue and Yellow, there they were: the little kids bundled up in jackets waiting for high-fives, the beer signs, the occasional, oversized balloon, and the yelling and cheering—just like it was when I ran NYC in 2010 for the first time. Around mile 9, tears came to my eyes as we passed a church right by St. James Street in Brooklyn—a huge choir was singing outside on the church steps. A rooftop party in Williamsburg blasted Bon Jovi, a high school band played Gonna Fly Now from Rocky.
I crossed the Pulaski into my home-boro, Queens, and again was pleasantly surprised. The small stretch between Brooklyn and the Queensboro Bridge had tame crowds in prior years. Not this year. Queens was out in full force for that small stretch of miles 13 and 14. After seeing two of my friends, I proudly crossed Ed Koch’s bridge with a little extra oomph and gave a quick, mental nod to Simon and Garfunkel (this is how your mind works after a few hours of running—random references are key to avoiding pain and boredom). A group of girls next to my buddy and I started singing “I Think We’re Alone Now” to get up and over the bridge, and other boisterous runners started to cheer themselves/us for morale, their shouts echoed across the lower level as we passed Roosevelt Island.
But the real test for me was the Bronx. After crumbling to NYC’s most-northern boro in 2010 and barely hobbling over the finish line, I knew this was where mentally and physically, I would start to break down. My friend put on her headphones at this point, and it was like going through the gauntlet, each runner for one’s self, just about two miles of purgatory when your body decides if you must give up and walk, or if you can keep jogging in a slight running form for the rest of the race. As one sign put it, the Bronx is “the WALL.”
I only made it thanks to a group of street rappers a little after mile 20, asking me to “Put [my] hands up!” I pumped my arm in the air as I ran past them, probably with no rhythm what-so-ever, but I needed that little pump. At that point, I knew I was going to make it. I thought, “Angie, you got this.”
NYC—we got this.
Angie Knudson is a staff writer and personal trainer for NYC's The L Trainer She finally took off her warm, orange poncho and plans on making goulash for dinner tonight.