Thursday, December 22, 2011

Run a Marathon, Make a Friend

Since I haven't been running regularly (if at all), this running blog has suffered from a serious dearth of postings. I realize I never completed my NYC Marathon recaps. I recently wrote a short piece on NYC for the LA Leggers newsletter. The story focused on the morning before the marathon. Enjoy the read, and I'll recap on the actually marathon soon - before the new year :)

Long-distance running is best appreciated as a group sport, and if you keep this in mind when travelling solo to a marathon, the experience is never a solitary one. I remembered this recently at the New York City Marathon.
I got into the Marathon on my first try and was scheduled to run it in 2010, but had to postpone due to injury. By the time I arrived in Staten Island at 6:15 am on November 6, 2011, it felt like a long time coming.
I was most nervous about this part - the waiting around for hours part. My corral was one of the last of the 10:40 am crowd scheduled to leave. Luckily, the weather was nice and I came prepared with plenty of items - large towel, garbage bags, pillow, mylar blanket, food, extra clothes, and even magazines to pass the time.
Amidst roughly 47,000 people, I found a great grassy area under a pitched tent. I set up camp and tried to rest. With my eyes closed, I listened to the energy of the crowd nearby - a trio of Finnish men, a large group of Team In Training runners, and eventually two women right next to me. They sounded like close friends. I got up and introduced myself.
Both from New York, it turned out that Lori and Joanie had just met. This happens at races - we runners are generally friendly people, and if we are open to it, can make fast friendships - even just for one day. Inez, a smiling woman in her 60's, soon joined our group. She came decked out in an aquamarine polyester track suit (which she later donated). Inez brought with her the sunshine. She was from Holland, and came with a huge 1000+ delegation of Dutch runners. For them, New York is the mother of all marathons. I think we all felt her enthusiasm.

Lori, Joanie and Inez in our "camping" area

Picture of Inez - she came with this smile when we first met her.

"A bunch of hippies gathered under some bridge in Staten Island" 

I mention these women because the waiting around part I was so worried about earlier turned into the highlight of the day. We took care of each other, offered food, advice, Vaseline, and watched each other's items when one of us made a pit stop. Most importantly, we offered company. We were amongst many thousands gathered under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, like a bunch of groupies waiting for their favorite band to perform. Some people sat alone on the concrete - I vividly recall one person who wrapped himself tightly in a mylar blanket ball against the fence. Not all runners are social, but you are missing out if you don't welcome the community aspect of the sport. 

Joanie and I waiting in our corral (thanks to Inez for this picture)

Lori left for her corral early, and Joanie, Inez and I set off together. We joined Inez in her corral - corral 65 - in the back of the pack. We exchanged kisses and hugs, wished each other good luck, and to the sounds of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York", we were off.

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