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Marathon Day
Yet another reason to love New York

November 6, 2000

I love marathon day.

Today the New York City Marathon ran up my street, as it always does. I made it a point, as I always do, to go outside and watch the front-runners go by. (I then return upstairs to watch the finish on TV.)

Marathon day is the single greatest display of civic goodwill I may ever see in New York. Onlookers cheer every marathoner who passes by, from the leading men and women to the numerous wheelchair entrants who speed by ahead of the runners, through to the tens of thousands of average folks running the marathon for themselves.

No one plays favorites, no one says or does anything negative, no one pushes or complains. Everyone simply gathers to see men and women perform one of mankind's most difficult physical endeavors, and the crowd appreciates and supports the marathoners in full.

It sounds so simple, so basic, but I get a lump in my throat every marathon day, standing curbside outside my apartment building and watching New Yorkers open their hearts so blindly.

The first year I caught the marathon here, I left my apartment again around 5 p.m. to do my laundry. (The leaders pass by a little past noon.) First Avenue had been deserted, the barricades cleaned up, and automobile traffic was starting to make its way back into the neighborhood.

Off in the distance, I heard cheering. I looked down the block to see a man, alone, wearing his marathon registration number, trudging methodically up the bike lane. He was moving so slowly he could hardly be called a runner. But one could tell that he had decided that dammit, if it took all night, he was going to finish the marathon.

And what gave me chills was the neighborhood response. Everyone who noticed him cheered. People stopped to clap and smile. Passing drivers honked and yelled kind words out the window. Everyone recognized and respected this one man's determination, and did what they could to keep his spirits up as he ran in the darkening evening.

More power to them all -- from this year's winner, who was so far ahead when he ran by me that neighbors thought he was a rabbit; to my friend Andy, who didn't run this year but has improved to a sub-three-hour marathon pace; to the one-legged NBC reporter who ran the entire marathon, microphone-baton in hand; to the last man through, who, I imagine, passed by late this afternoon once again. Like everyone else, I admire your courage and skill, and I salute you.


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Copyright © 2000 David Wertheimer. All rights reserved.