The Other Side of Running the TCS NYC Marathon: Volunteering and Cheering

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Last Sunday was Marathon Sunday here in New York City. Over 50,800 runners braved the most windy and chilly day we’ve had in the longest time for the coveted title and medal for having run the largest and, some would argue, best marathon in the world: the New York City Marathon. As far back as last year, I had decided I wasn’t running this year; I felt I wanted to explore and expand my boundaries and focus my running outside of the city. I’ll be honest, on Sunday I was torn. Witnessing runners of all persuasions with varying abilities and over 50,000 reasons for running brought out my competitive spirit and I couldn’t help but wish that I had run. On the flip side, volunteering at the start quickly assuaged those running notions as I witnessed the anxiety and chilly determination of runners as they hunkered down in near-freezing temperatures to await the start from as early as 6am.

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

We did the best we could, chatting them up and seeking to encourage them as we too bore the brunt of the wind. Finally, it was time to usher runners on their way, as the canon boomed in the distance declaring the sending off of the first, second, then third and finally fourth wave of runners at 10:55am over the Verrazano bridge in Staten Island to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York.” Consider those runners as they progressed throughout the five boroughs, oftentimes to the company of a head wind especially upon crossing the five land-mark bridges of the race. Tenacity is the one word that comes to mind, it describes the mindset and spirit that pervaded runners as they struggled against the odds, having to adjust their strategy and even goals. Through their journey they were not alone; accompanied each mile by cheering spectators: an estimated 1 million in total, and hard-working volunteers encouraging and providing sustenance, many persevered despite the prevailing conditions and made their way through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and finally to Central Park and the finish line.

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There was never a doubt that after finishing my shift I was going to be a part of the most amazing cheer crowd the world over. 26.2 miles of spectators lined the streets of New York City, themselves braving the weather to make this race the phenomenal experience it is. It wouldn’t be the same without them and so more than anything, I wanted to be a part of that. I chose to stand close to the finish in Central Park and for four hours, cheered my encouragement and support, along with thousands of others, for runners I had never met but felt such an affinity with. Running, jogging, hopping, walking, crawling they came: an incessant wave from all over the world: young, old and everywhere in between they kept on coming; smiling, crying, in-pain, determined and victorious, to the utter delight of the crowds they came. From as early as 12pm runners were already in Central Park, Wilson Kipsang leading the pack as he cruised to the finish line in a time of 2:10:55 and picked up his first New York Marathon title, $100,000 and an additional $500,000 for going on to win the World Marathon Majors title with his win here in New York. Fellow Kenyan, Mary Kietany won first place in the women’s category with a time of 2:23:10. We clapped, hooted, whistled, rang bells, screamed and cheered for hours for thousands as they made their way home to the finish line, more than 3/4 of which were first time NYC marathon finishers and/ or first time marathoners at that.

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

I finally gave in to the chill and my voicelessness around 6:30pm while runners just kept on coming, no end in sight. In spite of the cold, I walked away with an incredibly inspiring feeling and felt much love, kudos and the deepest admiration for all runners this year. It does a girl’s running heart good to see so much love, support and dedication for her sport of choice. Thank you New York Road Runners, TCS New York City Marathon and the city of New York including all spectators, volunteers and runners for putting on a phenomenal event. See you next year. I will be running!

Smiling through the Pain

NYC-Marathon-PhotoI did it! We did it! I preserved through 26.2 miles of pain and completed my first marathon in a time of 4:26:30.  On one hand it’s disappointing, my time that is, but on the other hand, I’m thrilled that I didn’t give in to the pain and stuck it through to the finish line.  It feels awesome enough that I have no regrets, strained ankle notwithstanding, and look forward to my next attempt with much anticipation.  I get it! I get what all the hype and fuss is about when people talk about The New York City Marathon and why it’s considered one of the best if not the best in the world and a must run for competitive and non-competitive runners alike.  I mean, it’s not everyday one gets to run through the most amazing city in the world among a star cast of athletes and be a star yourself as over 2 million spectators cheer you on.  It was an amazing feeling and I credit the crowds with providing the momentum and inspiration for all finishers.  We couldn’t have done it without them.  With that said, I have to pay special tribute to the Brooklyn spectators..they rocked! That was the only part of the race where I was able to leave my pain somewhat behind and connect with the crowds, which wasn’t bad, because it meant that for just over half of the race I was there; body, mind and spirit.

 CONGRATS all around, especially to all FINISHERS!

NYC-Marathon

Now that’s it’s all over, what’s next, you may ask.  Well, since I didn’t make my qualifying time for Boston 2015, I’m giving it a go once again at the Miami Marathon on 2 February, 2014.  Hopefully injury-free and in top form with nothing but beautiful scenery and a pretty flat course accompanying me.  Of slight concern is the weather, as it’ll most likely be MIAMI-HOT but I’ve run in temperatures like that before, I’m a Caribbean gal after all, and so I just have to prime myself for this.  I feel so excited and know that having run New York is just the beginning.  The sky’s the limit or more likely the World Marathon Series! Stay tuned for more on that.

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