I am a runner. Especially today, when almost 39,000 people crossed the Verrazano-Narrows bridge to start the ING New York City Marathon. I was not one of them, but no matter. I’m still a runner.
With a husband and two sons, it goes without saying that our TV is perpetually tuned to some sports event, usually baseball or football. I’m not the one who tunes to these stations, and I’m usually a passive observer as I glide through the living room. Marathon day is the one day of the year when I will tune the TV to a sports event.
Here’s my routine: Wake up at about 6 a.m., and while still warm in bed, think about all those making their way in the chill air to the start. Rise at about 8:30 a.m., in time to make coffee and settle on the couch by 9 a.m., TV on and today’s paper in my lap. Experience the thrill of watching first the elite runners cross the bridge, followed by three waves of everyone else. Marvel at the thousands of people on the bridge, and wish I could be there.
By 10:15, I’m lacing up my running shoes. Then, I take an inspired run along the D&R canal. In past years, I’ve timed my run so that I can be home just as the first women cross the finish line. Today, I decided to time my run to finish at about the same time as the women (possible in the age of the DVR). I’m not running as hard nor am I in as much pain as some of the marathoners, but I run a good time (for me) for my 1/6th of a marathon.
I’m running solo, but in spirit, I’m right in with the group as they loop Central Park. I may not be an elite athlete, but what I love about running is that it is a sport that embraces everyone. Anyone can do it. You don’t have to be fast (your biggest competitor might be yourself) or have great endurance (there’s a distance for everyone). You just need to be willing.
What I love about the marathon is that everyone has a story. And while the elites all have great stories (Paula Radcliffe and her Olympic disappointment, for example, not to mention her 2-year-old daughter), it’s the everyman stories that keep me glued to the TV for most of a pretty, crisp fall morning. From the woman running her last marathon because she was diagnosed with ALS, to the guy who is back on the course after a battle with cancer, to the fathers and daughters running together, these are the stories to which we can all relate and the proof that running is one of the most accessible sports. Where else can you find great athletes, Joe Six-Packs, and hockey moms competing in the same event?
I haven’t yet read A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York by Liz Robbins, but I’m looking forward to it.
The longest distance I’ve run is 14 miles, but I have completed a half marathon, and I had an amazing sense of accomplishment. I don’t run fast, and I don’t look athletic, even after eight years of running. But I can tell you: I’m still a runner. Congrats to everyone who finished the marathon today – or who simply got out and ran.