The ING New York City Marathon
This Sunday, November 6, I will be but a small speck in a sea of multi colored spandex and sweats as one of 47,000 fellow runners from all over the world before heading out over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for the beginning of the 2011 NYC Marathon. I have never run the NYC marathon although I have finished a marathon before; the ING Hartford marathon, which in retrospect will likely seem like a small town group run compared to the sheer size and enormity that is the NYC race. However, it wasn't always like that. As running and running marathons and even ultra-marathons (races of 50 miles and over) becomes more and more popular the world over, more people are familiar with the origin of the Big Apple's famous race. For those who haven't seen the documentary films about the beginnings of the NYC marathon, it was started by the quirky and passionate Fred Lebow, a Romanian immigrant from Transylvania, who made his living pre-marathon days as a garment salesman specializing in producing designer knockoffs. Lebow was in many ways the flashy salesman; but he was also a very intense and dedicated personality and once he started the New York Road Runner's organization and began the marathon he remained a constant advocate for running for everyone in NYC until his death in 1994. When the marathon began in 1970 it was but a micro fraction of the race today. A few more than a hundred runners laced up their shoes to go multiple rounds in Central Park with only a few curious passerbys to keep them company and less than half of them finished the race. Today we know the event as one of world-class athletic competition and one of the greatest tourist attractions New York has to offer. Lebow put together a race that now has one of the most coveted professional titles for the winner while at the same time offering a once in a lifetime experience to thousands of non-competitive runners from all over the world. The race is New York City and its moving mass of runners making their way from borough to borough has become as iconic an image as the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge. It is both substance and spectacle and New Yorkers never disappoint when it comes to cheering on the elites as well as the regular Joes. I have watched the marathon before and it is not a passive activity. New Yorkers line the sidewalks of their diverse neighborhoods along the marathon route and create cheering crowds that can make any runner feel like an Olympic champion. I am looking forward to some of that enthusiasm that I know will be there to help me through what is a notoriously tough and hilly route. Marathon records aren't usually made on the NYC streets; flatter and faster races like Chicago will get those honors but the race remains a dream goal for so many athletes, amateurs, celebrities and extraordinary 'ordinary' people. From Staten Island to Brooklyn through Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan; no other marathon can take you through so many different neighborhoods all within 26.2 miles culminating in the world famous Central Park. With grandstand stadium seating for some spectators with thousands more lining the park to urge runners on in the final climactic miles; this is Central Park seen as the heart of the marathon. Started by an immigrant with big dreams for a city of big dreams, the NYC marathon continues to inspire, touch and reward those who take part in its storied history. My 26.2 mile journey on Sunday will be a labor of love, to the city I know and love and which I hope to share with all of you. So whether you are running or cheering this Sunday, let's go NYC!
About the author
Jessica Horani has lived in NYC off and on for over ten years since first coming to Manhattan as a 21-year-old law student. After a slightly traumatic address mix up in Greenwich Village on her first night, she fell in love with the City over a slice of pizza and the sparkling January night air. The love affair never ended and after a period of working for the Public Defender's office in Miami, she has returned to live in Brooklyn and pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. The roaring New York of her twenties remains a fond and sometimes bittersweet memory, like an old lover,but there is another New York; one of serene beauty, historical importance and vibrant diversity that she is discovering anew every day. She hopes to share her love for New York City, both new and old, and the personal journeys it can take you on with the visitors to NYCfoto.com.
Jessica Horani is an Editor-at-Large of NYCfoto.com