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NYC marathon, Oct 2014 - 93

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posted by Ed Yourdon alias Ed Yourdon on Wednesday 12th of November 2014 12:49:02 PM

(more details later, as time permits) ******************************* Once upon a time, I had serious intentions of running the New York marathon. It was back in 1979, and the whole thing was much less formal than it is now. Indeed, it was sufficiently informal that Rosie Ruiz was accidentally given a “finished time” of 2:56:29 for the New York event that year, which qualified her for the 1980 Boston marathon. It was later discovered that she had not run the entire NYC course (nor did she do so up in Boston on April 21, 1980), and her time was ultimately rescinded in both races. Had her times stayed in the record books, her Boston time of 2:31:56 would have been the fastest female time ever in the Boston marathon and the third-fastest female time ever recorded in any marathon... Informal as the New York marathon was in those ancient days, you still couldn’t just show up at the starting line and expect to be welcomed. On the other hand, all that was necessary to get an official invitation was going down to the main branch of the U.S. Post Office on 34th Street at midnight on some long-forgotten summer night,and waiting in line with a bunch of equally crazy people. I got my entry ticket (or letter, or certificate, or whatever it was) a few days later, and began following a fairly serious training regimen, working my way up to a modest 10-mile race … until a business trip took me to Sydney, Australia for most of the month of August, 1979. Between business and social events, and the cold, wet weather of Sydney’s winter season, I didn’t do any running at all for that whole month … and with my training regimen broken, I wisely decided not to run the marathon at all. But since then, I’ve always had a fondness for the NYC marathon — especially considering how much it has grown, and what a city-wide celebration it has become. I missed the event in 2013 and 2012, so it has been three years since I watched on the sidelines in 2011. With the promise of cold-but-sunny weather this year, I decided to return once again — and, as in 2011, I positioned myself at roughly the 24.5-mile point, at the beginning of a downhill run at roughly 78th Street, at the side of the Central Park “inner roadway.” The runners pass by all afternoon, and well into the evening; but it’s a little more difficult to anticipate when the lead runners will reach any particular point. There are now so many participants in the marathon (about 50,000) that the runners are released in “waves,” beginning with those on hand-operated wheelchair/bicycles, and the “elite” women, the elite men, and three or four waves of mere mortals. There was an additional delay this year, because the headwinds were so strong that the initial wave had great difficulty propelling their wheeled vehicles up over the “hump” of the Tappan Zee bridge. So if you’re standing somewhere along the route, at the 10-mile mark, or the 20-mile mark, or (as I was) the 24.5 mile mark, you can only guess at the moment when the lead runners — or a friend or family member whom you want to cheer onward to the finish line — might be coming near you. On the other hand, there are some clues. Helicopters hover above the lead runners, low enough that you can hear the roar of their blades; and there are two or three waves of police cars and motorcycles zooming ahead of the runners, pushing people back to the sidelines, and ensuring that there are no disruptions or obstacles to slow them down. Then — and it’s always an adrenaline rush! — you see the official race car, driving just a few feet ahead of the lead runners, with a huge race clock mounted on its roof, showing those fast-moving runners the exact number of hours, minutes, and seconds since they started their journey back at the edge of Staten Island. The lead runners, of whom there are often two or three or four even up to the last mile, are often several minutes ahead of the next ones; but those who are in positions three, four, five or ten, and who will get no recognition at all from the press, the media, or the crowd when they finish … well, they still run as if their lives depend on it. And the crowd cheers them on, clapping and calling out their names and urging them onward. One of the differences I noticed this year was the widespread use of bicycle horns and cow-bells that the onlookers used to create a cacophony of merry noise; I don’t know if the runners took it as a sign of encouragement, but it sure sounded that way to me … I stayed longer than I had intended, and took several hundred more photos that I had planned … but they’re all just bits on the camera’s digital memory card, so it doesn’t really matter. One might argue that I should have stayed for eight or ten hours, until the last runner had straggled by. And perhaps I should have photographed each of the 50,000 runners, for I’m sure they each had their own story to tell. But after a while, it gets overwhelming — and the faces and bodies and brightly colored shirts and tights and shoes begin to blur… I think I got a representative collection of photos; and the video clips will give you a sense of the noise and the motion of what seemed like an endless stream of humanity racing past … but to really understand it, you need to be there in person. Barring a crippling storm (like Hurricane Sandy, which forced the cancellation of the 2012 marathon), you’ll find another crowd of 50,000 runners racing through Central Park at the end of next year’s marathon, on the first Sunday in November. And with any luck, I’ll be there with my camera … Who knows: maybe even Rosie Ruiz will be there, too. It turns out that she was arrested in 1982 for embezzling $60,000 from a real estate company where she worked; after a week in jail and a sentence of five years’ probation, she moved back to south Florida, where she was arrested in 1983 for her involvement in a cocaine deal. But as of the year 2000, she still insisted that she had run the entire 1980 Boston marathon. C’est la vie...

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