Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Spirit of the Marathon

Posted by Caitlin Endyke

I am, admittedly, a sports fanatic.  If it’s a Sunday in fall, you can guarantee I’m hunkered down in front of a television in my New England Patriots jersey ready for the game.  I have a chalkboard in my apartment on which I keep a daily countdown until the next Olympics (485 days until the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in case you were wondering).  I plan my weeks around first pitches, face-offs, and kickoff times.  Yet more than any Super Bowl or World Series or World Cup Championship, there’s one day in sports that I think is slowly becoming my favorite- the day of the New York City Marathon.

The New York Times kicked off its “Mile by Mile” series today- one post a day for each mile of the NYC marathon, describing the route and the experience for the runners who will snake their way through every one of the city’s five boroughs 26 days from now, on November 4th.  It’s the kind of sports journalism that I love- writing that evokes feelings of what it’s like to be there, pounding the pavement with thousands of your fellow athletes in a feat of individual strength and determination.  But the series hasn’t yet touched on what I, as a spectator, love most about Marathon Sunday.

I have a friend who has run the race the past couple of years, and who will run again this November.  Each year a group of us gather on First Avenue with our posters and t-shirts to cheer her on.  We get there early to secure a spot close to the street so we’ll be able to see her as she passes.  We make friends with the people standing around us, usually folks who are waiting for their own friends or family members to run by.  And then, as the first wave of runners streams up the avenue, the cheering begins.  The streets of New York become a raucous symphony of people cheering - calling out names when runners have them written across their t-shirts, high-fiving those who come close to the spectators, giving a little extra encouragement to some who seem to be struggling as they hit the last few miles. I cheer for Bob, Mary, and George regardless of their political affiliations, their tax brackets, or whether or not they are Yankees fans.  It is one of the best examples I have seen of New Yorkers coming together to cheer on their friends and neighbors for the simple accomplishment of finishing what they started. 

We accept that finishing a marathon is an extraordinary feat, and we want everyone to succeed.  I walk away at the end of every Marathon Sunday thinking “I am proud to be a New Yorker”.  Every year it is one of those experiences that makes me feel most connected to this city, a part of the fabric that makes it an inspiring place to live.  And from what I’ve heard, cities across the country come together in much the same way when it’s their hometown’s turn to host a big race like this one.  So it always makes me think- what if every day we supported each other like we do on that day?  With less yelling and fewer high fives, sure, but with the same ideal that we want those around us to achieve their goals and reach their own personal finish lines (so long as those goals don’t come at the expense of someone else’s success).  So often, we put too much weight on competition and feel that we’ve succeeded only if someone else has failed.  But if we came together in collective support and understanding, we might be able to achieve great things.

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