A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Monday, November 3, 2014

the ups and the downs of the nyc marathon

NYC Marathon Day is over.

This marathon draws a lot of feelings  from me when I'm up and about as a spectator. Some of them are mostly favorable, but there are several unfavorable feelings I do get. I'll see if I can compile them in a list.

The Upsides of the NYC Marathon

1) The runners themselves.

Although the faster runners meant all business, it's the slower runners that tend to lead a festive atmosphere in the streets of NY. Of course there was a good share of "costumed characters" like Superman, the waiter, and that guy who was running in just a skimpy Speedo whooping it up in front of the crowds.

Oh yeah, I definitely saw the Coatman at mile 12 of the race. This is part of the cheerful costumed crowd that decorates the NYC Marathon runners.

Then you have the other runners with their names on their shirts. This was you can cheer them on by name and hopefully give them a good emotional lift to get to the finish line. It just adds to a festive atmosphere in the race.

2) The spectators.

Most of the spectators lining the course are friends and family of runners that are on the course. So when you see a runner come up to a spectator and hug them in celebration, it's definitely a good moment to see.

Most of these spectators come with their own humorous signs to keep the runners motivated.

I wonder if that's true?

Now THAT is true!

Between the runners and the spectators, there was definitely a party atmosphere going on!

3) The volunteers and staff

It takes a lot of hours of work just to put on a small race. It's a crazy undertaking to get a race as huge as this one running smoothly. I worked my small part in the marathon moving the mile markers into their positions and coordinating with the timers there so that their timing mats were in position to be operational. Without the staff and the colunteers, there wouldn't be a race, so hats off to everyone helping to get this race done!

4) Most NYers show their good natured side

Yeah, New Yorkers are a tough crowd, but it's the one day they turn their hardness off and show a soft spot for all the runners in their streets. There are a few people who don't care (I've seen comments from Staten Islanders bitching about the Verrazano Bridge closure in the local paper here, even though it's just one day out of the year (well, make that two days if you include the Five Borough Bike Tour), but those people are few and far between, thankfully.

5) The hype

Newspapers were covering the race all week. The TV networks were covering the race all week. It's been a non-stop blitz about the people who are running the race for the very first time. One can't help just getting carried away with the hype for the race and to come out and watch.

The Downsides of the NYC Marathon

1) The hype

There's a bit of a downside with the hype also...that it takes away the fact that it still is indeed a race. I remember when I did this race in 1995 it was not easy to run the first few miles at race speed due to the sheer number of people in my vicinity. It took until about mile 4 before I can get up to speed. And that was when the race was only 25,000 people. Which leads to the next downside...

2) The large number of runners

About 55,000 people finished the 2014 NYC Marathon. That is a heck of a lot of runners! Because of that, the last wave of runners started this race around 11:00AM! Most of this wave consisted of slower runners, and anyone who was finishing around 6 hours was going to finish at night. Yikes! Personally, this is one of the main reasons why I stay away from the real large races.

3) High Profile Race = Security Issues

No backpacks for the runners (they needed transparent bags to get into the staging area), background checks for the staff and volunteers, and a lot of police patrolling from the ground and from the air. Yeah, the Boston Marathon bombing made this a necessity, but I'm not sure if I want to be subject to a TSA check upon arriving at the start line. It's another reason why I tend to stay away from big races.

4) High registration fee and the hassle of getting in

The NYC Marathon has a lottery to get in. I'm not sure what the chances are of getting in, but there is another way for runners in this area to get in. They would have to register and run 9 of the NYRR races within a given period and volunteer and one other race in order to get the nod. The registration fee is around $300 more or less, and if one chooses to go into that "9+1" program, the cost basically doubles. At the same time I can register online for the Philly Marathon in 5 minutes for $140 (with the late fee included). The race happens in less than 3 weeks and the registration is still open.

In summary, the NYC Marathon is a huge race, and with marathons popping up in every city, it would probably be more convenient to easily register online for another marathon. But I cannot overlook the special atmosphere that the NYC Marathon provides. One of these years, I'll consider entering the lottery and do it again.

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