“What do you mean, you’ve lost your voice?” said Georgina. “We’re supposed to be recording at the New York Marathon this morning”.
I held up a piece of paper. “Fuck,” it said.
It was a bright, crisp morning, and as we walked along 3rd towards Bedford, we heard the unmistakable sounds of a huge crowd cheering a sporting event. As we turned the corner, we were greeted by a spectacular scene. The leading runners were sprinting through a water station, set up at the top of our street, and on either side of the road there were thousands of New Yorkers screaming encouragement for the runners.
Only a few seconds before we arrived at the corner of Bedford – roughly the halfway mark in the race – the world famous British runner Paula Radcliffe had sprinted past, en route to her second New York Marathon win. She was running in her first marathon for over two years, and bravely fought off her great Ethiopian rival Wami to finish in an amazing 2 hours 23 mins and 9 secs. A piece of British sporting history. If we hadn’t stopped for breakfast on the way, we’d have seen it with our own eyes. But hey, those pancakes at Aldo’s Diner…
The New York Marathon starts on Staten Island, then goes through Brooklyn and Queens before crossing the Queensborough Bridge into Manhattan, where it makes its way up to the Bronx and then south again to the finish at Central Park, through which we had walked ourselves just a couple of days earlier.
We stayed at Bedford Avenue until every single one of the 39,000 runners had flowed past us towards McCarren Park. The cheers from the locals were incredibly supportive of the competitors, and strangely moving. In fact we both got quite tearful at one point.
Calls like “stay strong” and “you can do it” could be heard all along the street, as spectators joined in the spirit of the day, whether they knew anyone in the race or not. Georgina quickly got caught up in the excitement, and was soon shouting encouragement to all the runners with names printed on the front of their shirts.
“Go Bob!” she’d shout.
Of course, not having a voice, I was unable to join in with this ritual, but I’d occasionally give the runners a wave or even high-five them as they went past.
Many spectators wore matching shirts and hand-painted signs to show extra-special support for their friends or favourite runners. There was a girl standing opposite us holding up a big sign which read “Go Sue!”. As soon as Sue had run past, the girl turned the sign over, and on the back it read “Go Carol!”
In Williamsburg, former marathon runner Luis had been standing watching the runners from this exact spot for almost 20 years. “It’s never disappointing,” he said. “The energy is fantastic.”
“It sure is,” said Georgina.
Someone once said that if New York is a human being, then the marathon is its heart. I think Georgina and I would both agree that’s very well put.