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home > community > viewpoint > new york, new york, big city of dreams

New York, New York, Big City of Dreams
The New York Marathon is fast approaching, a race that created a marriage between marathon running and big cities that has lived happily in urban settings all over the globe. Since 1976 when it moved from Central Park to the five boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Yonkers, The Bronx, and Manhattan, the New York City Marathon has set the standard for metropolitan marathons.

New York, New York, Big City of Dreams

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By Don Allison
Posted Friday, 1 November, 1996

The New York Marathon is fast approaching, a race that created a marriage between marathon running and big cities that has lived happily in urban settings all over the globe. Since 1976 when it moved from Central Park to the five boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Yonkers, The Bronx, and Manhattan, the New York City Marathon has set the standard for metropolitan marathons.

Nearly 30,000 will line up in Staten Island on Sunday, eager to make the long journey to Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Media worldwide will report on the race. Even more than that, they will report on the EVENT.

While Boston has tradition, New York has blazed the trail with many innovations other races have copied, but rarely duplicated. New York was the first and only marathon to be aired live on national television. New York has led the way in attracting top international fields year after year. It was the first marathon to offer a big time prize money purse. In terms of excitement, few races can match that generated annually by spectators in New York. The wide variety of ethic neighborhoods add a special touch to the race, supporting the runners in their own unique way.

There's only one problem with New York - it's a tough race to run! Oh, the course is about average for a marathon. Hills? Sure there are some, most coming on the Verrazano and Queensboro bridges. These hills are sneaky tough, but run correctly can be overcome. The final three miles in Central Park also contain some hills, mostly short rises that seem worse than they really are due to where the lie on the course. The road is pretty well paved. The weather? New York has more than its share of warm days for mid-November, but the race has also had many picture perfect crisp autumn days as well.

So what's so hard about this marathon? Why are there many thousands finishing after four hours than before each year? People - that's why. Lots of 'em. Too many of them. Surely it's helpful to have allies in the battle of the marathon, but 30,000? That can create problems that upset the best laid marathoner's plans. How so? Let's take a trip through the typical out-of-towners New York Marathon experience. This year's race on November 7 will be televised on live on ESPN2, with highlights on ESPN.

Your New York Marathon

You arrive at Kennedy airport on Friday evening, anxious to get to your mid-town hotel and settle in, perhaps to also have a look around the city and grab a bite to eat. Oh, good there's a limo headed straight for the hotel. 30 bucks, you have to be kidding! Oh well, you'll wait a while until enough other folks come along so you can share a ride. Two hours later you arrive at the hotel, after getting stuck in traffic on East River drive for no particular reason, but that's New York.

After checking in you set out in search of dinner, asking the concierge for a suggestion. Turns out every pasta place in upper Manhattan is booked solid, so you settle for an expensive coffee shop meal after walking around aimlessly looking for a restaurant. But all of these people, walking the streets at ten pm! The energy is amazing. It truly is the city that never sleeps. But you have to, if you are going to run 26.2 miles on Sunday.

You wake up Saturday to go for a three miler in Central Park just to stretch the legs a bit. The air is crisp and there are thousands of runners, roller bladers, and cyclists in the park. You go a little faster than you planned, but get back so you can head over the Sheraton and pick up your race number. You want to get there early, you know, be the first in line. What this? There's a line all the way around the block already and they haven't even opened the doors. After an interminable wait, you finally get into the number pickup area. It all goes smoothly. You find out that the marathon expo is at the Hilton, a few blocks away. You go anyway, spending more time on your feet, sifting through the wide array of official New York City Marathon gear to buy your nephew a shirt that says " In training for New York Marathon 2020. " You go back to your hotel room, but on the way get sidelined by a runner from your club who also happens to be in town for the race. Plans are made to go the pasta dinner together at Tavern on the Green later. It's past noon - you're feeling a bit tired and heavy legged.

You plan to take nap in your room in order to re-charge a bit, but find the buzz of the New York City atmosphere has left you feeling restless. So you get up and leave a little early for the pasta party. There is a race clinic being offered by a sports nutrition expert in the hotel lobby. They strongly suggest you take advantage of a special offer on energy bars they are selling. All the latest research indicates these bars have the perfect combination of carbos, protein, and fat. Eating one on race morning will " maximize performance ". You buy three bars.

You meet your friend and walk up to Tavern on the Green. Oh no, not another line! Boy it's getting cold outside waiting. You eventually get into the restaurant. You get in line for your pasta. The place is packed. You can't find two empty seats together, so you end up eating at a table with a boisterous group of runners from France. They seem to really be enjoying themselves, but you can't understand what they are saying. As soon as you finish eating, a man in an official marathon jacket taps you on the shoulder. There are a lot of folks waiting for seats. You take dessert on the way out the door and eat it on the way back to the hotel.

You arrange all of your gear for the race the next day and settle in for another fitful night of sleep. You set the wake up call for 5:30 to get to the Public Library for the bus to Staten Island. This time you are finally going to beat the crowds. You don't know if you can stand (in) one more line. You wake up and look at the clock. 4:30. You lie there for a while, but don't fall back asleep, so get up and head for the Library. Boy it's dark out. Cold too. Should have brought a jacket. There's no line for the bus, great. It's 6:15 and you are on the way already. Soon enough the sun comes up and the bus climbs over the Verrazano-Narrows bridge to Staten Island. Off the bus and into Fort Wadsworth Park. A public address announcer says there is an aerobics demonstration starting in 15 minutes. Thousands of folks mill around the park - how did they all get here so soon. It's only 7 am. You make your way to one of the many covered tents and stake out a place inside, as the air is very cold and your jacket is back at the hotel. It's your nice Boston Marathon jacket; you didn't want to take a chance leaving it with race baggage claim. The time creeps oh so slowly towards the 10:45 start. You eat one of the energy bars you bought yesterday, but it tastes funny. They are giving out coffee, so you take a cup, even though it's not part of your normal pre race routine. You still feel tired an hour later, so drink another cup. Of course that sends you to the portajohn line. Despite the fact there are hundreds of portajohns, each one has a line of 25 people.

At 9:45 you see that the tent is emptying out. You take a look around and see that the crowd is heading towards the other end of the park. The runners are lining up for the race already! You get caught up in the crowd and the next thing you know, you're herded out of the park and onto the entrance of the bridge. You wait for an hour, wishing you could escape just to use one of the portajohns one more time. At 10:53, after a few minutes for a TV television commercial, the cannon blasts, signaling the start of the New York Marathon. Good luck!



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