Last weekend, I had the honor of watching over 45,000 runners race across the city in pursuit of finishing the NYC Marathon. I was out of town last year for the marathon, and this was my first year watching on the sidelines which happened to be a perfect year for cheering. I knew a few folks running the race, including my fabulous frousin (friend/cousin) Emily, and my wonderful friend Steve (who I call my son…long story). This was Emily’s first marathon ever, and she pumped me up for the last few months with her blog about training for the marathon for The Huffington Post (her blog about training/running is a lot more interesting than mine about watching so check it out) and our brunches and dinners after her runs in Central Park. Steve has run a few marathons but this was his first attempt at la crème de la crème.
On Saturday night, my sister, Katie, and my good friend from home and new neighbor Aubrey decided to stay in and make signs for our runners. Our first art projects in quite some time brought a lot of laughter mistakes, and tears of laughter from the mistakes. We brainstormed what to write for hours, I wish that were an exaggeration. I rewrote my sign for Steve in pencil at least five times before finally diving in and then not even leaving room for what I wanted to write to fit properly. Aubrey wrote a creepy sign to Emily (“your ice bath awaits”) in cursive, unreadable letters. Katie was unhappy with her lowercase writing and the slogan we made her use on the back of her sign for Emily (“26.2 ain’t got nothing on you”).
We also planned out where we were going to wait for our runners. Emily’s parents, siblings, and plus ones were going to be at 86th and 1st (in between the 17th and 18th mile) so we decided to go there, but a little earlier than the rest of the fam since Steve was set to get there around an hour and a half before Emily was to arrive (he had an earlier start). We managed to make our way to the front within a few minutes and started seeing the top runners almost right away. Already, I was blown away by the crowds there to support the runners. It was a day to embrace the side of New York that you don’t get to see all the time, the New York that cheers on complete strangers accomplishing their dreams.
You might think it would be boring to stand on the sidelines and cheer on thousands of random people, but we had the best time! Most of the runners have their names printed on their shirts or sharpie’d on their bods, so whenever we saw someone’s name, we shouted out personalized cheers. We kept telling them how awesome they looked, how much cooler they were than we were, and that they were doing such a good job. And whenever I saw someone with the name Steve or Emily, I used my signs, even though people were pretty perplexed as to why my grammar was off on Emily’s (it’s a Beyonce song), and why I had a son who was old enough to run the marathon (just a joke of course). I think I really missed my calling and should probably have become a professional cheerleader (minus the flips and short skirt).
Of course, the best moments were when we actually saw Steve and Emily. After seeing Emily the first time, we all walked over to Central Park to see her again, a lot closer to the end of the race. It was fun to see everyone again who we had cheered on the first time without actually knowing them, including the two Howies, the man running with a tray of champagne glasses held up in his hand, and the man running with a shirt saying “for my mom”. There were a lot of runners who wore other peoples’ names or “F Cancer” on their shirts, which all made the experience even more emotional. I don’t even know how much money was raised by all of these people but I am so impressed by each and every one of them, both for the fundraising and of course for the feat itself. A marathon is not my style, but I am inspired to do *something* big and challenging and good for the world. I’m sure an idea will come to me soon.