Here’s the funny thing about pride. Most times, it is off-putting, unflattering, and more often than not, covers up an innate lack of confidence (ironically enough). On a more rare occasion, though, one runs across a true reason to possess what I’d like to call justified pride; a self-gratification that is usually a long time coming that results from determination, hard work, focus, or some combination of the three that can be shared unabashedly with others. This is the pride of which I speak. Of course I am proud of many things, but this accomplishment has been the only one (that I know of, anyway) to date that has been solely up to me, myself, and my dedication. Yes, I’m proud (amongst other things) that I’ve performed on Broadway. But, ever how hard I worked in voice lessons and dance classes, it was ultimately up to someone else to hire me for the job. In a world and a business that is more than largely subjective, I guess I have officially found deep satisfaction in the precise and ancient art of healthy competition.
But, I digress. The New York Marathon is, in a word, HUGE. Every year, approximately 45,000 runners participate in a race of endurance through Manhattan streets past over two million cheering fans in hopes of snatching a bit of the $500,000 of prize money, raising money for charity, or fulfilling a personal goal. It has been an annual occurrence since 1970 and is now the United States’ most watched one-day sporting event (according to about.com). Seeing that it was my first marathon and I’m by far not remotely Kenyan, my goals for the run were trifold.
1) No matter what, keep running the entire 26.2 miles (no walking)
2) Crush Katie Holmes’ time of 5:29:58 (a joke amongst myself and a few buddies)
3) Don’t die or pass out while doing 1 and 2.
There are a few odd things that happen during a marathon that I had never known. One, people wear warm clothes to the start line and when the race starts, strip down to practically nothing and literally throw their hoodies and pants on the side of the road. New York Road Runners donates the clothes that are discarded to a good cause, but seriously, the image of the Verrazano Bridge covered in a sea of clothes was one of the more odd things I had encountered. Odd thing number two – people have no qualms about relieving themselves along the race course. And nobody seems to care. Men literally sidle up to a wall and whip it out and the more competitive women don’t even bother to stop. They just go as they run. Seriously. (I refused to do that and made a quick stop at a port-a-potty at mile 7 – I’m not that hardcore). Odd thing number three – people chat as they run.
Which leads me to the continuation of my story. After discarding my sweatshirt and crossing the start line, I heard a deep voice next to me:
“So, this is going to be a long run, Let’s do some introductions, folks. What’s your name? Where are ya from?”
“Woo! You know what’s ahead? Mile 12, baby. Dude, we’re so crushing this marathon. Yeah! (fist pump in the air and a little Rocky-esque shake of the shoulders)”.
And so we ran. The most amazing thing about the New York Marathon is most definitely the people that cheer alongside it. There were encouraging New Yorkers lining every block of every borough of the entire race. We passed the fire department of Bay Ridge with banners strung along their fire truck. “Welcome to Bay Ridge, runners!”. A family passed out bananas in Park Slope while a rock band blasted a cover of “Hard to Handle”. Stylish young adults in Williamsburg held up signs reading, “Toenails are for sissies” and “There’s a beer waiting for you in Central Park”. Volunteers on the East side gave free back massages with rolling pins to runners that stopped. A salsa band on 125th prompted one runner to stop, shake a tail feather for a few minutes, and move on. A fully costumed African drum ensemble in the Bronx played and danced us through mile 21. And on and on. The entire 26.2 mile course was a cultural panorama of the passion and exuberance of the people of New York. These amazing people more than once brought tears to my eyes, pride that this melting pot of life, this greatest city on earth, is my town.
1) I am way stronger and more determined than I ever thought I was. (And I thought I was pretty strong and determined to start.)
2) The human body is a really amazing machine and on the whole, we humans do not even scratch the surface of its capabilities.
3) Justified pride is not a bad thing. In fact, it's the cherry on top.
4) Distraction is not always a bad thing and good company is always the best way to go.
5) We (not just me, we people) can pretty much do anything. If we want to bad enough, somehow, we make it happen.