This past Sunday, over 42,000 people ran past my door. The NYC Marathon is insane, including each of the five boroughs starting with Staten Island and ending in Manhattan. As a spectator, I ended up covering most of the Brooklyn leg on foot. There’s something incredibly energizing about seeing all those people doing the impossible (to me), and so many people out cheering them on. My running career has been spotty and short lived, and my hopes for marathon success are rather slim. But I did join it for about 1/4 of its route, starting right outside my apartment on Fourth Avenue in Greenwood Heights. As you can see, my sidewalk was transformed into a water station.
As the first of the handcyclers were coming down the road (who always stun me, along with the Achilles runners who support them), I walked south into Sunset Park. Cheerers were already out, including an enthusiastic group outside of Subway. Apparently their human mascot Jared was running. I am an awful celebrity spotter, so I didn’t see him, or anyone else gamous. Sorry, no pictures of Edison Pena! I did see one guy wearing an Oklahoma City shirt and kind of freaked out.
I’d walked about 10 blocks when I saw the first of the super fast runners, sprinting at paces that would give me a heart attack just running around the corner. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but still. I walked to St. Michael’s at 42nd before the masses arrived and I decided to follow them back north up Fourth Avenue.
I’ll just get this out of the way: I never intended to have a mini walking marathon of my own. I thought I would just walk a little ways and then hang out on my roof with a beer. But the more ground I covered, the more I wanted to walk. I’ve never walked over so much continuous distance in Brooklyn, and it was fascinating the way the neighborhoods changed. Following the runners, I went through new blocks and saw streets I’d never even crossed before. It was wonderful, it was one of those days I think I can live in this city forever. Perhaps not coincidentally, also one of those days where I think I COULD run a marathon. Both of those things might take endurance I lack… but wow, the power of 42,000 people who do have it is so ridiculously awesome.
Scattered along the route were bands of all types. I have to give a most enthusiastic award to this group on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope. The guitar players were putting forth so much energy and even doing some impressive rock jumps. And they were actually good! The marathoners were still early enough in the race to pump their fists and sometimes run/dance their way by (it was mile 6, about).
The crowds were dense up at Atlantic Pacific, where the runners must have been relieved to finally reach the Williamsburgh tower after watching it loom ahead of them all the way up Fourth Avenue. I love how the runners have their names on their shirts so people will cheer for them by name. The French got a lot of “Vive la France!” and I heard one man yell to an Italian runner “Who is minding Italy? You are all here!”
The race then curved around into Fort Greene, which had the most excited and jubilant cheerers. Music pulsed on each block and crowds were jumping up and down on brownstone stoops.
The enthusiasm continued into Clinton Hill. As I walked, I kept one eye on the runners and another on the changing urban landscape around me.
The marathon then went into Bed-Stuy, where the crowds were lighter, but still supportive. A few runners were started to turn up on the edges of the road, stretching calves or adjusting shoes.
In the strongly Hassidic South Williamsburg, the streets got silent. Runners were focused and there were few cheerers. Every few blocks there would be a lone spectator, clapping his hands or shaking a bell, yelling out “Go Brazil!” or “Go Australia!” For much of the neighborhood, it was quiet enough to hear the steady breathing of the marathoners and their metronome footsteps.
The race continued to follow Bedford Avenue under the Williamsburg Bridge, into streets of Williamsburg lined with DJs and even a marching band with cheerleaders. Someone promised the runners they were almost to Queens, the third borough on their route. My feet were getting tired, but I kept walking past McCarren Park into Greenpoint. I stopped to watch a band there, and saw four people run by in animal costumes, including the kangaroo above. I can’t imagine running 26.2 miles, let alone while encased in fur! Needless to say, I couldn’t feel too sorry for my sore feet. However, rather than continue into Queens, I let my 6 mile walk in Brooklyn come to an end and caught the G Train back home. When I arrived back on Fourth Avenue, the street was empty, the strewn water cups swept away. It was time for a coffee.