That thought ran through my head several times this past Sunday at the finish line of the New York Marathon. I’m not one of the crazy people who runs. It was as course marshal that had me facing 10’s of thousands finishing a fairly grueling event. This year’s assignment was about 100 yards off the finish line, when runners, after hours of breathing heavy, could finally walk and start to orient themselves again.
This year was the marathon’s 40th anniversary for the 5-borough course. It’s got to be one of the largest sports spectacles in the world — 50,000 registered runners from 130 countries with over a million spectators lining the course.
The race starts off in several coordinated waves, from wheelchair, pro women, pro men, general elite, and waves of gen-pop runners. The finish starts like a slow faucet drip for about an hour before gradually opening up to full flow which lasts for several hours.
All kinds of people run marathons for all kinds of reasons. Most just want to finish and to do that means they’ve pushed themselves close to their limits. By the time many reach the finish line, they are dazed and amazed, many with feelings of nauseousness. Others are cramping. Most walking gingerly. If I had to categorize the faces after eight hours of watching (helping) people walk off, about 40% wore smiles, 30% had walking-dead faces, and 30% expressed a contorted, pained look. To those who could barely walk, I wanted to say, “hey, it was self-inflicted, keep moving and don’t expect sympathy.”
Of course I was there to help and it was great fun. Truthfully, I’ve got a lot of admiration for those willing and committed to grit through 26.2 miles of running through hilly, city streets. It’s a semi-brutal event. Maybe I’ll turn crazy one of these years and consider trying a marathon. In that case, I hope I’m not one of the ones throwing up.