In a parallel, non-pandemic universe, last Sunday, November 1st, was the day 50,000 runners flocked over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to start the NYC marathon. Instead, the 50th anniversary edition of the race was canceled back in June, to the surprise of absolutely no one. Those of us who live in New York and are silly enough to get emotional about mass participation sporting events had already realized in advance that there would be no roaring Mardi Gras on the street this year. But of course, you still miss the ins and outs of the marathon weekend, which, given the scale of the event, would probably be more accurately described as “a month and a half marathon”: the hyper-affirmative subway ads (“It’s going to move you!”). The conspicuous marathon tourists patrolling the middle of town in tracksuits are ready to indulge in diner pasta. The grandstands on Central Park’s West Drive, set up from the finish line two weeks before the race. If you are a runner it is impossible to see them and not feel the adrenaline rush.
There was none of this in 2020. It goes without saying that the racing conditions on Sunday morning in New York were more or less ideal: Overcast. 50 degrees. Minimal wind. Nobody has ever blamed the marathon gods for lacking a sense of humor.
Last but not least, the ideal weather was probably appreciated by locals who took part in the virtual edition of the NYC marathon and decided to do their “race” on the official day. (Everyone attending the virtual event, which New York Road Runners members had a $ 50 entry fee for and $ 60 for everyone else, had to spend 26.2 miles between October 17 and November 1 to earn a Finisher Medal.) a popular choice. Many New York-based runners ran the official course for their virtual race on Sunday, with the exception of the first two-mile route over Verrazzano, which is closed to pedestrians.
There was even a cameo from the professional ranks on the “marathon Saturday”. Des Linden, who was the fastest American woman at NYCM last year, ran 31 miles in Central Park to complete a month-long personal challenge called #RunDestober that saw her meet the calendar date in the daily mileage. After completing a final week of 196 miles, Linden celebrated champagne from her shoes. These are difficult times and we are all doing our best.
Emily Sisson and Stephanie Bruce also ran virtual NYCMs, according to a representative for NYRR, which logged 2:38:32 and 2:35:28, respectively. (Sisson graduated from her NYCM in San Diego while Bruce did hers near Flagstaff.) Meanwhile, wheelchair athlete Daniel Romanchuk set an unofficial world record of 1:13:57 – a flat section of farm roads in central Illinois. (According to an article in Runner’s World, his mom drove after him to make sure he wasn’t hit by an unsuspecting motorist.) At this time last year, Romanchuk was celebrated by hundreds of onlookers as he climbed the last slope of Tavern on the green for his second consecutive NYCM win. In 2020 it was a little lonely.
“Usually my sister, a nurse in the emergency room in New York City, is there to tease and kiss me at the finish line,” Romanchuk wrote on Instagram after his virtual NYCM. “I never knew how much I would miss that. . . Cant wait to get that hug and kiss again in person next year. “One can only hope.
In his 1949 essay Here is New York, EB White wrote that because of its size and endless hyperlocal happenings, New York “succeeds in isolating the individual from all the enormous and violent and wonderful events that are happening every minute.” Therefore, “each event is optional in a sense, and the resident is fortunate enough to be able to choose his spectacle and thus preserve his soul.” Seventy years later, this idea of self-imposed, glorious isolation feels like a relic of a lost one Age on – even or maybe especially in New York, whose violent and wonderful events are more ubiquitous than ever. When the city was the global epicenter of the pandemic in April, everyone heard the sirens on the street. In a year, if we are very lucky, another type of inevitable spectacle will be back: the sight of thousands of runners moving through the five boroughs on their way to Central Park. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the course should disrupt the lives of as many New Yorkers as possible.
We wouldn’t want it any other way.
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Main photo: NYRR
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