From the Sidelines of the NYC Marathon

Last Sunday was the NYC Marathon.  I can relate: when I woke up my nose was running with my first cold of the season. This inspired a marathon of my own- watching back to back episodes of Louie on Netflix. So while thousands achieved incredible fitness goals of endurance, I stayed inside all day drinking tea and sniffling. Nothing makes you feel more lethargic than making Marathon Sunday your Lazy Sunday.

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While I was being a lazy sack- resting, my friend Holly was at the front lines of the race. I asked her to share her experience as this race is such a New York staple. One missed last year due to Hurricane Sandy. Here’s was Holly had to report:

It may be a cliché, but marathons really are very inspiring. There’s just something about seeing thousands of human beings from all walks of life participating in an extraordinary show of strength and endurance.

But enough about the runners—let’s talk about me!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to work both the NYC Marathon and the Javits Center Fitness Expo that accompanies it. Along with a handful of others, I was representing Grana Padano, a cheese from northern Italy and one of the sponsors for the marathon. It seems a silly thing, representing cheese, but I was given front row access to one of the more stirring events you see in New York City, let alone the world—so I’m not complaining.

The Fitness Expo is its own kind of monster: booth after booth of protein shakes, compression bands, energy chews, and more. It’s actually a pretty good place to find your motivation to work out; an infectious energy courses through the room with every chia seed drink sample and running shoe analysis. Marathoners and their supportive sideliners alike crowded the floor, and as they approached the booth I worked at, it became a guessing game of who was new and who had ridden this rodeo before.

Most new marathoners tend to have a buzzing, giddy energy about them, no matter their age; more experienced runners have learned how to take it all in without toppling over. No matter the racing status, however, everyone came to our table—we were giving out free cheese (not to mention cheer sticks, but more on that later)! Gaggles of women in matching team shirts, quietly vibrating neophytes, vocal older Britons who had run a dozen marathons: everyone was passionate, excited, hungry, and searching for perhaps one more thing to help out on Sunday.

Come Sunday, of course, all the neck warmers and coconut water in the world can’t compare to the exhilaration of just doing the damn thing. I was stationed at Mile 17 (along the Upper East Side) by eight o’clock that morning—a funny and freezing concept to me, since we wouldn’t even see the wheelchair racers until well after 9:30. My promo partner and I were there to hand out Grana Padano-themed cheer sticks, also known as “Bam Bams”: basically, balloon noisemakers that are awesome or awful depending on their proximity to your ears! Honestly, though, I loved it.


At first, it was just us, police officers (heightened security this year for good reason), and the odd dog walker or morning jogger. I think there’s something really lovely about the folks who got up to run on marathon day, even for just a few blocks—they deserved cheers, too. The first couple I saw plant themselves at the railings for a good view were cheerful, even in the chill of the morning. I offered them cheer sticks, and asked who they were looking for: their son, he’d run it a couple years ago, they were always excited for him.

As the morning went on, the other folks I encountered had similar stories, but my favorites were when I’d meet someone who was watching for the sake of watching—not just because they knew someone. A rowdy German family had me laughing as I attempted to explain what the cheer sticks were, throwing in the few German phrases I knew (they got a kick out of it when I told them “Ich leibe dich”). Families with homemade posters, a block filled with Belgians, a twenty-something in pajamas with a peculiar smelling thermos—everyone was in good spirits, just waiting for the marathon to begin. And when it did, the crowd really did go wild.

As the first of the wheelchair racers made their way past us, you couldn’t help but whoop and holler! It didn’t matter that I had no idea who these people were, where they were from, whether this was their first or fiftieth marathon: I was so proud of them! How I admired them! By the time the elite women’s group came by, the spectators at the railing were two to three rows deep; when the first of the elite men came by (just over 1 hour, 23 minutes for 17 miles!) we were packed. I traversed up and down the blocks, delivering yellow noisemakers to whomever wished one—which was everyone. It didn’t matter that they’d probably discard them in an hour, they wanted to scream and shout and sing the praises of the runners right now; I was more than happy to oblige.


After a while, when the runners no longer came individually, but in graceful packs, I squeezed myself into an open railing spot. There was live band playing not too far from where I was, and I couldn’t help but dance along with my fellow viewers as we cheered on our favorite strangers. “Go Fred, go!” and “Yeah, Harriet, you can do it!” and “Team Jonathan, you rock!” and “We’re so proud of you!”

We live in a city, a nation, a world often divided; a sometimes scary world where we have to live with advanced security measures. But, for a few hours—and here’s the BIG cliché—we all came together to cheer on each other. You may not ever consider running a marathon, or volunteering for it, or working it promotionally, but I think it behooves us all to (at some point) stand by each other and celebrate humanity and the triumph of our spirit.


If nothing else, you might get some free cheer sticks; couldn’t we all use some, occasionally?

I must say, I have had a lot of people cheering me on recently, in life. I feel I’m at the part of that race before I hit my stride, when my lungs burn and my heart hammers in my chest. I feel the shouts of encouragement here on my blog and it really helps me push on. Blow my nose, get out of bed, put a spring in my step. It’s awesome. Recently I’ve been so caught up in my own shit, I fear I forget to pay it forward. Forget to cheer on my supporters, my friends like Holly, who keep me from vomitting my pain up on the side of the road. I won’t stand for that. I owe y’all one, and I feel so honored to say that.
Thanks for reminding me and for guest posting, Holly!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

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