I watched most of the New York City marathon the way most other mother runners did: on TV. Even though I was in New York City to volunteer, I did not even attempt to push through the crowds to get a glimpse of the elites. When Shalane crossed that finish line, I was eating a bagel (with a schmear and salmon, as one does) at a friend’s place. And, yes, we were all covered in goosebumps, too. Because, seriously. How amazing was that?
I’m getting ahead of the story, however.
After running the New York City marathon last year, I knew I wanted to come back as a volunteer, once I managed to walk down stairs like a normal human again. When I went to sign up for a volunteer shift, I noticed there was a late option. Given that I am not a speedy runner and know how important those cheers are when you feel like you’re the only person still running, it was an easy choice to make.
Fast forward to this year.
After thanking my lucky stars that I did not have to get up to board the Staten Island Ferry in the cold, drizzly dark on Sunday, I puttered about the city. Mostly, I hung out with friends I rarely see, drank coffee -- so very much coffee -- and looked for restrooms. Because coffee.
At 5:30, I wandered to the Ethical Culture School, which is where the volunteers were corralled before their start. At the security point on 63rd and Broadway, the cops told me I was late and that the race was almost over. I know, I said. That’s kind of the point. Somehow, they let me through, even though I was being all sassy from the caffeine.
After a quick run-down of duties from Harrison, a NYRR staffer who is literally young enough to be my son (seriously? how did I get to be this old?), we were turned loose with heat sheets and tape and enthusiasm.
The first two hours passed in a blink as I heat-sheeted sweaty and, mostly, joyous runners who were just starting to wrap their heads around having finished. There were damp hugs. There was a runner or two who needed to be steered to the First Aid tent. To an African-American woman in a Black Girls Run shirt I said, “Black Girls finish marathons.” She burst into tears and we hugged and happy cried and, dang. It was an evening of moments like that, so many that I started to re-think my “one and done” marathon stance.
And then it got even more magical.
By 8:30 or so, there was a lot of time between finishers. The crowd at the finish grew smaller and smaller. Still enthusiastic, mind. There were just fewer people cluttering up the place, which meant we were all within feet of the finish line proper. Which meant we knew the exact moment when all of the American elites showed up, including Meb and Shalane.
The last 15 or 20 runners had their hard-earned medals put around their necks by an American great, one of whom had just won the whole thing. Tatyana McFadden presented the last wheelchair finisher with his medal. I don’t really have words to describe how amazing it was -- and words are kind of my thing. The New York Times assembled a video of the end of the race, which helps. But, still. Wow.
I intend to volunteer for the same shift next year. And, maybe, just maybe, run it again in 2020. Maybe. Because there really is nothing like New York City on the first Sunday of November.
Programming note: for those in Philadelphia this weekend, most of the Another Mother Runner crew will be in town. I’ll be at the Expo (come see me!). Dimity and at least one TLAM coach will be wandering about. PLUS, there’s a party on Saturday that you won’t want to miss. Oh, and there’s, like, a race or something, too.