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Posts Tagged ‘Haile Gebrselassie’

Although my running of the NYC Marathon in 2008 is  my best marathon experience to date, I still would choose spectating the race over running it. I staked out my cheering corner years ago, at 45th Road and Vernon Blvd, right before the 14-mile mark, and right after the water station and port-a-potties. (Of course this is in Queens.) I now recognize the other folks who cheer there year after year, including the couple with the golden retrievers who bring cartons of tissues to offer to snotty runners (once the fast people come through, they hardly ever get a rejection). This year I was joined by my dear friend and running buddy EN and my TeamFox teammate @nyrunningmom.

I got there at 10 AM, and EN and I passed the time before the female elites arrived cheering on the wheelchair athletes.  When we shout “Go athlete!” the wheeled competitors usually give us back a composed wave, as if they were visiting dignitaries. I always get choked up when the first few racers come by, overcome with the scope of the event and also with all the effort, planning and dreaming that most of these runners put in to prepare. These folks train for 4 months or longer–heck, I know people who don’t even date the same person for that long.

Before we knew it, the street-clearing police were whoop-whoop-ing their way past.  Mary Wittenberg followed, in the lead vehicle (she waved when I shouted “Hi Mary!”), with the motorcycle cops and the press truck in tow. Here they were, the female elites! I will never get over how quickly they pass, as if they were an apparition. Sometimes I even wonder if they hear us when we cheer for them as there is absolutely no acknowledgment. I was shouting my lungs out for Shalane, I was still yelling “Go Shalane!” when they were four blocks away. She looked relaxed and strong, and I was excited that she didn’t really have to share the spotlight with any other top-notch American marathoners. Even though it was the USA Marathon Championships, there wasn’t much noise made about Katie McGregor (who came in second among all Americans), etc. But I can tell you this: no one was looking for Edna Kiplagat– we were cheering for Christelle, Mara, Shalane, Kim and Derartu. This is what I love about the marathon–there’s no calling the winners at this distance. Who predicted Edna for the win? No one! No one was even talking about her until Mile 22!

It was so much fun to root on the American women running in the championship race, since they all had their names on their fancy bibs. This is when I realized that EN is as much of a cheer junkie as I am–to conclude an exciting round of shouting and clapping he would give his goofy laugh of enjoyment, a staccato Huh-huh, huh-huh that after an hour started to bring a smile to my face knowing my friend was getting as much out of this as I was. It felt right, cheering with the guy who had run stride for stride with me through 23 miles of this same marathon.

Soon enough then elite men were approaching. I was jittery with the excitement of seeing Haile run by me live and in person. I was also cheering for Meb, Dathan and Jorge. And I am always pleased to see Goumri on the course; he is one of my favorite underdogs along with Merga. I wish I could write you a few flowery sentences describing what it was like to watch Haile in action (when I ran the NYC Half-Marathon this spring, I followed far behind him on the course, and never clapped eyes on him), but it was all over in the blink of an eye (#twss). Little did I know that the big pack of runners would break up nearly the second they began the ascent up my bridge. My bridge, which will forever will be known as the Bridge that Broke Haile. (At least, that is how I will now refer to her.)

For the first time ever, I’d made a sign for the runners. I wanted to be as inclusive as possible, but I also wanted all my running buddies from Twitter to spot me easily. After the elites, the first runner I saw come by was my GMR teammate AN, who spotted me before I recognized him. Then @Lord_Baker sped by with a smile, then Coach Ramon, and then the river of runners started to flow. I saw dozens of familiar runners, including TNT friends, GMR teammates, and Twitter buddies both local and from out-of-town. An excellent moment was when Matt @luau stopped to give me a big sweaty hug and take an actual picture!  I was so excited when I saw my girl @MauraDeedy trot past–she looked strong and happy her first time through the distance. And another marathon debutante, @SharonPaige, ran by me in a bright green shirt, big white headphones, and a look of calm intent upon her face. I thought for sure I’d missed JG of RunWestchester.com fame, but after a while I saw him walking towards me with a half-smile on his face and his hair pleasantly disheveled. His quads had laid down the law a few miles earlier so he was run-walking until he got over my bridge into Manhattan, at which point he would DNF and head home. His plan had always been to stop running around Mile 16, but since he was run-walking it meant that I got to actually converse with him instead of clap and cheer as he ran by. An odd sort of treat–I’d have rather seen JG run by in a blaze of glory, but I was also happy to chat with him.

And so it went, EN and I clapping, cheering and clanging for nearly four hours, until we were dizzy with the ceaseless undulation of runners approaching and departing. The only thing that would snap us out of our zone was when the wind would pick up cold and strong, whipping my sign and numbing my hands. I felt for the runners, who were headed straight into it. Even though the sun was rising, it felt like the temperature was dropping. I had planned to stick it out until 2PM, but at 1:30 most of the racers coming through were walking, with only a few determined souls running. While rationally I understand that every person is on the course with their own set of goals and expectations for the race, it is difficult for me to cheer for folks walking when they are only just halfway through. My heart breaks to see them, because all I can think of is the difficulty that awaits them at Mile 22, Mile 24, or 26 if they are already walking at 14. I know this is simplistic, and I knew that several of my friends were in that walking horde. I hoped they were dressed warmly. I hoped they had brough their cameras and were treating the race as a pleasure cruise to pass the time. I would never want to be out on the course for 7 hours, which is precisely why I admire those who stick it out for that long. I admit it: my thoughts turned towards my warm apartment, and towards the four hours of TV watching I had in front of me (I had DVRed the broadcast of the pro race on NBC). And so, with a final cheer and wave, EN and I hunched into the wind and trudged down 45th Road to the 7 train to find out who had won the professional part of the race, since clearly all the folks we had cheered on this morning were their own kind of winner.

My spectating didn’t end, though, since I spent my hours watching the taped race catching up with all my friends’ race results on Twitter, and tweeting them congratulations. There were more PRs and successful debuts than their were disheartening finishes. By the end of the day, I was amazed at some of the times my friends had thrown down; I was thrilled by the racer’s ebullience and pride; I was affirmed by the achievements and effort. But most of all, I was proud to be counted among them. We were all marathoners, whether it takes us 3  hours or 7 to complete the race. We are all marathoners, whether we run the distance once, or dozens of times.

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The Berlin Marathon marked the beginning of the Fall season, it being the first of the three World Majors (Chicago and my NYC follow) that occur in the second half of the year (Boston and London are in the Spring, which you should all already know)… Haile owns this race, having set the world record there last year; and now he’s gone and set another world freaking record while also ensuring himself a spot in history as the first man to run 26.2 miles in under 2:04. Hubba hubba, who needs the Olympics?… I am psyched to see Irina Mikitenko win again, I watched her win London last year on my computer…  The elite field for NYC is nothing short of spectacular, Mary & Corps have really outdone themselves this Olympic year…. As I mentioned earlier, my girl Kara will be debuting her 26.2 mile chops… Also joining will be Paula to defend her title, 2007 World Marathon Majors winner Gete Wami, 2008 Boston Marathon winner Dire Tune, the majestic Catherine Ndereba. Among the male elites, I am most excited about Paul Tergat, Marilson Gomes dos Santos, and Abderrahim Goumri (he came in second after Martin Lel last year)… With each new name the NYRR’s releases, I feel a pang that I won’t be at my usual spot in Queens to watch these inspiring athletes flash by…. I ran my last 20-miler of training on Sunday, actually logging 20.33 miles in 3:09, wow. Ideally October 12th would have been my last 20-miler before taper, but I am determined not only to run the Staten Island Half-Marathon, but to race it… As my training winds down, I can already sense the post-race blues which await me. My friend and colleague EG recommended I read A Race Like No Other to get myself psyched for race day, since oddly I’ve begun to lose enthusiasm for this race I’ve been dreaming about for over a year… Has anyone read A Race Like No Other yet? I know I sent out some free copies… The reviews have been very positive, with an excerpt in this month’s Runner’s World, and an early mention in the New York Post. Library Journal says the book “is poetry for runners; pulsing and energizing in its immediacy, and as raw and persistent as its subject.” Now if only I could get someone to say that about Pigtails FlyingBenjamin Cheever writes in his review in The New York Times that Liz Robbins “packed her book with scrumptious details…” I expect more book coverage as marathon madness heats up in the city; early last week I received my info booklet in the mail, and today I saw my first subway ad as I headed down into the E/V at Fifth Avenue to go to acupuncture… My little G was a perfect running buddy yesterday, it amazed me when I ran past the point in the route I’d always sensed, viscerally, was the 10-mile point. I looked down at little G, who told me: 9.95 miles! See, he and I already have a special connection…One of my industry contacts works support crew in ultramarathons, even though she herself specializes in 5- and 10k’s. She passed me an article by Sunny Blende from the September 2008 issue of UltraRunning magazine that explains why I sweat more now than I ever have before during my runs: “you will sweat sooner and more as you increase your miles and become more fit.” Sweet!… Husband spent the weekend at the Pennsylvania house, leaving me pining away for the mountains’ Fall foliage. Fittingly, Manhattan User’s Guide has raked together all the links we need to get our peep on… And, will someone please give me a massive pile of cash so I can redecorate my apartment entirely from West Elm? Browsing this catalog is like staring at Clive Owen behind glass–he’s right there, and so, so gorgeous, but I just…can’t…touch.

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Topper

The topper on my day (I am going to keep this as short and sweet as possible because really, who wants to come here to listen to me complain?) came at the very end, right after I closed the door to my office and started unpacking my running clothes from my backpack.  Normally, this would be the highlight of my day: the quick-change from corporate signora to pigtailed-running chica–lacing up my sneaks, strapping on my watch, imagining my run over the 59th Street Bridge, during which I leave all the workday detritus in Manhattan (lucky for me, it still can’t keep up as I run over the bridge).

But, alas, not today.  No.  I was done in by my 8am uncaffeinated brain (you know, the one that packed my gear this morning for the run home).  Back to the scene: me, in my beige skirt, aqua sweater, brown blazer and pink-and-white cow print socks (I’d already gleefully kicked of my knee-high boots), head down, staring into my bag, thinking, Surely I packed my sports bra?  And my running tights? 

Ah, that would be No.  Now, flash forward about 12 hours.  That would be me, getting up before dawn, to get in Monday’s run on Tuesday morning.  Not that I’m complaining.  Just, just… sharing.

So, who else would be disappointed if Haile decided to run the 10,000 instead of the marathon in Beijing?

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