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Posts Tagged ‘jorge torres’

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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I’ve been waiting for these track and field trials since November, when I watched Hall, Ritz and Sell win their tickets to Beijing as they steamed around Central Park. Even though not every event provided for surprises, there were enough dramatics at the finish lines to make me happy. As you could guess, I’m  not so interested in the sprint events (all that work and training for less than a minute’s worth of running? I just don’t get it), and the filed events fascinate me the same way the giraffes do at the zoo. But the middle- and long-distance events are what get me cheering and on the edge of my seat. Herewith, snippets with links to my favorite moments of the trials.

6/27 Galen Rupp owning his home track in his heat of the men’s 5000m semifinal… Shalane and Kara living up to expectations in the women’s 10,000m final (kudos to the organizers for kicking off the meet with an exciting final on day 1)… and Amy Begley leaving it all on the track as she pushed herself to not only come in third, right behind her training partner Kara, but also to make the A-Standard time for the event in the same go. I admit it, I got a little choked up on her behalf. And I loved how she and Kara jumped up and down together like excited high schoolers who were going to the prom with the football star.

6/30 The decatahlon is insane. I never truly realized the endurance and versatility that is needed for this two-day event. All I know is if those athletes ever decided to pull a Scarlet O’Hara, I’m leaving the scene…. Both Kara and Shalane won their semifinal heats for the 5000m… and Bernard Lagat, Matt Tegenkamp, and Ian Dobson comprise the men’s 5000m team (I root for Tegenkamp, who Runner Matt calls the “Brian Sell of the 5000m”); Mr. Kara Goucher dropped out as he was off the “A Standard” time…. but really, what beats this dramatic finish, that sends three Oregon Ducks to the Olympics in the 800m? How can you not love these guys? Nick Symmonds, with his dramatic move to get out of how he was boxed in, moving like greased lightening to the finish, and Andrew “It’s All You Guys” Wheating too kicking like mad, propelled by the crowds, plus Christian Smith literally diving across the finish to take third and simultaneously make the “A Standard.”  Fabulous craziness! Sportsmanship and showmanship, it’s what the Olympics are all about. I’ve watched the clip on NBC’s Olympic website like five times, and each time I have to cheer. 

7/4 Feeling patriotic? Yeah, me neither… In the 1500, despite my doubts, Alan Webb pulled it out to advance to the finals (what, no food poisoning??); Gabe Jennings runs like a determined hippe; Leo Manzano shines; Shannon Rowbury gets a lot of attention; Sara Hall moves to the finals, too; and my dad was rooting for the high schooler who broke the HS AR (Jordan Hasay)… My crush on Kara turns into full-blown unrequited love as she powers through like a warrior woman to beat Shalane in the 5000m. The Olympic team for the event is Kara, Jen Rhines, and Shalane. Notables: the face of victory Kara makes as she wins, and the pigtails Jen styles as she flies through the race. Adorable and fast — see, they are compatible!…. The evening warpped up close to 1 AM (if you were watching the TV coverage on the East Coast) with the men’s 10,000m final. I didn’t know who exactly to root for; I so wanted Mr. Kara Goucher to make it, but I couldn’t help but root for Mr. Personality (Abdi Abdirahman), Senor He’s Not Heavy He’s My Brother (Jorge Torres) and Kid Rupp (Galen, duh).  It’s always fun to cheer for Ritz, and I was still pining for Andrew Carlson, wishing he’d made it to the finals. I wonder how cold the steeplechase water pit was…

7/5 Three afternoon Sierra Nevadas had me snoozing through this afternoon’s OT’s, but I did go back and watch the men’s steeplechase finals on NBCOlympics.com. Love how Fam told Ed Eyestone that he was hoping to emulate Ryan Shay, and give the spirit of Shay’s performance to the crowd…

7/6 The final day of the trials left the men’s and women’s 1500 to be determined.  In the women’s, I was rooting for Sara Hall, but it ended up Rowbury, Erin Donohue and Christin Worth-Thomas.  Rowbury and Donohue train with Shalane (sounds like a workout video: “Train with Shalane”), so it’s cool they’re all going to Beijing together. I saw Erin Donohue at the Women’s Invitational 8k earlier this year…. and, in the event everyone’s been talking about for the past two weeks, the men’s 1500 held little surprises as Lagat won it, Leo Manzano (they kept calling him “the little guy“) and Lopez Lomong coming in 2-3 to also make the team. No Alan Webb, no Gabe Jennings.

I’m sad it’s over, but at least the Olympics are right around the corner.

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After completely spacing on (and missing) the Milrose Games earlier this year, I went through my calendar and marked in all the NYRR’s Pro Races, not wanting to miss another opportunity to see this sport as executed by its masters.  Two of those pro events were this morning — the men’s 8k and the women’s 8k invitational.  There was also a people’s 8k at 7:30 this morning, but after this week of relentless work & bathroom renovation, I needed to sleep in (that means, past 6:30 AM). 

Since there were two races, I figured I’d catch the men’s race after the start, at West 86th Street, a little over 1 mile into the 4.97 mile course, with the plan then being to cross back over to the east side to see them just past the 4-mile mark.  This is the first time I’ve ever spectated at a pro race (other than the Olympic Trials and of course the NY Marathon), so I had no idea what to expect.  Turns out, there were hordes of runners in the park — all out for their Saturday morning workout — but they by and large seemed blissfully unaware someone was about to win $10,000.  I was the only spectator on my corner until around 9am, when a pack of orange-jacketed runners from the Central Park Running Club swooped in on my spot. 

Then, five minutes later, Alan Webb strode by, with a pack at his heels.  They were gone so fast (the leaders were holding a 4:34 pace), I was left blinking as I marvelled at their grace.  The final runner came by, (Kahn, who looked in pain), and I took off eastward, jogging after the CPRC jackets.  Along the way, I recognized one of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project coaches, which was cool. I somehow ended up catching the reservoir path up north, and came out just a few block south of the finish line. 

As I was waiting on the sidelines, I met Michelle, a totally cool chick who is training for the Lake Placid Iron Man, is a runner herself, and was there to cheer on a friend who was competing in her first pro race.  It was fabulous to talk with someone who was a fan as well, since usually when I talk about my favorite runners, no one knows who I’m talking about. 

It was a thrill to see the guys pound towards the finish, with Jorge Torres leading and Andrew Carlson working as hard as he could to catch him — he ended up finishing just seven-tenths of a second behind Torres.  There was a small (but dedicated) crowd, maybe a few hundred spectators or so, bunched around the finish line.  Because of this, I had a great view, and was happy to cheer for Carlson, who I’d just blogged about earlier this week when he won the 15K Championship (he looks just like his picture).  We were dismayed to see Webb finishing much farther back that we expected.  (I later learned why.) 

I have to wonder why any runner would miss the opportunity to watch these athletes in action — at most professional sporting events, you’re hundreds of feet away from the action and have to pay crazy ticket prices to watch.  This morning, I was five feet away from some of the best runners in the country, for the price of my subway ride into town.

I took this picture of Torres, and then Michele and I strolled to the start of the women’s invitational.

 jorgetorres1.jpg

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