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Running the NYC Marathon: A Personal Perspective

Hutten-NYC-photo-smbrightby Mike Hutten

I ran the NYC Marathon this year to fulfill a goal I had set more than a year ago: I would run a marathon somewhere during late 2012 or 2013 to celebrate by 65th birthday. NYC is a very competitive marathon and ordinary runners like me can get in by collecting money for a charity, which I did. I was moved by the generosity of friends and acquaintances, who supported me financially and with glowing encouragement.

Then came hurricane Sandy and the cancellation of the 2012 NYC Marathon. I felt a lot of disappointment and frustration over the cancellation, but this was dwarfed by the devastation caused by Sandy.

I came home ready to retrain and find another locale for my run when I was notified that the New York City Road Runners Club had devised a plan for people whose marathon was cancelled. I would be admitted to the 2013 NYC Marathon without further requirements if I paid the entry fee again. This gave me time to train for the race. I was supported wholeheartedly by my wife and daughters.

I arrived in NYC on Thursday before the race and drove straight to the Expo that the Road Runners club organized for the days before the marathon to pick up my racing bib. The expo was huge, noisy and there was excitement in the air. It was also the first exposure I had to the intense security measures that were enacted to maintain the safety of the race.

I stayed at my daughter’s apartment where I was treated like some sort of king! Through her generosity, I had accommodations that I could not have afforded under any circumstances. We had a great visit for four days and even a post-race party! I was in the city, and it was a chance for me to do a minimum of pre-race running to maintain my readiness for the marathon and then rest, rest, rest!

Marathon day finally came and after a nervous night, I got on the subway and headed for the Staten Island Ferry. Intense security measures continued with ID and package checks along the route. One of the most impressive parts of the NYC Marathon was the sheer logistic problems that seemed to be accomplished smoothly. Think of getting 50,000 people from 100 different countries onto a small island in time for each of them to start a race at their appointed time!

Everyone in NYC was encouraging, positive, and not afraid to express it. High above the runners, as we finally arrived at our starting point on the approach to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, I can remember three firemen in an elevated snorkel waving and cheering to the runners, their enthusiasm unmistakable.

Finally, the starting cannon boomed and ever so slowly runners began a 26.2-mile trek through the five boroughs of NYC. I was well toward the rear of the starters, being a slow runner, and so the attitude of those around me was anything but fiercely competitive. Everybody there seemed to be present to run his or her own race and enjoy the day.

Running through the city like being in a magic kingdom where you have suddenly become a hero to perfect strangers who were cheering us on with incredible enthusiasm! So many people were there to support family and friends, but thousands more just came to take part in the event as spectators, cheering and shouting for total strangers and having a great time doing it!

The weather was cool and windy in spots with an occasional burst of sunshine. We made our way through one neighborhood after another, and everywhere, New Yorkers were on the sidewalks cheering us on. Music blared from bands and sound systems, the pounding beats of rock and rap music spurring us on. Children and adults reached out from the sidelines for high fives and seemed to send energy directly from their touch to invigorate runners along the way.

The first 10 miles of the run were an effort like most of my training runs. Beginning sometime after mile 10, the miles seemed to change somehow, as if they passed more quickly one after the next. Mile marker after mile maker arrived and with the new mile, a new chance to pick up some hydration from the thousands of volunteers passing out cups of liquid as we passed.

At mile 17 and at mile 23 or so I saw my own daughter, her boyfriend, and a few of our New York friends at the sideline cheering like crazy! This was the ultimate degree in emotional support that all but overwhelmed me! It was a moment that I treasure now and always will. The cheers and the hugs helped me find a last bit of energy.

Past mile 24 and 25, which seemed the longest miles in the entire experience, past Columbus Circle and then finally after mile 26, the finish line was in sight. It took me 5 hours and 5 minutes to finish this marathon, and beyond all reason or sense, there were still people cheering at the sidelines!

The last step, over the threshold of the timing devices, and then I was engulfed by the thrill of reaching my goal. The marathon was over, I was still on my feet, exhausted, aching here and there, but just saturated with the happiness that this run had given me.

Since the cancellation of the marathon in 2012, I had trained, worried, wondered at every step if this was a reasonable or worthwhile task. My family and friends carried me on, encouraging me through all those miles of preparation, and it is to them that I owe my thanks. It was the thrill of a lifetime to run in the New York City Marathon!

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