Everyone knows that the New York City Marathon is, like, the major running event of the year. People pay thousands of dollars to stand, freezing, in Staten Island with hangover-esque jet lag in order to run their worst time in a race distance that is, with the proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs and ultramarathons, increasingly less impressive. However, you’ll never get a bad review of the NYC marathon. Due to the difficulty of getting into the damn race, the cost, the daily sacrifices during training, and the sheer size and showiness of the event, people will give you nothing but the most glowing review. It’s like having sex with Leonardo diCaprio: Even if you had to dig through three rolls to find his dick, and he came in twenty seconds and then passed out re-watching bloopers from “Titanic” while you mixed all the mini-bar bottles in the ice bucket to make an epic Long Island, you would tell every fucking person you know that you had mind blowing sex with Gisele’s ex-boyfriend.
I’ve run the marathon twice, and it was, just like sex with Leo, exciting. But I do feel as though the reviews were misleading, and by reviews I mean published running books, interviews with elite athletes, testimonials on the NYRR website, and every single movie about marathoning. There are two main descriptions, oft repeated, that make me feel this way: “a hero’s welcome” and “the wall of sound.”
“The wall of sound,” also know as “the hero’s welcome,” is the eardrum-shattering, body-shaking, soul-filling noise of the four-person-deep aural experience that lifts runners as they plummet down the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan and up First Avenue as the “real” race begins. (Because, you know, the first 17 miles were a warmup.) It’s what thousands of cheerleaders from the Greatest City in the World, not to mention a hundred other countries, sound like as their cries of adulation push you towards the finish line. You are an athlete! They bellow. Your training has paid off! I’d fuck you! There are nineteen people dressed up as bananas yelling their peels off, proffering you an actual banana!
Damn, does this wall of sound sound incredible. I would love to experience it. Unfortunately, I have now run this race twice, and have groaned off the bridge up First Avenue not to the soundtrack of The Hero’s Welcome but rather a concrete street with a mildly enthused but mostly bored-looking group of straggling spectators: Sad husbands stuck outside in November with three kids while their wives trudge their way to a five hour marathon, the paralegals who started brunch at 9 am, not realizing that their BFFs, who are run-walking with Team for Kids, didn’t start the race until 11, and probably won’t finish until after sunset. Random bums, people who forgot it was Marathon Day. By that time, the elite runners have won half of my salary and are eating steak on Seventh. The weekend warriors have qualified for Boston, again, and are hailing Ubers to Grand Central, doing work on Google Drive as they try to stretch their calves. Those prodigy first timers – former high school cross country runners and the like – are posting selfies on IG and are heading to the bar because #bucketlist. And the slow runners – the overweight, the charity runners, the people who signed up on a dare – are behind me, hoping to finish before they get swept off the course.
And then there’s me. Mediocrity. Chugging along, thinking thoughts, and knowing I could do a hell of a lot better if I wasn’t a lazy fuck.