Human Pinball

"There is nothing quite so gentle, deep, and irrational as our running - and nothing quite so savage, and so wild." BERND HEINRICH, Why We Run: A Natural History

So after work, I decided to go up to NYRR to get my bib and shirt. I would be able to see my friend JK, who has amazed me since the beginning from running for TNT and not being able to run 3 miles to being able to accomplish a marathon and is SO into running and multi sports that sometimes she has more enthusiasm as I do. I make my way towards Union Square and when transferring subway cars, I hear my name or see a familiar face. It was SR. She works as teacher near where I had lived on the east side and I have not seen her since summer time due to the fact that she is now “boring” SR and responsible due to her waking up early and not having the summers off. She was a teacher and earlier in the summer she had all the free time in the world.

I had met SR though the running club as we had run together on Thursday group runs when TW was still in town. TW, BS(or as I like to call him: PB&J) and SR were all very good friends. TW left for Kalamazoo, Michigan and we miss her dearly. But SR and I ran together on these group runs just chatting about our daily lives and work and how the day went. I always recall her telling me about a kid that kicked her in the head

I had been really ecstatic over the fact that she had been racing again, since her injury of the IT band and had been out about 9 months and made a huge come back in the Team Champs race. We were lucky to get onto the subway as I got tossed and crunched from the doors as I held the door for SR to get into the subway first. The doors just nabbed me in the front and nabbed me in the back as I felt I was a human pinball.

We grabbed seats at 42nd Street and we chatted all the way up to 86th street. It was good to catch up. Good to hear that all was ok and good to see SR again on the roads, running.

We made our ways toward NYRR and we laughed all the way there…SR is hilarious!

Anyways…grabbed our numbers and I guess we’ll see each other at the race tomorrow…

Wild in the Streets

Published: October 3, 2008

Crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Donald Arthur took the hand of his companion and “slid it under his jersey, telling him: ‘Feel my heart. Your brother is here with us.’ ”

He was not speaking figuratively. Fitzgerald Gittens, 25, had “died in a spray of gunfire” in August 1996. His heart was now powering Arthur, a 50-plus racewalker, who had persuaded Gittens’s brother to join him in the New York City Marathon.

The story is anomalous, yet Liz Robbins is right to include it in her new book, “A Race Like No Other.” The New York marathon transcends identity in a sometimes ghastly process that leaves the survivors ecstatic.

The logistics of this Brobdingnagian event require that athletes be at the Fort Wadsworth start on Staten Island hours ahead of time. Thousands — many shrouded in garbage bags for warmth — while away the time in line at 1,515 portable toilets. The race itself is several bridges too far, since the 2,000 calories of glycogen humans ordinarily store in the liver and muscles are gone after 20 miles. Few will die, although Pheidippides, the mythical first marathoner, did just that. As did 28-year-old Ryan Shay during the Olympic marathon trials held in Central Park in 2007. And yet when the twin 75-millimeter howitzers start this year’s ceremony of endurance on Nov. 2, the 40,000 or so starters will have been selected from more than 100,000 masochists.
Now the world’s largest marathon, the New York race was initiated in 1970 with a pickup group of 127. More than half of today’s runners come from overseas. The city takes in an estimated $200 million. So far 750,000 have come, Robbins writes, to “outrun their demons and their diagnoses” on a “day full of epiphanies.”

“It’s like a Cecil B. DeMille movie, because it’s on such a huge, epic scale,” says Alberto Salazar, who won the race three years in a row during the 1980s.

Robbins, a sportswriter for The New York Times, has packed her book with scrumptious details. It’s widely known that a statue of the marathon’s co-founder, Fred Lebow, which stands at the East 90th Street entrance to the park, is moved annually to Tavern on the Green, so that his bronze likeness can see the finish. It’s less well known that Lebow’s family had objected to the graven image, and that “the night before the statue was unveiled, Nov. 4, 1994, a rabbi had to chisel a chip between the statue’s left forefinger and thumb, thus making the likeness an imperfect representation of God’s creation.”

While the book recapitulates the 2007 strategies of top runners like Martin Lel of Kenya and Paula Radcliffe of England, Robbins spends more time with slower but no less colorful participants. Pam Rickard, the mother of three and a recovering alcoholic, had kept in shape on the stairs of the Roanoke City Jail in Virginia.

Known as “Barbie” by the other prisoners, Pam eventually won respect by holding Bible classes in her cell. On marathon day she “wears a special white T-shirt, on which she has painted in red the words to her favorite hymn: ‘It Is Well With My Soul.’ ”

Harrie Bakst was told he had adenoid cystic carcinoma when he was a college senior. His shirt has these milestones printed on the back:
3/21 — Surgery.
6/5 — 33rd and final radiation treatment.
11/4 — 26.2.

A sweat junkie myself, I’ve covered the five-borough course 10 times under my own name and three times under somebody else’s name, borrowing bibs from others who had registered but decided at the last minute to forgo the ordeal. I also volunteered once to pass out finish medals and was enjoined not to give more than one to each person. “Because you’ll be asked.” And I was. If the written word still has any force, then this book could take on talismanic power, like the medal or the Mylar cape that ­every finisher receives. It might even become — who knows? — more valuable than a T-shirt, and people will do anything for a T-shirt. Or that’s what Fred Lebow said.

Benjamin Cheever’s most recent book, “Strides,” is a personal history of running.

No comments: