Sure enough, the New York City Marathon was last weekend, just as it always is on the first Sunday in November. I nearly applied for this years ago but just like anything else in the Big Apple, knowing what you want is nothing like actually getting what you want. The amount of paperwork, preparation, patience, and just plain luck is how most people would describe getting a permit or finding an apartment and that certainly applies to the most famous foot race in the city as well.
My attempt to run the 26 miles and 385 yards through the 5 Boroughs was back in the mid-90’s, right around the time Fred Lebow died. Many today aren’t aware that he founded the race and was huge in the running boom of the 1970’s and it’s hard to believe that he’s been gone for over a decade and a half now. Certainly, he’d be amazed that 47,000 runners ran this year’s race and many more were turned away; leading some officials to question whether this event should be a two-day affair in future years. Never mind the police overtime or the miles of streets that are closed and dirtied up for this race. More runners = more money, but ya didn’t need me to tell ya that, right?
Of course, I ended up working that day. I was a bit tired since I ran straight-through the night before and with the reverting back to Daylight Saving Time, that meant that I had my Taxi for a full 13 hours session, car wash included. The mild weather that we’ve had lately meant that it was a full night and thankfully, I got back to the garage right before they closed off the entryway from Brooklyn into Queens. Sure enough, the route went right by the garage, just as it does every year, and the normal start of my day through Long Island City was going to be a no-go on Sunday.
As much as I tried to “steer” away from the race course, my third fare on Sunday needed to go through Central Park, which is just where the race happened to end. Traffic crawled on the 65 St Transverse but I got to see the finish line as my gas idled away and my passengers were extremely patient – unlike a few the night before who were “running late” and wanted me to make up for lost time. The real treat came during my 4th fare when I took an older couple down Broadway to the Columbus Circle area and the gentleman had spent over 60 years living in the same neighborhood:
“Crazy today with this race.”
“I should know. I ran it back in the early 70’s when it went around Central Park 4 times. Do you know how few runners there were back then?”
Certainly less than 47,000.
This guy knew what was on Columbus Circle before the New York Coliseum went up, and that was in the 1950’s. Once of the first Asian Restaurants in that part of the city, Far East, called part of that site home. Terminal Construction put up the building that Robert Moses built as New York’s premier Convention Hall. There was also an accident during its construction that resulted in a floor going down. Between that and all the landmarks present and past that he pointed out as we crawled southward, I felt like I was listening to one of Ken Jackson’s lectures up in Morningside Heights.
The right turn down 60 St was impossible due to the all the barricades that made their way uptown from the Village Halloween Parade, so I ended up dropping them on the edge of the Circle and waited…and waited…and waited for traffic to move.
What ended up pulling up next to me? One of those teenage-driven pedicabs that motor vehicles love to dodge, with a couple that was itching to get out. Turns out that he ran the race and pulled his hamstring coming over the 59 St Bridge. I don’t know if I ever felt so appreciated as when they stepped in and stated that they waited an hour to sit inside of a vehicle that wasn’t human-powered.
10 minutes later, I had them on 2 Ave in Murray Hill, a half a block away from their apartment. She helped him get him out of my cab and I’m not sure if I ever had any more respect for anyone taking over 4 and a half hours to finish a race.
I’m sure Fred would have been proud too.