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Thread: The New York Marathon

  1. #31
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002

    Default A variation on the NY Marathon



    Andy Newman with his dog, Barnaby, on Warren Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

    Honey, I'm Taking a Walk

    A nail salon opened around the corner from my house on Monday. Normally, this fact would barely register. Nail salons open every few minutes in New York City, and there were already three within two blocks.

    But on Monday morning, the sight of cheery women in surgical masks hanging up plastic pennants was big news: I was in Lap 17 of 75.4, on a quest to walk a marathon around my block, so the prospect of a $16 pedicure with foot massage seemed a good omen.

    On Sunday morning, 40,000 people will run, walk and wheel their way 26.2 miles through New York’s five boroughs in a whirlwind tour of the city at its most festive. My personal marathon, restricted to the long rectangle created by Baltic and Warren Streets and Fourth and Fifth Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn, offered something more subtle: a glimpse at a day in the life of my neighborhood.

    The idea came to me on my umpteenth walk with Barnaby, a basset hound with a trace of beagle that we adopted from a shelter in June. Somehow, the thought “This is pathetic — I’m walking miles every day without getting anywhere” morphed into “What if we kept walking — without going anywhere? Wouldn’t that be kind of cool?”

    Suddenly, the dutiful, oddly agrarian-feeling urban activity of escorting an animal outdoors for nature’s call took on the urgency of adventure. With the hound as social lubricant, I would immerse myself in the quotidian rhythms and stutter-steps of the block, watching its lives intersect or sometimes — it’s a neighborly block, but this is New York City, after all — float by one another without acknowledgment.

    And so we set out on Monday at 7:51 a.m., in weak sunlight that promised a warm, yellow-leaf day. Over and over, the scenery clicked by, like frames of a film loop: our house on Baltic; Miriam’s house; Doña Rosa’s house; Belinda’s house, with the big crack in it, that the city is getting ready to demolish; the blue “Post No Bills” wall at the corner where the Egg Roll burned down; “Grandpa’s” store, miraculously still open five years after divesting itself of all of its five-and-dime inventory (Grandpa is not a drug dealer — he owns most of the block); the Pentecostal church with the rocking concerts; Bee Healthy pediatrics; the hip used-clothing store.

    Against this backdrop, life unfolded: A construction crew finished bricking the first story of a new building and made progress on the second.The books in a box left on the sidewalk gradually migrated as unseen hands picked through them. A dead thrush, body still warm and soft, appeared beneath a tree. A 10-year-old walked her dog with her nose buried in a wizard novel. A heavyset man, left mute by a stroke, stood behind his gate, watching, watching, watching. (Note to animal rights types: Barnaby dropped out after Lap 22.)

    In 26.2 miles, I could have walked to Yankee Stadium and back. I could have walked to Lido Beach on Long Island or Linden, N.J., to Rye, N.Y. (gateway to Connecticut!), to Hackensack or Hasbrouck Heights or through the Lincoln Tunnel and across the Meadowlands to Ho-Ho-Kus.

    I chose, instead, to walk a marathon without ever being more than 416 feet from my home, a feat that may never have been attempted in the history of extreme sport.

    Buddhists and Hindus, too, circumambulate stupas and temples as worship, an acknowledgment of the spiritual gravity that lies in the center. And what place is more sacred than home?
    Fifteen hours 50 minutes and 3 seconds later — I took a lot of breaks, to do some work and take care of my 5-year-old daughter — I finished my unlikely journey, in the same spot but a very different place from where I had begun.

    The first few laps unspooled typically. Barnaby ran into friends — Lincoln the Boston terrier, Mimi the spaniel — and they exchanged morning sniffs.

    Bella the shepherd mix slunk by in a head cone that kept her from scratching an infected hip. On Lap 2, 16 minutes and 43 seconds into the journey, Barnaby executed his first poop, against the stair post of 658 Warren Street (sorry). Normally, this would be our signal to head home. I wondered when he would suspect something was amiss.

    A few laps later, the world began to shift ever so slightly, like a Philip Glass piece evolving. There was a box of books in front of 682 Warren, topped with a stack of back issues of the journal Foreign Affairs. When I began, “Fidel’s Final Victory” blared from the cover. By Lap 5, a new issue had surfaced: “Immigration Nation: Tamar Jacoby on the Case for Reform.”

    The changing titles began to seem like chapter headings of my journey, their authors the unseen neighbors who had picked through the box.

    Barnaby seemed to be getting into the spirit, too. On Lap 12, he paused to sniff the exact spot where he had pooped two hours earlier. Neighborhood fixtures — the man watching the street from behind his gate, Ronnie the can redeemer, down-and-out Claire, usually seen nursing a beer on someone else’s steps — were, well, fixtures. Others, wraithlike, flitted in and out of the frame. Lap 16: A tall man in casual office attire appeared on the stoop of the empty house a few doors down from mine, “talking” on a cellphone and inspecting the contents of a wallet seemingly not his own.

    I studied him for a long moment, trying to decide whether he was up to no good. He studied me back: made. I lost my nerve, turned and walked on.

    Laps 14-26: “Is China Winning Asia?”

    By 12:30 p.m., 22 laps in, the hound was begging for mercy. I deposited him at home. I was feeling fine, but the lace on my four-year-old New Balance cross-trainers broke. So I switched to New Balance 587 running shoes purchased for my quest. Bereft of the dog, my mind sought occupation. I started counting steps and discovered that my house was a good seven paces closer to Fifth Avenue than to Fourth. For eight years I had thought I lived right in the middle of the block.

    Another revelation: There is an ice cream lady 100 feet from my house. She showed up as the Park Slope Christian Academy let out for the day.

    Children in blue uniforms lined up for cookies ’n’ cream. I ordered a coconut ice. Laps 27-39: “The Santorini Guidebook” tops the book box.

    A 30-ish hipster in headphones dropped an envelope in the mailbox at Fifth and Baltic, exhaled cigarette smoke and walked resolutely across the street to Gorilla Coffee, where a couple of Scottish tourists were snapping pictures. A woman in a blue housecoat pushed a shopping cart up Baltic in the shadow of the supermarket.

    On Fourth Avenue, part of the actual marathon route, trucks plodded loudly by, unceasingly. Warren was quieter — the tap of construction hammers at No. 682 sounded almost gentle. A young mother sat on the stoop, reading a Joyce Carol Oates novel while her baby snoozed in the stroller.

    All day, parks department workers had been tearing out a community garden on Baltic, the grim finale to the thorniest controversy our block had seen in years. The city had decided to tear down Public School 133, an ancient-looking castlelike structure, and put up a much bigger school.

    Neighbors fought to save the building and the garden, which was planted in the 1970s; they lost.

    On Monday morning, shovels and bulldozers removed a fruit-bearing plum tree and a peach tree. I knew the trees would be repatriated, but the workers seemed like gravediggers.

    Rosetta Winslow watched through the fence. “Nothing, nothing,” she said softly. “They had so many beautiful things. I don’t see nothing there.”

    As the afternoon shadows lengthened, I acquired a one-woman, one-dog cheering section: A few laps after I explained my mission to Polly Bahadur of Warren Street, she brought her Maltese, Precious, out in a pirate outfit from Old Navy. They waved.

    Elizabeth Zenteno, 300 pages into “Midnight for Charlie Bone,” nearly bumped into me. I had met her and her little tuft-eared mutt, Kipper, when she was 6 and he was a pup. Now she’s 10. I asked if she always walked around reading. “Not really — this is my first time,” she said. “My dad doesn’t know.”

    Laps 50-58: “La Dernière Tentation du Christ,” by Nikos Kazantzakis.

    Night fell. I could delay gratification no longer. At Q Spa, the new nail salon, I was ushered into a big black leatherette chair. Synthesized panpipe music filled the pleasantly overlighted space. A woman named Nina bathed my feet. She dug 18 miles of road from under my toenails. She rubbed my leg with the magic green scrubby crystals. I found the remote for the massage function of the chair and whimpered like Barnaby.

    Too soon, it was over. I asked Nina’s colleague Sofia how my feet looked.
    “Beautiful,” she said. “Like a girl.”

    I wished for a fresh pair of socks.

    Laps 59-75: “Reefer Madness” — the box had DVDs in it, too.

    Challenge for another day: make sign that says “Post No Bills.” Affix it to the “Post No Bills” wall on Baltic. See if it gets taken down.

    After 9 p.m., I knew I was hungry, though I didn’t really feel it. At Pizzatown, I ordered lentil soup and chatted up Nick the counterman. He’s usually a font of wisecracks, but when I asked the meaning of life, he turned oddly serious. “God put us on this planet to do good, learn, make a living, work hard,” he said. “Life is kind of like school.”

    I picked up the pace, determined to finish before midnight. The sketchy wallet guy made a brief and somewhat terrifying reappearance on the steps of the empty house, then disappeared again.

    Last lap. I stirred Barnaby from his stupor on the living room chair.
    Halfway around, we ran into Peanut and Midnight, two dachshunds of recent acquaintance. I explained to their owner, Shawn, that I’d been around the block 75 times that day. He didn’t miss a beat: “And he still won’t go? Damn.”

  2. #32
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    After Days of Pressure, Marathon Is Off


    The move was historic — the marathon has taken place every year since 1970, including the race in 2001 held two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — but seemed inevitable as opposition to the marathon swelled. Critics said that it would be in poor taste to hold a foot race through the five boroughs while so many people in the area were still suffering from the storm’s damage, and that city services should focus on storm relief, not the marathon. Proponents of the race — notably Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, director of the marathon — said the event would provide a needed morale boost, as well as an economic one.

    “It’s clear that the best thing for New York and the best thing for the marathon and the future is, unfortunately, to move on,” said Ms. Wittenberg, the chief executive of New York Road Runners, the organization that operates the marathon. “This isn’t the year or the time to run it. It’s crushing and really difficult. One of the toughest decisions we ever made.”

    George Hirsch, chairman of the board of Road Runners, said officials huddled all day Friday, hoping to devise an alternate race. They considered replacing the marathon with a race that would comprise the final 10 miles of marathon, starting at the base of the Queensboro 59th Street Bridge on the Manhattan side. But that was not deemed plausible, Mr. Hirsch said.

    “We still want to do something, and we’re going to do something,” he said, referring to a replacement event for the marathon. “But it won’t require generators or water.”

    Among the many details that remained unclear was how the field of nearly 50,000 runners who were expected to compete in Sunday’s marathon, thousands of whom traveled to New York from other countries, might be compensated. Runners who were registered for Sunday’s race are guaranteed entry into next year’s race.

    “We have a lot to work through,” Ms. Wittenberg said when asked if elite runners would still receive their appearance fees. “We appreciate the investment athletes have put into training for New York. As always we’ll be sure to be fair. I think everyone knows and will expect that of us.”

    Nearly 40,000 of the 47,500 registered runners had already arrived in the city, Mr. Hirsch said.

    Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Wittenberg had repeatedly stood behind the plan, insisting it was best for the city. But many runners joined a chorus of politicians and area residents this week in speaking out against the plan to stage the marathon despite the widespread damage wrought by the storm Monday night.

    For days, online forums sparked with outrage against politicians and race organizers, a tone that turned to vitriol against runners, even from some other runners who accused them of being selfish.

    The city was divided so bitterly that it became clear to marathon organizers that to hold the race would defeat the very purpose of it.

    “The marathon is about uniting the city,” Mr. Hirsch said. “But all it was doing was dividing it. Is that what the New York City Marathon is all about? No, not at all.”

    But as the criticism of the decision to hold the race escalated on Friday, Road Runners continued with its plans. Runners arrived to pick up their bibs at the Jacob K. Javits Center, elite runners spoke to reporters at the marathon’s media center in Central Park and preparations for the course were made. After lunch, board members were sent an update with little hint of what was to follow.

    Christine Quinn, the speaker of the City Council and an ally of the mayor’s, came out against the race, saying it was not something she would have chosen to do.

    Ms. Wittenberg had said several times this week that the decision to hold the race was ultimately Mr. Bloomberg’s. But she had been working around the clock to turn the event into a platform to help the city heal, both psychologically and financially.

    “People are running as an example, they have children, raised money to come here, and they see this as a good, healthy thing,” said Norbert Sander, who won the 1974 marathon and now runs the Armory, an indoor track in Upper Manhattan. “People came from around the world. I think they caved to the worst elements.”

    Deborah Rose, a City Council member whose district is in Staten Island, said she fully supported the decision to cancel the race, adding that she and her colleagues were imploring the mayor to change his mind about the event.

    “I thought it was a gross misplacement of priorities on the mayor’s part to even consider having the marathon when there are people in Staten Island facing life-and-death situations,” she said. “I’m glad to see that the mayor had an epiphany and be sensitive to those communities that have been so impacted by the hurricane.”

    She called on all the marathoners to go to Staten Island to help with the cleanup effort and to bring the clothes they would have shed at the start to shelters or other places where displaced people were in need.

    “This is always a race that unites the entire city,” said Howard Wolfson, the deputy mayor. “It’s something that 100 percent of the people who live here can agree on every year. When you have a significant number of people voicing real pain and unhappiness over its running, you have to hear that and take that into consideration. Something that is a celebration of the best of New York can’t become divisive.”

  3. #33


    They made the right decision. All the bodies haven't been recovered yet, and people will be running through there just because it's a marathon? On top of that, big generators - these can power 400+ homes - used for tents for people to carb up, when who knows how many haven't eaten except for scraps here and there. Then they see marathoners running through dropping half-full cups of water, or gatorade. Almost twenty seven miles of roads and bridges closed for the thing, there's no way city resources wouldn't have been diverted.

    This is not the same thing as a couple of games after 9/11. Those were self-contained, largely self-sufficient events (maybe a couple of traffic cops) that didn't tie up parts of all five boroughs. They could have even postponed the basketball game, and even postponed the marathon. They should have made the decision Tuesday before everything and everyone was in place, but in the end, not having it this weekend was right.

    She called on all the marathoners to go to Staten Island to help with the cleanup effort and to bring the clothes they would have shed at the start to shelters or other places where displaced people were in need.
    That's it in a nutshell. They're needed more as volunteers than as runners simply heading toward a goal line.

  4. #34
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Nice .

    Disappointed Marathoners Volunteer Instead

    By Andre Tartar

    With 47,000 would-be marathoners with nothing to do tomorrow, many are tapping their pent-up energies to help out communities still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. One Facebook group (with 1,577 likes) is organizing a run in support of Staten Island tomorrow; 40 Dutch marathoners meanwhile have travelled over to ravaged Newark to help, according to mayor Cory Booker; and a new website, Race 2 Recover, offers marathon runners and their families a way to donate unused hotel rooms to victims of the storm.

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