Sunday, November 2, 2008

Marathon Spirit

Knowing that I had attended a marathon brunch this morning, my sister asked me later in the day how it was. “The human spirit,” I said, “is alive and well in New York City.”

“You’re going to blog about this, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

Her response? “Here comes the schmaltz.”

Schmaltzy? Maybe, but I stand by my initial response: The human spirit is alive and well in New York City.

It is alive and well and was most visible this morning from the balcony of my friend’s apartment at 81st and First. From this extraordinary vantage point (thanks, Donnie!) 17 miles into the race and nine floors up from the street, we saw it first in wheelchair entrants who, one by one, raced up First Avenue, their powerful arms and spirit propelling them forward. My biceps burned and my eyes teared up just watching them.

Then we saw it in the women, their sneakered feet rhythmically pounding the pavement as they’d been doing for hours, their toned and muscled legs -- and their spirit -- pushing them onward.

Then came the Kenyans, their powerful, lanky legs -- and their spirit -- carrying them swiftly past us on the street below.

A colorful flood of running humanity followed – men, women, more wheelchair racers, more men, more women – individually and collectively pressing on in body and spirit.

And we were there to help.

On the street directly below us, a group held a sign for Tommy. When he ran past, detouring briefly to the curb for hugs and kisses, we cheered as though he belonged to us. In fact, at that moment, he did.

We did the same for Jessica and for Billy when they ran by, and for Zoe, who’s family and friends were waiting for her on a balcony across the street from ours.

Big cheers, too, for Minnie Mouse, Elvis, the Dunkin’ Donuts cup – running on Dunkin’, of course, -- and some especially gray-haired runners as they chugged past our vantage point.

We cheered most loudly though (or so it seemed to me) for those who ran by on prosthetics and those who, temporarily felled by cramps, slowed or stopped right below us to work them out. When they began to run again, a bit of their spirit bounded up to our balcony and buoyed us all.

Schmaltzy? Yes, perhaps, but would that the spirit of the marathon and those who took it on today could stick around for a few more days. We could all use it.