Some 39,000 runners competed in the 26.2-mile ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 2. They emerged with 78,000 aching feet – many more great stories to tell. Here are a few:
STROLLING THE TOWN
WILLIAMSBURG – White tissues and green paper cups littered Bedford Avenue in the early afternoon – the ghostly remains of the estimated 39,000 runners that stormed though the neighborhood.
Not all marathon participants, however, were eager to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. As police took down barricades, and bystanders spilled into the streets, Heather Barlow, 40, Stefanie Ibanez, 39, and Paula Rossi, 49, walked a steady pace up Bedford Avenue, marathon numbers still pinned to their chests.
“It’s like walking in a parade after the confetti has fallen,” said Barlow.
Barlow, Ibanez and Rossi were part of a small group of marathon participants who choose to walk the marathon instead of running it.
Walking a full-length marathon is no easy task. Walkers are advised to seriously train for at least four months in order to complete the marathon. Barlow said she has been training since July, walking at least 30 to 40 miles per week.
Marathon participants must keep a pace below a 15-minute mile, in order to be part of a closed off marathon path. If they fall behind, the participants must eventually move to the sidewalk, so that the streets can open up to traffic. By the time the three women reached Williamsburg, they were forced to move to the sidewalk, and walk among people who were not part of the marathon.
“We missed the bananas and Gatorades, but what are you going to do?” Barlow shrugged.
While there wasn’t much fanfare for the walkers, their spirits remained high.
“Keep it up! You’ll get there!” a passing stranger yelled as he walked past the threesome. A group of people on a balcony on Bedford Avenue cheered and clapped for the women.
“It’s like the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race,” said Barlow, as she turned the corner onto Manhattan Avenue. “I’m not here to win. I’m here to finish.
Barlow and her walking mates crossed the finish line eight hours and 10 minutes after they started.
– Jacqueline Linge
CHAFING UNDER THE PRESSURE
SUNSET PARK – At Mile Five on the marathon route, volunteers in red shirts greeted sweaty runners with cups of water, salt packets and — wooden tongue depressors smeared with globs of goopy petroleum jelly.
And where do runners put the lubricant?
“Anywhere where there’s movement,” said Preston Junger, manager of the medical station at Mile Five. “It depends on the clothing you’re wearing.”
Runners desperate to stop the chaffing reached out for the tongue depressors, some pausing briefly to apply the jelly to wounded areas. Others barely broke stride, discretely rubbing the gooey stuff on delicate zones.
“Some put it on their lips, some put it on their legs and some under their arms,” said first-time volunteer Karla Zimmerman, 33.
But a glance at the area just past the medical station revealed more intimate needs for the jelly. One man walked to an empty spot next to an apartment building, looked both ways, and quickly pulled down his running shorts to apply the lube to his buttocks.
As the race wore on, volunteers soon ran out of tongue depressors – and Zimmerman began tearing up paper cups into strips to use in lieu of wooden sticks.
“I was gonna go eat a bunch of popsicles real fast,” joked her husband and fellow volunteer, Jeff Zimmerman, 34.
– Amber Benham
WILLIAMSBURG — At about 9:30 a.m. at the corner of Nassau Avenue and Lorimer Street, at the 12-mile point, Marathon and spectators were scarce – but in the local Dunkin Donuts, excitement was stirring.
Two of the company’s marketing reps handed out pink-and-orange pom-poms and air tubes. Nearby, two rock-n-roll bands got ready to start blasting tunes. Police officers on duty settled in to start controlling traffic.
As the rock bands pumped up the beat, the crowd began to grow. Disabled runners passed first and were greeted with loud cheers from the expanding crowd.
By 10:30 a.m., groups of runners started to pass and the rhythm of pattering feet and the roar of supporters filled the air. The runners swooshed by, their eyes fixed on the road ahead. Beads of sweat glistened on their bare skin.
“Forza! Forza!” (“Strength! Strength!”), yelled Mimma Moraglia from Glendale, N.Y., who came to see her 28-year-old nephew, Tony Zaccheo, run. “It’s not like watching on TV, it’s a much better feeling live.”
While most of the runners seemed to holding up well near the halfway mark, some started to peter out. Monica Smith, wrapped in a plastic tarp and looking a bit defeated, was one of them.
She said a strange pain in her left hip suddenly appeared, slowing her down by ten seconds a mile. When the ache extended to the back of her knee, and she knew she had to quit. She was scared that the problem would get worse and she wouldn’t be able to afford to take care of it since she doesn’t have health insurance.
“The year revolves around the race, people are waiting for me all around the city and I won’t be there” she said.
– Sandra Roa
MARATHONER WITH A MISSION
CENTRAL PARK — The only worry first-time marathoner, Eileen Stark, had on race day was whether she’d get to the Staten Island Ferry on time so she could make it to the starting line.
The 51-year-old neurooncology nurse at Columbia Medical Center in Manhattan had additional motivation: she was one of 20 runners from the hospital who signed up to raise money for one of the center’s cancer patients. Each marathoner was asked to raise $2,000 that would be matched by an anonymous donor. All proceeds will go to the hospital’s special program that provides free non-invasive therapies to children with cancer.
“All my patients have brain tumors and spinal tumors,” said Stark. “I’ve been doing this job in some capacity for 30 years and when I started working, everyone died. I have to run because I can; I’m running for the kids.”
Stark, 51, is not a seasoned runner – she never ran a day in her life until four months ago, when, on a business trip to Chicago, a co-worker suggested they go for an early-morning run along the lake.
“I hate to run,” said Stark. “I told her, I’ll do anything but run.”
But she got up at 6:30 that morning in early July and her co-worker was nowhere to be found, so she walked and then she ran around the lake alone and barely made it through the first half mile. But she set a goal for herself anyway: she vowed that when she returned to New York, she would get her body moving again.
“My sister told me that if you don’t move in middle age, you gain two pounds a year, so if I didn’t start doing something, I’d be a big fat 60-year-old,” said Stark.
Newly motivated by her goal to get in shape, she started training for the marathon in July, after work, one day a week. She picked up tips from other runners, such as ‘don’t ever stop, even if you feel like you’re going to die.’
By the end of July, with her iPod blasting, she was running five miles in a clip.
“I got the hang of it,” said Stark. “I thought – I’ll pretend I’m at a cocktail party because I can dance all night, so why shouldn’t I be able to run?”
The training served her well. She made it to the starting line on time on race day—with a picture of an eight-year-old patient who recently died of cancer tucked in her pocket. And 5 hours and 45 minutes after she started, she emerged from the crowd of runners that were spilling out of the park after crossing the finish line, many of them new members of the walking wounded.
“I didn’t feel a thing until I took my shoes off,” said Stark. “I hit a wall at 20 miles. But whenever I felt like I should be feeling really yucky, I just thought of the kids.”
— Lois DeSocio