For those who don’t know me personally, two years ago, I got a spot in the ING NYC Marathon. Perhaps a mixed blessing. I held the coveted prize at arm’s length as I contemplated giving it up or deferring my entry for the following year.
I have been a tap dancer for nearly 4 years and was in an Afro-Caribbean class at the time, which my brother considers “cross-training” (Ok by me!). I was just having fun.
I was not, nor do not, consider myself a “runner.”
I should interject here that for two years prior, I had volunteered at what New York Road Runners calls the “Staging Area,” known to most New Yorkers as Staten Island. Fort Wadsworth, to be exact. Right over the Verazzano from Bay Ridge.
Both years, I had had a great time.
A rough schedule of the typical observant Jewish Staging Area volunteer is as follows:
5:30 pm – Make Havdalah in shul.
6:00 – Arrive back in the house.
6:30 – Prepare any last minute food, warm clothing, etc.
7:00 — Last minute Gristedes trip, if necessary. The runners may do 26.2 miles, though being a Staging Area volunteer is no cup of tea, either.
8:00 – Go to bed.
8:30 – Really. Get off the phone and get some sleep already.
8:45 – You’re only looking at 6 hours of sleep now… adjust clock and watch to Standard Time. The one night of the year I actually like Standard Time. Now sleep soundly.
3:00 am – Rise up. Freeze your tail off getting dressed in the middle of the night.
3:30 – Really rise up, if not already dressing. Who in their right mind does this, anyway?
3:40 — High tail it in cab to 89th Street – NYRR Headquarters – where one of 100’s of “NYC Marathon” busses is waiting to take Staten volunteers to Staten.
4:00 – Bus departs 5th Avenue and 89th Street.
4:20 – Bus passes my building on way to Brooklyn (and hence on way to Verazzano)
4:21 – Curse out NYRR for not picking me up right at my door and allowing me 20 more minutes of sleep.
4:45 – Arrive. Orange. Blue. Green.
5:00 – You are divided up between colors.
5:05 – Your body is delegated: Power Bars. Gatorade. Dunkin Coffee. Poland Spring. Apples (only NY State!).
5:10 – International runners who aren’t told that they can come at 8:30 by Ferry (poor souls!) arrive with you.
5:20 – Stationed in place, jump up and down (with gloves, sweatshirts, jackets, boots on) to keep the chill out.
5:21 – Smile. Be an Ambassador. You represent NYC and NYRR. Even though you’re bloody freezing and your blood has yet to actually warm you.
5:30 – More folks arrive. Waves. And more waves.
6:00 – The once empty Fort Wadsworth meadows are filling to capacity.
6:20 – Dawn. Precious dawn. Warm sunshine illuminates the Verazzano. The drama begins.
6:21 – No drama. You’re still just bloody freezing.
6:30 – The wretched announcements begin. Brace yourself…
6:30:05 – “Good morning.” [What morning? Dawn just broke. Give me a sec to wake up] “Welcome to the ING NYC Marathon. Please place all belongings in the designated UPS truck…”
6:30:06 – “Bon matin!” [Qu’est-ce que c’est “Bon matin”? Un moment, s’il vous plait] “Bienvenue à la ING NYC Marathon…”
6:30:07 – “Guten tag!” [Sie mich bitte weiter schlafen] “Wilkommen de ING NYC Marathon…”
6:30:08 – “Buongiorno!” [Lascilo prego dormire più ulteriormente] Benvenuto di ING NYC Marathon…”
6:30:09 – “Buenos días!” [Quiero conseguir un cierto sueño] Recepción de ING NYC Marathon.…”
6:30:10 – “доброе утро!” [я хочу получить некоторый сон] “добро пожаловать ING NYC Marathon.…”
6:40 – Bands start up.
6:41 – Runners: “Can’t anyone just get a few uninterrupted minutes of sleep around here? We are running 26.2 miles today….”
6:42 – You learn how to identify all runners based on accents and flags and other paraphanelia – like British Bra girls, and the Chicago Blues Brothers. My buddy, Larry the Lighthouse. Love him!!! Perennials every year.
6:43 – Spot a Thomas Cook Team France member in his uber-cool emblazoned “Team France” sweatshirt. Ponder how to score one yourself.
6:44 — Wonder how Team France Guy is not actually dying of hypothermia in his bikini -cut shorts and bare legs. Does his mother know he goes out like this?
6:45 – Bon matin. Bonne chance. Power Bar?
6:46 – Ah, merci. He walks back to team members. All unified like flags in their navy, white and red sweatshirts. And bare legs. What I would do to join their team….the only girl….
7:00 – The first Italian of the day. There will be 1,000’s more where he came from. Buona fortuna.
7:15 – More internationals. Buena suerte. Good luck. Guy with kippah – Hatzlacha!
7:30 – Korean team hangs out near Gatorade Station. They smile a lot, and are super friendly, and have more energy than any other runners. (Maybe they slept the whole flight) Sweethearts, and we make do in broken English.
7:40 – Jewish friends stop by. Snap photos. People have energy. You would never know it was only dawn, like, an hour ago.
7:50 – Time flies. That’s what happens when you have no sleep.
7:55 – Almost time for minyan.
7:56 –Excuse yourself for a “few” minutes. Also need the port-o-sans. Seems like they dragged out the entire fleet for the event. Probably did. And then some. 40,000 runners…
7:59 – Jews from a million countries (Ok, mostly NYC and Jersey) gather in a cluster assembling Tefillin in the tent area designated for the “Jewish Prayer Service.” One of the majors from Fort Wadsworth leads us in prayer. Friends and training buddies nod and wave to each other while reciting Birchot HaShahar.
The annual gathering of the International Minyan has begun.
More to come later….