Today was marathon day. In all the years I’ve lived in New York (and that’s all the years, except for college), I’ve never lived more than a block from the route, whether I was in Harlem, Williamsburg, the Upper East Side, or my current neighborhood without a name (South Slope? Greenwood Heights? Sunset Park North? Clearly this frustration is becoming a thing).
For me, the marathon is as much part of the mythos of New York City as it is of the classical education of my childhood, where the origins of the distance of a marathon were drilled into our heads year after year. It was always a thing I dreamed of being able to do, the same way I dreamed of being as pretty as Alexander the Great, who, once I became an adult, I found out apparently wasn’t pretty at all.
For a long time, running a marathon was something I was sure I would never be able to do. Later, when I realized all the ridiculous stuff I could do simply by choosing to and working hard, I had to accept that the romance I felt towards the race — or at least the idea of the race — would always remain solely that. The time I would have to devote to that achievement I have chosen to devote to other achievements. It’s a loss, and a win, I’m more or less comfortable with, even if I continue to resent the limits of a 24-hour day and a need for sleep.
None of this, however, stops me from always going out to the route for at least a little bit. My favorite things about the marathon are, and I think this is true of any marathon in any major city, the way it becomes a massive block party. In a ten block stretch between my house and the supermarket, I saw three local bands, two DJs, a school-funding bake sale, four small business ventures, five people dressed as bananas, and a whole lot of cow bells. Also, precarious viewing from roofs. And one Boston Strong sign.
Somewhere, in all of it, two people I knew a couple of decades ago were running, a fact I know only thanks to the magic of Facebook. I either didn’t get to the route early enough, or stay late enough, to cheer them on, but I felt glad of their being there. It made a myth that has always been close enough to touch and yet also completely unreachable, just a little bit closer.