Cheering on marathon runners

New York City on Marathon day may be the city at its absolute best.

It has all of the right ingredients to both simultaneously welcome traveling visitors and to remind long-time locals why they love it here.

For the 50,000 runners or their guests (a substantial percent of whom are international), they get a stunning view of the city and an opportunity to witness crowd support. For the rest of us, whether or not we know folks in the race, we stand outside our apartments, no matter what borough, and cheer as they go past.

My husband and I hung around the last mile of the race by Columbus Circle for about a half-hour yesterday. From our place along the sidelines, we crammed ourselves in between other folks with signs for friends and family as they waited for them to fly by. Every once in awhile the crowd would “whoop” appreciatively.

But my favorite part of Marathon day isn’t the generalized cheering; it’s the specific kind. I love shouting out people by name, names of people I don’t know and may never see again, and pumping them up.

On what other occasion are you allowed, even encouraged to call out names and personal details of strangers in the street? In what other competition do we equally root for everybody to cross the finish line? I love the feeling of community and camaraderie it instills.

So despite the relatively quiet crowd around me, I began calling out names or phrases that I glimpsed on runners’ shirts as they darted past:

“Let’s go Chloe!”

“You can do it, Raul!”

“Australia! Keep running!”

People around me started snickering as they realized what I was doing. That it was abundantly clear I didn’t know any of these people. But I kept at it.

“Keep running Stefan! Vive la France!”

“NYPD represent! You got this!”

“Yes Jonas! Keep it up! Beat cancer!”

Every once in awhile, I’d get a smile, a fist pump, or a wave from someone running past. That part was great, because it meant they could hear me. (Suffice it to say I have one of those voices that cuts through pretty well.)

Not only does it feel good to be cheered on, but it feels amazing to cheer on others and see the smile of recognition when they know somebody out there is rooting for them.

“Let’s go Brian, you got this!” I called out.

“Whoa, hang on…” I turned to my husband. “That guy looked like Brian d’Arcy James!” (An actor known for many things but to me will always be the very first King George of Hamilton.)

“Wait, really? He’s actually running! I know he’s been training for it!” Jason showed me a photo from his Instagram just a few days earlier.

“So I just accidentally cheered on Brian d’Arcy James during the last half-mile of the marathon? Yesssss….”

During this conversation I felt a tug on my sleeve from a woman to our left.

“Hey, get ready. Nick in an orange shirt is approaching us now. He’s almost here. Look out for him. Nick in an orange shirt!”

I grinned at the request to help amplify her small army of supporters. We all shouted, “GO NICK!!!” as he sprinted past.

And that’s how 30 minutes cheering on marathon runners can turn into an exercise in team-building and community relationships. I love New York.