My niece ran in the Half Marathon for women sponsored by Fitness magazine this past Sunday. The race was to begin at 8 AM on Sunday morning so drove to the city on Saturday afternoon and stayed overnight at a nearby hotel so that we would be in time for the start of the race.
Rain had been predicted for Sunday but we weren’t prepared for how cold it would be . Earlier in the week , the temperature had hit the eighties but on Sunday we woke up to a gray morning with overcast skies, driving rain and temperatures in the forties. Hurriedly downing a cup of coffee in our rooms, we went down to the lobby to find several of the runners streaming into Central Park across the street. It may have been wet and cold but that did nothing to lessen the enthusiasm and the palpable sense of anticipation and excitement.I had expected a turnout of about two or three thousand but the actual numbers were closer to nine thousand . The runners were of all ages, shapes and sizes. There were young girls in their teens, young women in their twenties and thirties and grandmothers in their fifties and even sixties. Most were lean and rangy , in obvious good shape , but there were some who looked as if they might not be able to walk , let alone , run the distance. All of them were wearing registration numbers that had been issued according to the best times they had reported on their entries. The faster the runner, the lower her number. All the numbers lined up according to their numbers; numbers from 1 to 999 first, then 1000 to 1999, then 2000 to 2999 and so on. We saw our niece and her friend begin the race and then decided it was too cold to walk around in Central as we had planned. Instead we walked over to Columbus Avenue and treated ourselves to coffee and bagels before returning to our room to read the New York Times , comfortably curled up in bed. Two hours later we were there to see the finish of the race.
Our niece finished in 2:20, two hours and twenty minutes , which works out to just over 10 minutes a mile. It was an excellent time for some one who had only been in training for a month and a half. She had told me about her regimen : 4 miles on Monday, 5 miles on Tuesday, 4 miles again on Wednesday, then 9 miles on Thursday and 5 again on Friday. She had never run 13 miles at a stretch before the race. Apparently, this is the standard training schedule but it is difficult for me to understand how one can run 50% farther in the race than one has ever run before. I must ask her about it.
Anyway, it was most gratifying to see the smiles on their tired faces as they posed for photographs, clutching the medals looped on ribbons around their necks.We’ve all seen such photos in the newspapers but this was something special. There was something unforgettable and deeply moving to see these women , young and old, battle the elements and their own fatigue to gut it out and finish the race. It made one happy and proud of them and of the country that makes it all possible.