26.2 Miles of Awesome

The day started at 3:30am, carefully selecting the warmest clothes I own and eating a hearty breakfast, knowing full well that I was about to spend a long day out in the cold. At 4:30am I was driven to the shores of Staten Island, still showing scars from Super Storm Sandy. When I arrived, police searched my new clear plastic tote bag, I walked through a metal detector, and was then screened again with a metal detecting wand. But none of this bothered me in the least; in fact, I could hardly contain my excitement or wipe the smile off my face.

Why? Because today was Marathon day in New York City. The day where New Yorkers in all five boroughs come out to cheer on 50,000 of their friends, neighbors, and visiting guests. For a city with a reputation of being a bit tough and gruff, today is filled with nothing but high-fives, you-can-do-it’s, and way-to-go’s.

But it’s not just the out pouring of good will that makes this day so magical, not by a long shot. It’s the thousands of inspirational stories of runners who overcome obstacles big and small to make it to this day. Local runners who spent the last year rebuilding their homes and lives after Sandy hit, and still remained focused on training for the race. Runners like 93-year-old Jon Mendes, who laugh in the face of Father Time and prove age is just a number. Runners who have cancer, have beaten cancer, or are running in honor of someone who has lost their battle with the disease. Blind runners, runners with prosthetic limbs, and wounded warriors whose displays of courage are nothing short of breath taking.

My job on this day was to be an announcer at the staging area for the start, about 200 yards from the actual starting line. Since you can’t just line up 50,000 people and yell “On your mark, set, go!”, runners are corralled into a large staging area and then start the race in four separate waves. I’m the friendly voice on the main stage letting runners know when to report to their corrals, where to drop off their baggage, what sponsors are supporting them today, and of course getting them pumped up for the race.

Then, it happened.  At approximately 9:40am we heard the first BOOM of the cannon being shot at the start, letting the world know that the greatest race in running had begun. The staging area went nuts! I expected all the cheering and shouting as we watched the first wave of runners take off across the Verrazano Bridge, but what I didn’t expect was the dance party that broke out. The remaining runners just could not contain their excitement knowing that in a few minutes it would be them running across that bridge, and their adventure would be underway.

For me, what makes this day so special, and why I am excited and honored every time I get to announce this event, is the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself. With every cheer, I too am Boston strong. With every shout of encouragement, I too am kicking cancer to the curb. And with every Bon Jour, Bongiorno, and Hola I yell, I too am proud of my homeland.

Marathon day proves that no matter if we are old or young, sick or well, foreign or native, the human spirit is the most powerful force on Earth.

NYC Marathon 2 2013

Runners looking on as the first wave crosses the Verrazano Bridge.