Watching the Boston Marathon was a tradition I upheld every year while a student in that city. I think it helped that 1.) I was in college, so I didn’t have anything else to do, 2.) I was in college, so it was fun to drink on the streets (yes, this was illegal), and 3.) the marathon was in April, so it was usually decent weather. The NYC Marathon, however, is in November, on a Sunday, and over the years I have been more concerned with things like trying to cross the street to get to the grocery store than actually watching the runners.
This year, though, I knew someone running, and that definitely changed things. But even more than that, it made a difference that I’ve been running lately. Always before, thinking about running a marathon was something that I’d think, “Oh yeah, that’d be so cool” about, but I’d never seriously consider doing it. I could barely run for 10 minutes without stopping; a marathon was impossible.
Now, though, that I’ve done a 5K (I know that’s nothing, but it’s something to me), seeing all of these people running 8 times that far seems like an even bigger accomplishment. It’s like when a musician hears a challenging piece being played–everyone can like the music, but he appreciates it even more because he knows how hard it is.
And then there’s the atmosphere. They’re blasting out music everywhere (which I don’t remember them doing where I’ve usually seen the runners pass, up on the Upper East Side–though I could have just been so focused on trying to cross the street that I didn’t notice). Onlookers are cheering. Runners are doing their typical fun runner thing and interacting with the bystanders. The energy’s up, and there’s a sense–even for those of us just standing on the edge straining to see if we can spot the runner we know–that the impossible is possible. If these people can get their bodies to do this harrowing feat, pushing them to the edge of what they’re physically intended for, if they can pass across 5 boroughs during one race, and endure unimaginable pressure from all channels–first, well, they’re awesome. But also–does that mean other things that seem like fantasy might also be real? During the marathon, it feels like the answer is yes.
So thank you, marathoners, for re-charging my faith-in-ridiculous-things capacity. I admit it’s been hovering around empty this week, through no fault of your own, of course, but you’ve managed to boost it to the “secret optimist masquerading as pessimist” level I’m used to operating at. No small feat, to be sure. Oh yeah, and congrats on running the marathon–also a pretty great thing.