The Race of Races, Part II of V


At 9:20 J returned from her coffee hunt. They had just started calling the wave two runners, and like pulling out the plug from a full bathtub, the whole crowd emptied out the field and began moving toward the corrals. I took a couple sheets of paper towel from J—who was brilliant and packed a whole stack of paper towels (this is now on my packing list for race starts)—and ran off to bag check and the port-o-potty for one last nature break. Fortunately, the weather was warmer than I had prepared for (low 50s, light wind, heavy overcast) so I shoved my track pants and gloves into my check-in bag and stayed with just my too big sweater.

J had warned me that the corrals were further away than we thought, so after the port-o-potty I headed straight for the back of the start area. Indeed, these corrals were far. I started eating an apple after the going to the bathroom and managed to finish it by the time I got to my corral—perfectly timed, because I was one of the last to get in before they closed wave two.

Once inside the corrals the atmosphere completely changed. Outside the corral was a restrained patience—a sense of preparation. Inside the corrals there was no more preparation (because if you weren’t prepared by now, you would never be prepared). Here, people were ready to race; they were jumping in place, stripping off clothing, eagerly looking for any sign of the herd moving toward the starting line.

I ducked into a port-o-potty just in case there was anything left (this was the third visit of the morning--yeah, I was cleaned out) and hopped back into the mob. The fences of the corrals were six feet tall and covered in green mesh so that you couldn’t see in or out. But you could certainly hear the growing crowd of wave three runners outside eager to get started themselves.

Then I heard the cannon.

It was an explosion akin to distant thunder: deep, ominous, powerful. The crowd shifted forward in response. At the head of the corrals was a sharp right turn through where normally a fence is 364 other days of the year. I could see the buses—the crude, but ultra-effective barricades outlining the last couple hundred feet to the start. I could hear Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York pumping over the speakers. I rounded the corner of the buses, with the expressway tolls to my back, helicopters hovering overhead, the roar of runners filling every inch of space. I was square on facing the Verrazano—tall and imposing, with a mass of runners like no other covering it from end to end.

A rush of emotions grabbed in those last final feet before the start. This was it, the race of races--everything from the past four months, from the past twenty-six years, had led me to this very moment.

The NYRR announcer was on the speakers as I crossed the starting line. He said something I will never forget: “New York is the sports capital of the world! The Yankees are in the World Series. The Giants are playing the Eagles tonight. The Jets are playing the Dolphins today. But right now the whole city—the whole world is watching you!”


Jess said...


The Laminator said...

Yeah...that Howitzer was loud, wasn't it?