A programming note from your favorite blogging running geek: The New York City Marathon is this Sunday morning! For the first time, in a long time, the entire event will be aired on national television. Universal Sports will broadcast live coverage beginning at 8 a.m. CST. US is one of the new digital channels that NBC now airs on it’s split bandwidth. I get it on my antenna in Chicago at channel 5.3. They’ll be doing a live webcast on the Universal Sports website as well – with three different feeds: The main race feed, plus one each constant on the men’s and women’s leaders.
(Once upon a time, before the advent of cable, the New York Marathon got live national coverage every year. But that was before I had discovered the sport and I wasn’t old enough to notice otherwise.)
I find I’m more excited about the women’s field than about the men’s this year. Not only are marathon superstars Gete Wami, Catherine Ndereba and Paula Radcliffe completing again this year, there are also two American women running that I'm very curious about. Kara Goucher will be making her marathon debut, and Katie McGregor will be running just her 2nd marathon following her debut in NYC in 2006. Both women have had strong careers at the 5 and 10K distances, and both now, Goucher in particular, seem to be embracing the idea of moving up in distance professionally. Kim Smith, a New Zealander who has spent a great deal of time collegiately in the U.S. will also be making her marathon debut. Any or none of these women may actually win (though Radcliffe is being named, again, as a favorite by many).
The New York Marathon really is an extraordinary event. I - somehow - made it through the lottery process last year in my first attempt, and had the privilege of going to New York to run it. I haven’t run Boston (and may not be able to qualify for years to come). I’ve run Chicago three times now. I’ve also run a handful of other city-based marathons. NOTHING I’ve seen or run quite compares to the NYCM. Chicago has almost as many participants each year. It has nearly as many spectators out on the course. Its elite field is always impressive. But the NYCM is somehow, more majestic.
I think it has a lot to do with the point to point course. To date, it’s still the only point to point course I’ve run in my life. AND, at the very start of the race, you’re running across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge - one of the biggest, tallest, longest bridges in the country. As you reach the crest it in that first ¾ of a mile, you can look over to your left and see Manhattan, 20 miles away across the bay. You can see exactly how far away that is, and you actually have to run even father than that because you snake all the way up to the Bronx before you can come back down into Manhattan again and finish in Central Park. It’s just awesome.
Paula Radcliffe and Martin Lel won impressive battles to the finish line at last year’s NYCM. I got to watch the Men’s Olympic Trials loop four times around Central Park on the day before and was totally inspired by Ryan Hall and Brian Sell (then, later, saddened by the death of Ryan Shay). And then I ran a PR for myself on Sunday, even though it was my fourth marathon or Ultra in a six-week span. I even convinced a friend to join me, went to the official party that night – and danced. The '07 NYCM remains, along with my first marathon, and my first 50-mile finish, one of the defining moments in my running life.
The logistics and headaches of getting nearly 40,000 runners to and across a starting line are not something I’m eager to experience again anytime soon, but I’m extremely glad I did it once. And I will try to go back and do it again at some point. Maybe once every ten years I’ll go run the NYCM.
And I’m going to enjoy watching 40,000 other people do it for themselves on Sunday!