Want to feel like a superhero? Run the New York City marathon

For first-time NYC marathon runner Shane Leahy, there was no wall. Just 100,000 new friends

 

Running the New York City Marathon is the closest thing a regular person will ever come to the adoration of fame.

The one essential prerequisite. Get your name on the front of your running top in big bold letters. If you don’t like the sound of your own name, make up something because you’re gonna hear it a lot.

The marathon is a veritable scenic tour of the city taking in all five boroughs – Staten Island, Queens, the Bronx, Harlem and Manhattan. Your self-propelled tour will take you through some of most diverse social cultural neighbourhoods on earth.

From the moment you take off at the awesome Verrazano Bridge the buzz will carry you to places you only dream of in your fantasy brain. As you hit your first borough expect crowds to scream your name with great American sayings like “Come on <insert chosen name here>. You got this one!” Or “<insert chosen name here> you’re a champ!”

You are so busy high fiving the kids, awe struck by the extreme outpouring of joy and enthusiasm that you hardly notice the first 10 miles.

Of course there’s another 16 or so to go. But no fear, there are so many distractions you’ll hardly notice the wall coming along.

And when I am talking about distractions, I’m talking street parties, gospel bands, funky neighbourhoods, magnificent bridges and, of course, insanely high buildings that make you feel ant size as you pound the pavement to Central Park.

There are also moments of loneliness as the race takes you through some eerily quiet orthodox neighbourhoods where the folks go about their business like the greatest race in the world simply isn’t happening outside their door.

A silent protest perhaps? But it gives you, as a runner, time to reflect on the madness of other boroughs and prepare for the approaching pain and the salvation promised by the finish line.

The final six miles or so takes you through some of the most epic and scenic marathon track on earth ... or at least the most epic that I have encountered. Imagine the feeling of pain mixed with pure awe as you run up First Avenue with the tall buildings shrinking you to insignificance and the frenzied spectators creating a tunnel of sound. Now it’s just about keeping it together, one shaky step at a time, and getting to Central Park.

By the time you reach the park you still have a few miles to go and here the crowd is at its thickest, at its most voracious and in the true American spirit your co-runners and your 100,000 new friends have all become your personal cheerleaders.

At this point, 24 miles or so in to the race, you’re probably feeling the pain but you can also feel, smell and savour the finish line. There’s nowhere to hide, no dropping off, no taking a break, no slowing down. Because as soon as you do, someone will pull you along saying “come on man, you’re so close”. And you don’t want your 100,000 new friends turning on you.

So you keep going and the leafy turns of the park take you to one final turn, where if you glance left you will capture the glorious Guggenheim Museum. You are really nearly there.

That last 0.2 miles that everyone forgets about takes you into the very centre of Central Park at which point you might feel like an Olympic athlete or a wounded Olympian (Icarus perhaps), and it’s there that you can fall over the line.

And somebody, one of your new friends, will pick you up, dust you off, give you a great golden medal, and (appropriately) a foil cape made of silver. And you can be a superhero for a little bit longer.

Celebrate that night with the 20 or so million people of New York City ... because everyone knows, America Loves A Winner!

Shane Leahy ran the New York City Marathon in 2015 in aid of  Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin. After reading this, we at Health+Family challenge him to run another in 2017. But which one?

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