On a crisp morning in early November, 50,000 runners from all over the world descended on the 2019 NYC Marathon to traverse the five boroughs on foot, and just as many New Yorkers showed up to cheer them on. The streets of Brooklyn, where I stood among the crowd of onlookers, were bursting with color, pride, and people just being their authentic selves. At times, the bright costumes, creatively worded signs, loud music, and dancers on the sidewalks brought to mind not a high-caliber race, but a giant outdoor party.
The NYC marathon has always been a reminder, to me, of the best of humanity. Runners and spectators alike set aside their work-related anxieties, their ego-driven arguments, and focus on supporting one another, or perhaps something bigger than themselves. Every other runner, it seemed, wore a shirt celebrating a family member, friend, or anyone else who was a survivor of a devastating disease. Even more inspiring to see were some survivors themselves on the course, blazing through with determination in their eyes. I remember a woman whose shirt indicated that she had Parkinson’s; her hands shook ever so slightly as she passed by, but she pumped her arms and held her head high like everyone else while the neon-clad guides next to her smiled on. This display of resilience can teach us an important lesson about the tenacity of the human spirit. Watching the runners, each of whom overcame something to be at the marathon that day, my own personal mountains didn’t seem quite so daunting to climb. If I put my mind to it, I could accomplish anything.
Beyond highlighting the strength of its participants, the NYC marathon undeniably brings out the vibrant character of the city. You’ll see bands playing styles of music you never knew existed, like merengue-rock fusion, that speak to the diversity of the city’s inhabitants. You’ll hear names from every corner of the world (Jorge! Kavita! Sven! Xinyi!) and the word “go!” in so many different languages. You’ll smell sweat, mixed with the aroma of coffee from the little joint around the corner. If you’re a runner, you might taste one of the bananas the lady in the bright tracksuit is handing out. Most of all, you’ll feel inspired.