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view from the 72nd St traverse


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  • view from the 72nd St traverse

    I realize this is now an old topic, but I have not seen anyone describe watching the Trials from roadside, so I am describing my experience for anyone interested in the spectator experience. I flew in the night before and took a taxi to the start line at 50th & 5th. I did not want to chance missing the start and so I actually got there at 6:30 for the 7:30 start. There were only a handful of spectators at that time, most wearing yellow "Friends and Family of Brian Sell" sweatshirts,which quickly became a familiar sight (rivaled only by the ubiquitious Hanson/Brooks harlequin shirts.
    I quickly hunted down a Starbucks to achieve minimum daily caffeine requirements. During my search I saw many runners out warming up. returned to the start line at 7:00. By then there were lots of spectators lining the block.There were friends, family and fans.
    The start went off a few minutes late. Everyone cheered as the runners headed west on 50th, past Rockefeller cennter and Radio City. Then hundreds of people jogged or walked down 50th or 51st ot 7th ave as the runners went down 6th ave. We got to 7th ave and waited for them to come up the street. At that point it was Mike? someone who I later watched on the on-demand broadcast but don't remember his name.
    After the runners went up 7th all the spectators continued up 7th to the park.
    I headed up the Park loop on the East side. I had printed the course map and had it with me. Unfortunately, I did not realize the first loop was a shortened 4 mile loop that did not include the south end of the park. I was waiting at 66th st but the runners turned west on 72nd and I missed them. When I realized I missed them I headed up toward 72nd to cattch the next loop.
    I saw a Lenox Hill Hospital ambulance enter the park, always a worrisome sight.
    I waited just south of 72nd and at about the 50 minute mark , I saw the 5 man pack of Hall, Ritz, Geb, Abdi , Browne go by, all looking good. I watched the first 20 or so good by and then turned and ran across the 72nd st traverse. It is only about 1/2 mile and the runners have about a mile to loop southward so it is easy enough to watch for a while and still have time to run across as it will be about 5 minutes before they come around. There were literally hundreds of fans doing the same traverse. It was exciting being part of this pack of enthusiasts, shouting out encouragement to runners by name and then running across Central Park to do it again. 5 minutes later the same 5 pack ran north on the west side of the loop.
    At that point the crowd has almost 20 minutes to head back to the east side. At the next sighting (about 1:14) into the race it was the same 5 pack, then KK by himself and then Sell & Lehmkule running together. Someone getting updates on his phone said the 1/2 was run in 1:06. 5 minutes later, back on the west side things had not changed.
    People in the crowd were generally of the opinion that things would not change until the last lap as we drifted back to the east side for the next lap.
    We stood lined up on the east side waiting for the runners, wondering if anyone had dropped off or joined the lead pack. It is hard to describe how amazed I (and the people around me) were to see only one runner reappear on the east side. We immediately recognized Ryan Hall , but could not believe there was no one with him or even in sight behind him. It is impossible to describe to any non- distance running fan how those moments of dawning realization that he had put the hammer down somewhere on the northern loop and left that elite pack in the dust could be so exciting to a fan. Those seconds made the entire trip to NYC (air, hotel, taxi,running back and forth in the park) completely worhwhile. 30-45 seconds later Ritz went by followed by Brown, Meb, KK, Sell, Lehmkule. It was about 1:39 int the race and I turned and ran back to the West side. 6 minutes later on the west side it was still the same top 3 but Sell was ahead of KK & Meb.
    At that point I went to the finish line. The bleachers were full and I found myself in a crowd watching the big screen as Hall continued his unbelievable run. By then Sell had taken 3rd.
    Hall looked so easy coming home, waving and high-fiving , I could not believe how fast he was going. We cheered them all home.
    In all I spent more time going back and forth on the 72nd St travers then I actually spent watching the runners speed by. Yet for me it was a great morning of spectating. To watch the US manage a field of that quality was heartening. I feel we will be well represented in Beijng. Watching these elite runners do laps on the same course I have run (okay, I mean jogged) hundreds of times was both wonderful and a little sad(too many years, too many pounds).

    During the race, I first heard rumors that someone had collapsed, then that someone had a heart attack. I thought this highly unlikely. It was not until after the race that I heard the tragic news about Ryan Shay. I realized that if I had not misread the map I would have been close to where he fell. I am glad to hear that aid was immediate or else I would have wondered if I(an MD) could have been of assistance if I had not misread the map.
    My excitement over the wonderfull perfomances of the top 3 gave way to sadness over the loss of this young athlete and sympathy for his family.

    Watching the NY Marathon the next day from the finish line bleachers was icing on the cake. Great races by Radcliife and Lel.

    If anyone has hung in there this long, I apologize for rambling on, but think there are not many places where the logic of running in circles to watch athletes run in circles might be understood.

  • #2
    Count me as one fan who enjoyed your account of that memorable morning. I sat in the bleachers near the finish line for the entire race, relying on the big screen and the TV commentary, as well as the PA announcing of Glenn Latimer and Ian Brooks, to track the progress of the race. It was truly an exciting event, despite knowing early on that Ryan Shay had been taken away in an ambulance(text messages spread the word quickly). It was incomprehensible to think he wouldn't be OK.


    • #3
      Your account sounds more like someone watching a cross country race. Someone on another thread wondered about having the Olympic Marathon on such a course, where you could see people repeatedly (but would not be likely to be able to run to multiple parts of a course).

      The Olympic Road Race (Cycling) was on such a loop course (the cycling Worlds are always on such a course with often a dozen more more loops). I was fortunate enough to be able to watch on the steepest hill at the end of a several part climb and then run a block or so to see TV of the race the rest of the time. I rode down and then back afterwards (got pretty) dark and had myself a 120 mile ride for the day as well.

      We had also gotten a chance to ride the course on a day when they controlled the traffic. It was fun getting to ride it with the good and not so good riders. I could climb well and one of the riders from a Middle Eastern country (Saudi Arabia?) asked if we were on one of the teams (they were having trouble keeping up); I said no and refrained from telling them that they were in for a long day if they thought a Cat II was one of the competitors.


      • #4
        Great reading ! Thanks !


        • #5
          Great post, nickelcity.