Monday, November 18, 2013

When it's ok to touch strangers.

Thanks Ernest Hershey's Flickr
Two weeks ago was the NYC Marathon.  Up until two weeks ago the worst part of the race was the
minutes after the finish.  There used to be this "death march" for us mid pack people.  After you crossed the finish line there was human gridlock as everyone had to pick up their dry cloths and whatnot from the trucks that brought it from the starting area.  Even if you didn't have a bag you had do deal with the crowd.  Starting this year they encouraged people not to bring a bag by offering us a lined poncho.

But this was still not so easy.  It was still a quarter mile walk and I was already wearing my tin foil blanket and clutching the back of crap the NYRR wanted me to have after running a marathon.

As I approached the wall of ponchos I was wondering how I was going to put it on.  my hand were full and my brain was beginning to solidify from both frost and the fact that I had moved my own body through 5 boroughs.

Suddenly, I was wearing a poncho.  Some angel (who had been there already for many hours) just put it on me.  Then, just as fast she was making another person not freeze.

So, yesterday I was course director of the Brooklyn Marathon.  Our race was very different form the event I participated in two weeks ago.  VERY DIFFERENT.  It was 1/100th the size so every runner had the personal attention of the crew.  Also, the staff and volunteers had the flexibility to make the runners experience better, not just follow the playbook.  On raceday my job began at 5am, I had to set up the mile markers and then organized the bike marshals.  We assigned a bike rider to each of the first 3 runners in each gender.  There were cash prized involved and me had to make sure the winners actually won.

Thanks Megan D.
I knew leading a marathon would be a challenge on a bike.  I was actually proud of the fact that I was able to get up the hill as fast as a person can run all 6 times.  It was also the only way to see the race.  The top 2 men were tied through mile 17.  The were both experienced marathoners.  One was Ben Leese, winner of last year's race.  The other was Oz Perlman, winner of the Yonkers Marathon in September.    At mile 17 Oz took a seemingly unbeatable lead. He held that lead for the next 9 miles.  But, there were 9.2 miles to go. Ben was as much as 3 minutes behind and stopped to stretch many times.  But his friends on the course always let him know how far back he was.  At mile 26 Ben mowed down his only competition and earned his second Brooklyn Marathon victory by 12 seconds.  I got to watch that in my bike mirror.  Then I got to swing around and lead in the female winner.  That was extra cool because I have know her for years.

Then my fun began.  I parked my mike and supervised the finish line.  It did not need much supervision.  All the volunteers knew what to do, but I got to add one special touch to make the finishers happier.  Ya see, as soon as they finished they were given their medal a Mylar blanket and a warm hat.  It had rained during the race.  They were all cold and wet and dazed.  They were also all holding their hats because it took two hand to keep the blanket on.  I just got right in front of them and said "Give me your hat", they complied and I put it on their head.  It is a rare treat that you can stand inches from a stranger and put a hat on their head.  Many of them did not have the strength to thank me.  But I understood, I was just there.

Thanks Kristen
It was fun to put hats on cold wet people but I had to do more.  There was this guy who ran all 26.2 mile juggling.  When he crossed the finish line he had no idea he could stop.  Kinda Forest Gumpy.

But not everyone had to be told to stop.  I watched one of my running buddies finish and just stand limp.  I put a hat on him but I was not sure if he was OK.  When I walked him over to the med tent so he could sit, he really did not know how do deal with a chair.  Once I got him to sit to told the medics "This is my friend, he is usually not this stupid.  Can you take care of him"  I saw him an hour later, he was fine, but he did not remember even being in the medical tent.

Stay tuned for some more photos, but I am gonna hit publish.

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