The New York City Marathon holds a special place in the hearts of most runners. It’s the largest marathon in the U.S. with over 48,000 runners toeing the line in 2013. New York is more than a road race; it’s a testament to the strength and endurance of the human spirit.
New York City
I spent my early childhood growing up on Governor’s Island. Outside my bedroom window ships from all over the world passed through New York Harbor under the watchful gaze of Lady Liberty. The massive city skyline stood just across the water dominated by the newly constructed Twin Towers.
My father ran the New York City Marathon in 1978. I remember walking through Central Park with my mother and learning how to roller-skate as he made his way through the five boroughs towards the finish line.
I admired the runners I saw collecting in the park after the race. They looked like super heroes. The shiny, silver thermal blankets they wore wrapped around their shoulders looked like capes. As a child, I interpreted the painful halting footsteps of the tired marathoners as swagger.
In later years I enjoyed watching the marathon play out on television. I remember seeing the always gutsy Alberto Salazar crossing the line in record time in 1981 during the first live broadcast of the marathon. I watched nine-time winner, and Norwegian marathon legend Grete Waitz dominate the women’s race and inspire a generation of girls to run.
September 11, 2001
On the morning of September 11th 2001, I was teaching a lesson to third graders in a school computer lab. I remember answering a frantic knock on the door to learn from the school secretary that something awful had happened in New York City. A plane full of people had crashed into one of the twin towers.
I called my wife at work. She was nine months pregnant with our first child. We traded information and rumors. We worried. I tried to reassure her that we were safe. But, I felt more vulnerable than I ever had before.
As the coverage continued, the scale and terror of the coordinated attacks on our country were revealed. The second of the Twin Towers fell in New York City, the Pentagon was attacked and Flight 93 crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania. Four commercial airliners had been hijacked. There were no survivors.
The attacks on September 11, 2001 claimed the lives of almost 3,000 people. How and what we choose to remember that day is a very personal matter. I’ll remember that more than four hundred heroic New York City rescue personnel gave their lives while saving the lives of strangers. I’ll remember that forty courageous civilians prevented Flight 93 from attacking the U.S. capital. I’ll remember the images of terrified people running through the streets covered in soot and ash. And, I’ll remember our nation’s promise never to forget.
This year’s New York City marathon is a chance for me to run through all five boroughs and pay tribute to the greatest city on earth. I will be running in the footsteps of my father. I will be running to pay homage to the city of my youth. And, I will be upholding my promise to never forget.