Why I love the New York Marathon

Traffic in New York can be bad, or it can be worse. But the first Sunday of November brings true traffic hell to New York City. Streets, avenues, bridges and squares in all five boroughs close for most of the day, making movement nearly impossible for cars, trucks and buses. We’re happy to accept it, as the cause of all this gridlock is the New York City Marathon.

Why I love the New York Marathon

Runners in the 2013 New York Marathon turn on 1st Avenue on Manhattan, while thousands of people are cheering them. (Picture by Koen Blanquart)

Runners in the 2013 New York Marathon turn on 1st Avenue in Manhattan, while thousands of people cheer for them. (Picture by Koen BlanquART)

Come to New York on any other day when streets are closed, and you’ll meet New Yorkers as a stressed-out, honking, yelling crowd. But the marathon brings out the good side in many New Yorkers. Residents seem to accept the horrible traffic, and about 2 million of them postpone their weekly brunch to cheer for the marathoners. Many go all in, making signs with witty comments, volunteering to hand out tons of water and Gatorade to runners, and embracing the role of enthusiastically encouraging mob. They are proud of their marathon and willing to show that.

It creates an unusual atmosphere, and the runners do their share. Not only do 55,000 of them hope to make it to the finish, but they know how powerful the voices of supporters are when things get tough. They print or paint their first names on their T-shirts, so the masses can tell them personally how good they are looking.

Runners in the 2013 New York Marathon on the Queensboro Bridge, entering Manhattan. (Picture by Koen BlanquART)

Runners in the 2013 New York Marathon on the Queensboro Bridge, entering Manhattan. (Picture by Koen BlanquART)

So on this day we see people, who may not know the names of their neighbors down the hall, become engaged and involved in the ambition of a total stranger to finish the race. Runners smile and give thumbs-up signs to people in the streets. In responding, spectators become part of the event and help the runners finish. No wonder so many do love the New York Marathon.

The marathon also has an impact on New York City’s well-being. A 2010 study showed that the marathon generated $340 million in revenue in the city. And the event organizations, including related charities, do amazing things:

  • Nearly 77,000 kids in NYC across five boroughs participated in the youth program of the NYRR (Mighty Milers)
  • Team for Kids, one of the charities affiliated with the NYRR, hopes to raise $4.5 million as a result of this year’s marathon
  • Fred’s Team, named after the founder of the marathon, Fred Lebow, raised more than $57 million in the past 20 years

So it’s no miracle that so many New Yorkers dearly love the New York Marathon — and will take that one extra day of traffic problems, no complaints!

Would you like to follow what I see in NYC? Check out Things About New York City!

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