On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I swear that next week I'll move on to talking about something else. But not just yet. There will be two more days of recap.

A few days after MCM, I eagerly opened my Marathonfoto email and looked at my race pictures. To my surprise, they were actually quite good. I'm not smiling in many of them, but I'm running in all of them and I even have both my feet off the ground in one.

Every time - every time! - I saw a photographer at NYCM, I was walking. For the record, I took probably 4 short non-water stop walk breaks. I walked up part of the Pulaski, Queensborough, Willis Ave. bridges and I walked up some of a hill in Central Park. And Marathonfoto had photogs at the top of every hill. They even had a photographer set up right after a water station at one point! Are they trying to catch us at our worst?

What's the opposite of flying?
It's not just the photos; it's also the money. I know it's trite to complain about the cost of NYCM (it's significantly more expensive than MCM - $185  + $11 lottery fee for NYCM versus $90 for MCM). NYC is a difficult and expensive city to shut down for a day. And I know that there are logistical difficulties in NYC that aren't there in DC (getting 45,000 people to Staten Island, for instance), and NYCM has appearance fees and awards to factor in to the cost.

But the finish area - the finish area! What a nightmare the NYCM finish area is (still!) A claustrophobic, disastrous, terrible half mile of death-shuffle. I had to push through crowds of people wanting their picture taken in order to have my medal handed to me, and then I had to push again to get a bag with Gatorade and water in it. It took me nearly 30 minutes to get 10 blocks out of the park, while crammed between barricades and UPS trucks with NYRR volunteers with bullhorns watching me from lifeguard chairs.

At MCM, a smiling Marine put my medal around my neck and shook my hand before pointing me to an efficient assembly line of treats (including a boxed lunch!). The photo area was clearly indicated and off to one side, so you could have your photo taken (or not) as you liked. I met my friend less than 10 minutes after I'd finished the race.

Finally, the medals. My cold, cold heart is not warmed by a medal, as you know. I stick them in a box on the floor of the closet when I'm done with the race. But even despite that, NYCM's medal was weak this year. Compare the two (apologies for the green background):

MCM is shiny with a nice, thick ribbon and a part in the middle that spins. NYCM is dull, flat, and colorless.


  1. What do you expect from a race run by THE MARINES??? Everything about it is organized, clear, well-communicated and service-oriented. (That I was a Marine Corps brat for 25 years only sorta influences my love for the Corps :) And I'm not a medal whore either, but MCM's are fantastic. I'd be pissed to pay almost $200 for a race and get that off-the-shelf POS.

    I hear the same thing about NYCM finish line every year...why don't they fix it?

  2. OMG...I thought I was one of the only runners that doesn't give a shit about medals. I honestly don't even know where mine are. Somewhere in some closet.

    MCM was my first and only marathon (due to that blood clot thingy), I had an awesome time there, beat my goal (anything under 5:00 for my first was acceptable), and fell in love with DC.

    MCM just might be my "come-back" marathon. I seriously love that race (and think NYCM is cursed for me).

  3. I'm really leaning toward doing MCM next year. This helps...

  4. I love medals, and I have no shame, but the NYCM medal was, indeed, incredibly lame. [This comment was not meant to rhyme.]

  5. In all honesty, the finish chute is the thing I remember most clearly about NYCM, especially picking up checked gear. I had to walk to damn near the end off all those trucks (last name starting with W! Yay marriage for moving up in the alphabet), and it was absolutely endless. Plus, I'd exited the park much further north than I'd expected, which made it an additional challenge to find my people. Not a fan.