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Marathon 2000
A Volunteer's Account

by Mike Poole

In my second year in doing so, I was given the responsibility of heading up
the 24th mile Gatorade stop.  Wagner Track and Field is hired by Gatorade
to do so and in return they donate money towards our track fund (for a
Spring Break trip and equipment).

When I woke up at 6:00 AM on Sunday I immediately thought to myself, why am
I doing this again? (I had worked mile 25 last year)  Little did I know
that in about 7 hours I would be reminded.  7 hours from then was when the
first of the runners would start passing by mile 24 and grab cups of
Gatorade and water from our hands.

Here's what really stuck out for me yesterday:

It was near impossible to wipe the smile off the face of the volunteer that
had the opportunity to hand Gatorade to first place finisher Abdelkhader El
Mouaziz as he ran by us.

Handing Gatorade to somebody and in response they say, "Cheers!"  The
English really are a class act (and they can run too, many of them were in
the top half of the race!).

Though she didn't have an astounding race, the crowd went nuts when Tegla
Loroupe ran by.  They actually knew who she was.  It made no difference
that she wasn't having an all-banner day.

Two people, a man and a woman ran all 26.2 miles dressed up as rhinoceros'.
Why?  To end rhinoceros genocide of course! May not be something that you
and I think about everyday, but apparently to these people it is.  So much
so that they decided to endure 26.2 miles of wearing a heavy rhino suit.
Talk about being dedicated to a belief.

The spectators along the course are like no spectators I have ever seen
before.  They cheered for anyone and everyone.  Whites cheering for blacks,
Muslims cheering for Christians, Frenchmen cheering for Italians.  There
were only two types of people out of the hundreds of thousands of people
that cheered or raced the event: spectators and runners - and those two
groups got along like no other groups I've ever seen.

I saw a Mexican woman running what looked to be her first marathon or at
least her first NYC marathon.  Her husband and children were standing on
the side next to where I was handing out Gatorade, cheering and screaming
for her.  She was on pace to run about 4 hours.  Amazingly, she was able to
pick them out of the crowd and ran over to where we were standing.  Tears
were streaming down her face - certainly not tears of pain or upset, but
tears of joy.  She pulled her two little girls over the fence and gave them
HUGE hugs and kisses then she reached over and gave her husband a kiss.
Though I don't know any Spanish, I'm guessing that they exchanged, "I love
you's," and she went on her way running again.  The man and children then
took off running through the park most likely on the way to meet her at the

At about the 3:45 mark a man, who spoke no English (I believe that once
again it was Spanish), came running up to me with a pained look on his face
holding his calf muscle.  Boy was this thing cramped; it just LOOKED
painful from my standpoint.  I bent over to help him out and out of nowhere
came another man from the spectator crowd.  He pointed to himself and said
"Doctor".  It was with what I believe was a heavy French accent.  He knelt
down on the Gatorade stained street and massaged the man's leg until the
cramp subsided.  The two stood up and waited for a few seconds.  A
Frenchmen, Spaniard and American all stood there, all of us not knowing the
others language just smiled at each other, shook hands and each of us went
on our way.  It wasn't until later on that I realized the impact of that
moment.  People say that now a days the world has gone down the toilet,
that all people are intolerable of others and that countries do not get
along anymore.  That certainly isn't the case and it is evident by what
happened on Sunday.  Three men, from three different walks of life had one
common goal: to get one of the men to the finish.   

At about the 4:45 mark in the race, a man, a professor from Connecticut,
came over to the Gatorade station where we were.  He and I began to talk;
we both commented on how well the day was go thus far.  I saw the medal
around his chest and asked him how he finished (all 30,000 finishers
receive medals - and you think Manhattan Invitational has hardware!) he
said it was about 3:45.  He went on to say that he was way off of his PR
but it made no difference.  The day, no matter how far off a PR an
individual is, cannot be skewed simply because of the rest of the great
morale that the other hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of people
have.  The professor then went on and said something that I hadn't heard in
a while.  I find this to be one of the most profound statements ever.  "At
about [1.2 miles] to go, my body had long since exhausted itself, but I
went on running just the same."  He knew, as well as I, that it was Sir
Roger Bannister who said that upon breaking the 4 minute mile (it was 50
meters to go), but talk about gut feeling, he knew for some reason that I
knew that quote.  The man then asked if it would be alright if he could
hand out Gatorade to the other runners who were still coming by, striving
to reach the finish.  I, without hesitation, accepted his request and he
and I both stood there handing Gatorade out.  It was one of the nicest
self-less acts I've had the opportunity to witness in my life.  He stayed
until about the 5:15 mark and then explained that he had to go home to tell
his son how he did.  He hi-fived one last runner, wished her luck, told her
what a wonderful job she was doing and then he disappeared into the crowd
of spectators, who coincidentally all told him what a wonderful job he did
even though you can bank on no one really knowing exactly where he finished
or if it was really good for him or not - it really didn't matter.

The look on every individual's face that passed me was that of either
enjoyment or determination.  There wasn't any person there that looked like
they did not want to be there.  The New York City Marathon is a remarkable
event.  In no other event (except for the Olympics) do you bring together
people from all around the world to participate in one of the biggest
parties that the city throws every year.  I suggest to everyone who reads
this to go out and run New York.  If not run, then at least go out there
and cheer, volunteer or spectate.  You'll learn things about yourself and
the world around you that you never knew before.