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 finish. 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.