By Robert Beck
I was in my studio on West 79th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam) when the first runners crossed the Marathon finish line in Central Park. The sports bar beneath me was ready, having opened the dining shed and set up tables on the sidewalk. Blondie’s would be the meet-up place for many runners and their friends and families. It was standing room only, inside and out, with signs and blow-up portraits on sticks, and each arrival met with cheers and applause.
Considering the 50,000 participants, 10,000 volunteers, and hundreds of thousands of friends, family, and supporters, the UWS was hosting one of, if not THE world’s biggest after-party. The streets were swamped with celebrants, punctuated by the orange ponchos given to each runner as they crossed the finish line. Gold medals were placed over their heads as well. Rightfully so.
The ponchos and medals made it easy to identify the finishers in the crowds. When people with them walked past me, I said congratulations. It really is a big deal. I consider the daily hike to and from my studio (2.2 mi) an accomplishment, and I’m confident that twelve times that would kill me. You don’t run a marathon because you have nothing else to do that day. It requires a lot of effort, discipline, and a measure of obsession. The cheers were deserved.
After working in the studio, I met my lovely wife for an early dinner at La Boite en Bois, which happened to be in a restricted, security (non-party) zone, for a peaceful (and always delicious) dinner. In the distance, Columbus was a swirl of flashing lights, mobile command posts, and revelers.
When we left and strolled down Central Park West, there were still runners doing cool-down walks. Not as many as earlier, but they would continue to trickle past until after seven o’clock. Orange ponchos weaved slowly between the trucks and workers who were removing fences and signs in the dark.
What unites all the finishers is a common singlemindedness. The elite athletes who finished in the lead must be applauded for their determination and dedication, but those who finished toward the end showed remarkable grit. While the folks at Blondie’s were cheering their favorite sons and daughters, and participants were lined up way down Broadway for their free Gray’s Papaya hot dogs, runners were still out on the course, not for three or four hours, but for seven . . . or ten.
The next day, finishers could get their names engraved on their medals near the finish line at West 67th Street, and they formed a queue that stretched down Central Park West. If I had earned one of those golden memories (in your dreams, Bob), I sure would like to see my name on the back. What was so right about that line is there was no first place or last. It was just winners.
See more of Robert Beck’s work and his UWS studio by visiting www.robertbeck.net And let Robert know if you have a connection to an archetypal UWS place or event that would make a good West Side Canvas subject. Thank you!
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