I’ve had the immeasurable pleasure of spending some time in Milan this past week and happened to be here for what, to me, is one of the most exciting days of the year for any city: Marathon Day! Both times that I ran the New York City Marathon for the charity Fred’s Team are among two of my most proudest life accomplishments and not just for my own personal glory–I raised $5,500 collectively for pediatric cancer research.
Now, the New York City marathon is a grand-scale event and it’s customary to ask your friends, “what are you doing for the Marathon?” You may make plans to meet up at a certain point, say Second Avenue, then move over to Fifth Avenue or Central Park to cheer on your loved ones a second time (or for the first time in case you didn’t get to slap them high fives earlier). If you’re feeling ambitious, you may even borough hop! And, it’s essential to arrive super early to park yourself in a prime cheering spot! The later you arrive, the more likely it is that you will have to elbow your way through a crowd that’s at least six or seven people deep for some semblance of a view. Bands set up and play on the streets; strangers offer the runners bananas; people create signs, banners and T-shirts in honor of the marathoners. It’s not abnormal to see runners sporting wacky costumes ranging from the Statue of Liberty to the Blues Brothers to Big Bird. It’s truly one of New York’s most majestic days for both spectators and participants alike. As a runner, you’re on pure adrenalin for the entire duration of the race…people who don’t even know you cheer for you by name and all of this support is just beautiful. If you’ve never experienced the New York City marathon–either as a participant or observer–add it to your bucket list immediately.
When I first caught wind of the Milan marathoners I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the spectator showing. Honestly, you would have no idea that a marathon is happening unless you stumbled upon it. You can hear the New York City marathon from blocks away, but sadly in Milan, there was no evidence to be found unless you were literally standing next to it. And this broke my heart. I first encountered Sunday’s marathon on somewhat of a busy street and thought maybe the spectator shortage was due to the traffic the race had caused in this particular area. However, the first sight of this colorful T-shirt parade prompted a marathon itch of my own and I decided right then and there that another marathon was in order for myself and my training was to start tomorrow–which is technically in this very moment that I’m writing, yesterday, and it did indeed! I ran three miles Monday morning.
Anyway, back to the race. So, I ran my errand and then later found myself near the Duomo and much to my disappointment, the vibe was the same….no sign of a marathon! No crowds to tackle in an effort to obtain an optimal viewing spot. In fact, any place in which you stood boasted an unobstructed view of the marathon. Now, I’m not sure what mile the runners were on at this point, but their weary faces indicated that they were in desperate need of some encouragement. I felt their pain and I truly believe the enthusiasm from the crowd is what got me through both marathons (without my iPod, I might add!). Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a woman appeared, and started clapping and cheering, “Bravi ragazzi! Sforza, sforza, sforza!” She stood by herself and repeated the phrase clapping incessantly while others just passed by without any sort of marathon acknowledgement. I couldn’t believe it. So I stood next to her and clapped alongside her for a bit before having to go my own way–I had a legitimate deadline to meet, otherwise I would have stood there all day! I wish you could have seen the runners reacting to her, managing to crack smiles in all their grief and thanking her. The boost of confidence was the instant pick-me-up they needed; you could see them pull themselves up a little higher as they continued along their route with a little more sprite in their stride. It was beautiful. Running a marathon is no small feat…it’s a huge, massive accomplishment for which people spend months training. Show the runners some love, damn it! They deserve it.
So, then I started to rethink my marathon running idea…I had originally thought that setting a long term goal of running one here in Italy in 2015 would suffice, but after seeing the poor spectator support, I thought, “No way, Jose. I’m running NYC in 2014! And I’m running for Fred’s Team!” Having twice committed, I could never in good conscience forego raising money for the cause. If I’m going to do something as grandiose as run a marathon, I’m going big or going home. So I went to the Fred’s Team site and applied….fingers crossed it’s not too late because I know the general marathon lottery has closed! Vediamo…..