I am not a long distance runner. Never was. Though in my youth—by that I mean at least till I turned 50 or so—I could run pretty fast. Short distances. If I hit a ground ball to the second baseman during a weekly softball game I had a better than even chance of beating his throw to first base.
As a youngster I ran faster than any of my friends. They learned to ride bicycles. I didn’t. I reasoned I could keep up with them by simply running. I was wrong. I never learned to ride a two-wheeler until I was 40, long after my childhood friends and I parted ways.
Age coupled with some peripheral neuropathy in my feet slowed me down. It mostly manifested itself during daily walks up and down Park Avenue during the last decade of my commute to and from work. Ever the competitive person, I would imagine myself in a speed-walking contest with an unsuspecting pedestrian at least half a block ahead of me. In the morning, upon exiting from Grand Central Terminal, I’d race him or her to my office at 425 Park Avenue midway between East 55th and 56th streets. On the way back home I’d race to the entrance to Metro North.
My racing reverie was inspired by Sunday’s 50th anniversary of the New York Marathon. Gilda’s brother, Carl, did run marathons, so one Marathon Sunday some four decades ago we decided to brave the chilly weather and cheer him on. We waited behind blue police barricades at the 20-mile point, up in the Bronx. Carl was a good runner. We expected him to pass within an hour of the leaders.
We waited and waited for nearly four hours. No Carl. Numb from the chill and hungry, we headed home, figuring Carl must have pulled up lame before our vantage point. Being pre-cell phone days, we had to wait until we returned home to contact him.
Turned out Carl was not injured, that he indeed had kept to his expected pace. But the stress of the race had so contorted his image that we didn’t recognize him as he loped by. Ah, well…
It’s been many years since Carl ran a marathon. Since then several friends have trained for and run the NYC Marathon. I’m in awe of their discipline and stamina. Congratulations to the 30,000 who participated in Sunday’s race. They were winners even if they came up short of the required 26.2 mile course.
Racing Movies: Before anyone reacts to my list of favorite movies on land, sea or air with a racing theme, or significant scene, be aware I have not seen any of the “Fast and Furious” or “Cars” franchises. Here are my recommended films:
Chariots of Fire
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Ford vs Ferrari
A Day at the Races
Days of Thunder
Rebel Without a Cause