A Rural Perspective of New York City and the New York City Marathon

At times it can seem as though over 90 percent of the undergraduate population of SUNY Cortland is from either New York City or Long Island. I can recall countless times when I was told that the best food came from Long Island or New York City and that on my trip to the city I needed to try, at the very least, a bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel, and New York City pizza. Now that I have returned to Cortland with this newfound knowledge about “great” food and what it’s like to be in a place where there are more people on one block than there are in my entire town; I feel as though I can now say for certain that I enjoy visiting cities, but would not like living in one.

My Perspective

My graduating class had 16 students in it, as in 1…6. There is no third digit and many people find this astounding, and honestly, I do too. My town has a little over 100 people living year-round in it and the nearest place anybody has a chance of knowing is Lake Placid, which is an hour and a half away. Cranberry Lake does not have a year-round store or gas station in it, and believe it or not we do not have a single traffic light. Growing up in a place this rural really puts the world in perspective because if you can’t even explain to people in your own state where you are from how can you expect anyone else to know where you spent the first 18 years of your life? I love debating with people about what part of New York should be considered “Upstate” because I unequivocally and assuredly can say that I am from Upstate New York because there is only a little over one hour left of driving north of my town before the Canadian border is visible. To get to SUNY Cortland I drive three hours almost directly south, so to me when I arrive I am fairly confident I am in Central New York. I had been to New York City one time prior, my senior trip, and the only places we visited were Times Square, the 9/11 memorial, and Citi Field, so I was very eager to not only get to explore the city, but to work one of the pinnacle events on the East Coast, the TCS New York City Marathon.

An Urban Perspective

Large events and large crowds define city life. Frankly, if I lived in a city I would find it hard not to attend event after event because there are just so many to choose from!!! The New York City Marathon has been taking place annually for the past 47 years, so anyone living in the city is used to having to adjust their lives around an event of this magnitude. Roads were shut down and there were checkpoints about every other block to make sure everyone who was inside the event was supposed to be there. A heavy police presence is normal in urban settings and so are having large crowds. Anyone living in a city that has ridden public transportation has probably done so in crowded conditions or done so while being in a hurry. It becomes second nature to get a Metro Card or pay for a taxi in order to go somewhere.

For many, having the New York City Marathon take place appeared to be a hindrance to their daily activities. I lost count of how many bikers got stopped by security because they tried to ride their bikes through Central Park the night opening ceremonies were taking place for the Marathon. Seemingly completely unfazed by the large masses of people, security, and fencing, they only had one desire and that was to continue on with their everyday bike route. Seeing that helped me come to the understanding that urban residence differs from the rural residence in the sense that they are harder to please. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, rather a reflection of the large number of events and opportunities that are available for them daily to choose from. That’s why someone not accustomed to city life can be “shell-shocked” by an event whereas others may hardly notice it is going on.

The New York City Marathon Lives On

It was an extremely unique experience to work behind the scenes at the New York City Marathon. One thing I can say for certain is that those who have worked the event over the past several years have an extreme level of dedication that should be envied by everyone. A marathon is all about the runners, and rightfully so, but those who dedicate themselves to making the event run smoothly deserve a lot of credit too. There is a lot of planning that takes place in order to ensure people end up in the correct places at the correct times, and often back up plans need to be implemented because nobody is perfect. I dealt with this first hand when I needed to bring runners through two security checkpoints almost 10 separate times in order to make sure runners were with their native country for the parade that took place during the opening ceremony.

One thing that may be overlooked by runners in the Marathon is that providing a poncho to each of them takes a lot of work. Over 50,000 runners means over 50,000 ponchos are needed, and it was no easy task to get them in place. Over four filled tractor-trailer loads of pallets with boxes of ponchos on them were moved the day before the race. This started in around 6:00 in the morning and was finished by 10:00, so that the work didn’t cause much of an interruption in traffic. The day of the Marathon itself was cold and rainy, but the sheer look of determination on the faces of most runners was inspiration enough to push through, much like they had to during the course of their 26.2-mile journey through all five boroughs. My job for the marathon was to be in a spotter stand and direct the runners toward the exit. I will never forget the feeling I had when I looked to my left and saw thousands of runners coming my way. It was a little overwhelming, but mostly I just felt proud to be among so many people who had pushed themselves through an entire marathon. The week started out as poorly as it could have with the terrorist attack in the City, but ended on a high note with all of the runners showing their strength and solitude by sticking through with running the marathon. New York City was, and always will be united as one.


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