Watching The 2009 ING New York City Marathon In North Brooklyn: One Fan's Perspective
"It's a great day for New York" & "Paula's F------ awesome"
by: Tim Loh
Nov. 1, 2009
Editor's Note: writer Tim Loh ran
cross-country and track and field for Fairfield High School in
Connecticut and the University of Notre Dame during his first two years
in college. A student at the Columbia School of
Journalism in New York, he works at a small paper in Connecticut and is a full-time fan of the
*Message Board Thread on Race
*LRC: MEB WINS ING NYC MARATHON
*LRC: Absorbing the Post-Race Elite Vibe: Injuries and Wind Challenge Humbled, Grateful Pros
North Brooklyn, NY - Eddie Galeski lunged forward,
propping his weight onto his left leg. He clapped his hands together and
“I'm waiting for Paula Ratcliffe to come through,” he said.
“Paula's f------ awesome.”
Galeski, 51, was waiting outside his apartment
on the corner of Leonard Street and Greenpoint Avenue. The spot is in the
neighborhood of Greenpoint, which is New York’s largest Polish enclave, along
Brooklyn’s northern tip.
Three hundred meters away, the New
York City Marathon climbs the Polaski Bridge and drops into the borough of
Queens. Along the way, marathoners pass the halfway mark.
At 10:15 on Sunday morning, the women
leaders were approaching Greenpoint. Galeski stood ready in a backwards Yankees
hat, sweatpants, blue t-shirt and basketball shoes. The air was cool and damp, about
50 degrees, and Galeski bounced to keep warm. Everyone else was in a jacket or
sweater. A helicopter swirled overhead.
“She’s comin’, she’s coming’,” Galeski
said, bending forward and slapping his hands. He held his arms out over the
road. “Come on Paula!”
The New York City Marathon is
as much a celebration of the city’s wealth of cultures as it is a battle for top
distance runners around the world. The course runs through all five of the
city’s boroughs—Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx—which
each are filled with a patchwork of neighborhoods that house various ethnic and
In Brooklyn alone, runners pass through areas that are predominantly
Asian, Hispanic, African American, Orthodox Jewish, yuppie, hipster and Polish.
Almost all produce an impressive array of passionate and knowledgeable fans.
Except, perhaps, for the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.
There, “Parking Verboten—Marathon” flyers
hang on trees and telephone poles in Yiddish.
“This is a very religious
neighborhood,” a policeman told me a couple of hours before the race. As he
spoke, school buses lined with Hebrew characters collected boys with yarmulkes
and shuttled them to early-morning school sessions.
“It’s largely an inconvenience for them,”
the policeman went on. “Head up towards Greenpoint for the fun stuff.”
By and large, the fans that lined
the streets as I headed north were both surprisingly large and surprisingly passionate.
Some were even surprisingly
versed in distance running. Take Galeski, for one, who had just whipped out a
pack of Marlboros.
“Smoke?” he asked.
“No thanks,” I said.
He looked down the block
and fired up a cigarette. A rock band on the corner was playing a Billy Joel
song. “Doesn’t get any better than this,” he said, breaking into a jig. “I love
my block and I really like the marathon.”
He went over his game plan. “After Paula comes through I'll go back
inside and watch TV,” he said. “Then I'll come back and watch the men’s leaders.
Then I'll go inside to watch them finish on television. And then I'll come back
out for the crazy people in Halloween costumes.”
He let out a puff of smoke. “It’s a great day for New
York,” he said.
Across the street was a
four-story apartment building. Three balconies filled up with people as the
women’s leaders approached the 20-kilometer mark on Manhattan Avenue. Several people
were dressed in Halloween costumes and most had drinks in their hands.
“I’m envious of
them,” Galeski said, pointing and waving. He then lamented the fact that cops these
days don’t allow him and his friends to bring beer cases and lawn chairs to the
sidewalk to watch the race like they used to.
“Those people have got the right idea now,” he said,
pointing to the apartment.
I asked for an
update. “So you've been watching the race on TV?"
in the lead," he said.
think she'll win?"
about for the men?”
think one of the Kenyans,” he said.
about Ryan Hall?"
He's gonna fade by the 15 mile mark," Galeski predicted.
grew louder around the corner on Manhattan Ave.
“She’s coming! She’s coming!” Galeski said.
A line of motorcycles turned the corner onto
Greenpoint Avenue and drove past us. Then the front pack of women came around and
ran by. Radcliffe was a few meters behind the leader.
on Paula, catch her!" Galeski yelled. "Catch her, Paula!"
passed, Galeski excused himself to go inside and watch the remainder of the
race on television. I moved on to the Pulaski Bridge to wait for the men’s leaders.
Then I ran ten minutes south, took two subways into lower Manhattan and took a
taxi up to Central Park.
I got there just in time to see Paula Radcliffe finish in fourth. Then Meb came
in first, not a Kenyan. And Hall hadn’t faded badly at all.