by Robert Johnson
November 8, 2013
On Monday morning, the NYRR sent out an email saying there would be a photo/interview opportunity at the top of the famed Empire State building with 2013 ING New York City Marathon winners at 3 pm. Since I wasn’t leaving until six, I figured why not and went. I’m glad I did as it was a lot of fun.
There were maybe 4-5 photographers, 2-3 people from the NYRR, Geoffrey Mutai, Priscah Jeptoo and her husband, Priscah’s agent and myself.
We met in the lobby of the Empire State building and they took us to a conference room basement to wait a few minutes. While walking there, I paid close attention to Mutai and Jeptoo. Mutai had a little bit of a limp which pleased me greatly, “Thank goodness. He is human.” Jeptoo, in contrast, was walking almost perfectly. Her running form may be ugly but she was very smooth considering it was only a day after the marathon.
Once in the conference room, it was a bit awkward for a minute or so as NYRR people talked to themselves, the Kenyans to themselves and the photographers to themselves. Finally someone broke the ice and asked Mutai if he’d ever been to the top of the Empire State building before, thinking he might have gone in 2011 when he won.
Mutai’s response was great. Apparently, no one had explained to him what he was going to be doing at the Empire State building. He was also on his way to the airport so maybe they just told him there was a stop they’d be making for photos. He said he had not and asked what was going on. Thankfully on the wall was a photo of the Empire State building and someone pointed to that and said we were going to the top for photos.
Mutai suddenly turned into a little kid at Christmas as a big smile came up on his face and he went over to the photo on the wall and posed for pictures and asked how tall the building was.
As we waited to be escorted to the elevator, I decided to keep up the small talk. I asked Mutai how long he would take off from running (I think the answer was two weeks but didn’t take notes) and told him I was really pumped to see him limping around as that to me indicated he truly was human and not a literal god, just a running one.
Mutai joked back and asked if I thought running was easy and if running was easy for me. I was like, “No, I know it’s not easy. It certainly wasn’t for me, but for you it just looks so effortless.”
103 Stories High
When we got off the elevator 103 stories high and walked outside to the corner, which was cordoned off from the throngs of tourists, the tourists burst into applause and said things like, “You’re amazing. Congratulations.” It was great to see some random people off the street treat these supreme athletes like the stars they are.
Once up top, Mutai thrived. He’s got a certain natural charisma to him that shined 103 stories high as he clearly enjoyed posing for photos. Much like a lion is comfortable being king of the jungle, Mutai was clearly comfortable being on top of New York.
Leaning back, arms crossed, this is what one of the all-time greats should look like.
Jeptoo, on the other hand, clearly didn’t like being 103 stories high. She was fine facing forward, but the photographers wanted her to face outwards away from the building which wasn’t going to happen. As time wore on, she got more comfortable and just before leaving some five or ten minutes later, she had a big smile one her face when she posed with her husband and agent.
All in all, it was a fun outing. One other thing – if you’ve got kids, I’d highly recommend you take them to the Empire State building. The people working there – all of the elevator people (I think we took 3 elevators) – were EXTREMELY friendly and true tourist pros.