EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
Geoffrey Mutai turns a corner as he wins the NYC Marathon.
Nothing terrible happened. The wind never grew into a superstorm, the water stayed where it belonged in the rivers and bays. Nobody took a wrong turn. No drawbridge was left unclosed. Nobody of note tripped on the many potholes along the Queensboro Bridge and, thank goodness, nobody decided that the New York Marathon would be a great target for terrorism.
These days, nothing terrible happening at a major civic event is often as good as it gets. But this race was even better than that on Sunday, because it really proved what the New York Road Runners were so anxious to demonstrate last year, too soon. This was the right time, 12 months later, to show the world that New York recovers from disaster as well as anyplace in the world, and that it can put on a show best of all.
The five boroughs rolled out a 26.2-mile string of pearls, with perhaps a million onlookers as accessories. Spectators on Fourth Ave. in Bay Ridge and Sunset Park came back along the route, and the crowds again packed First Ave. There were even partygoers in Central Park, who’d been scanned by machines and sniffed by dogs. They were on their feet applauding and they blew vuvuzelas for the Kenyans, who won of course.
Mary Wittenberg, on more familiar ground this time around, kissed the winners and placed laurel wreaths on their heads. She hung around for hours at the finish, hugging everyone and overriding bad memories of 2012.
“Zero incidents, zero threats, really smooth,” said the Road Runners CEO and president. “I was absolutely floored by the crowds. I just was moved at every corner. Especially Brooklyn, all the early neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and then in Queens. Never seen it crowded like that before. It was packed.”
This rebound was a notable accomplishment, even if it could not rebuild the homes in Staten Island or heal the very real physical wounds suffered by victims of Sandy. There is no use pretending otherwise. Mike Piazza’s home run couldn’t bring back the dead from 9/11. It just made everyone feel a little better for a little while, which is exactly what sports are supposed to do. The New York Marathon happens to do it with larger numbers, and with a greater sense of community.
All for one, one for all, even from the runners on the street. When Stanley Biwott asked Geoffrey Mutai to drink water from his fellow Kenyan’s bottle, Mutai warned Biwott, “it’s not water,” but handed over the energy drink after telling Biwott there were no more water stations available.
The Kenyans came first into Central Park, as they almost always do. You may not remember for long the names Priscah Jeptoo or Geoffrey Mutai, the champions. They won a bunch of money, which matters to the marathon world, to the winners, and to nobody else. The New York race could be run without a single elite runner, and it would still make its point.
That point this year was continuity, not really triumph over nature and terrorism. By early afternoon, near Central Park West, the streets and avenues were back to being a parade of bent, smiling, dehydrated runners wrapped in orange Marathon jackets. They had run the full course without major incident, the way these races are supposed to go.
Craig Lambert, a cop from halfway across the world in Sydney, Australia, limped across the finish in just over three hours. He wasn’t thrilled with his time and said it had been a hard day running into the wind, but as a professional in the field he appreciated the security measures he saw along the way.
“The Coast Guard escort for our ferry, the bag searches for families, maybe I noticed all of it more because of my job,” Lambert said. “It all worked very, very well.”
The Road Runners did fine this time. So did the NYPD. The runners came back. The spectators came back.
“Just a whole lot of really, really happy people, so happy to be here,” said Wittenberg, her can-do spirit no longer misplaced.
Plenty of noise in the city on Sunday. The right kind this time.