They say there are eight million stories in the naked city. But on marathon day in New York the spotlight shines brightest on a mere (though still mighty) 50,000, a colorful collection of explorers bound on a magical tour through the five-boroughs in search of life in all its glory, while chancing a measure of some of its disappointments. And while my perch at the head of the pack reporting on the elite competition has long been the focus of my professional attention, I too am moved by the courage and resolve of the everyday runners who make up the rank and file of this vast army of dreamers.
Thursday afternoon of marathon week I hosted a Q & A session at the marathon pavilion in Central Park with 2009 race champion Meb Keflezighi and his long-time coach Bob Larsen. We were there to discuss the movie City Slickers Can’t Stay With Me, a loving homage to Bob’s 50 years in coaching by one of his former runners, Robert Lusitana.
The movie follows Coach Larsen from his days as a farm boy in rural Minnesota through his running career at the University of California San Diego, and then on to his 50+ year coaching career spanning Monte Viste High School, Grossmont College, the Jamul Toads, UCLA and finally Team Running USA in Mammoth Lakes, California. From his UCLA days to the present Bob has continued to coach and mentor Meb in his rise from NCAA champion to world-beater and USA role model and hero.
Written and produced by Rob Kirk, and conceived and directed by Robert Lusitana, City Slickers Can’t Stay with Me saw its bi-coastal premier launched in New York and Los Angeles the week of October 30 – November 5th.
(As a sidebar, you can utilize the film as a fundraiser for your community group by contacting email@example.com. It is easy, profitable, and risk free.)
After Coach Larsen and Meb had finished with my queries, we threw the floor open to questions from the audience. Among those whose hand was raised was a young woman who wanted some advice on proper pacing for what was going to be her second career marathon. After the session I struck up a conversation with the woman and her two friends, and after offering some advice, I asked if she would send me a post-race update on how her day went.
Her name was Robyn Hamilton, a fresh-faced mother of two girls out of Miramar, Florida. She and her friend Mishele Hobson were running New York for NYRR’s Team for Kids program, as was Meb as one of the program’s ambassadors. Robyn had made her debut in January at the Disney Marathon where she ran 5:51. Her goal in NYC was to nip under five hours.
“I know it’s a big leap,” she admitted, “but I should have done 5:30 in Disney.”
Robyn runs for Beast Mode Running out of Ft. Lauderdale where she is coached by Nathan Brown, a 2:41 Boston marathoner. She began her running experience in 2011, motivated by the walks she used to take with her father as a girl.
“I remember my dad going out for his walks, and in seventh grade I decided to go with him. I was always overweight as a kid, and through our walks I lost a lot of weight. He’s the reason I run and now wanted to run for Team For Kids. If he hadn’t inspired me and supported me, I never would have started.”
After the birth of her two daughters, 7 year-old Madison and 5 year-old Reagan, Robyn began training with the goal of eventually tackling the iconic marathon distance.
“I ran several half-marathons, and set goals, because of the way it made me feel.”
When I got back home to the west coast I received an e-mail from Robyn outlining her journey over the serpentine, five-borough race course.
Hi there, I hope you are doing well.
I wanted to give you a race update. I finally have time to sit down and digest everything that happened on Sunday. The NYC Marathon was one of the most amazing experiences of my life outside of having my kids and marrying my husband. Unfortunately, I did not have the performance that I had hoped for …. I finished in 5 hours 46 minutes … which was 47 minutes over my time goal.
I was upset about it at first, and on Monday morning I felt defeated and sad. However, now that it’s been a few days I have realized that the New York City Marathon was never destined to be about a time goal race for me, it was meant to be about my two beautiful daughters and the kids I hope to have inspired by running for the charity Team for Kids.
My husband and kids were able to meet up with me on the course just after mile 8. It was such an incredible experience to see my girls holding a sign saying “Go Mommy Go” My family also had grandstand tickets so they were able to see me finish. Now I have realized this is what the race was for, not to make a mark on the clock but to make a memory for my children that anything is possible with hard work and determination!!
The race itself was incredibly tough, a lot tougher than I had anticipated. I hit the wall hard on First avenue, which was a surprise because I was expecting the crowds to carry me. The last three miles I felt as if my legs weighed 500 lbs, and I swore I would never run again. Well, as I sit here four days later I now am 98% sure I will be signing up to run NY again next year for Team for Kids. How quickly we forget the pain!! Ha!!
It was a pleasure meeting you last week!!
The world around us continues to be torn apart by the cross currents of economic dislocation, racial, ethnic and religious strife. Our sport,itself, is in the midst of cleaning out the rancid stench of corruption and venality that has been its bane for so many years. At times this old world can become quite depressing, and the future can seem like it’s caught in a tragic spiral.
But then there are those times when we strip away the hard lines and divisions that separate us, and come together to humbly take on a task that lies at the outer limit of our capabilities with stout hearts and clear eyes. And in those times we find that the divisions that we so often see as definitional somehow become less consequential as our common humanity surfaces and makes a family of us all once again.
Needless to say, for many of us running long distance has the capability of bringing us to that union. So, congratulations on your effort, Robyn, and to the many long years of honorable service given by men like Coach Larsen. Your example, and the many more like you, stand as a constant bulwark against the cynical overlords who stake false claim to the ground that you honor. Recover well, and I hope to see you and the girls back in NYC 2016 as you inspire them toward a better world ahead.