I leave Washington Square before the gathering of another demonstration. Its' two days before the annual New York Marathon, and a shiver goes up my spine. I already checked the weather forecast. It's going to be perfect. 56 degrees with very light winds and no rain. It's Ideal.
This time I will not take part in the celebration of 50,000 runners. I didn't train properly for such a challenge. And even if I were in good shape to complete the 26,2 miles, it's too late to enroll. The demand is huge and registration ends within days after the last race.
New York marathon is one of the four biggest, most important and prestigious races, along with the Chicago, London and Berlin marathons. I ran all of them. My personal best in New York was 3:12, if I am not wrong, but that was nearly twenty years ago. I believe now I can make it in 4:30, which is the average time for a finisher in the New York marathon.
From the Square I run south via Thompson street, to Houston. In front of me is SOHO, with its narrow streets. It's one of the city's famous land marks. In the 50's and 60's poor bohemians and artists moved into its workshops and attics, now known as lofts. Since then the area underwent gentrification and boasts of posh apartments and fashionable shops.
It is invaded by troops of tourists, mostly during the weekends, but even mid-week days are quite crowded. As I run through East Village I have to navigate my way among the pedestrians. Frankly I don't mind. The human kaleidoscope always makes the run interesting and less boring.
After a mile or so I go on a flyover bridge, cross the jammed FDR and reach the East River. Most of the runners I know prefer to run in the west part of the city, along the classy Hudson River. But the East River is more to my taste. It is less imposing.
Across the water Brooklyn landscape is visible. The running promenade is very nice with water fountains. The air is fresh and a pleasant breeze cools me off and helps me run. Not to mention that it is less crowded with few runners than on the Hudson.
I head north and after a mile plus reach a dead-end at 34 St. There is a plaza there and I notice a big table at its center with people behind them serving food . A long orderly queue waits in silence. New York City has hundreds of stationary and mobile soup kitchens. I checked with City Hall and was told that there are more than 30,000 homeless.
What caught my eyes in this queue was the fact that the people waiting for a plate of rice vegetable and meat did not look poor. There were women and men, old and young. This is our 21st century of ugly capitalism and globalization which mercilessly divides people into haves and has not.
The East River walk board is discontinued and blocked because the UN headquarters are stretched over 26 blocks and it is not open it to the public. I had the opportunity to be inside the UN compound and thought what a pity. The lawns and the walk board are magnificent, overlooking the river. It is reported that only in 2024 the UN will open its gates to the public. Thank you.
I am forced to go around the UN compound and make detour and run once again on the hard surface of the First Avenue pavement. Roughly 250 feet separate between one block to another. After 12 minutes and 1.3 mile I reached 60th street, and can once again feel the river breeze. I keep running. My destination is 77th St. I see the Queensborough Bridge looming in front of me.
I am once again down memory lane. This is the 17th mile mark when marathoners get off the bridge. It's hard to forget my excitement when I entered First Avenue, the roar of the crowd cheering each runner as if he or she were the chosen one.
I also recall the spectacular sights of thousands of runners ahead of me running north in the direction of Bronx and then to Central Park. It was like a corn field moving with the wind. I am shivering again.
Today the Avenue is jammed with cars and pedestrians and is noisy. I pause for a moment and am overwhelmed with nostalgia. I pity myself for not being a part of the fraternity on Sunday but I tell myself be happy with what you have. You are still able to run the streets of New York, and who knows maybe next year or the year after when you are seventy you will get lucky and run another New York marathon.