Amid the throngs of almost 30,000 people were firefighters, soldiers, marines, children, and grandparents. People from as far away as 29 Palms in California and members of the London Fire Brigade. T-shirts identified people's locations, from the Massachusetts Police to high school soccer teams to Fire Departments across the country. As the Opening Ceremony started, we could see the presentations via large video screens. And then, it was 9:30 and the race was on!
I didn't cross the starting line until almost 10am, and then it took a lot of self-control not to speed down the hill into the tunnel, I knew the tunnel was going to be crowded, warm, and full of jostling people. I paced myself well for the first mile or so and then got stuck in throngs of people and found myself being way too polite. After being bumped a few times, I made up my mind to stay just left of the walkers and go at my own pace, people could pass me if they wanted. I took a few walk breaks, which ended quickly when I saw someone in full turnout gear or a ruck sack shuffling along. I knew I could pace with them until I got back in the groove.
Exiting the tunnel was overwhelming. On the left were thousands of cadets from West Point holding American Flags. On the right were 343 firemen all holding a banner with the picture and name of their comrades lost on 9/11. The line stretched for a long time. We crossed into Battery Park and came across a lot of bottle necks as we turned and ran along the river. Here is where you could start to feel the finish approaching. There were high school cheerleaders and marching bands pushing you on, and spectators applauding your efforts. We turned out of the park and could hear the voices of the people at the finish line. I decided to sprint towards the finish and was able to squeeze through pockets of people to do so.
Post race, I gathered up my back which was efficiently transported by UPS truck and headed home on the train. I knew my time was not going to break any records and I am still telling myself that time doesn't matter in a race like this. Will I run this race again? Yes. Next year? Probably not. Its a fun race, but I don't think I can handle the number of people and the potential for injury from all that jostling. Maybe for the 15th year, if I can get a group together to go with me.