Marathon Day

“Here come the runners!”

The bleacher crowd leaned forward, craning their necks. The road was empty

I leaned over the curb, my fingertips touching.

My heart gave a pop when I saw his legs in the distance. I knew his stride.

The weather was just right. My uncle loved running his races in a light, misty rain and the day had given him that. But sometimes the days were sunny and he still won his races. He won so much we expected it. We’d wait for him, wondering where he was, and when we finally saw him come up over the hill, through the trees, around the corner, we’d shout, “Here comes Uncle San-dy!”

But this race was bigger. There were more people. Food carts with hot dogs and hot pretzels with big salt. My Great Aunt Mary sat on the bleachers with a blanket over her knees that shook up and down. She held a cup of cold hot cocoa and told my grandmother she needed a wine.

“Can you see him, Gert?” she kept asking.

Soon I could hear a swell of noise from the crowds down the road. I ran to find the yellow finish line.

So many adults were swarming in winter jackets and I squeezed through them and stood alone, waiting for my uncle.

Suddenly everything happened. Cameras and clapping as my uncle crossed the yellow line first and my Great Aunt Mary burst out of the jackets. She grabbed the laurel wreath from the official man and ran to my uncle with the wreath high in the air and planted it on his wet head with her two hands, crying.

 

In memory of my Uncle, Dr. Norbert Sander, M.D., who won the 1974 New York Marathon. To this day, he is the only New Yorker to have done so.

 

Uncle Sandy Marathon Day post

 

hey…psst…STAY TUNED FOR: SECOND SNOW (next up)

 

The Race, circa 1977

The Race, circa 1977

I could hear her behind me.

She was nine. I could tell. I think she had brown hair. Her breathing told me somebody in her family wanted her to win. But I wanted to win, and I wanted a trophy. I had seen them lined up on the table at the beginning of the race. I ran faster, so fast I could feel the separation of body and running, my legs now in charge as they took me in the direction of the Hudson River and the finish line.

I ran down the hill. It hurt to run so fast. I knew to hold on and let my legs take me there. When I got to the finish line, a man with a whistle told me I was the first woman. I smiled, held my sides, breathed deeply and nodded.

I walked over to the big trophy table, the tall golden statues.

I looked up at the man standing behind the table. He had stern skin, long eyebrows.

“I’m here for my trophy,” I said.

He looked at me.

“I won,” I said. “I was the first woman.”

The man shook his head. “The trophies are for the men,” he said.

“But I won,” I said.

He repeated himself.

I repeated myself.

I couldn’t understand it. What was he talking about?

People talked behind the table as I stood there. They leaned in to each other, whispering into ears. I watched.

“Here,” said the man. “You can have the third place men’s trophy.”

I smiled as I reached for it. 

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