Thursday, November 10, 2016

Our Marathon Man!

Sunday night, everyone in our family was exhausted. Brett had the most legitimate reason for being tired—and the most impressive one. He had just run more than 26 miles as one of more than 50,000 “overachievers” in the New York Marathon. For five hours, he was on the move— running, walking occasionally, singing along to music playing through earbuds, and greeting the occasional friend or family member who yelled his name along the route from the Verrazano Bridge to Central Park. Running a marathon is an amazing accomplishment.

Brett is still going strong after 23 miles!
And from personal experience, I can say that watching a marathon is pretty amazing and tiring! Audrey and I walked nearly nine miles across Manhattan twice, while carrying two helium-filled balloons bearing the message “Yeah Brett!” to see him on First Avenue at mile 18, where he looked pretty upbeat, and then on Fifth Avenue at mile 23, where he looked eager to reach the finish line. 
Cheering, with balloons in hand, for our favorite runner

In both of our watching spots, we were surrounded by people shouting encouragement, waving signs, hugging loved ones who broke stride for a hug, shaking cowbells, high-fiving runners who welcomed the attention, and feeling not jealous at all that they were watchers instead of runners. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing about the marathon.
Making a brief stop for hugs and cheers
This is the third marathon that Brett has run, and each time I have felt a mixture of pride and surprise. The pride because of the training, endurance, and perseverance that running a marathon takes; the surprise because Brett was not much of an athlete growing up. I can remember one memorable occasion during a little league baseball game when, playing outfield, he blissfully admired a cloud sailing overhead as a ball rolled by near his feet. The mechanics of baseball, basketball, and even tennis seemed to elude him in his early years. The one sport he seemed to handle adeptly was skiing, either cross-country or downhill. Audrey and I would watch him head recklessly down a slope making few turns and leaving us far in his wake.

Then, after college at Hampshire College, a pretty nonathletic institution— He once sent me a tee-shirt that proclaimed in big letters “Hampshire Football undefeated since 1965” (because the sometimes wacky school has no football team, silly)—athletics and fitness took on importance for Brett. He trimmed down and tightened his body. Then he began playing tennis with great fervor and eventually with good skill. That was just the start.

Next, to our surprise, came running, and not just the occasional jog. He was going for the whole enchilada, the marathon. Brett ran his first marathon 12 years ago in Philadelphia. He didn’t love the experience and didn’t repeat it for ten years. (Along with other comments, I recall a graphic description of painful rubbing of his sweaty shirt on pointy parts of his chest during the race (TMI, I hear someone screaming at me). And I’m not sure he felt the exhilaration he hoped to experience that time.

Then, two years ago, he won a spot in the NY Marathon lottery and decided to go for it. He knocked nearly 30 minutes off his Philly time, and though he finished the race thoroughly exhausted, he also proved something important to himself (and to his surprised parents) about the value of training physically and mentally to reach a goal. Could a proud parent ever hope for more than that!

Surprising Adam with a long distance "high ten"
He decided to try again. So, last Sunday, Audrey and I—along with sister Amanda and her friends Phil, Hannah, and Cliff and our friends Ken and Helaine and their granddaughter Alexa—who had come to cheer on Brett, his close friend Adam, and their amazing daughter Lauren (Alexa’s mom), who was running her eighth marathon—did our own marathon walk across Manhattan. We clapped and shouted, waved our balloons, and welcomed sweaty hugs as we witnessed what for us were gold medal performances worthy of the Greek gods.
A family selfie at mile 23
Then we joined in a celebratory dinner, gave our children goodbye hugs, came home, and fell into bed, thoroughly exhausted. Marathon watching can really wear you out!


  1. Michael...I got home and unpacked the groceries, had some cantaloupe (a poor choice as it turned out)and went directly to your site. So the invitation says "Post A Comment." Well -- here I am reading a poignant piece and struggling to locate words that do it justice and explain why it resonates. I marvel at film and theater critics who manage to do just that! So I will accept my struggle and simply say, your story expresses joy, reverence and love of Brett and family. And all in a voice that clearly was, and is,in the moment. I am not surprise. Great to see you. JOSH

  2. Ouch!! I would've been more assiduous and far less when proofing part of a text that you had assigned to me. So, master copy editor, I humbly submit my correction! FOR, not "of" and of course SURPRISED.