By Tony Candela
The TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) New York City Marathon was run on Sunday, November 6. The clocks had just been turned back one hour to invoke Standard Time. Theoretically, runners got an extra hour’s sleep, but pre-race anxiety likely negated some of the benefit.
The day turned out to be exceptionally warm (65-75 degrees from start to finish), something as a runner I recall dreading. Mid-fifties is ideal. The weather may have worried some, but apparently not the elite runners. Two first-timers won. Both were from Kenya. The man finished in just over 2:08 and the woman just under 2:23. The male wheelchair racer set a record and the winner in the woman’s Master category (40+ years) also set a record at 2:24.
Well after these runners had finished and about the time I would have been approaching Central Park for the final 3 miles, it commenced lightly showering. I would have been ecstatic, for at that point in the race, one knows he is going to finish and the rain would have been quite refreshing.
My girlfriend and I cheered on the runners for a bit. Our position was at about mile 17, meaning runners still had nine miles to go including two bridges and a partial circumnavigation of Central Park en route to the finish line. Then we moved to the place where runners enter Central Park for the final three miles.
This, of course, caused me to wax nostalgic. But rather than regale you with my own marathon experiences, I thought I’d treat you to a section from my memoir (see below) that tells the story of another marathon man and me. (Information in brackets has been added here for clarification.)
Is it safe? Is it safe?” Our laughter almost prevented my Achilles [track club] guide and me from running while we intoned the famous line from the evil Zell (Lawrence Olivier) in Marathon Man, the Dustin Hoffman flick. It was the fall of 1989 and marathon fever was again in the air. I did not intend to run that year, having lost much training time the previous summer recovering from my stress fracture. However, with lots of triathlon training under my belt, I felt strong enough to beat the “marathon man’s” time around the Central Park reservoir.
In the 1976 film, Dustin Hoffman plays a marathon wannabe, Babe Levy, who gets into all sorts of intrigue because of his older brother’s spy antics. In a scene only devout Central Park runners would remember, Babe, training for an unnamed future marathon, sprints up to his girlfriend and asks her “What’s the time?”
She answers, “Eleven forty-seven. You’re faster!”
Dustin Hoffman had just circumnavigated the Central Park reservoir on a cinder track stretching 1.58 miles. His pace, a nifty 7.27 per mile, was the time to beat.
After setting the stopwatch, my partner and I launched at full sprint. After a few hundred yards and unaccustomed to the pace, I quickly grew tired and asked if we could slow down. I wasn’t used to hard sprints as I had avoided them to prevent injury ever since that fateful four-mile race the previous spring [when I sustained a right-tibial stress fracture]. Still, I persevered.
About halfway around and realizing I may have left my race at the start, I reluctantly reduced speed again. The fact there wasn’t a beautiful woman waiting at the end didn’t help. Crossing the finish line, I bent over to catch my breath, convinced I had failed in my mission. My running partner informed me we had completed the loop in 11:22, a nifty 7:20 pace. I had beaten the marathon man by twenty-five seconds!
As my partner guided me to a water fountain, I took little solace in recalling that in the movie, Babe appeared fresh after his run, immediately asking his girlfriend to time him in another loop. Two days later, I still ached from the romp. More perturbing, when he made the film, Dustin Hoffman was thirty-seven years old. I had just turned thirty-six.
Returning to the [NY Road Runners Club] library to gather my belongings after practice, I sat musing about what it would be like to run the marathon. A teammate asked me why I wasn’t planning to participate, and hearing my answer, he pronounced that I was fit to “run-walk the thing.” “Sign up,” he encouraged, “You can walk the entire race if you wish. Just get out there and experience the course and what it’s like to be on the road for such a long time.” He said this would prepare me in ways I couldn’t imagine. For when I was truly ready to run, he predicted, the experience would prove invaluable. I signed up.
Anthony R. Candela, Author
Saying aloud what should not remain silent.
Books by Tony…
Stand Up Or Sit Out: Memories and Musings Of a Blind Wrestler, Runner, and All-around Regular Guy
A memoir about life lessons learned, especially through sports
Vision Dreams: A Parable
A sci-fi novella about how a dysfunctional society forces people to go to extremes, including four blind people who seek out artificial vision.
More About Tony…
Tony Candela has worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor, supervisor, manager consultant and administrator for more than 40 years in the field of blindness and visual impairment. His work has included promoting literacy and employment of blind persons and a special interest in enhancing the career preparation of blind persons who wish to work in the computer science field. He is a “retired” athlete, loves movies, sports, reading, writing, and music, including dabbling in guitar.