The marathon

Crowed of people holding up a sign that reads: "Hello complete stranger, I'm proud of you!" at the New York Marathon

I witnessed the New York City Marathon this morning. I heard there were fifty-one thousand participants this year and I am sure that nearly half of New York was out cheering them as they ran. There was a loud shout as the first runners came into view. The crowd went into an ecstasy of clapping, cheering and fist-pumping, cheering them to their glory, as music from various music systems filled the air.

But not for a moment did I see even any of the participants look at us. Their faces were intent, bodies resolute, eyes fixed. They had only one purpose, to win. I doubt they heard the crowd. I’m sure they saw nothing except their goal. I saw muscles straining, but did not see tiredness or fatigue. By the time they reached my spot they had already run twenty miles. They had another six miles left, and no shouts, or applause clouded their hearing except the sound of exultation as they crossed the finishing line.

Lelisa Desisa clocked 2 hours 5 minutes and 59 seconds as he came first.
Nearly an hour later, even more, came hundreds of others. But there was a difference. I saw the same straining muscles, the same resoluteness, but I also saw them acknowledging us, smiling as they heard someone shouting their name, waving as they heard the cheering of bystanders urging them on.

Every cheer that went up helped them in the next stride and the next and the next. These were not the professionals I’d seen an hour or more back, these were those who wanted more than anything else to complete those twenty-six miles and go home to friends and family and shout, “I completed the marathon!”

I’ve been told that the feeling of triumph one gets after finishing such a gruelling race is more than the victorious feeling after most other achievements.

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Robert Clements
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Robert Clements

Robert Clements is a newspaper columnist with an estimated readership of 6 million. He also conducts a short-term writer’s course. Contact him on for more details.