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The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

“Every single mile is special,” Runners and sidewalk supporters reflect on the TCS NYC Marathon

Alanna Campbell
Associate Director for CBS Sports Ms. Alanna Campbell loves the TCS NYC Marathon because, “Similarly to the way I’ve committed to my career, I also committed to myself, for months of training, 26.2 miles of hard work, and a lifetime of knowing I earned that medal waiting for me at the finish line.”

What makes a good block party? Most would answer: good music, good eats, and good company. But if you ask a New Yorker –– extra points if they’re also a runner –– they’d likely direct you to one event, and one event only: the New York City Marathon. Runners and sidewalk supporters alike reflect on the glamor, the glory, and the grind of this phenomenal event. 

The annual Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) NYC Marathon is a global phenomenon. With over 51,400 total finishers, the race on November 5, 2023 was the world’s largest marathon this year, and the third largest race of the Marathon in history. Without a doubt, the NYC Marathon will forever be a life-changing experience for the runners and supporters that participate. KC Gupta (‘27) moved to San Diego from New York City in August of 2021 and would equate the marathon with the word “powerful.” He said, “It’s a really big event in the city, and it means a lot to a lot of people.”

Former Associate Principal Cello with the New York Philharmonic Ms. Eileen Moon ran the NYC Marathon in 2016 and still remembers the little details from race day. “Nothing comes close to the logistics and ramp-up to this event,” she said, “from the start on Staten Island, to running through the boroughs, to the crowds [and the energy], and that final excruciating little uphill – which felt like Mt. Everest after 26 miles!”

Ms. Moon started her running journey with the support of some of her friends and now has a few races under her belt. From the very first race she ever signed up for, she was “blown away by the energy, the community excitement, [and] the little conversations around me.” From “What did you eat last night?” to “Where did they say the water stations were again?” to “What race have you signed up for next?,” these little comments gave Ms. Moon such a boost. She was “always smiling when the gun went off. It was the best feeling ever.” 

But the thing that the New York crowds did best was “the surreal amount of support and energy for the first and last runner.”

Ms. Moon added, “The love [for running] has never faded! I will always, forever, recommend that people try it. Slow and steady is [my] best advice.” She concluded, “I firmly believe that [running] is the healthiest form of mental health support with the obvious fitness and endorphins that we enjoy. Learn to love it, and it will always love you back!”

Bishop’s Head Cross Country Coach and Science Teacher Ms. Sarah Solberg reflected, “I love the space [running] provides me to think. Running allows me to work towards a goal and challenge myself in a different way.” When she ran the Napa Marathon on March 1, 2020, she ran the majority of the race behind a person with a shirt that said, “I’m just trying to be 1% better than I was yesterday.” She loves that motto for both running and life – “it’s something I strive for both in and out of the classroom,” she said.

Associate Director for CBS Sports Ms. Alanna Campbell shared similar encouragement. “If someone is interested in running, start small! Run a mile. Get comfortable. Sign up for a 5k. See what it feels like. You don’t know you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it, right?”

Former Associate Principal Cello with the New York Philharmonic Ms. Eileen Moon ran the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) NYC Marathon in 2016, and since then, her “love [for running] has never faded.” (Eileen Moon)

New York City has been Ms. Campbell’s home for the last 20 years, and she would often visit family in the city for Thanksgiving when she was growing up. They would stay on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which also happens to be the neighborhood where the marathon finish line is.

Last year, while strolling through her local farmers’ market on Marathon Sunday, she was surrounded by all of the victorious finishers. “I thought to myself that if I ever decided to run a marathon, it should be while I live around the corner from the finish line. That way, I would be able to tell myself that all I had to do was just run home!” she said.

To run in the NYC Marathon, prospective runners have to either qualify and run at a certain age-based pace, fundraise for charities and pay a hefty fee, run a certain number of New-York-Road-Runner (NYRR)-sponsored races during the prior calendar year, or win the lottery drawing, Ms. Moon explained. She opted for the NYRR route, while Ms. Campbell was shocked to find out that she was selected throughout the latter option.

“Training was intense!” Ms. Campbell said. But with a running group, it was much easier to train with others for the 16 weeks leading up to the race. Assistant Head Coach of the Girls’ Varsity Field Hockey Team Mika Black, who ran the TCS NYC Marathon in both 2019 and 2022, agreed, “My training partners played a huge role in inspiring me to push myself on the good and bad days.”

Coach Solberg said that the community aspect is one of her favorite parts of her role. In contrast to most other sports, she spends the majority of time running alongside the athletes instead of coaching on the sidelines. “I love getting the opportunity to chat with the team while we run across La Jolla,” she said.

For the NYC marathon this year, Ms. Campbell outlined her night before and what she did on actual race day. “You have to really take into consideration everything you have going on in your life, from your sleep schedule to your nutrition needs,” Ms. Campbell advised.

The night before, she had a good dinner at one of her favorite Italian restaurants nearby and went to bed early, getting an extra hour of sleep thanks to the end of daylight savings time. She said, “[Before bed,] I laid out my clothes, belt pack, and the fuel (in my case, energy chews and caffeinated maple syrup packets) that I would consume during my run to keep my energy levels up. I also picked out clothes that I would wear to stay warm at the start line but would then take off and leave there before I started the run, as the NYRR and many other race organizers donate the clothes left at the start line.” She made sure to grab a few hand and toe warmers as well.

On Marathon Sunday, she woke up, ate breakfast, packed another breakfast alongside some snacks, and headed out the door to ride the subway all the way to the southernmost end of Manhattan to catch the Staten Island Ferry. “With each stop, more and more marathoners would board the subway, and it was really cool to see such a wide variety of people, all headed to accomplish the same goal. I made a new friend on the ferry and met up with other friends from my training group, and that’s when I started to get really excited,” she said.

Once you arrive on Staten Island, “you walk, and you walk, and you walk,” Ms. Campbell laughed. After walking four miles by the time she got to the start line, she and her fellow runners were ready to go. The gun went off, and then, the runners were off.

“While I always knew the NYC Marathon was special because of my experiences in my own neighborhood, what I didn’t learn until I ran it myself is how incredible the energy in every single neighborhood is throughout all five boroughs of New York,” Ms. Campbell remarked.

Every single mile is special.

— Ms. Alanna Campbell, Associate Director For CBS Sports

The over 50,000 participants, alongside the thousands of volunteers along the course who help at the water stations, medical tents, and start and finish lines, plus the fans who line all 26.2 miles of the course, are an estimated one million people, Ms. Campbell calculated. 

She was fortunate to have friends and family all over the course who “helped keep [her] going in ways [she] couldn’t have possibly anticipated. I will cherish the memories of that day for the rest of my life,” she said. Coach Solberg agreed –– “people cheering on the sidelines make all the difference.”

As an associate director for a large sports network, Ms. Campbell “has worked on a variety of televised sports competitions including 17 NCAA Final Four basketball games, six NFL Super Bowls, five U.S. Open Tennis Championships, and three Olympic games,” according to her biography on Directors Guild of America. She “had friends and colleagues across the industry who were cheering [her] on [during the marathon], and friends that were working the telecast of the event.”

She reflected, “The tables had truly turned, and I was going to be a participant in the event, instead of someone covering it. I’ve always said that sports is the purest form of reality television, and suddenly, my reality was participating in a globally televised sporting event. I wasn’t going to win, or come even remotely close to setting any records that would mean anything to anyone but myself. But similarly to the way I’ve committed to my career, I also committed to myself, for months of training, 26.2 miles of hard work, and a lifetime of knowing I earned that medal waiting for me at the finish line,” she concluded.

The NYC Marathon has been a global phenomenon for over 50 years, and to this day, it’s still a life-altering experience for runners and sideline cheerleaders alike. On September 13, 1970, the New York Road Runners organized the first New York City with a budget of only 1,000 dollars, according to the TCS NYC Marathon’s official website. Each runner paid a one dollar entry fee, and out of the 127 entrants who ran through Central park, less than half finished. Within five years, the Marathon started gaining wider attention, with 339 finishers; and to commemorate the United States’ 200th birthday, the Marathon extended throughout the five boroughs of the city rather than just the park, with 2,090 registered participants and more than 1,500 finishers. This race flashed international headlines.

Within the next few decades, the Marathon did nothing but grow –– in 1981, it was broadcast nationally for the first time, and at the end of the decade, there were almost 25,000 finishers. By 1997, the number of finishers exceeded 30,000, and in the 2000s, a wheelchair division was added and prize money became attainable. The NYC Marathon joined the Boston, Chicago, London, and Berlin Marathons in 2006 to initiate what is now known as the World Marathon Majors; and in 2009, the Marathon had the most finishers of any marathon in history: 43,660.

In the 2010s, the Marathon garnered even more attention, signing a multi-year deal with ABC-TV and ESPN for continued coverage, and ended the year with a race with more than 52,000 finishers. In the 2020s, as a response to COVID, the NYC Marathon continued by hosting a virtual event with finishers from 108 countries around the world. The 2021 marathon returned to the five boroughs with safety protocols in place, and the 2022 marathon saw a return to the lively race the world has loved for more than half a century.

Whether you’re an experienced marathon runner, a beginner who’s dabbled in running, or even someone with a really loud voice that can make some killer posters, add the NYC Marathon to your bucket list and get ready for the biggest block party you’ve ever experienced. You won’t be disappointed.

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About the Contributor
Sydney Chan
Sydney Chan, Editor-in-Chief

Sydney Chan is an Editor-in-Chief for The Tower dedicated to discovering unique stories and bringing them to life through her pieces. She especially loves writing op-eds and publishing food reviews through her column, "Sydney's Suggestions." From dining at a great sushi restaurant, to watching her beloved Chicago Cubs play, to competing in Speech and Debate tournaments and Model UN conferences, to blasting 2Pac and SZA in the car, she's passionate about experiencing life to the fullest and aspires to lead The Tower with a similar aura, alongside the support of the publication's amazing team. Sydney is looking forward to another great year with The Tower and can't wait to share more beautiful pieces with the community.

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