2019 NYC Marathon Week: Race Day Magic
November 26 2019 // New York City, NY
It’s the fall. Weather is unpredictable so I pack accordingly. Long sleeves, light gloves, a toque, and 4″ splits. Shoulder season is tricky, but the flights are cheap, so it’s when I get to travel.
Not only is a fall trip to NYC an annual holiday for me, but even more so than usual. I have the simple goal of enjoying the day. I don’t want to overthink it, and I don’t want to be lazy. I all I want, is to enjoy the day, find some unique frames, and let the magic of race day in New York City do it’s thing. I spend the days leading up to the race relaxed and enjoying time with friends. Running.
But when the sun sets on Saturday night, the tingle begins, and I can’t help myself. I’m an addict. I need a fix.
And New York City delivers.
I hit the G train on Sunday morning jonesing for a beautiful photo, first stop is 4th Ave Station at 9th street. Right in the middle of Mile 6 and 7.
Playing with Light and Overpasses — Mile 6 ~ 7
But only finding shots in shadow, and mouths full of nutrition. Ugh. I wonder how terrible I can be at times at this thing called photography. But all is not lost. I meet Billy and his neighbours who have a breakfast going on upstairs.
Billy knows a thing or two about cameras and keeps me company while we wait for the women’s lead pack. I’m hand holding a 400mm f/2.8 today, the big girl, and let’s just say it might have been the highlight of Billy’s day.
Billy is a fan of running, make no mistake, but this lense is just too much for camera nerds like us. He snaps some photos and ensures I get copies. Thanks Billy.
I get to check in on the ladies early which is always nice. Allie Kieffer is in a chase pack, I’m fixated on Aliphine’s beanie and completely miss her. I haven’t seen Allie in months that feel like years, but manage to get a cheer out. Like everyone cheering, I imagine she saw me, hears the cheer, and smiles. Kellyn is up with the lead pack and I think I send Coach Rosario an image of her, but sent one of Aliphine…and it didn’t even send until 20 minutes later. A lifetime in the marathon.
I’m not firing on all cylinders like usual, but having fun and chatting with folks. A little too much, and miss the ladies on my next stop at Court Square. Relying on the G train is a gamble, but does the trick on this hectic Sunday morning heading north through Brooklyn.
Queensboro Bridge — Mile 14 ~ 15
I have an idea. It works briefly for almost four minutes. Ultimately I miss my shot of the Men’s lead pack coming around the bend up onto the awaiting bridge, but pull in this almost banger of Jen Bigham about to head out onto the loneliest of lonely bridges — for but a sliver of time.
— Keely's Mom
Yeah, you are going to find her in a sea of 50,000.
My favourite days on course are like this. Peppered with choices, actions, and consequences. I decide to wait for a third pack of women at my last stop, and chat with some friends, which ultimately leads to missing the women’s front pack in Queens. Which is fine, because it also prefaces me capturing the images I do. There really isn’t a right or wrong choice, only what frames I make, with the consequences of my choices and resulting actions.
If I’m five minutes earlier, or later to this spot, who knows what I see or capture.
Do I see Danna Herrick roll through, getting her damn hands up, for one of the most fun photos I’ve ever taken of a marathoner at sub 6:00 miles.
I am certainly not on the train at the moment Team Keely spots me. I dash to Court Sq to cop an E heading back to the city. 400mm slung over my shoulder, shades on, a hot sweaty mess breathing heavily as I dash between the closing doors — a couple inches to spare.
The group eyes me up, and one approaches with cautious intention. “Quite the camera…”. All day long. The lense is a conversation starter. It is 30″ long, and the size of a dinner plate at the business end. It’s fair. I help Team Keely decide where to find their runner next. Then ask what she is wearing and her expected finish time. Her mom questioningly laughs, “yeah you are going to find her in a sea of 50,000.”
Yes mom, yes I will.
5th Ave — Mile 23 ~ 24
It is time to chill. I make it over to the east side of Central Park and find the Streets 101/Lululemon NYC cheer station immediately. The DJ makes it remarkably easy. These are my people when in NYC, and it’s fun to get to hang out and capture them do their thing.
If you’re not racing, you’re cheering. On the way over Manhattan from Lexington Ave, I notice the one block buffer. Streets are closed off for a block leading up to 5th Ave, and in true urban dweller fashion, people are utilizing the new found space. A father and son play catch with the marathoners breezing by behind them. Another young man appears to have a hockey stick in his hand for the first time. Families are posing for photos in the middle of the closed to traffic, but still busy, New York City street.
It is then a sea of smiles that I capture perched up from scaffolding, ledges, and fencing alike. I get to witness my girl Carly Gill who raced at Take The Bridge last night, jumped in for a bunch of miles with a friend today, and is now dressed warmly and cheering on the thousands yet to enter the park. This girl gets it, and I’m so proud to call her a friend. I am afforded these moments, from these vantage points, and am reminded how fortunate I am. To know these runners, where they have come from, where they are going, and what they are doing in-between.
Days like today suck the life out of my mind and body, but energize me at the same time.
Told you Mom
Up on the scaffolding, leg hooked in, I flagpole out with the 400mm f/2.8 Canon beast pointed into the crowd. I get a glimpse of big yellow letters bobbing down 5th Ave. She’s grinding, it’s past her predicted time, but it’s my girl Keely.
I smile to myself, dangling there in front of hundreds of screaming supporters lining 5th Avenue shortly before athletes muscle their way into Central Park. Not a single person here knows what has just happened. The magic of race day that is raining down on us like the sun refusing to hide, it comes and goes, but it is always there. The odds of randomly chatting with a family on a train in the middle of the largest marathon of the year, and catching their athlete in a sea of thousands through my camera must be astronomical.
I am making a habit of pushing the limits of just what is possible from the sidelines of the NYC Marathon.
I’ve been working this streak of light from down low, but not getting anything dynamic. The guys are coming in fast and furious. Elite women have all come through. My opportunity is running out. The crowds are coming. Clouds pull the curtain over my window of sunshine as a solo runner approaches the NYC size apartment of light I am working within. Dammit, so close.
And then it happens. Massi Milani who runs a near perfect marathon, all 26 mile splits within a range of 5:32 ~ 5:38, finishing in 2:27:30, good for 54th overall, second in his 45-49 age group, and first Italian — forces his way through my pocket of 5th Ave light.
Predicting the future, I unconsciously jump down from the ledge on the south west corner of the entrance to the park. Sprinting to a spot along the race course edge, closest to an officer I’ve been chatting — apparently flirting — with, providing me the longest leash. As suspected, my instincts are correct, and my boy hits beast mode.
Matthew Myer jumps on stage and well, I’ll just let the last of my photos tell that story. It is immediately evident what I am here for today. It has been posited that 23% of photos on the internet, are of Matt Meyer. Let me add to that pile. Every frame leading up to these moments is just me warming up for this guys special day.
Thank you New York City.
Thank you everyone I chatted with and photographed.
I needed that. Love you Matt.