Running with Greatness
by Patricia Rossi • North Merrick, NY
There I stood, directly under the infamous banner etched in an
unmistakably bright orange, it read “START - NYC MARATHON NOVEMBER 6,
2011.” The banner was tightly fastened high atop the Verrazano Bridge; it flapped
majestically catching breezes off the open bay, with a rhythmic beat, beckoning runners
far and wide. This was for sure … the runner’s Mecca. I checked the laces on my sneakers one last time, tightened my fuel belt and stood tall and proud. For on this crisp autumn morning I was about to tour the five boroughs that comprised New York City, a total of 26.2 miles on foot. It certainly would be more than a run over hill, dale and a bunch of bridges; in the end it would be a journey of the mind, soul and body. Truth be told, I am a veteran marathoner and have embarked upon this journey many a time before, but on this particular race day, I knew it would be different, very different. For this year, I had the opportunity of a lifetime, to run side by side with an elite runner. Yes an elite runner.
Thoughts raced through my little runner’s head, at a speed far faster than I could ever
imagine running, would I have the stamina, the conviction, the determination of my elite
runner? After all, Merriam Webster defines elite as “special, the chosen, and the best of
the best, a select group.” I had trained hard and long, but was that really enough? Let’s
face it, I was hobnobbing, trading carbo loading recipes with individuals that were to be
admired from afar, the word impossible was non-existent in their running repertoire.
I had exchanged a plethora of e-mails with my elite runner for months prior to the
marathon. I had even logged on to a website, featuring my runner, indicating his training
regime and his diet. I studied his every cyber-move. He was ready to tear up the course,
set a personal record. Under the infamous banner, as we exchanged words of
encouragement, my heart told me this, my elite runner … he was going to win the NYC
marathon. Yes, win. Would I appear next to him on the evening news, perhaps be
interviewed, drive away with him in the token Mercedes? Would I be featured, little me,
in a Nike endorsement? Hey, would I come in second? Or would it be an inaugural tie?
An affirmative negative to all of the above, for I knew my awards, my accolades would
be far greater, far greater indeed. Oh say can you see … the National Anthem played
loudly and with hand over heart, I … actually we, stood together, united as one, ready to
run. And off we went.
We conquered the Verranzano Bridge with the greatest of ease!
We arrived in Brooklyn to roaring applause. The spectators were in awe of us, well in
awe of my elite runner. The crowd of supporters overflowed, their enthusiasm and
excitement was contagious and provided both of us with an unbelievable momentum. For
a brief moment, I felt as though it was 490 B.C. and I was Pheidippides running from the
town of Marathon, Greece to Athens announcing victory to the masses. In my case, it’s
2011 A.D. and I too am announcing victory to the masses, eventually for my elite runner.
Ah, for we were certain determined souls. I was truly graced and honored to be in his
presence. My elite runner remained focused and determined. I would speak to him
constantly, making observations. He would nod, smile and graciously acknowledge my
narration. The crowds, they cheered us. The live bands, they announced our arrival as we
headed down First Avenue. Eventually, we neared Central Park and headed toward the
finish. Ah, the shouts, the screams ... now faint. The media ... long gone. It was actually
nearing dark. But, nonetheless, my elite runner ... he was about to win the 2011 NYC
marathon. Yes, indeed. The clock read a glaring 6 hours and fifty-two minutes. We
crossed the finish line … tethered. My elite runner is named Michael and he is blind.
Early that morning, under the infamous banner, as I double-checked the laces on my
sneakers, well I tied Michael’s. Michael is a forty-one year old Achilles athlete, who
reigns from New Zealand. He lost his sight at the age of ten, but not his determination
and his willingness to participate in a myriad of sporting events, including competitive
running. Michael sees only sporadic flashes of light, but nonetheless he exercises
regularly, is an avid runner and on November 6th proved to two million spectators that a
serious disability would not impede from achieving his desired goal. As defined by
Merriam Webster, Michael is by all means “elite.” For late on November 6th, after sunset,
in the shadows of Central Park, Michael won the NYC marathon for himself and for all
disabled athletes. Moreover, he won it for all of us. As Michael ran through the streets of
NYC blind, tethered to my left wrist, he demonstrated to each and every one of us the
true meaning of determination, courage and left a trail of inspiration in every borough.
Way to go Mike!
Patricia Rossi is an attorney, published author and freelance artist.
She is the recipient of three prestigious state funded individual artist grants. Patricia's
poetry has been selected for juried competitions and has been awarded honors.
In addition she was a national finalist in Avon's women's grant writing competition. She also serves on the boardof the Long Island Arts Council, is a running coach for Team in Training and teaches creative writing workshops.