New York Marathon and the Central Park nasties with the funny accent

Marathon de New York : Verrazano BridgeImagine you are 24 miles through the NY Marathon (for some of us that’s a tough thing to picture). You have ran through the 5 boroughs of the city, and are now stumbling through the final couple of miles on the roads of Central Park. Crowds are cheering you on, and you know there’s probably a little over 15 minutes to go. And yet, out from the crowds comes a woman with a pushchair and a dog, fighting her way through the runners and not giving a damn about the trouble she causes.

That was our experience of the New York Marathon in 2003. We had volunteered as marshalls, and we were given the task of controlling the crowds at the 24 mile marker on the park drive, just next to the Met museum at around 78th street. A memorable expericnce, and one I would recommend to anyone who is staying in the city at marathon time this weekend.

Our spot in Central Park; near the Obelisk

Our spot in Central Park; near the Obelisk

I asked the policeman who had the proper job of controlling the crowds at this point how we could best assist. “Stay out of my way” was his cocky response. Less than 20 minutes later he was asking us for assistance, and later even letting us know what he was doing to make sure we could manage the control of the spectators while he sat around having an extended cigarette break. He had underestimated the help he was going to need, and only later realised that we might be useful to him.

There were two main tasks. One was to ensure that the crowd did not encroach too far onto the road and make the drive so narrow for the runners that they couldn’t pass. This was a constant challenge as the thousands of spectators wanted their photos and would lean further and further into the road to get them. But it was manageable. The second task was far harder.

The point we were patrolling was normally a crossing used by pedestrians to cross the park. With tens of thousands of runners passing through we had to stop people from walking across and encourage them to walk around 30 yards along the sidewalk to the underpass. Hardly a major inconvenience.Yet for some New Yorkers this was too much to bear, and they set off, pushchairs, dogs, children in tow, causing chaos to the runners who by now were not exactly in the best shape.

At first we were shocked that anyone could be so ignorant and selfish and we tried to call them back politely, but as the day wore on and we grew weary and realised that some people were so arrogant and stupid that nothing was going to stop them endangering their own safety and more importantly that of the runners. We shouted at them with ever increasing venom , and the crowd around us were highly amused to witness these two Brits with their funny accents yelling abuse at the stupid people who wouldn’t follow a simple request. Some were cheering us on as much as the runners!

As well as getting a marathon T-shirt (I felt too much of a fraud to be seen wearing it around the city) it was a great introduction to city life, coming as it did around 6 weeks after our arrival in New York. So if you are in the city this weekend and want to do something unusual, have a look on the official New York Marathon website and take on one of the many volunteer roles. It’s a great way to be able to shout at people and get away with it!

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

4 Responses to “New York Marathon and the Central Park nasties with the funny accent”

  1. I ran the NYC Marathon in 2003 so probably ran past you, a great city and a truely great Marathon i loved it..

    The city of New York made a great impression on me, and although i have been back with my family a number of times since i miss it alot!

    Thanks for the post.

    October 29, 2009 at 12:53 pm
  2. Thanks Alistair. You certainly will have passed us. I hope you weren’t one of the many men with bleeding nipples. That was an uncomfortable sight to witness.
    Must have been a great experience to complete it though.

    October 29, 2009 at 2:42 pm


  1. uberVU - social comments - October 28, 2009

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by 501Places: New York Marathon and the Central Park nasties with the funny accent

  2. Nyc Marathon - October 30, 2009

    […] 501 Places » Blog Archive » New York Marathon and the Central Park … […]