The New York City Marathon — since 2003, known as the ING New York City Marathon via a corporate sponsorship deal with the New York Road Runners — is held on the first Sunday in November. The race has been run has been run every year since 1970.
The first marathon had 127 runners participating in a 26.2-mile race that looped several times within Central Park. That year 55 runners crossed the finish line. In 1981, the course was redrawn to direct the 2,090 runners through all five New York City boroughs — a tradition which continues to this day.
In 2005, a record 87,625 people worldwide applied to run. Because of the popularity of the race, participation is limited to around 37,000 entrants, who are chosen largely by a random lottery system in June, with preference given to previous participants. NYRR members can also gain guaranteed entry by winning one, or completing nine, scored, qualifying races in the previous year, or by meeting qualifying time standards for a marathon (2:55:00 for men; 3:23:00 for women.)
In 1970, the entry fee for the marathon was $1. It has since been raised to $80-164 (based on residency and NYRR membership status), plus a $9 processing fee. Other costs include the mandatory ChampionChip scoring device ($35) for all entrants not already in possession of one.
The ChampionChip is a miniature transponder encased in a waterproof glass capsule, used for participant timing, identification and registration. It is the chip used in the biggest running events in the world (including the New York City, the Boston and the Rotterdam marathons) and a wide range of bicycle races, in-line skating and cross country events. The basis for the ChampionChip system is the radio-frequency- identification system (RFID) from Texas Instruments. This is the same technology that is also used for security locks in cars, admission control in buildings, credit card payment systems (MasterCard’s contactless PayPass and Chase’s blink card) and, it seems eventually for the NYC subway pass system.
Of course, the most famous runner in this year’s field of 38,368 starters was the 1999-2005 Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong. Sunday morning’s television coverage followed the elite men’s and women’s runners and had one “Lance cam” fixed on Armstrong throughout the race.
I made my way to Central Park, near the 26 mile mark, to cheer on the finishers.
The crowd was in fine form, cheering away, and shouting encouragement by name to the runners who had identification emblazoned on their shirts. Go, “Mr. Awesome”!
I had just missed the winners by the time I arrived, but then came the announcement over the loudspeaker. Lance Armstrong had entered the park! An audible buzz of excitement shot through the crowd. Minutes went by, and then I heard the distant rumbling cheer. Closer, closer…
There he is…
…and there he goes.
I stayed on for an hour more, to cheer on the rest of the field, most of whom looked remarkably spry, for having just run 26 miles.
Jeļena Prokopčuka of Latvia repeated her 2005 NYC Marathon win in 2:25:05. Marílson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil won the male race in a time of 2:09:58, becoming the first winner from South America. (Armstrong finished 856th with a time of 2:59:36 in his first marathon.)
This year’s race had 37,954 finishers, the most ever — representing a 98.9% completion rate. Phenomonal.
On the way out to Queens this morning, the normally sleepy crowd on the 7 train roused as we passed Shea Stadium, and audible grumbles over the Mets’ thwarted World Series dreams filled the car. Ah, disappointment is a bitter, bitter pill. Would be nice to bring home one more title before the New Mets Ballpark opens in 2009. 1986 feels like a very long time ago.
The Cardinals, who eliminated the Mets, ended up taking the Series in five games.
South Ferry is among the oldest ports in North America. It is named not for its geographic location, but for the landing of the erstwhile South Street Ferry which used to cross the eastern part of New York Harbor to transport passengers to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. It was part of a fleet that included the Hamilton Ferry, the Wall Street Ferry, and the most famous Fulton Ferry, which ran between Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Fulton Streets during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today, of course, it’s the entry point for the Staten Island Ferry. After racing through an early dinner at Thai Son with J in Chinatown, I met SYB, HYB and AB there, I hadn’t been on the Ferry in years, certainly not since the $201 million Whitehall Terminal opened in February 2005, about $50 million over budget. Construction began in late 2000 and was slated for completion in 2003, but financial and legal troubles (including subcontractor charges of bribery) may have contributed to the two-year opening delay. The space was designed by Schwartz Architects, the New York City firm that was unanimously selected for the project from an international design competition held in 1992. At about 19,000 square feet, the new terminal is approximately twice the size of the original, and features five new escalators and a 75-foot-tall, glass-enclosed entry hall with panoramic views of the downtown Manhattan skyline and waterfront. For the first time, the connection to the IRT South Ferry subway entrance is now directly inside the ferry terminal. The Whitehall/BMT subway entrance remains across the street, but eventually will connect once the renovations are complete.
The old Whitehall Terminal (built in 1907 and expanded in 1954) was gutted by fire in 1991.
At precisely 6:15PM, we hopped the “John F. Kennedy” Ferry to St. George, one of the two Kennedy Class boats still in operation. (We took the other, the Governor Herbert H. Lehman, on the return to Manhattan.) These four-engined boats were the first diesel-powered ferries to enter the fleet, in 1965. [That's for you, HYB.] The boats have a capacity of 3,500 passengers and up to 40 vehicles – though due to security concerns, cars haven’t been permitted aboard since 2001. Since 2005, the Ferry has added three larger, more powerful Molinari Class boats to the fleet (pictured below in the St. George Terminal): the Guy V. Molinari, the Sen. John J. Marchi, and the Spirit of America (which originally was to be named “The September 11th.” Wise choice.)
The 25 minute, 5.2 mile ride is free. New York City has owned and operated the Ferry since 1905, charging at that time 5 cents for a ride aboard the coal burning steam ferries. The nickel fare remained in effect until 1975, when the charge became 25 cents for a round trip (collected in Manhattan). I recall paying that quarter until the next round of increases doubled the fare to 50 cents in 1990, before it was eliminated altogether in 1997 with Giuliani’s “One City, One Fare” program, which also rid the city of the two fare zones between NYC subways and buses.
After a flash rainstorm earlier in the day put our plans in jeopardy, it ended up to be cool, clear night for minor league baseball. Tonight the Staten Island Yankees were playing the Hudson Valley Renegades at the Ballpark at St. George Station (now: Richmond County Bank Ballpark.) The stadium, located just steps from the ferry terminal, was designed by HOK Sport — the same architectural firm that designed Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Jacobs Field. The ballpark seats 6,886 for baseball, and offers stunning views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the river traffic just beyond the outfield wall.
The game itself wasn’t all that interesting, despite being interspersed with minor league baseball hokiness like toddler mattress races, water balloon tosses and “Chicken Dance” dance-offs. We left after the sixth inning, missing the Yankees’ sweep of the Renegades and the post-game fireworks.
Despite it being “Merengue Night,” there was precious little evidence of merengue… though the ushers were wearing sombreros from Chevy’s Fresh Mex.
Coincidentally, The Staten Island Yankees also defeated the Hudson Valley Renegades in their very first game at RCCB in late June 2001.
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