Samatha Romero (left), Elizabeth Guess (center) and Katie Schmelcer (right) held signs and cheered on strangers at the NYC Marathon Sunday night. Photo By Jordyn Rolling
With her hands cupped around her mouth, Samantha Romero stood with a small group of friends and leaned over the barricades belting uplifting words and calling out runners by name.
Like many, Romero, a native of Miami, Fla., stood on the sidelines of the 2015 New York City Marathon on Sunday night near the Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park to lend her support to friends, strangers and her mother.
“She’s in her 50s and killing it,” Romero said. “I’m very excited for her.”
Romero’s mother was one of the 14,326 lottery applicants selected to run in the marathon.
“She started running in her 40s,” Romero said. “She’s never been athletic in her life. She was just inspired by this movement and if someone her age can get up and do that it’s pretty amazing to see.”
Over 80,080 runners applied for the lottery, with only around 18 percent being accepted. Runners could also by submitting previous marathon times that met the marathon’s qualifying standards.
What made this race so special to Romero and her mother is the fact that she had never pushed through a total of 26.2 straight grueling miles before.
“She’s done a bunch of halves and this is her first time,’ she said. “She’s so excited.
Romero’s friend, Elizabeth Guess, was cheering by her side.
“It’s just the most supportive environment you’ll ever find yourself in,” Guess said.
If you didn’t realize the runners names were printed on their chests, you might think Guess knew every participant forging through to the finish line. Her voice carried above the crowd noise, one name after another.
Guess herself recently conquered the Chicago Marathon a few weeks before.
“All of these people have any number of goals, ultimately crossing the finish line, and it’s just an incredible feat,” she said.
A live band performed loudly across the street turned racetrack, encouraging runners as they approached their final destination.
In total, more than 50,000 people from across the world ran, and in their own way, won the NYC Marathon.
Sala Cyril believes that finishing the New York City Marathon is an achievement itself, despite being one of the last placers in the event. Photo by Eugene Y. Santos
A few months ago, school director Sala Cyril, 38, took an opportunity of a lifetime. She would train and run this year’s New York City Marathon for the benefit of her institution, the Little Maroons Childcare Cooperative in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. It was the school’s 10th anniversary, and around $5,000 would be awarded to it as long as Cyril finished the marathon.
With barely any marathon experience under her belt, she trained for only four months.
“I even had a concussion in the last two weeks,” she said. “I wasn’t able to train fully.”
More than the physical training, Cyril of Bedford-Syuyvesant said that she had to train her mind as well to strengthen her endurance.
Today, at around 11:00 am, Cyril found herself in the starting line. She put her game face on. She told herself she would finish the race no matter what.
Eight hours later she crossed the finish line.
“I just really pushed myself to do my best,” she said. “My family went out to support me. My colleagues went as well, so I wanted to show my loved ones that I could finish the race. This is definitely the most intense experience I’ve had in my life so far.”
The marathon, as Cyril put it, was challenging.
“I was slow and I took many bathroom breaks,” she said. “The water and energy stations even malfunctioned so it was hard. It even became discouraging after a while because there were less people cheering me on, so it was a matter of mental strength, too.”
But at the end of the race she was all smiles. She was greeted immediately by her loved ones. She took her hard-earned medal, and grabbed a marathon cape and goodies along the way. The race was officially over.
“I feel really successful and also tired,” she said, as she made her way out of Central Park. “I can’t join the NYC marathon next year as I wasn’t able to participate in the qualifying race for it. I do look forward to running in its 2017 edition, even if I’m not going to raise funds for my school. Next time, I just want to run the whole thing and just enjoy it better. There’s definitely room for improvement in my performance.”
For now, Cyril is happy to fulfill her commitment to Little Maroons. The school, which was established in 2005, aims to “reinforce” African education (ideologies, culture, and history) to black children, as a means of reminding them of their roots and nurturing their love for learning. The money that Cyril was able to raise will go to various educational endeavors, such as school supplies.
Cyril said the marathon gave her a fresher perspective on motherhood, as she felt like an inspiration to her daughters to keep pursuing their dreams no matter what gets in the way. She advised would-be marathoners to “not be afraid of being slow in the race because all you need to succeed are discipline and practice. The goal is to finish the race no matter what.”
Jackie McMahon is all smiles as she anxiously waits in Bay Ridge for her NYPD coworker to run by in today’s New York City Marathon. Photo by Alexandra Zuccaro
Even before the first New York Marathon runner hit the track this morning, NYPD officers could be seen in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn lining the streets with caution tape and blocking off roads with their squad cars. As the crowds started to emerge around 9:30 a.m., additional officers were walking up and down the streets, trying to clear walkways and control the abundant excitement.
But the uniformed officials weren’t the only NYPD attendees at the marathon this morning. Many members of the NYPD were seen running in the race, with their supportive coworkers flocking to the sidelines to cheer them on.
Jackie McMahon, an NYPD employee, was one of these cheerleaders. She was more than happy to get up early to cheer on her comrades.
“I always enjoy watching the marathon,” said McMahon. “I have a sergeant who I work with who is running. I don’t know if I will see her in this huge crowd, but I told her I would be here.”
Once the race was in full swing, McMahon waved and smiled at all the runners who were sporting NYPD shirts “Way to go NYPD!” she shouted.
Along with her NYPD coworkers, McMahon was also very excited to see the handicapped runners, who started trickling in during the early hours of the race. The crowds was sparse , but McMahon makes a special effort each year to see the handicapped participants roll by in their wheelchairs.
“My sister is handicapped, so I just feel very supportive towards the handicapped runners,”she said.
Although McMahon has watched past marathons all around the city, she now loves watching in her Bay Ridge neighborhood. The energy here is different she said.
“It’s not as big of a crowd as you would get in Manhattan, but the energy is very high because they are just starting out,” she said.
In Bay Ridge, the buzz was definitely alive, with runners stopping along the sides to take selfies with the viewers or high-fiving the kids sticking their hands out as they were held over the railing by their parents.
Bay Ridge spectators also made an effort to keep the runners pumped. While marathon runners trudged up the hill on 94th St, a group of locals, including a few NYPD officers, chanted “Welcome to Brooklyn!” Some of the runners waved to the officers and cheerers in response, and used that hype to make it around the upcoming turn onto 4th Avenue.
“There’s a big police presence and it’s exciting,” said McMahon. “It’s what makes it a nice event.”
From the far south side of Williamsburg, under the bridge and all the way to the tip of Greenpoint, this year’s New York City Marathon was one big block party for the trendy neighborhood. Nearly every corner featured a live DJ or indie band performance, and crowds of young, impeccably dressed Brooklynites clustered together mid-day to dance along to the music and support runners.
At certain points, interludes in dances moves were punctuated by the all too familiar pauses to check an iPhone, which were followed by hurried shouts that the runner was nearby. For some spectators, their smartphones served the purpose of tracking their favorite runner.
Steven Schafer. stood curbside on Bedford Avenue and North 10th Street tracking the progress of his girlfriend, who was steadily coming up the avenue, as indicated by a moving blue tag. He had flown in from London that previous Friday to surprise her, and meet with her mother, who flew in from Iowa to cheer her own. They had been excitedly tracking her progress on the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon Mobile App, which detailed not only where the runner was, but also noted her pace in real time throughout the marathon.
“We could watch her run through the neighborhoods this morning over breakfast,” he said. “When she started coming up Bedford Ave we knew we had to find a spot on the sidewalk.”
Some spectators held signs that had one general message of support on one side and a personalized message as their friend or family member breezed by. One group of women hailed down their favorite runner with an iPad mini, the app opened as the runner moved up the block and she stopped briefly to hand off the sweatshirt tied around her waist.
The app is powered by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which became the new partner and title sponsor of the New York Road Runners (NYRR) this past year, after supporting the marathon as a technology consulting partner since 2010. TCS is an Indian multinational IT service, consulting and business solutions company that operates in 46 countries and is one of the biggest companies in India. In a 2015 Forbes “World’s Most Innovative Companies Ranking,” TCS was ranked 64th overall, making it amongst the highest ranked IT companies on the list based on revenues.
But beyond expertise, the partnership between TCS and NYRR runs deep. The company’s CEO, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, “Chandra,” began running later in life, and has run five marathons, according to the NYRR website which proudly proclaims, “He’s one of us.”
The app TCS created allows supporters to track their favorite runners live with splits at the start, every 5 kilometers, at the halfway point and, most importantly, marked the finish.
Kishel John holds a sign and cheers at the 2015 New York City Marathon. Photo by Taisha Henry
Hundreds of 2015 New York City Marathon supporters lined up along 4th avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, which marked the eighth mile of the marathon’s course.
Among the supporters stood Kishel John of Brownsville, Brooklyn. John came to support not only her two friends who were running today, but to cheer for all the runners. John’s friends have both overcome breast cancer, she said as she pointed to her pink bracelet with pink ribbons marked around it, the universal symbol for a breast cancer supporter.
“I just want to be here and see them at a milestone,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen in your life,”
John saw the hard work her friend put into training for the marathon and said she may do the same someday.
“One of my friends started training two years ago, doing mini marathons and half marathons,” she said. “It takes a lot of training and a lot of dedication to sacrifice and participate in this event.”
John believes that participating in the race is more than a fun thing to say you did once, she believes it’s about overcoming situations, gaining the mental and physical preparedness to participate in the marathon.
“I think it’s more than a bucket list, it’s something you see younger people and older people doing,” she said. “It’s just about having a point in your life when you have that mental determination. It’s not about running 20 miles, it’s about preparing yourself for this journey no matter what.”
Among the supporters sat Ricky Dick in his wheelchair cheering on the adaptive athletes who were hand-cycling in the marathon.
Dick, who has from spina bifida, laughed and talked with other spectators while never forgetting to cheer for those passing by. It was his first time attending the marathon, should the weather allow it, he won’t miss another. He said he was happy to see other people with disabilities participate in the race.
“You have to be very athletic to do something like this,” he said. “As someone with a disability, I’m very excited just to see the athletes with a disability do this marathon.”
For Dick, attending the race encouraged him to try a marathon one day, something he was always told to try, but never felt he would do.
Yannis Glyptis, 48, and his two daughters Maria, 13,(left) and Thaila, 12, (right) waited for mother and wife, Marilena to pass by East Harlem to show their support for her first marathon. Photo by Ugonma Ubani-Ebere
As the sun peeked through the clouds in the afternoon, and used green cups littered the streets of East Harlem, many runners who had been running since the early morning, trudged on to finish the New York Marathon. Spectators, families, and friends from every part of New York City and all over the world, aligned the streets with signs and shirts dedicated to their loved ones, encouraging them to finish.
One of the spectators, Yannis Glyptis, 48, a Greece native, now living in Dykers Heights, Brooklyn, waited anxiously for his wife, Marilena Glyptis, 37, to pass through East Harlem at 117th Street and 1st Avenue. His two daughters, Maria,13, and Thaila,12, wore “Mommy Strong” shirts and held signs, as they waited for her.
“My wife has been running for three to four years,”he said. “She has done half marathons, but this is her first time running a marathon, and this is our first marathon as a family.”
Glyptis, who has run half marathons with his wife has always encouraged her as a runner.
“We always carry a sign that says “Mommy Strong” every time she runs,” he said. “Wherever she goes, when ever she runs, we have it.”
This year for her first marathon, Glyptis and his daughters have been following Marilena at every stop possible to encourage her every step of the way.
“We followed her from Brooklyn,” he said. “We did a stop in Queens, here at East Harlem, and now we are headed to the other side of Manhattan to follow her to the finish line.”
Glyptis proudly wore the Greek flag as a cape as people stopped to take pictures of him and his daughters.
“Brooklyn has a big Greek community,” he said. “But New York is the center for all cultures, and this marathon is for everybody because your soul decides what you can do, and what you can accomplish. “
Finally came running down the street. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail with a pink headband, and she wore her “Mommy Strong” shirt to match her daughters. Though she was sweaty, she took her headphones out of her ears, smiled and stopped to take pictures with her family.
“She’s such a good role model, and she sets just a really hard standard for me,”her daughter Maria said. “I really want to run a marathon myself when I grow up, so she is really pushing me to do well myself.”
Asteria Claure, 61, cheers on the New York City Marathon Runners, with a cowbell in one hand and chewable vitamins in the other, as the ran through Harlem. By Astrid Hacker
Wearing a neon vest with the word “coach” plastered across the front, Asteria Claure, 61, cheered on the 2015 New York City Marathon runners for the 12th consecutive year, as they ran through Harlem today. She knew how it felt having run in the marathon for 10 years.
“I was 16-years-old when I started to run, I was a track runner, a sprinter,” she said “When I turned 40 I started to run marathons.”
Claure has attended the marathon, as either a runner or supporter, since 1994. Born and raised in Bolivia, she said she had always loved sports, but none of them resonated with her like track and field.
“Running was the best for me, I learned to challenge myself,” she said. “When I was in basketball I used to get upset when I lost the game, I didn’t like it. I went into track, I was winning, I said it’s going to be on me.”
After graduating from college, Claure spent 20 years in Venezuela running and working as a physical education teacher and coach.
She said that it was a challenge that brought her to New York in 1994. A friend challenged her to run in the marathon and from there she fell in love with the New York City Marathon. She returned to Bolivia in 1995 and was invited to New York once again to take part in the World Champion Masters in Buffalo, N.Y.
“I came to the world champions and then after that I never went back to my country,” Claure said. “When I came to New York, the first thing I did is come to Central Park and look for the runners.”
Claure has since taken part in 15 marathons. She said that while she is still healthy she will continue to run and encourage others to do the same.
“Go Julie, don’t look down, hey, don’t look down,” Claure shouted to one of the runners. “Come on, don’t give it up.”
Armed with a cowbell in one hand, she screamed advice to the runners that were slowed down by leg cramps and encouragement to those weary from the run as they pushed on. This year Claure cheered as a member of the organization New York Road Runners (NYRR) Team for Kids. The organization encourages children to run, and she was there to support the members of the organization that were taking part in the race.
“I don’t just cheer them, I cheer to everybody because I’m a runner, I’m a coach,” she said and then pointed to her head. “Everything is here. If you are able to run 5k you are able to run a marathon, but you have to start training.”
She said that, for her, running is everything. It is her life.
“If I’m going to win it’s on me, if I’m going to lose it’s on me.”
James Johnson, an adaptive athlete, competed in the 2015 New York City Marathon. Photo by Leann Garofolo
“I did it under two hours,” James Johnson, 60, said proudly as he held up his gold medal for the camera. “This was just an uplifting experience.”
The intersection of 72nd St. and Central Park West marked the finish line for racers competing in the wheelchair and Achilles Handcycle divisions of the 2015 New York City Marathon today, and the excitement in the air was palpable. Competitors were reunited with kisses, cheers, and balloons from loved ones as they crossed the finish line into the swarm of people waiting on the other side.
A former electronics technician for the U.S Navy, Johnson of Atlanta, Ga is a disabled veteran who was no stranger to the demands of a marathon, finishing the race with flying colors, as well as two prosthetic legs.
“I did the Marine Corps Marathon last week,” Johnson said. “I race with Paralyzed Veterans Racing Team, as well. It’s pretty much my passion, but I also like helping, like, other vets get involved and kids get involved in the sport.”
According to its website, the Paralyzed Veterans Racing Team assists disabled veterans with rehabilitation through competing at various cycling events and marathons across the country. Johnson is also involved in Achilles International, an organization that provides an environment of community and support to athletes with disabilities.
Johnson noted that prior to getting involved with adaptive sports, he “didn’t do anything but hang out at the bar” as he struggled to adjust to his new life.
But then he discovered adaptive racing.
“You feel good about finishing the race.” Johnson said. “You feel good about your buddies and everybody finishing, everybody’s safe.”
Although Johnson does not adhere to any strict rules to prep himself for race day, he said that he typically makes an effort to eat healthy during the week, avoiding pork and beef while loading up on seafood and turkey products. Hydration is also key.
“I don’t drink during the race. I don’t take any fluids in,” he said. “So I try to stay hydrated up until the race, and you know, a couple days before go a little heavy on the hydration.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of racing to Johnson had been the people and friends who helped to coach, train, and inspire him along the way. As he spoke, he pointed out a handful of people around him who had made a difference in his life as a disabled veteran.
“Ever since I started, they’ve been helping me, coaching me,” he said. “I do go to training camps and I’ve been blessed to go to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
He said it won’t be his last New York City Marathon, and is planning to return.
“Oh, hell to the yeah.” he said, a smile spread across his face. “And the year after, and the year after, and the year after.”
He gazed at the newly acquired medal hanging around his neck.
“This was just simply awesome.” Johnson said of the marathon. “That is all I can tell you.”
Arthur Warren Scullen came to the New York City Marathon with his wife and son to cheer on his sister, cousin, and his wife’s coworker. Photo by Elizabeth Arakelian
Former track runner Arthur Warren Scullin posted up at the intersection of East 138th Street and Alexander Avenue in the South Bronx early Sunday afternoon to cheer on his sister in the New York City Marathon.
“It was always a family thing,” said Scullin of running, a Queens native who now resides in Nassau County. “I was a track runner. My brother was a track runner. [My sister] was a track runner in high school and my father was a track runner.”
As the marathon runners ran toward the 20 mile mark, church bells tolled and families with children in their Sunday best made their way through the crowds. The course runs right in front of the New York Police Department’s 40th Precinct where officers from several departments, including canine and counter terrorism, stood alongside cheering fans. Though traditionally a quieter part of New York City, those exiting the 3rd Avenue – 138 Street subway station were met with the sound of live jazz and cheering as loud as the bright green uniforms worn by volunteers passing out water and bananas to runners.
Like many onlookers, Scullin stood with his wife and son and brought signs: one for his sister, one for his cousin, and one for his wife’s coworker, all of whom were running in the marathon. In previous years Scullin has made his way to Brooklyn and the East Side and West Side to watch. This year, the South Bronx suited him since he works down the street and it provided a different perspective on the race.
“This is a unique point because this is where the runners start hitting the wall,” explained Scullin as a group of male runners jogged past. “The wall is after 18 miles the body starts to break down. The training is not for the first eight miles, it’s for the last eight miles.”
The South Bronx is a difficult part of the marathon because a significant amount of time has elapsed for runners, but the end is not quite in sight yet.
“This is a tough part because you’re far north and you mentally want to get to the Central Park and finish it up,” said Scullin. “The crowd keeps you going through here.”
Scullin is familiar with being part of that cheering crowd since he’s been attending the marathon for years.
“This was always a family tradition,” said Scullin of watching the marathon. “My father always did this. He was always into track because he called it the purest sport.”
Scullin’s father was one of the executive directors of the Catholic Youth Organization in the Brooklyn Dioceses where sports programs are administered and a race has been named after him. Scullin’s father perished in the World Trade Center in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but each year his love of running lives on in his children who see the New York City Marathon not only a family tradition, but an homage to their father.
“My sister dedicates this to him,” said Scullin.