NYC Marathon: A cheerleader in Central Park

Laurie Perlberg jumped up and down and clapped her hands as runners in the New York City Marathon breezed past her on the east side of Manhattan’s Central Park, near The Boathouse Café, yesterday.

“Good job!” she screamed, at the line of svelte athletes thumping, one foot in front of the other, across the pavement. “Good job, guys. Just a couple of miles to go! Hang in there!” she yelled.

Perlberg, 55, was stationed near the course’s 24-mile marker just two miles from the finish line.

“At this point you are delirious,” Perlman said sympathetically. “Your legs are really, really hurting now.”

Perlberg knows that burning feeling well. She ran the New York City marathon in 2007 and 2008. Her best time — 4 hours and 38 minutes — was not fast enough to qualify for the race this year.

She eyed the street, yearning to join the stampede of runners. Perlberg would have blended right in. She is petite and physically fit. Her brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She was wearing sneakers and a jacket that said, “I finished what I started” from the 2007 New York City Marathon.

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Although the athlete in Perlberg is apparent, she looked just as happy cheering on her 26-year-old son, Michael, in his second attempt to complete the marathon in less than three hours, and the 40,000 other runners.

“Hang in there!” she yelled at a man in red who clutched his side and slowed down. “This is what you trained for! You are almost done. You can celebrate soon!” she said cheerfully.

At that, the discouraged runner picked up his pace.

Perlberg was full of encouragement — she knows what it’s like on the flip side.

“You have to think, if you are getting tired, you go to the side of the road to hear the crowds,” she said, smiling at the hoards of cheerleaders on the sidelines. “The crowds in New York are so awesome.”

“People in New York bring out the best in you. It’s so inspiring. After giving birth, running the New York City Marathon is the best thing I’ve done,” she said.

Perlberg started running in her 40s. She said Michael and her oldest daughter Justine inspired her.

“It was hard,” she said. “My first comment to my son was, ‘I get tired after I run a block.’ ”

Perlberg has since completed 6 marathons — the two in New York City, two in New Jersey, one in Philadelphia and one Marine Corps course. She has run a handful of half-marathons, as well.

When her son Michael, dressed in bright orange, flashed by, Perlberg screamed his name, waved ferociously and chuckled when he smiled back at her.

As Michael ran out of sight, Perlberg took in the scene in front of her: families, coaches, boyfriends and girlfriends screamed with pride for loved ones and strangers on the course.

She turned around with tears in her eyes.

“I get emotional,” she said. “You just are very moved by humanity.”


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