Native New Yorkers Abbie Haklay, 82, and his wife Ilene have been on the sidelines of the New York City Marathon every year since they first moved to East 73rd Street in 1997.
Since 11 a.m. this Sunday, the Haklays were on the corner of First Avenue and 67th Street, behind the cluster of charged spectators that fringe the 17th mile of the marathon running through the Upper East Side.
“There’s a certain feeling of good will,” said Ilene. “And you know what I think? The people who are watching are having more fun than the people who are running.”
The Haklays usually rise early to avoid congestion and cheer runners on as they come down the Queensboro Bridge and enter Manhattan, but this year the couple was waiting for Ilene’s sister, Joan Phillips, and her husband Arthur to join in on the fun.
“It’s the same every year,” said Abbie, referring to the crowd’s fiery energy. “Everybody’s enjoying the same thing at the same time.”
The Haklays remained by the newly installed bike lane in the neighborhood – a calmer scene compared to the frenzy displayed by spectators just a few feet ahead. Despite chilly weather, viewers came out in droves, bundled up in scarves, gloves and even beanies that the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts was handing out for free.
The scene on First Avenue was in complete contrast to last year, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg and marathon organizers cancelled the race to concentrate resources on the city’s recovery after super storm Sandy.
While the Haklays agreed with the city’s decision to call off the 2012 marathon, Arthur Phillips thought carrying on with it could have sparked positive energy throughout the city.
“When you read about [last year’s cancellation], all the practical reasons are correct,” said Phillips,
“But then again, would it have helped the spirit of the city or the people?”
Super storm Sandy wasn’t the only tragedy that spectators and participants were reminded of. Memories of the Boston Marathon bombings in April were also in the air
As a symbol of support, the Boston Marathon’s yellow line ran alongside the familiar blue line that guides runners along their trek in New York.
In light of the tragedy earlier this year, the NYPD upped its security with extra resources, such as camera surveillance, radiation detectors and K-9 dogs with explosive-detection capabilities.
Phillips said some of the cheer was for April’s runners, too. For him, “the sadness, pain and sheer horror” of Boston is “still strong.”
“All of that is frightening to think about,” he said. “But you can’t let it take you down. You have to rise above it.”
“You can’t help but to cheer on all these people that have worked so hard over the years to put themselves in the condition to [run],” he said,
“It’s a great New York tradition.”