NYC Marathon: The perfect spot in East Harlem

Noah Hopkins, of Colorado, supports the athletes of the Nov. 7, 2010 New York City Marathon and dances with the crowd on 5th Avenue in East Harlem, New York. Photo by Emily Canal.

Perched on the stairs leading to her apartment, Gaby DeVeaux and her companions searched for their friend who was completing the 21st mile of the marathon in East Harlem yesterday.

“It’s a special kind of party in Harlem,” said Gaby DeVeaux, 26, a Harlem resident. “It’s the perfect place to watch the most inspiring event in New York City.”

From the stoop of Gaby’s apartment on 5th Avenue, the group of nine joined the neighborhood in cheering. A stereo blasted tunes from across the street while the friends repeated lyrics and jived to the pop hits.

“It’s the best local spot,” said Liz Baylad, 27, of the West Village. “There is a great D.J. and we are only four miles from the finish.”

DeVeaux kept going inside the apartment building. and coming out with blue Solo cups which she handed to the group clad in warm clothes and shirts with their friend’s picture.

“It’s a great place to cheer,” DeVeaux said, in between shouts to the athletes. “They are starting to loose strength and need a lot of motivation.”

She added that her block had a great party this year, acknowledging the sound system across the street and the youth reparatory theatre with a stage on the corner. IMPACT, the youth performers based in Harlem, recited inspirational poetry, sang songs and executed dance numbers for the crowd.

Michael Ari Braun said he and his friends gather frequently to watch their friend compete in marathons. The group has traveled from places as far as New Zealand and Ohio.

“We are the cheering crew,” said Braun, 27, of New Jersey. “We watch every race within reason.”

The group had one of the best views of the runners on the block. As the police added wooden barricades to keep the people out of the street, the group enjoyed the show without the crowded feeling.

DeVeaux said this year had a better turnout than last year. She said the streets of East Harlem were close to empty and she was one of the only supporters.

“It was just me out here,” DeVeaux said. “Now my friends are here and it’s more fun.”