At Mile 7, an older woman read the shirts as they sped past.
“Go Juan! Go Michael! Go David! Go Julio! Go…Peru!”
Two blocks south, a stout policewoman stood atop the raised median of Fourth Avenue, her uniform a blue-black silhouette against a brown Best Western wall.
Her hands swayed from waist- to chest-level as she issued a slow and steady clap for the droves streaming past on either side.
One-hundred or so feet east, two kids put to use a barricaded side street, playing pidgin cricket with a racquetball and handwritten signs reading, “Let’s Go Mexico!”
A band blared alternative rock at 15th Street. Two speakers and an iPod DJ pumped out “Eye of the Tiger” beneath the Gowanus Expressway overpass. A group of mustachio’ed men (and one mustache-less woman) lofted lyrics about running over a twangy bed of banjo and acoustic guitar in front of a gargantuan apartment complex at 23rd Street. A solo pianist did her best Joni Mitchell and offered “FREE DONUTS!” on a gas station sidewalk.
A shirtless couple leaned from a window, their pale bodies shoulder deep in the air outside their fourth-floor pre-war walk-up.
The pros flew down the middle lane of northbound Fourth Avenue, all vacant stares and sinew.
The pack widened to include the older, the heavier, the taller, the slower, the spandexed couples, the muscle-bound men bearing NYPD insignia, the frizzy-wigged Troy Polamalu impersonators and sweaty solo strivers.
The New York City Marathon represents sport at its best.
Everyone who attends wins the opportunity to forget about Monday, rent, politics, income inequality, gentrification and all the realities of life in a complicated, crowded place. For a few hours, what matters most is will power, effort and dedication.
What matters, matters.