Books | Sports

October 2, 2008

New York City's Greatest Day

When the marathon rolls through town, the five boroughs feel like a land transformed.

Tom Flynn

For the most part things are what they are: Cars get us around, lunch has a leg up on work, and aging quarterbacks go to the Arizona Cardinals to have their love for the game snuffed out. But for one day each year things go on their ear, on the only stage large enough to contain the phenomenon. The surly hug strangers, gridlocked streets become joyous canyons, and a New York minute extends for six hours.

That day is the first Sunday of November and its catalyst is the New York City Marathon. In her book A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York, veteran New York Times sportswriter Liz Robbins sets out to distill the impossible: the spirit of millions of individuals coalescing into running’s single greatest day. Robbins traces the marathon’s transformation from a modest Central Park race under the zealous, paternal guidance of Fred Lebow into today’s five-borough spectacle. Her lens for viewing NYC marathons both past and present is the 2007 running, a race with 39,000+ runners on a perfect New York autumn day. Gelf Magazine talked to Robbins about why running marathons is somewhat crazy, the temptation of the mimosa, and why Marathon Day is the greatest day in New York City. The interview has been edited for clarity. You can hear Robbins and other sportswriters read from and talk about their work at Gelf's free Varsity Letters event on Thursday, December 4, in New York's Lower East Side.

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Article by Tom Flynn

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