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My View: Diversity triumphs in the NYC Marathon

By Michael Silverman

“I made it, Dad!”

My younger daughter, Jessica, was very excited. She had just been entered the New York City Marathon. No, she did not qualify by meeting the strict entry standards (3 hours 15 minutes for her age group). She got in by being picked in a drawing. Only about one in six win this lottery, but it allows many thousands to get the thrill of a lifetime.

The New York City Marathon, run on the first Sunday in November, is arguably the greatest single-day international event anywhere. The Summer Olympics had 11,238 athletes from 207 nations in 2016, but that took two weeks. On Nov. 4, almost 53,000 people from 139 countries competed in the Big Apple. By comparison, the much older and similarly prestigious Boston Marathon had about 30,000 participants last April.

My wife and I, along with our daughter and her husband, headed to New York. We stayed in the Financial District, close by the ferry terminal, since the race would begin on Staten Island. Runners would go through all five boroughs, ending in Central Park. We could follow our daughter’s progress with an app on my wife’s phone.

The weather cooperated beautifully. It was sunny, temperature in the low 50s, with little wind. Perfect for a marathon.

Well over a million spectators lined the route. Bands played along the way. People held up signs, some quite amusing. My favorite was “I trained for months … to hold up this sign.”

Many runners had their name on their shirt for easy identification. Some wore uniforms. Superheroes were popular. I watched Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Thor trot by. There was a Lady Liberty.

A prize of $100,000 goes to first place in both the men’s and women’s categories. But besides the money, many runners are sponsored. Last year, about $35.5 million was raised for various charities.

We caught up with my daughter at First Avenue and 75th Street. Thanks to her smartwatch, she knew where to look for us, and waved as she hustled by.

Runners must be 18 or older to enter the marathon, but there is no age limit. Near our daughter we saw a white-haired woman. Checking the age categories later, we learned that she was 88 years old yet beat over half the field.

We hustled over to Central Park and found a good vantage point on a grassy hilltop about two miles from the finish. Everyone was cheering, urging on the runners. A family from Sweden next to us screamed loudly and waved small Swedish flags when their family member went past. About 45 percent of the marathoners were from outside the United States.

I noticed many types of distinctive headwear: a woman wearing a hijab; a young man with a yarmulke; a bearded man in a Sikh turban. Many women wore pink caps.

All manner of people whisked by. New York is so international, home to so many languages, skin colors, religions. You see the world of people everywhere — on the streets, in the parks, while walking the High Line, on the subway, or in one of the many world-class museums. It is thrilling to be part of this cavalcade of humanity.

Ultimately, runners from Ethiopia and Kenya won the race. My daughter finished in the top half, and was exhilarated.

I think, though, that the real winners were all of humanity in its wonderful diversity, competing together, seeking a common goal in peace and harmony. We all are more alike than different, and we are all part of that bigger race — the human race.

Michael Silverman of Amherst calls New York City a cavalcade of humanity.

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