I hadn’t planned to watch the New York City Marathon but was caught on the far side of Bedford Avenue, separated from my house by the runners, and fortunately so. Having only watched the highly competitive runners before, those at the front of the pack, rather than the great mass in the middle, I had not realized that the marathon is an allegory: The elites, beautiful as they are with long strides and holy focus, are an outlying fringe, like Broadway actors introducing a community theatre. Everyone else is — everyone else.
Passing Bedford’s black families barbecuing and flag-waving Mexicans and black-garbed Hasids orbiting white balloon-festooned cribs were a few good runners and many, many more not-good runners. Laboring runners with awkward gaits; even a few chubby people. A group of blind old men. Flag-emblazoned Europeans incarnating nations for a morning. A man in a loincloth and feathered headdress, and another in a fedora and ankle-length fur coat. Quite a few clown costumes. Tutus. Facepaint. Political messages. Random messages — “Nothing beats Fukushima.” It’s a marathon of humanity’s better, more congenial aspects; and the most common adornment was a placard, hand-lettered, with a runner’s name, because the great marathon crowd tradition is to shout the name of eaching passing runner, to make every participant feel like a star.