Wednesday, November 5, 2008

todd's report on running with marshall ulrich: a guest post

as i mention in my earlier post, i was totally surprised to find my good friend todd among the runners with marshall as he finished his cross-country trek at city hall! that followed on the heels of another surprise, 48 hours earlier, at fort wadsworth! todd and i ran into each other at security as we made our way to the athletes village. that, too, was a huge surprise since i hadn't seen todd since the catskill mountain relay last august.

todd and i have run a few races together over the years. most recently todd posted a great race report on the boston marathon - in which we ran practically the entire first half together. this time around, it's not about a race, but rather an incredible experience - namely sharing miles with an incredible ultrarunner, marshall ulrich, as he set a masters and grand masters record for the trans-america crossing!

I’ll start off by saying that I can’t possibly put the experience into words. But I’ll immediately follow that up by saying "I’ll try."

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 will be an historic day in politics for everyone, including me. But the gravity of yesterday’s election results will pale in comparison to what I experienced with a small group of runners in New York City.

We began assembling shortly before 2:00pm at the corner of Riverside Drive and 165th St, just south of the George Washington Bridge on New York’s Manhattan Island. As we started to recognize and realize that we were all there for the same purpose, introductions were called for, and before we knew it, a cohesiveness had formed.

What was this common purpose, you ask?

Answer: We were all there to run with Marshall – Marshall Ulrich, that is. Marsh (as his friends call him) was approaching the G.W. Bridge, we were told, and was now only about 15 miles from the completion of a 52-day epic journey, running across the country. When Marshall reached our location, we would form his human motorcade, shepherding him through the streets of New York as he got closer and closer to his Nirvana – the conclusion of his run in City Hall Park, all the way downtown.

There were nine runners in all, following Marshall like mice trailing behind the Pied Piper.
There was Melissa from Edgewater, NJ, our connection to the NEHST film crew, from whom we got updates as Marshall neared our location.

Camille, the tall 14-year old aspiring actress, whose profile had tipped her off to this run.

Ira, the CIO for the United Way wearing his "Live United" shirt, and talking with conviction yet compassion about his politics.

Jose, the ultra runner, whose warm enthusiasm for life and running touched us all.

Sam, the ever-so-friendly guy who flew in from Miami for this historic run, and who was clearly smelling the roses every step of the way.

Theresa, the singer and fashion industry girl, originally from an upstate city so small that she thought no one would have heard of it.

Irene, a true gamer, who despite not having run long, decided she would make it all the way to City Hall tonight, even if she needed a little help from the NYC subway system. ;)

And yours truly, the spiritual leader, and a gamer just like all the rest of them, ready to see Marshall across the finish line 11 miles south, despite having run the NY City Marathon only two days prior.

Together as we were for over two hours awaiting Marshall’s arrival, we quickly became "family." And for over two more hours running alongside him, Marshall became like family, too. He graced us with his friendliness and humility. He talked admiringly of the effort that it must have taken Frank Giannino to make the same crossing in only 46 days in 1980. And he told us of his gratefulness for being able to put one foot in front of the other, week after week, day after day. He was a true gentleman.

We watched Marshall run, and we marveled. At times, it appeared that his legs were stronger and fresher than any of ours as he set what seemed like a sub 10-minute pace. The only thing that slowed Marshall from his appointment with destiny at City Hall were the traffic lights and pedestrians along the way. He followed the film crew van with a natural ease as we shimmied down Broadway, through Soho, then Chinatown, and suddenly only blocks away from history.

The scene at the steps of City Hall was one for the ages. There was much rejoicing. He ran solo with his wife Heather and loyal friend Mark for the last 100 yards or so. Upon reaching the park gates, Marsh was greeted by his hero Frank Giannino, and by his friend and constant supporter Betsy Magee. We milled around with all the support team and well-wishers for what seemed like forever. Nobody wanted to leave. But in the end, when we left City Hall Park, we didn’t really leave at all. For the memories of this evening will remain with us forever and ever. For two hours, we were with Marshall, yet also with each other.

The night was short, but the bonds will last a lifetime and more……

more pictures from marshall finishing the run!


Pam said...

Hey Todd, Pam here (we met at Catskill Relay). Nice rr. What a great thing to do and just two days after NY. Very cool.

TeeJay said...

Hey Pam :)

Thanks. Tuesday night was phenomenal. Frank being a part of it, and it added to the specialness of it all..


Sarah Morr said...

What an amazing experience!! I'm so glad you got to be a part of that. How long was Marsh running for? Cross country??

CTmarathoner said...

Todd-(teejay)--great report and photos! You will always remember the experience of running the last part of marshall's USARun -Sounds like it was very emotional for all the runners involved. BTW, congrats on NYCM ---can't believe you ran 12 miles 2 days after, but you can put that in perspective if Marshall running 59 miles a day:)))