Star Struck

So much has happened since the last time I wrote. The days have so completely packed with jobs, tasks, going from one place to another that it’s been hard to find the time to sit still to tell you about what’s been going on this past week. I’ve been serving double duty–as a writer, editor, and manager of a special (weekday) email sent out to journalists and our other friends in the media, and as an odds-and-ends member of the professional athlete support crew.

I’ve been a permanent fixture in our media center at Tavern on the Green all week, attending every news conference, feverishly taking notes, assigning stories to reporters, editing copy, and working with our web team back at NYRR headquarters to get the email sent. As I walked to and from Tavern, I witnessed the birth and growth of the finish line–one day the Fred Lebow statue appeared; the next day there were flowers at his feet; the next day the jumbotron appeared; and the next day the colorful flags of the many nations billowed in the wind, signaling the finish of the Continental Airlines International Friendship Run; and, although I’ve seen it all happen before, it still amazes me how awesome it is. It’s this week and these next couple of days that make all of the hard work so worthwhile, and seeing the physical (and metaphoric) monuments we construct to salute all 39,000 marathoners makes me proud to wear the bright orange ING New York City Marathon jacket and identify myself as an NYRR staff member.

This week, I’ve spoken to several legends of our sport–from Grete Waitz to Bill Rodgers to Tegla Loroupe. I’ve seen the stars of today: I’ve waved to Kurt Fearnley as he wheeled past me in the hallway of the headquarter hotel; I’ve washed my hands next to the always friendly and gracious Deena Kastor; I was asked by Abdi whether he should shave or keep his new facial hair (I told him to keep it); I escorted Lornah Kiplagat to the United Nations Plaza, where she accepted the Abebe Bikila award; and I had the pleasure of eating pizza with a handsome trio of Midwest gentlemen–Nate Jenkins, Luke Humphrey, and Brian Sell. When the waiter forgot to bring me the glass of wine I ordered, Nate was the first to perk up and motion to the waiter, “We have to make sure the lady at the table is happy,” he said earnestly. Blush! Sigh!

Without realizing what I was in for, I stumbled out of bed at 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning to meet a friend (another member of the pro athlete crew) for a run before a 7:30 a.m. meeting. As I lumbered toward the lobby of the Hilton, I wasn’t surprised to see Susan Loken, past champion of the More Marathon and one of the most optimistic, warm, and cheerful women I’ve ever met (my friend Brett has coached Susan), but was very surprised and intimidated to see Constantina Tomescu-Dita standing with our crew, dressed to run. As we jogged toward the park, I formulated a plan to duck into nearby bushes once Constantina decided to lower the hammer. But she was merciful and stayed with the group, and I didn’t really contemplate what a once-in-a-lifetime experience it probably was to run two steps behind the Olympic marathon gold medalist. Once we reached the Resevoir on the West side, I shuffled off to make it to my meeting on time (Brett hung in, and apparently that’s when the pace picked up).

It’s been a star-studded week, and tomorrow, as I help load the professional athlete buses that will depart for Fort Wadsworth, I’ll get to see some of the biggest talent in the sport sitting together, chatting as friends before the start cannon goes off and they become competitors. I will smile and wish them all the best before the entire city welcomes and embraces them.

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