Posted by: Joe English | November 1, 2008

Races: Champions inspire runners at the New York City Marathon Expo

Constantina Tomscu-Dita with fan Adriana

Constantina Tomscu-Dita with fan Adriana

NEW YORK — As I first looked back at my visit to the New York City Marathon Expo today, I was feeling a little underwhelmed. The Expo, held in the Javitz Center on the West side of Manhattan, should be one of the largest marathon expos around. It is the anchor point for the largest marathon in the world after all.

But the Marathon Expo was on its face fairly similar to most of the other large marathon expos. There was plenty of gear on display from the top running apparel brands and you could sign up to run races in countries as far away as South Africa and as appealing as Jamaica. You could sample new foods, try out a massage stick and even have your picture taken and placed into a post-card to make it look like you were in Times Square.

And you could buy literally anything with a New York City Marathon logo on it. From baby bibs to under-clothing, they had a logo-ed version of it in the back half of the hall that was dedicated to official merchandise.

Put together, all of this was not unlike the expos at races like the Chicago or Boston Marathons.

On another level, this marathon expo was quite unique. There was a special energy here today as runners from around the world mingled with each other and with an assortment of running legends, present and past.

Peter Reid and Tim DeBoom

Peter Reid and Tim DeBoom

At one point, for example, I walked up to the PowerBar both and happened upon not one, but two, Ironman World Champions posing for pictures with runners. Peter Reid and Tim DeBoom happily smiled at me for a picture as well. (Photos coming soon)

Former marathon world record holder Steve Jones was signing autographs, as were Bart Yasso of Runner’s World Fame, Katherine Switzer of Boston Marathon Fame, soccer great Brandi Chastain, and Olympian’s Meb Keflezgihi and Brian Sell.

Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was watching a Romanian runner named Adriana, wait for the newly crowned Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist to appear in a small booth to sign autographs. Adriana and her husband were the only people waiting when the scheduled time rolled around for the appearance and when the diminutive Constantina Tomescu-Dita, also from Romania, sat down beind the table to sign her autographs she broke out into a broad smile as she and Adriana spoke Romanian together.

After the interaction, Adriana told me that it had been exciting to sit down and speak to the Olympic Champion so informally. “What an honor,” she gushed.

So while the backdrop of the expo may have been a little bit like a shopping mall, the interactions were inspiring. As runners get set for their big day tomorrow, many came away with heart-warming moments that they will cherish as they brushed paths with some of the biggest names in the sport. Those moments will be with them tomorrow in the late miles of their races and maybe they’ll dig them out if they need a little encouragement to get them through.

Tomorrow: live coverage from New York City and the ING New York City Marathon. Check back here throughout the day for live updates from the race, results and photos after the event.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Managing Editor, Running Advice and News


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