Even though the world running community had to sit tight an extra year to celebrate the 50th New York City Marathon, as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
Sunday’s bash in the Big Apple might have only 33,000 or so runners compared to the usual 50,000 due to pandemic restrictions but those two million spectators along the 26.2-mile route through the five boroughs will be just as loud and enthusiastic as ever.
Simply put, this is as much a spectacle as it is an athletic event.
Way back in 1970 the marathon was limited to just four loops around Manhattan’s Central Park. Since 1976, the entire city gets to watch fast and not-so-fast runners go by and offer heartfelt support.
Newtown Township’s Tony Pereira will be running his third NYC and predicts the excitement level will be quite high. The pandemic forced the cancellation of last year’s planned 50th gala, so the anticipation for this year’s makes for a storybook ending.
Right from the very start, with the spectacular views of the New York City skyline from the top of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, this race fosters memories which will last forever.
“Once you get started on the top of the bridge I think it’s a special feeling,’’ said Pereira, 53, in a recent telephone conversation. “You even get to see where the finish line is (in Manhattan) because it’s on the other side of the city. You see the Statue of Liberty and then there are the cheering sections. There’s nothing like running through the five boroughs all at the same time.’’
The return of big marathons such as New York, Boston, Chicago and Berlin signal running – like the rest of society – is on the comeback trail.
“This is a huge event for the city of New York,” Pereira said. “New York has taken a beating for a lot of different things, so this is actually big news for the city. This is probably the biggest event since 2019 when they last had it.’’
As mentioned, this will be Pereira’s third NYC and he knows it’s a challenging course, with plenty of bridges, turns and, at times, less than ideal running surfaces. Even so, he hopes to run in the 3:45 range.
Last month Pereira ran Berlin in 3:43, so he’s pretty sure his goal at New York is realistic.
A South Philadelphia native, Pereira attended St. John Neumann High School, where he played soccer, and later graduated from Temple University.
His dad, Jose, started a construction business, J.M. Pereira & Sons, and now Tony and his two brothers, Carl and Rui, run the business and carry on the tradition.
Like all marathons, the ending can be tough. There’s the mythical 20-mile “wall’’ with which to contend and then the closing miles when the old glycogen supply begins to run out.
However, in New York, the pain is somewhat lessened by the big crowds lining the roadway through Central Park cheering the runners on.
“When you reach Central Park it’s just an unbelievable feeling,’’ Pereira said. “When you come out of the Bronx and head south on Fifth Avenue, then about two miles later, you reach Columbus Circle and you’re almost there.’’
Pereira credits his training with the Bucks County Roadrunners for much of his marathon preparation. He’s a regular on the Tuesday night four-mile time trial in Lower Makefield and also is an active participant in the Winter Series races at Tyler State Park.
“If you can run Tyler, you can run anywhere,’’ Pereira said, echoeing a common refrain.
At the NYC starting line on Staten Island the atmosphere will be even more electric than usual.
“They didn’t want to cancel it again,’’ Pereira pointed out. They’ve been doing this for 49 years. I’m sure they have everything down to a tee as far as preparation.’’
Pereira just took up running about six years ago when he noticed he was putting on a little weight. Now he’s making up for lost time.
And what better way to do that than to help runners from all over the world not only celebrate New York’s 50th but the start of the next 50.
Langhorne American Legion Veteran’s Day 5K, 9 a.m., Langhorne. Contact www.runsignup.com