Why the Final Runners in All Races Get Rock-Star Treatment from Race Director Peter Ciaccia
In my role as president of events at New York Road Runners and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon, I get to be part of a number of inspiring, emotional, and just plain cool moments at our races. And no moment is cooler than greeting our runners as they cross the finish line.
Whether it is the first runner to break the tape at one of our weekly races or the final finisher of the TCS New York City Marathon, the feelings of accomplishment and celebration are always there. Accomplishment because it takes immensely hard work for this organization to produce successful events; and celebration because all of us—staff, volunteers, city agencies, and runners—did it together.
The marathon has a million stories. A million ways it moves you. For me, I feel a connection with each runner as they toe the line on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Knowing how much commitment it takes to train and how hard it is to run 26.2 miles, I want them to have a once in a lifetime experience. I want them to know we truly care. I want to say thank you to each of them for being part of this day. And that is why I stay at the finish line in Central Park and wait for them all to arrive, no matter how late.
Last year, something really special happened shortly before 7 p.m. The professional runners were gathering at their celebratory dinner, an event I usually try to make a brief appearance at, and just before the opening toast, I received a call from our runner sweep team informing me that the last runner was expected to cross the finish line at approximately 8 p.m.
I excused myself, letting our guests know why I needed to make my way back to Central Park. After all, this particular runner was out on the course for more than 10 hours (using sidewalks at this point) and deserved as much a special finish as our professional runners. So off I ran to Central Park to await the runner's arrival and join some of our late-night-owl team members (pictured below).
As it turned out, this final runner, Jonathan Mendes, a 96-year-old former Marine, came in close to two hours later, winding up being the oldest unofficial finisher in the New York City Marathon history. (His arrival even got picked up by the press.)
After the race, I found out that many of the pros thought the idea of waiting for these final runners was one of the coolest things to happen at an event of this magnitude. A lot of them felt a strong connection to the runners who work, literally all day, to get to the finish line.
So this year, we have invited some of our professional field to join us in the park at these “after-hours victory celebrations.” You never know who may show up, but just imagine how incredible it would be for one of our final finishers to have their medal draped around their neck from one of the top runners in the world. Now, that is a once in a lifetime experience!
Celebrating with all our finishers is what moves me.
What about the TCS New York City Marathon experience moves you? Share your story by uploading a video using #movedme and #TCSNYCMarathon to your social media channels.