Nostalgic: Paonia resident enjoys running through old stomping grounds in NYC Marathon
Kevin O’Brien uses the New York City Marathon as a way to connect with his past.
The 52-year-old Paonia resident finished the Nov. 7 marathon 989th out of the 45,350 runners who crossed the finish line, turning in a time of 3 hours, 59 seconds.
“There were a lot of things that went right in this race,” O’Brien said. “I was really happy with how it turned out.”
O’Brien is from New Jersey, and has run the past three New York City marathons. He said it’s a nostalgic feeling winding through the five boroughs of New York City.
“I know I have family that originally settled throughout all the neighborhoods we ran through,” O’Brien said. “It’s an amazing experience running through a city I know really well.”
O’Brien was in the first wave of runners and found himself on the subway at 4:15 a.m. He made it to the starting line by 5:30 a.m., and waited three hours for the 9:40 starting gun.
The 26.2-mile journey begins on Staten Island and crosses the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into the Dyker Heights area of Brooklyn.
Crossing the first bridge gave O’Brien one of his most memorable moments of the 2010 race.
“Our group was offset by the elite men, and about two minutes into the race, 40 of the greatest marathon runners ran right by me,” O’Brien said. “You could hear the cheers coming towards me, and I didn’t know what it was, and I looked and could see the momentum of the pack.
“It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen, and I was laughing and thinking I was just passed by some of the best runners in the world.”
Once in Brooklyn, the environment of the marathon helps the runners.
“You make it into Brooklyn and it’s like an unbelievable block party,” O’Brien said. “There is a band on every block and about two million spectators.”
The race crosses from Brooklyn over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens for the 14th and 15th miles.
The highlight of the race for many runners is crossing the Queensboro Bridge from Queens into Manhattan.
“You hit the top of the bridge and you can hear the crowd in Manhattan,” O’Brien said. “There are 150,000 people waiting and you have to be careful because your adrenaline skyrockets and you want to go faster, but you still have about 10 miles to go.”
The race continues into the Bronx for mile 20 before crossing the Madison Avenue Bridge for the final stretch down Fifth Avenue.
The race finishes with two miles in Central Park.
“It really is a great route,” O’Brien said. “I got a good start and got in at three hours and I was just thrilled.”
O’Brien ran track in high school and has been active his entire life, but didn’t begin running marathons until five years ago.
The New York City Marathon was the fifth for O’Brien, who has also run the Boston Marathon and Colorado Marathon.
“Distance running is such a shared experience,” O’Brien said. “It’s a really great community and I never thought I’d be able to run in something like the New York City Marathon.”
O’Brien is a teacher for visually impaired students in Montrose and Delta counties, and hopes to someday run all the World Marathon Majors.
He’s already knocked two off the list with Boston and New York, but would have to compete in Chicago, Berlin and London to complete the five majors.
“This was the fifth marathon and the best one so far,” O’Brien said. “I don’t run too many in a year because it’s a tall order.”