Liz Robbins Writes the Marathon

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Immediately after running 26.2 miles through five boroughs, egged on by roughly two million spectators, runners in the New York City marathon often experience a real low. Their legs are so wobbly they can barely walk, their brains are fried from the mental exertion of finishing the race, they have cramps, and they can’t find their loved ones who are waiting for them at the finish line.

So, why do people do it? That’s what fascinates New York Times reporter Liz Robbins, author of “A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York.” In the book Robbins paints a portrait of the people who run the race, and the New York neighborhoods where they run.

At a slide lecture last night at the Mid-Manhattan Library, Robbins invited the handful of marathon runners in the crowd to describe exactly why they run the marathon.

Tucker Andersen, 67, has run 33 marathons and got into it for health reasons. In 1973 he was working a desk job, gaining weight, and his blood pressure was skyrocketing. He finally decided he had to do something, so he began running.

Andersen, who appears in “A Race Like No Other,” initially ran marathons to improve his health, but his reasons for staying the course in the New York City Marathon are varied.

“This is a great way—actually the best way—to see New York,” he said. “Plus, this isn’t just about New York coming together, this is about the whole world coming together.”

Others run the marathon to prove they can beat physical disabilities. Six years ago Michelle Edery, 32, was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disease and was left in a wheelchair. She rejected the drugs her doctors recommended and overcame her chronic pain with exercise.

“I became a gym rat,” she said. She eventually taught herself to walk and finally began running a couple years ago.

Edery won’t be running this year’s marathon due to an injury, but she plans on volunteering at the race. “My absolute dream is to run the marathon and to do it for a charity for people with my disease,” she said.

Robbins is no stranger to stories like Edery’s and Andersen’s. She encountered plenty of stories like theirs when researching and writing the book, which proved to take marathon effort of its own. Robbins took only one day off when completing the first draft in the four months immediately following the 2007 New York City Marathon. She turned in her final draft another month later, the day before the Boston marathon.

“Other people run the marathon,” she said. “I didn’t run the marathon. I wrote it.”

As a sports reporter Robbins has also covered the NBA, the U.S. Open and the Olympics. So why did she choose to write the marathon?

“There is absolutely no other event like the Marathon for tapping into the humanity and the human psyche,” Robbins said.

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