The Crush of Celebrity

At this year’s Fifth Avenue Mile, held in NYC on September 22, I didn’t really feel the same intense pressure of last year’s race, since I had so much at stake on that day.  This year it just was about trying to live up to the hype that the article created: Mulligan Mile

So I braced myself to take in the accolades and attention that come with a major feature in the world’s leading running magazine. I didn’t want to live off my press clippings, but I was glad it seemed to be getting so much attention and great reviews from people who have read it. And now I was headed to NYC to the very scene of the epic race.  Goosebumps.

So I could feel the power of celebrity from the minute I approached the NYRR offices to pick up my number on Saturday.  I was out for a run without my phone and had forgotten the exact street number of the comely brownstone.  So once I got into the 80s I just randomly asked a guy walking down the street ( ok, he had on a Brooklyn Half-Marathon shirt) and he gave me the location. I am quite sure that’s how Brad Pitt finds things when he’s without his phone, too.   Although the phone that Brad Pitt forgets is the new IPhone 5S, which I watched people line up for all weekend at 59th St. Apple Store, just a short Jenny Simpson breakaway distance from the finish line of The Fifth Avenue Mile.

Fly, Jenny, Fly

And I was right. I had been in the NYRR offices no more than 80 seconds (my 1Q split time in Sunday’s race—see how I slipped that in there?) and it happened.  “I know you!,” gushed the cheerful gray-haired lady at the registration table.

OK. Well here it comes.  I’m a modest man, but yes I asked for it. When you bare your soul and inspire runners with an article like The Mulligan Mile, you just have to expect to get some attention. Enjoy it, I told myself.

I’d probably have to hear her divorce story, or how she struggles with weight or turning 50.  You know, the kind of heart-warming and touching emails I’ve been getting from total strangers over the past few weeks that the article came out.  It might be awkward to hear this kind of intimate sharing in person, but it’s incredibly moving for me and I cherish knowing I had some small part in getting people to see their lives in a fresh and positive way.

Me: “Oh?” I sheepishly smiled in response.

Her: “I see you running in the park all the time.”

Me: Humble smile of recognition changes to forced grin of embarrassment.

“Oh, yes. Right.”

I hadn’t run in Central Park in the 364 days since last year’s race and had never seen this good lady before in my life.

Her: “Well, it’s good to see you.  Good luck with the race.”

Me: Grin still set in stone. “Yes. Yes. Thank you.”

Her: “See you in the park!”

 Me: Still waiting for my face to return to normal.  “Yes. Yes. The park.”

Do you know me?

That conversation succinctly summarizes the entirety of my celebrity status at this year’s race.   Luckily I didn’t write the piece because I wanted that, I wrote it because I had to, in order to really process and understand all that’s happened in my journey over the past couple years.

So beyond that success, it’s not a matter of what the article’s done for me, it’s about what it’s done for you, whoever and wherever you are.

Look for me in the park.

Next post, I’ll give more details on the race itself.

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