There’s something about walking into the New York Road Runner’s office at Fred Lebow Place (better known as 89th street between 5th and Madison).

The crowds of people picking up their race bibs or filling out the race waivers don’t bother me like the crowds on the subway, even as they squeeze past me or tailgate me up the stairs at 6:55 in an attempt to seal registration before the club closes at 7:00pm.

You see all sizes, all ages, but on the whole, the trend is the same: lean bodies, a steady gaze, a purposeful stride.

There is a warmth here. Knowing that if I catch someone’s eye and flash them a smile, I’ll get one right back. Or if I strike up a conversation, we’ll both be excited over the details that bore our girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses or co-workers. “Are you running the marathon?” “Is this your first year?” “Where do you train?”

The injuries you’ve sustained, what you did to get through them, the agony of time spent not running because our doctors insisted. These are things runners understand about each other — the most fundamental, however, is why we do it.

It’s hard to explain this to a non-runner. I have a boss who’s fond of saying, “you just don’t understand, we have these things called CARS!” Why, he wants to know, do I put myself through all of this? The injuries, the blackened toenails, the expensive sport medicine and physical therapy. The early mornings. The weekends.

But runners know. So there’s nothing but an excitement, a warmth, that swells up in us both. And it thrives everywhere.

From the 2 subway where I had a conversation with a stranger on New Year’s Eve who saw my “Midnight Run” hat, because she knew I was going to the same race she was. The woman whose name I’ve forgotten, but passed me the invaluable recommendation of “The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer
” and encouraged me to enter the lottery for the NYC Marathon.

To the ice dip at the Equinox gym on 63rd street, when after every long NYRR run, you’ll find men and women chatting in the icy cold, while other members in the hot tubs look on in confusion.

And most of all, you’ll find it at Fred Lebow Place. Where we all converge, if only to jump off the M2 bus, race up the stairs and grab our yellow Champion Chips and bibs. And know that at least in this moment, every single person around us knows exactly why we do it.

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