I never considered myself a “sports” person—I don’t follow any teams and I never know who’s playing who in any final competition.  The only brackets tournament I ever participated in was Fat Bear Tuesday.  But I have always appreciated how sports have the power to transcend boundaries and unify people across all demographics.  You can be in a bar and not know anything about the person sitting next to you—where they’re from, what they do for a living, what kind of family they have—but the minute a game comes on the screen, you can immediately connect and bond.

As a non-sports person, I got to experience this first-hand when I participated in my first-ever marathon—the NYC Marathon.  Riding a 5am bus from midtown Manhattan to Staten Island, sitting outside for hours watching the sun rise and waiting for your start wave, you are surrounded by people in the same boat as you, yet who all followed different paths to get to this same moment as you. I chatted while standing in line for the bus with a woman from Costa Rica turning 40, who, like me, is a mom with a young child and running her first-ever marathon because she wanted to show her kids that anything is possible no matter how old you are.  I ran the first 13.1 miles with another runner I had just met on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, who, like me, suffered from training-related knee injuries that kept her from pushing her paces too hard, and who I later learned lives just blocks away from me on the Upper East Side in Manhattan.   On the course, I saw runners from Brazil, Italy, France, Mexico, and so many other countries, all chasing the goal of completing 26.2 miles.

Over 50,000 runners from all 50 states including D.C. and 131 countries raced that day.  And at least that many came out to watch.  It made me marvel again at how sports have the ability to bring people together, from all over the world, all walks of life, all ages and abilities.  In those few hours, you bear witness to something special—humanity winning.

Thousands of people will come out to cheer complete strangers.  The love and support you feel around you will sweep you up and carry you through your toughest moments.  Literally.  With temperatures and humidity in the mid-70s, this marathon was the hottest on the books since 1986. Several runners succumbed to the heatOne marathoner collapsed just 200 meters from the finish line.  Sacrificing their own personal records, two runners stopped, helped the fellow runner onto his feet and carried him across the finish line.

And so, I learned why the NYC marathon is the greatest marathon in the world—it’s not because it takes place in the greatest city in the world (which it does), but because the people who show up, on both sides of the barricades, are some of the most inspiring in the world.  More than a showcase of a human physical feat, the NYC Marathon is a testament to the enduring human spirit.

We’re in a time when it can feel like we are more divided that ever.  But as we head toward the end of 2022 and the start of a new year, I hope we can all lean into that human connection and learn that no matter where you are from, you can find common ground with the person next to you.  With or without the help of sports.