By Oliver Morrison
Mandeep Sobti looks like most runners except in one way: he wears a turban.
“Every day there is someone who taunts you, makes fun of you, calls you Bin Laden the terrorist. Every day I deal with that kind of stuff,” said Sobti.
After he started running in 2003 Sobti realized that his turban was a way of educating people about Sikhism, especially after 9/11.
“People ask me oh wow, that’s a nice hat. And I say, that’s not a hat it’s a turban,” said Sobti.
They then frequently ask him whether it’s hot or heavy to run with. “I say it’s just something that you get used to running with. It’s no different than carrying a bottle of water in your hand,” said Sobti.
Even when he gets insulted now, he said he takes it in stride. “You get to a point where you just start ignoring it,” said Sobti.
Sobti grew up India but moved to New York in 1985 and has been working at a Jackson Hewitt in the South Bronx.
The work of educating people about Sikhs, he said, is particularly urgent, after the Columbia University professor, Preabhjot Singh, was attacked by a group of kids who called him Osama in Sept.
He thinks he is having some impact. He said that he and the approximately 15 other Sikhs he knows who run with their turban in New york are now widely known in the running community in Central Park.
The way he describes it, his running and religion feed off of each other, each one requiring a deeper level of discipline. When he runs, he said, “I am thinking of God and thanking him for letting me be out there and doing what I’m doing.”
Sobti has steadily improved his marathon time, from 4 hours and 22 minutes in 2005 to 3 hours and 11 minutes in 2011. This year he just missed his personal best by 2 minutes.
Even though he is becoming a more and more competitive runner, he doesn’t think about getting rid of his turban.
“You have to remember what the real purpose is to wear it and if you know the real purpose it seems kind of light,” said Sobti.
Photo By Oliver Morrison
By Oliver Morrison
Taylor Hartstein, 24, entered the New York Marathon last year. It would have been his first marathon had it not been for Hurricane Sandy.
So he entered the Boston Marathon in April.
“I’m 0 for two,” said Hartstein, waiting to catch the subway for his third attempt.
Hartstein, a second-year law student at Columbia, was one of nearly 50,000 runners who entered the New York City Marathon Sunday, with the ever-present backdrop of Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombings.
To get to the race Hartstein packed himself onto the 1 train before 6:30 a.m. Because the train was so full, he had to stand in a space normally reserved for the conductor for the last stop.
Then, at South Ferry, he tried to pack his way onto the next ferry, but didn’t make it.
“It’s like World War Z,” said Hartstein, as the glass doors closed on runners ahead of him and he had to wait for the next.
Police were roaming South Ferry with bomb-sniffing dogs as a helicopter thundered overhead.
They greeted Hartstein again when he got off the shuttle bus that delivered him to the start of the race. The police checked race numbers, patted him down, looked inside his clear plastic race bag and then ran a metal detector over his body, front and back.
And after all this, he ended up arriving late to the gate that led to the starting line, which was bottle-necked with people waiting to get their race numbers checked one final time.
But once he started running, he ran the race in 2 hours and 55 minutes, 23 minutes faster than his personal best.
He was glad to finally run a marathon that didn’t end in disaster.
“It was nice to get that from start to finish today,” said Hartstein. “I haven’t stopped smiling since I crossed the finish line.”
By Oliver Morrison
Bill McCabe, 60, was walking toward the portable toilets, just before he was about to take his position at the start of this year’s New York City Marathon, when he heard what sounded like a loud explosion.
“What the heck is that?” he thought to himself and froze for a moment, a little disoriented.
Could this be happening again?
A little more than six months ago, McCabe was 0.2 of a mile from finishing the Boston Marathon when he heard a similar explosion. And then, 0.1 of a mile from the finish line, he heard another.
“The second explosion you got this feeling in your heart, I don’t know why, a feeling of doom,” said McCabe. McCabe jumped over barricades to find his family, who by chance, had just moved away from where the bombs exploded to get his grandson a sandwich.
When McCabe couldn’t finish the Boston marathon in April, he came up with the idea to run it again and raise money for the victims in his hometown. Under the slogan “Stoneham Strong” he and other runners ran the marathon route again, raising over $20,000 for the six Stoneham victims, four of whom lost their limbs.
“One act of terrorism sparked a thousand acts of kindness,” said McCabe.
Local press showed up for the event and McCabe was thrust into the spotlight in a way that he said he didn’t ever imagine.
His granddaughter, Launa Soares, 14, said that McCabe often gives proverbial advice to his grandchildren. Her favorite is, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
But the one that would become McCabe’s mantra, repeated over and over again this past year was, “Finish whatever you start.”
For McCabe it was a matter of principle that he come back to New York this year and run the race after Hurricane Sandy forced him to miss it last year.
Back to New York
It turned out that this time, in New York, the noise he heard was just the starter’s pistol of the race.
McCabe’s daughter, Jennifer McCabe, 40, also felt the ghosts of Boston when she wandered the streets of New York the day before the race and heard them setting up the barricades.
“There were just so many people and the barricades just kept slamming over,” said Jennifer.
On the day of the race, however, police were everywhere and McCabe said he felt even more confident that nothing bad would happen.
“On the bridge there was a police helicopter hovering almost ten feet above. It felt like you could reach up and touch it,” said McCabe.
Though he said his hamstrings started to cramp up toward the end, McCabe finished the Marathon in 4 hours and 19 minutes, above the 3 hours and 55 minutes he was hoping for to qualify again for Boston.
McCabe did, however, have to jump a few barricades in New York as well. After giving many media interviews, he was late to getting into his correct starting group.
But after all that he had been through, he wasn’t going to be deterred.
“They told me it was too late,” said McCabe. “I said to heck with it and jumped over the two ropes.”