By Simon Bernard
Build Up to New York
When Simon W put a request out for a guide for the New York Marathon, I didn’t hesitate knowing that, during the build up to the event, I was training for the Melbourne Marathon
Simon W arranged guides (special mentions to Kate, Bronson, Joo and Mark) to assist him in his marathon training, with him and I keeping in contact to confirm plans for the journey to New York
Immediately on our arrival in New York in a hotel that was literally taken over by Achilles with a sea of yellow shirts.
In the hotel it was clear to me that Achilles is a bigger organisation than I had realised. Achilles International is an organisation that helps athletes with physical and mental disabilities that covers a broad spectrum from many countries from around the world. Achilles International also supports War Veterans and I met a few athletes who had served in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan
Chapters participating in the race included chapters from the USA, Germany, Mongolia, Brazil and Great Britain and of course Australia.
On the Friday before the race, Achilles hosted an evening at the Hard Rock Café in Time Square. Outside of the restaurant was a flashing billboard that showed the Achilles International Logo and the hashtag #GoAchilles. This is a prime area of New York so to see this was awesome.
At the dinner on Friday, the Achilles International team gave out some awards to some deserving athletes/volunteers. It was announced that for the New York marathon event, $USD300,000 had been raised
The day began with a 5am departure to a bus which would take us the starting area. The starting area for Achilles was a private area with a huge tent where chairs, food and drinks were provided away from the rest of the athletes competing in the race.
Our wave was called and we were lead to the start line. The 500 metre walk to the start line was lined with people cheering and shouting “Go Achilles”. The national anthem, a canon went off and the classic song of ‘New York New York’ proceeded us before we began the race
A sea of Achilles ran through the streets of New York as Simon and I got into the race. The streets were full of crowds and the noise at times was deafening. At 24k’s, Rick - a guide from Achilles New York joined us to give Simon a local’s perspective of where we were running. A game changer for me was Rick had on his guide shirt written “Go Simon”. Immediately the crowds were shouting Simon’s name and it definitely gave me a boost in the times in the race that I struggled.
As Rick left us at 34ks, Simon and I attacked the final part of the race which was full of crowds to finish in just over 6 hours on a very warm day
At the finish line we were greeted by the Achilles International president who gave us a big hug before we made our way to the recovery where we were lucky enough to get free ride back to the hotel
As guide it was by far the most rewarding race I’ve ever participated in. The opportunity to meet Achilles guides/athletes from all over the world was awesome and to see Simon W achieve his goal was a great moment for me. Simon’s family had flown in from Melbourne, Sydney and London and it was special to meet them and also sharing his achievement with them.
Our mission is to enable people from all walks of life, including those with physical impairments, to enjoy the health giving benefits of walking and running in a supportive, social and encouraging environment.