Tag Archive | "Sports"

Capoeira connects New Yorkers with Brazilian culture

by Nia Phillips, Brazilian Beat Reporter —

A group of people dance in a circle in a studio in Manhattan singing Portuguese songs as their teacher plays a traditional one-stringed Brazilian instrument with a gourd attached to it. Others play a drum and tambourine to help create the beat to the music.

In the middle, two students practice their moves, kicking, ducking, and swaying side to side.

After a little time, two more students entered the circle repeating the same movements. This scene continued recently in a weekly class in the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira.

While the sport purely Brazilian in every sense, most of the students in the classroom are American.

Capoeira Instructor Paula Verdino participates in Omulu Capoeira Guanabara’s Batizado ceremony.

Capoeira, Brazil’s national sport, is now practiced all around the world. In New York City, classes are offered to children as young as two across the city.

One popular Capoeira teacher is Tiba Vieira. He moved to the United States 15 years ago and has been teaching for New York Capoeira Luanda, held at the Alvin Ailey Extension School, since 2001. He began teaching children Capoeira when he came to the United States which is appropriate because he began his training at the age of 12.

“I think Capoeira is a little bit of everything,” says Vieira, who has studied the sport for more than 18 years. “It’s a sport, it’s an art, it’s a martial art. I see Capoeira as a blend of dance, music, and martial art and acrobatic movement. This is an art form.”

Vieira’s class is one of many throughout New York City. Once a year, classes hold a ceremony called a Batizado where students test their skills against their instructors. On a recent Saturday, a group called Omulu Capoeira Guanabara held its annual ceremony in the gymnasium of the Beacon School on the Upper West Side.

About 25 students of varying ages and levels gathered for the event. While Omulu Capoeira Guanabara teaches children as young as four, this event was for its adult students in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

One of the school’s founders is Jorge Luis de Lima, better known as Mestre DiMola, helped lead the Batizado. The Master instructor described the sport saying, “For me, Capoeira is beyond my life, it’s much more than that.”

As a Master, it makes sense that Luis de Lima said this. It takes about 30 years to become a full Capoeira Master; the number of years he has practiced the game. He sees Capoeira as more than just an activity, but a way to connect with the sport’s rich cultural history. He said candidly in Portuguese after the Batizado, “Many Masters already left us. They aren’t alive anymore, but through this they’re still present.”

Connecting with the past is a fundamental part of Capoeira. The sport started in 16th century Brazil with the introduction of African slaves to the country to work in sugar cane fields. Capoeira emerged as a means for slaves to preserve the fighting techniques they brought from their home countries. Disguised as a dance through adding music to the movements, the sport was born as both a means of self-defense and cultural preservation. Even though the Brazilian government abolished slavery in 1888, Capoeira remained banned in the country until the 1930s.

Today, Brazilian attitudes towards Capoeira are very different. Not only is it very popular in the nation, but also those who learned the sport at home have now brought it with them to other countries. Brazil experienced mass emigration in the 1990s following an economic crisis. Many Brazilians moved to the United States, bringing Capoeira with them.

While Capoeira is Brazilian in every sense, the people filling the classrooms in New York City are not. “It’s very rare to have Brazilians doing Capoeira,” said Vieira, “In my class you’ll have 3 or 4 at the most.”

Regardless, Americans too are making Capoeira an important part of their lives. Anna Prouty is a Barnard student and member of Columbia University’s Capoeira Club. She says she is one of 15 students who regularly attend classes led by a Brazilian instructor. Prouty started Capoeira two years ago. She says she discovered the sport, as suggested by a friend. Even though she is not Brazilian, she too feels a connection to the sport. “It’s an expression in something kind of different,” says Prouty, “Like we’re all tying into this history and this tradition.”

Even though she has not been practicing the sport since childhood, Prouty has a similar enthusiasm about Capoeira seen by Brazilian instructors throughout the city. Her words were not too different from Capoeira Instructor Paula Verdino. One of a few women teaching at a high level, the Bahia, Brazil native is the winner of prestigious awards in the sport such as “Best Female Overall” at the World Capoeira games. When speaking about her love for the sport she said, “I think that it’s amazing. It’s self confidence, strength, direction, it’s entertaining, it’s good for mind, body, and it’s great exercise.”

This is what helps make Capoeira more than just a mysterious Brazilian game. It’s a combination of sport, art, music, dance, tradition, and discipline. It helps keep Brazilian traditions alive, and is becoming part of the fabric of Capoeristas around the world. Through Capoeira students in New York City can connect to the culture of the African slaves who arrived to Brazil 400 years ago.

As Verdino said, in Capoeira, “You really feel what you do. You really have the love inside for it.”

Posted in Featured Stories, Print StoriesComments (7)

Nations United Through Sport

by Colleen McKown, Indian Beat Reporter —

On the international cricket stage, rivalries between national teams can be intense. The India-Pakistan rivalry is among the greatest in sports. Games between the two teams have incited riots, flag burning and fights in the stands. In the New York-based Commonwealth Cricket League, however, Indians and Pakistanis play side-by-side with handshakes, smiles and only friendly teasing. Tensions are minimal in the league.

The Commonwealth League, the oldest in New York City, has 72 teams. Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Trinidadians, Guyanese, and Sri Lankans, all rivals back home, are often teammates here. They are carrying on a favorite pastime from home.

“We are all like brothers. We treat each other like brothers. We’re good here. No probs, never ever,” said Mohit, a player from Punjab, India as he excitedly cheers his team on at Kissena Park in Flushing. The league will continue playing most Sundays in parks throughout the city as long as weather permits.

Badsha Chowdhury, from Bangladesh, said the sport serves to unite rather than divide.
“The good thing about Commonwealth Cricket League is that when you build a team you really don’t see who’s Pakistani, who’s Indian, we build a team according to the players, so we have a group of guys, 12 guys playing together. So when they come together we don’t care about your race, your religion, nothing. It’s just one team,” Chowdhury said.

Mohit said that cricket is a more lighthearted game here in New York than back home in India.

“Over there we play with more passion, and cricket is like a religion to us. Over here it is okay, it’s like for fun, and we guys are playing but that’s a good thing. Because over there we never get the chance to play with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, this and that,” he said.

Manish Sharma, a Punjabi taxi driver and the captain of the Commonwealth team Elite, said the mix of nationalities helps players with their game.

“When you are playing domestic it’s completely different because you understand their language, you understand many things, what are they talking about, you see what sort of game planning they’re having. Here you may have to figure it out,” he said.

Manish enjoys navigating these challenges. “That makes me feel like I’m playing international or something,” he added.

Mustafa Diwan, the team captain of Commonwealth team Rajput, also enjoys playing with a variety of nationalities and likes how that changes the game.

He said there are, however, some challenges to playing cricket in New York.

In his native India, he said, there are grounds everywhere made specifically for cricket.

“Here, the grounds are not well-maintained,” he said. “We don’t have good facilities.”

Because cricket fields in New York are used for a variety of sports, the grass is not properly cut for cricket, Diwan said.

One of the regular umpires, Christian Singh of Trinidad, said this is because cricket is not a big sport in America.

“Not many Americans play. In baseball fields, they usually cut the grass more often,” he said.

Diwan said that although the Commonwealth Cricket League is open to any nationality, it’s unusual to see anyone who isn’t South Asian or West Indian. One may think that British players would join, given Britain’s historic connection to cricket.

Not the case, said Diwan. “It’s rare to see a player from Europe.”

Even so, the players stressed that anyone is always welcome. This particular Sunday, an English player happened to be on the field.

Daniel Melamud, hoping to get back into a sport from his childhood, recently visited a cricket store and met Mohit. Mohit invited him to come play.

“Today I’m meeting all these guys for the first time, and they’re people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and everyone is incredibly welcoming and friendly. It’s nice to hear different stories and to see everyone’s passion for the game,” he said after running off the field.

Sharma said that while there is goodwill between nationalities, the true rivalry comes out when friends play each other.

“When your friends are playing, you really want to win that game, you know. You eventually try to get them aggravated one way or another, by talking or by doing anything else.”

After the game, Sharma said, teams put any competition aside to enjoy each other’s company.

“But then, it’s always happy ending, we get together, have barbeque, have a couple of drinks, that’s how we finish it up.”

Members of the Commonwealth Cricket League play on Sundays in Kissena Park in Flushing.

Posted in Audio Stories, Featured Stories, Print StoriesComments (0)

Fans delighted as Mali gets the ball rolling

by Ntshepeng Motema, Malian Beat Reporter —

Cheers for Mali’s initial victory in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers could be heard in New York over the weekend. As the Mali squad trashed Botswana in Mali’s Capital, Bamako, local Malians stomped, applauded and high fived each other at the Afrika Sounds music shop on 116th and Frederick Douglas Boulevard in Central Harlem. Fans watched the game on a fuzzy television screen hanging from the music shop wall. “Our national soccer team is playing a  qualifying game for the Africa cup of nations cup that is going to be played in South Africa.” Dame Sy, one of the men who filled up the tiny shop said.  Not even the poor quality will dampen the spirits of the team’s supporters. “The transmission is bad, this television is not clear,” he added. “But it is ok with us, as long we can see something it is ok.”  Sy is slim built, dark in complexion and has a warm smile. A bunch of keys hang from the front pocket of his paint-stained jeans. “ I work in construction, I run a business here in Harlem and do plumbing and renovations in restaurants.”  Sy, 45, old has been living in New York for more than two decades.

Malians in New York do not care about the Yankees or the Knicks. For them, soccer is king. Sy barely misses a game, especially if it’s his home team. “Soccer is very important, you have a lot of people who play the game in Africa, and every country plays the game,.” Sy added. The transmission quality of the broadcast from Mali gets worse as the game heats up. Forty minutes into the match Mali was leading Botswana by 2 goals. David Ba, Malian who has been living in New York for 18 years, can barely contain his excitement. “When we have free time we have to get together and have some fun that can remind us of what we used to do back home, as you can see our team is going to win, no doubt,.” Ba said.

But the soccer match is just one activity in the small shop filled with cd’s and dvd’s. It is one of the many social places where West Africans of all generations  in Central Harlem meet. A group of elderly men are sitting on the one side of the room listening to traditional Malian music. In another corner, younger men are standing and listening to hip hop. All these sounds melt together, barely audible to an outsider, crystal clear to them. Ba adds that this is a typical scene that could be found in Bamako. “This is how it is in Mali, you go to watch a match at the market or a local pub and everyone is doing their own thing, everyone goes about their daily business but still take a glance at the match.”

In the last 10 minutes of the game, however, the cheers abruptly stopped. The connection to Mali was broken and the screen went from fuzzy to blank. “I do not know what is going to be the end because the connection is so bad, we cannot see anymore,” said one of the fans, a man named Fofana Toure.  “There’s still 10 minutes of the game left. Probably we have to listen to the radio or go to the internet to find out what is going on and who wins the game.” The Malian fans will be glad to know that eventually when the outcome of the game was published by the final whistle Mali had added another goal making it 3-0 over Botswana. It is a score that will make the men continue coming back to the cramped music shop, their little piece of home despite the bad transmission.

Posted in Print StoriesComments (1)

Cricketing across Countries

Dhiya Kuriakose, Sri Lankan beat reporter~

When Roshen Wallwattia left Sri Lanka for New York three years ago, he was carrying the typical anxieties that come with uprooting one’s life. How would he find a job? Would he make friends? Was moving to New York the right decision? Wallwattia found the answers to his questions in an unlikely place: a well-worn cricket field on Staten Island.

“I’ve played cricket with these guys since I got here. They were my first friends in New York,” said Wallwattia, a finance student at Columbia University. “They gave me my first job and they even supported me through my application to school.”

Cricket binds the Sri Lankan community in New York. Big matches regularly draw dozens of Sri Lankan cricket fans to local restaurants, giving them a taste of home. Many said that local leagues also act as a unifying force for the community.

“It’s just one time of the week we can come together to play a game we grew up with,” said Nalinda Persis, 33, who plays cricket every weekend over the summer in a park on Staten Island. “Less and less people play it but we still try to make it when we can. It takes us back to our childhood when we used to play on the streets at home. Nobody is bothered what they do as long as we can play together.”

Cricket’s popularity was on full display recently at a Sri Lankan restaurant in Manhattan. Inside Sigri on First Avenue, diners at three separate tables were passionately discussing the sport, debating their favorite players and predicting Sri Lanka’s chances at the T20 World Cup, the most prestigious tournament in the shorter version of the game.

Cricket is still a relatively unknown sport in the U.S., where it is greatly overshadowed by baseball. The two sports bear similarities but also feature striking differences. Cricket involves two teams that have batsmen, bowlers and fielders. Each team has 11 players. But unlike baseball, instead of four bases there are only two, in the center of a large round or elliptical field. The batsmen can decide when to run, and the fielding team has two bowlers, or pitchers, who operate from either end of the pitch, or infield. A run is scored when a batsmen strikes the ball and reaches the opposite end of the pitch, while his non-hitting teammate runs to his end. There are three formats that the game is played in, the shortest being around four hours and the longest running five days.

Despite its popularity back home, cricket is struggling to catch on with younger generations of Sri Lankans living in New York, who find it hard to resist getting swept up in more traditional American sports.

“My American friends don’t understand a game where the shortest time is half a day and the longest takes five days and sometimes without result,” said Chelaka Gunamuni, 29, who works at Sigri. “Even I don’t play cricket. I find it time consuming and frankly boring.”

“Did you know volleyball is our national sport? Nobody follows volleyball like this,” said Fernando, a frequent visitor to the restaurant. “When Lanka plays cricket we all play with them, we feel like we are there. Just imagine all the Sri Lankans across the world are cheering for one thing. You should know how rarely that happens.”

Still, Gunamuni, who arrived in the U.S. 12 years ago, conceded that whenever he meets Sri Lankans, their first conversation typically centers on cricket. “I know that if I meet a Sri Lankan anywhere in the world, we can discuss cricket and become friends.”

For V. Selvanathan, a 54-year old man who left Sri Lanka in 1992, cricket will always carry special meaning. He said the sport helped unite the island nation, which for 40 years endured a violent uprising by separatist rebels known as the Tamil, during its most tumultuous times.

“Every day when I opened the newspaper, the first page would talk about how Tamil terrorists were killing or being killed,” said Selvanathan. “Then I would turn to the sports sections and read about Muttiah Muralitharan who is the world’s most successful bowler. He was a Tamil and our favorite Sri Lankan player.”

Posted in Print StoriesComments (0)

In Brooklyn, Gospel Raises the Spirits of Marathon Runners

by Elaisha Stokes

For years, the New York City Marathon was seen as something of a nuisance for Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Located on the corner of St James Place and Lafayette Avenue, at the nine mile mark of the marathon, the church suffered with noise from the runners on the streets and the crowds of onlookers who came to cheer them on. But instead of letting the annual event get the best of them, the church decided to use it as an opportunity to praise the lord’s name. And so, Sunday services were cancelled on the first weekend of November, and a new tradition was born.

Each year on Marathon Sunday Total Praise, the gospel choir of the church, raises its  voice in song above the noise of the screaming fans.

“We sing on the steps,” said Shareka Newton, the executive pastor of the church. “It gives us an opportunity to come out of the church walls and into the community.”

On Sunday, the steps of the church were flanked with women dressed in bright orange, the official color of this year’s race. The 80 members of Total Praise sing in rotations to raucous crowds while the hopeful marathoners speed by a crowd estimated at 2 million. Volunteers hold out bottled water and bananas for runners who need a moment to refuel. Others make it their business to call out the names of participants who need a little extra encouragement.  But it’s the gospel choir that takes center stage. Mic’d up and amplified for all the neighbors to hear, members flail arms and raise their voice to the high heavens.  Exclamations of joy and halleluiah are made to lift the spirits of runners, who raise their hands towards the sky and wave along with the gospel choir as they speed by the church. For Juny Francois, a Haitian American and veteran marathon runner, the vision of her church’s choir gives her an energetic push early on in the race.

“There’s nothing like it,” said Francois. “I’ve run marathons all over the world. The hometown crowd, the music from my church’s choir. It connects me with God.”

This year, the church has four members participating in the race. Francois is the best runner of the bunch. She is what’s known as a local competitor, pacing an average mile in about 7 minutes and 30 seconds. At 10:52 AM she speeds past the steps of Emmanuel Baptist. Her son, Samuel Mahlangu, doesn’t even have time to snap a photo.

“I tried to record her, but I couldn’t even get a clip,” said Mahlangu. “She was running so fast.”

Francois’ love affair with long distance running started as what she called a “fluke.” She ran track in high school, eventually completing a five-kilometer race. Next she participated in a half marathon, and finally a full marathon.

“Then,” said Francois, “I became addicted.”

She has since run marathons all over the world, including Berlin and Madrid. For Francois, part of the passion of running is raising money for a good cause. This year, the cause hits close to home. Francois has raised $25,000 to benefit Haiti Green Home, a non-profit organization that develops eco friendly homes for displaced victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Francois said dedicating her run to Haiti gives her the strength she needs to reach for her personal best.

“Haitians are not really runners,” said Francois. “Not like Africans. But running comes naturally to me. If my passion can benefit my country, then all the better.”

At Emmanuel Baptist, the parish has been resolute in their support of Francois’ efforts. Many of the members of the parish helped Francois fundraise for her run. Still, the church believes that their music remains their largest contribution to the event.

“When the runners hear our voices, it cheers them along,” said Claudette Williams, a 16-year veteran of the choir. “It’s always good to sing the praises of the Lord to raise the spirit.”

As the runners stream by the sun-filled church steps, even the most cynical fans can’t help but have faith that a little bit of hometown spirit can go a long way. Maybe a full 26.2 miles.

Posted in Archives, UncategorizedComments (0)

Faith and the 26.2: St. Patrick’s “Runner’s Mass”

by Jackie Kostek

Just hours after finishing his fourth New York City Marathon on Sunday, the Rev. Joseph Tyrell stood at the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, holding his finisher’s medal high over his head.

“Today, I ran through the five boroughs!” said Tyrell, applause echoing through the cathedral.  “Stand up if you ran the marathon today.”

Thirty runners, proud but tired, stood up to the enthusiastic applause.  At the conclusion of mass, he asked them to come forward and posed for pictures and friends and relatives snapped away.

“This is the Mass I look forward to,” said Tyrell.  “We put our medals on, and come back to say thanks to God.”

Yvonne Jessup, a marathoner from California, said she went to St. Patrick’s after the race because even when she’s out of town, she never misses mass.

“Tonight, I came to thank God for the strength that got me through,” said Jessup.

An Irish marathoner, Sean McGoldrick, said he went to a similar “runner’s mass” a couple years ago when he ran the Boston marathon.

“Running is a very spiritual sport,” said McGoldrick, “but I really just came to see how Father Tyrell did.”

While 30 runners showed up for the 5:30 mass after the race, there was an even bigger crowd the night before for the official “Runner’s Mass.”  Tyrell said St. Patrick’s isn’t the only parish to bless the runners pre-race, but he said his own marathon participation has made St. Patrick’s “Runner’s Mass” the most popular.

“At the first ‘Runner’s Mass,’ we had about 100 runners,” Tyrell said on Saturday.  “Tonight, we had 400 to 500 runners.  It was packed up there.”

At the end of the mass on Saturday afternoon, Tyrell invited the runners up to the altar for the blessing.  Tyrell said the “blessing of the runners” is as much about building camaraderie as it is about “splashing everyone” with holy water.

Martin Taylor, who is from Ireland and has run 11 New York City marathons, said he comes back to the city each year especially for the mass.

“I just love the way it brings the whole community together,” Taylor said.  “I love the sermon, and how he makes the scripture relevant.”

Paul and Diana Karls, a married couple from Wisconsin, said they also find significance in Tyrell’s sermon.

“I will use his words tomorrow,” said Ms. Karls, “especially during those last miles.”

Tyrell’s sermon on Saturday night was a lesson in how to make the ancient scriptures applicable to modern life.  In this case, it was all about the 26.2-mile race.

“I was particularly struck by the Father’s words, ‘They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint,’” said Siobhan Hearney, an Irish marathoner running the race with her husband and friends.

“It’s not just physical, it’s spiritual,” said Hearney.

Hearney said she would also focus her thoughts while running on the charity she supports, Foy Hospice.

Tyrell calls what Hearney does “running with a purpose.”

Tyrell raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  He said his reason for running is particularly close to home.

“I had a parishioner years ago who had MS,” said Tyrell, “and she took 26 hours to run the marathon.  Not that’s courage.  That’s faith that kept her going.”

At the mass after the run,Tyrell said listening to scripture on his iPod helped him keep going.

And on Sunday, Tyrell ran his fastest marathon yet, clocking in at 4:01:21.

“This was the first time I’ve ever run a marathon so fast,” said Tyrell.  “I really needed faith, I had nothing left.  I actually hit the wall, and I had to keep repeating to myself, ‘In Christ, I can do all things, in Christ, I can do all things.”


Posted in Archives, UncategorizedComments (0)

Four Irish Women find a Different Way to Win the Race

As featured on irishcentral.com

By Ines Novacic

While most attention is fixed on who crossed the finish line first at the New York City Marathon, there are different ways to win the race. For a group of four girlfriends from Limerick, Ireland, it was charity rather than personal glory that motivated them to partake in the world-renown 26.2 mile-run.

“I was roped into it over a few drinks by Sinead,” joked Mary Tobin, 33, pointing to her fellow runner and friend, Sinead Cusack. “My nephew was helped by Enable Ireland, so fundraising for this trip was close to home.”Enable Ireland is a national voluntary organization providing therapy and services to children and adults with physical and sensory disabilities throughout Ireland. They have 33 sites in 14 locations, and fundraising by individuals or groups is confined to the locality they come from. The girls are from Limerick, so the money will raised will go to the Enable Ireland Limerick branch. Joanne Murphy, an official from En
“Everyone recognizes the name because it’s local, and we wanted to be successful in fundraising and promoting our cause,” explained Deirdre O’Byrne, another one of the quartet runners. Sunday, the day of the race, was also her 30thbirthday.able Ireland Galway, said that the organization followed a social model of disability theory that focused on the person, not the disability.Tobin, Cusack, O’Byrne, and 28-year-old Neisha Leahy all know each other from school or their local soccer team in County Limerick. They began training in April, and stuck to a schedule of both short and long runs every week before flying into JFK International Airport last Thursday.“Three weeks ago, we did a 20-mile run, the longest we’ve ever done,” said Tobin, who, like Leahy, participated in the New York City Marathon for the first time this year.“I’d never run a marathon until this September,” said Leahy. “I just want to finish, keep the pace.”

For Cusack and O’Byrne, this was their third time running the marathon, and both women said that there was just some sort of pull to New York, so that they hadn’t thought about competing anywhere else. Leahy and Tobin agreed that the combination of a fundraising race, and a shopping trip to New York, made them all the more interested in and committed to training. Seated in the lobby of the Helmsley Hotel on east 42nd Street the night before the race, the women talked about relaxing over dinner and a movie, and looked forward to “being celebs” for a day, with more than 2 million spectators cheering them on.

The lobby of the Helmsley was packed with runners, sneakers attached to their backpacks, and accompanied by excited family and friends. Most hurried towards the Sports Travel International desk from Ireland, headed by Mayo-born Martin Joyce, 56.

Joyce set up the Irish office of Sports Travel International in Dublin in 1988, and brought 17 runners to compete in New York for the first time in 1990.

“It was small beginnings, but we peaked in 2008 with 500 people coming to the New York marathon,” said Joyce.

This year, Sports Travel accommodated 330 people, of which 300 were runners. Joyce said that he decreased the standard package price by 100 euros, $140, this year. “New York is not a cheap place to come, and it’s actually the only one that has dipped. It’s a big commitment, but I reckon its bottom level now. It’ll just go up from here, confidence is coming back in Ireland,” he added.

As with other Sports Travel International operators, purchasing a deal with Joyce’s company guarantees entry into the New York City Marathon, an otherwise lottery-operated application system. This year, about 60 percent of Joyce’s customers represented charities. “Fundraising is tough, but the drop in charity entries is far from significant,” he explained.

Cusack, Leahy, O’Byrne, and Tobin each surpassed their fundraising target of 3,250 euros, almost $4,500, by an extra 1000 euros, or $1,380. Cusack and O’Byrne finished the race in four hours, and were thrilled because they beat their personal best. Tobin and Leahy found the experience exhausting, but were proud of their achievement. “It was so tough but the crowd really pushed me through and I couldn’t have picked a better place to do my first ever marathon,” Leahy said.

Posted in Archives, UncategorizedComments (0)

Marathon-ing After Marriage

Kesang Sherpa after finishing the 26.2-mile marathon

By Linda Ong

In mid-October, Kesang Sherpa rejoiced at her weddings in South Asia, but on Nov. 6, the Brooklyn resident celebrated what she now considers an even greater feat — completing her first marathon. Sherpa crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon in just under six hours.

“I wanted to do something for myself,” said Sherpa. “I’m really happy with how I did.”

Sherpa, dressed in a fluorescent green jersey and black running shorts, was one among 47,000 participants who ran the 26.2-mile route through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan. Crowds lined the streets of the city, cheering on runners with words of support, waving brightly-colored signs with runners’ names, and clanking instruments when runners passed by. For Sherpa, her husband Sonam Ukyab, was her biggest fan. Throughout the day, Ukyab tracked Sherpa by checking “JoinIn,” a mobile application which allowed people to track runners on their phone.

“I’ve been following her all day,” said Ukyab, wearing a black parka jacket and jeans, with a camera in hand to document his wife’s accomplishment. “But, I was only able to see her at Long Island City and 87th Street and Fifth Ave.”

At both mile markers, Ukyab said that Sherpa looked fresh and energetic.

“She did well,” said Ukyab. “I’m so proud of her.”

In June, Sherpa began to train for the marathon alongside other runners who represented “Team For Kids,” a charity that provides low-cost or free school and community-based health and fitness programs to children in New York City. Sherpa said she was initially worried that she wouldn’t be able to raise enough money.

“I thought to myself- ‘how am I going to raise $2,600?’” she said. “But, from the support of family and friends, I collected about $3000.”

Three evenings a week, Sherpa practiced with other Team For Kids runners in Central Park. However, Sherpa had to take an abrupt break from her marathon preparation for not one, but two elaborate wedding ceremonies in South Asia.

“We married in traditional Tibetan culture — we wore chubas,” she said referring to a traditional Tibetan robe that is bound around the waist by a long sash. “The prayer ceremony that precedes the reception, itself, lasted about four hours.”

In early October, the newlyweds had one reception in Darjeeling, India, where Sherpa’s family resides, and another in Nepal, where Ukyab’s family is originally from.

“We flew back to New York City right after,” she said. “But, I missed three critical weeks of training.”

Due to this gap in training and pre-existing knee problems, Sherpa said she was nervous in the days leading to the Sunday’s marathon. Overall, she said she is satisfied with her performance, and that Michelle Blake, her friend and running partner, provided Sherpa with much support. It was only after two-thirds into the marathon that Sherpa said she felt challenged the most.

“Once I hit mile 20, I thought to myself: ‘I have mile 21, 22, 23… it’s never going to end,” she said. “I asked my friend Michelle, ‘Can we walk?’ But, she encouraged me to keep going.”

At around 5:15 p.m., Sherpa crossed the finish line and Ukyab and her family were waiting to congratulate her.

“It’s motivational watching Kesang, especially for her nieces and nephews,” said Lakpa Sherpa, Sherpa’s cousin, who donated towards Sherpa’s fundraising goal for Team For Kids. Lakpa came with her children towards the end of the race to embrace her cousin. “She’s the only runner in the family, so it’s important.”

The newlyweds said they are considering running the marathon together as a couple in the future.

“We have never done that before- we might start fighting,” said Ukyab, laughing. “But, I know it would be fun.”




Posted in Archives, UncategorizedComments (0)

The Travails of the ‘Brown Runner’

By Sarah Laing

Felix ran the New York City marathon in a shoe rubber burning 3 hours and ten minutes. His friends, waiting on the sidelines, were not particularly impressed.

“We thought he would do it in about three hours,” said Raj, of Felix, his future brother in law.

“Felix has been running for 20 years,” added Rico. “He got a full athletic scholarship to college, and he’s run lots of other marathons.”

The two men, along with Tina, stood under an oak tree, half on the sidewalk, half in the pedestrian-packed street. The trio, all of Indian descent and all reluctant to give their full names, stood alongside other friends and relatives of runners, at the corner of 79th and Central Park West. The block felt like an airport arrivals lounge, awaiting the disembark of 47,438 sweaty, exhausted but exultant passengers.

All three members of “Team Felix” are runners themselves. Tina has completed several half marathons, and Raj would have been running alongside Felix, but missed out on the race lottery. Instead, he turned his energies toward ‘helping’ his soon-to-be relative.

“I tried to sabotage his diet. All he was eating was rice and beans!”, Raj said with a mischievous smile.

Supportive as these three friends might be, Raj said this level of enthusiasm for athletic endeavors is rare in the Indian community.

“Indians are just not impressed by physical feats,” he shrugged. “In white families, they would be boasting about how their kid had run a marathon, but in Indian families, they’d rather you were studying, working toward your medical degree or something.”

“It’s tough being a brown runner,” said Raj, heaving a great mock sigh.

Squinting up into the autumn sunshine, the 30-year-old the second generation American waxed philosophical.

“We’re always the only brown people in the gym, working out with a bunch of white guys. You know – I think we might be the only Indian people here,” he said, crossing his arms and surveying the crowd.

“Felix better hurry up!”, he said laughing.

Posted in Archives, UncategorizedComments (0)

Slideshow: The “Subway Sinatra” Kicks off the Marathon

by Olivia Smith

Gary Russo, aka 2nd Avenue Subway Sinatra, was working on an MTA project when he started singing on his lunch breaks. With the help of YouTube, Russo is now world famous. He was asked to sing at the New York City Marathon this year, where he performed at the starting line on the Verrazano Bridge.

Posted in Archives, UncategorizedComments (0)

Torch on Twitter