Marathon Day is a 26-drink tour of the 5 boroughs, an idea concocted by Janos Marton of Livingthedream.org three years ago. Before some of you write it off as an event only for fraternity boys, Marathon Day is at its simplest, an ode to the city. The photographs that come out of the event each year tell the story: there are more shots of quirky signs, architecture and the skyline, than of drunk revelers. One photograph of a sign inside a bar (which not surprisingly came out a bit fuzzy) said, “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.” That’s the mission of the participants of Marathon Day towards each other, the people they encounter and the places they discover.
Untapped sat with Janos to ask him about this year’s Marathon Day which is coming up on May 14th.
Untapped: So Janos, you’re always coming up with great events to rally your friends around. How did Marathon Day come about?
Janos: I wanted to do something epic for my 26th birthday, along the lines of 26 drinks. Since that turns out to be the number of miles in a marathon, our intrepid crew sought out a 26-drink pub crawl tracking the New York City Marathon. Unfortunately, that would have lead to a lot of time dodging cars on bridges and highways, so we adjusted the route. We kicked off Marathon Day 1 on my 26th birthday, three years ago. I love this event because it’s a real tribute to New York City. How often does the average New Yorker get to see Bay Street in Staten Island, or hang out in a hip Long Island City bar, or have soul food in the South Bronx?
Untapped: I recall one evening at your place, we (the band Kittens Ablaze) were playing guitars and agonizing over a lyric we couldn’t write when you came back from Marathon Day and belted the lyric out on the spot: “One more round, one more round to go…” Have you ever finished all 26 bars in 5 boroughs?
Janos: I was under the mistaken impression that I had one more round to go. It turns out, according to Brian Orce‘s notebook, that we had actually had round 26 at Rudy’s. My girlfriend at the time found me that night sharing a table with an old man watching the Mets game with his headphones on. He wanted nothing to do with me. In fact, Brian and I have finished all three years. And last year we had a record nine finishers!
Untapped: What are some of the real MVP moments from people that have come with you on Marathon Day?
Janos: While every finisher is an MVP in my book (and we’ve had 10 people accomplish that), my favorite MVP moments involve people leaving Marathon Day thinking they have something better to do, and then rallying back to finish with us. One guy left us for a house party one year, but felt like he was missing out so he came looking for us in the South Bronx. We found him in a McDonald’s parking lot. Last year two people went to the opera somewhere between rounds 15 and 20 but still finished with us. We’ve got some strong candidates this year–some real rage legends joining us for the first time.
Untapped: How do you choose the stops?
Janos: Everything begins at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal- 10:45am. Once we get on that boat for Staten Island, the journey has truly begun. We have a couple key “meet up” areas, like Union Pool in Williamsburg, where we’ll have multiple drinks and let late-risers join us. Otherwise, the path we’ve chosen–Staten Island and back–East Village–Williamsburg–Long Island City–East Side–South Bronx–Harlem–Hell’s Kitchen–West Village, tries to keep things as efficient as possible using NYC’s public transportation–which I know you support! Most of the bars we use every year but this will be our first time at Subway Inn, for example, so we’re also bringing new bars to the route when we can.
Untapped: What can we expect from this year’s Marathon Day? Any surprises up your sleeve?
Janos: Well, this is the first year we’ve ever ended Marathon Day at a house party, which will be a real treat. Now that I’ve told you that one, I’m going to save the rest of my surprises.
Untapped: Any thought about making this a real social media event–Twitter, 4Square, etc.?
Janos: We’ll be live-tweeting for sure. Hashtag #MD4. And of course we’ve got a Facebook page, which has the schedule laid out for people planning to meet us during the day.
Untapped: If someone isn’t going to go “all the way”, where do you recommend for them to join?
Janos: Staten Island, for sure. That morning boat ride, with the sun shining and the Manhattan skyline fading away–it’s a remarkable feeling of anticipation and adventure for something within the City limits. The bar owners out there like Jimmy from Jimmy Steiny’s and Karl from Karl’s Klippers are class acts. The whole experience is great, but the later into the Marathon, the more crowded the bars become, and the less unique our group seems to weary bartenders. If you’re only in the mood to check it out and have a beer, just come to a spot in your neighborhood. The Facebook page has the all our spots and approximate times listed.
Untapped: It seems like Marathon Day gets a little bigger every year. What’s your vision for Marathon Day X?
Janos: Any fan of Rocky IV or Led Zeppelin IV knows that Marathon Day IV comes with the heightened expectations that this may be the greatest one yet. I like to think there will be a Marathon Day X, but we’ll need some of the young blood to step up–our core group is in its late 20s, and I’m not sure how many full Marathon Days we have left in the tank. A real dream would be to take Marathon Day global, or even to other Untapped cities! Marathon Day Paris or Detroit would be pretty epic, though in New Orleans a 26-drink pub crawl is just called “Thursday afternoon.” I hope Marathon Day becomes another great New York tradition, but in the true spirit of New York, it’s bound to evolve over the years, and one day fade away.
Untapped: We’re launching Untapped San Francisco in the next couple months. Maybe a Marathon Day launch party is in order!
And for those wondering why Marathon Day does not coincide with the actual NYC Marathon, the answer is weather. They tried it one year and it was cold and gray. May is one of the best times of the year in New York City, so go explore it with the group next weekend!
Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.