Cameron, (r), with fellow members of Grand Army Runners.
As marathon stories go, James Cameron, 41, has one that is pretty memorable.
At mile 21 of the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, the UK native’s left sneaker suddenly felt very tight. Rather than stop and loosen his shoelace to relieve the pain, he focused on surging to the finish.
But after completing his 26.2 miles, Cameron was spent and couldn’t bend down to reach his shoelaces.
“I looked around,” he explains, “and said to the first guy I saw, ‘Would you kindly untie my shoelaces?’”
That “guy” turned out to be none other than 2009 New York City Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, who ran his last marathon that day as a professional runner, finishing in 2:15:29.
“He was in a tracksuit, having finished well before me, but he kindly obliged. He untied my shoelace and shook my hand,” adds Cameron, who co-founded the group Grand Army Runners two years ago.
As Cameron hobbled off, a photographer tapped him on the shoulder, asking if he knew the identity of the helpful volunteer who came to his aid. “At the time, I didn’t know who Meb was. The photographer told me who he was. Meb was very down to earth and I thank him for relieving my pain,” says Cameron, a founder of the group Grand Army Runners. “I told the group at Grand Army Runners afterward and they found it hilarious that I asked a running legend to untie my shoelaces, not knowing who he was.”
This Sunday, Cameron is eyeing up another iconic finish in Central Park as he tackles his first United Airlines NYC Half.
He is looking forward to racing past the “spiritual home” of his group, Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. “The new NYC Half route feels like it’s connecting the two running communities in Brooklyn and Manhattan,” he says.
Cameron helped set up Grand Army Runners more than two years ago. Members start their weekend long runs at Grand Army Plaza and head into Manhattan, then up the bikeway next to the FDR to finish in Central Park, a route that is very similar to this year’s half-marathon course. “It feels like we are running our own course, which is exciting,” he says.
Forming Grand Army Runners helped Cameron rekindle his love of running. After a “painful” London Marathon in 2009, he “fell out of love with the sport.”
“My great Aunt Kit was a big fundraiser for ActionAid,” he says. “We held a book sale to raise money, but we only raised a small amount. So I said I would run the London Marathon on her behalf to raise money for the charity.”
“I hit the wall pretty hard at mile 21,” Cameron adds. “The last five miles were a struggle and the experience left me defeated for a while.”
At mile 21, Cameron hit the “wall” that so many runners encounter and he suffered for the last five miles. His spark for running was only reignited when he relocated to Brooklyn five years ago.
This Sunday he’ll line up with 25,000 other runners in his home borough. “I am really looking forward to running through Times Square,” he adds. “This race captures a lot of iconic places in the city.”