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Star-Spangled Spectacular: Running and Singing in Harmony in the Bronx

Rachel Duncan

I was so honored and excited to be given the responsibility of singing the national anthem before today’s NYRR Bronx 10 Mile Race. I’ve been singing ever since I was a kid. When I was four, I went missing in a drug store and my mom found me singing “Over the Rainbow” 🌈 to a shelf full of Band-Aids. I went to NYU for voice and worked in musical theater through my 20s, picking up a running habit along the way. When I was 25, I even wrote in my bio that I was going to run the NYC Marathon. I figured if it was in writing then I had to do it. In my 30s I had to let go of my Broadway dreams a bit to make room for things like bills and a baby, but I never really stopped singing. Or running for that matter. And both of these passions came to meet in perfect harmony today. 

If you ever get the chance to sing the national anthem in front of people, you should know this: it’s terrifying. The song itself is an octave and a fifth, and if you start even a half step too high you are screwed at the end. And then there are the lyrics. There are pitfalls and stage fright is real. But I thought about it, and realized, this is just another race! So here’s my Bronx 10-miler plan for singing the national anthem:

PRE-RACE: 

You wouldn’t go to the start line without the proper fuel, an easy mile, a few stretches, and maybe some short sprints, right? Same here. Though I have to admit, I did cheat this a little bit. Not being an opera singer, I hate scales as much as I hate Cola Me Happy–flavored Gu. So an actual warm up of 2 easy miles to the start worked for me.

Ready to Sing After Warm-Up Run 🎤

Miles 1 through 3O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleamingDo not go out too fast. Or too high! It starts off nice and low so you can kind of ease into it and get comfortable. Find your rhythm. Don’t weave around too much and add flourishes. You’re just wasting energy you’re going to need at the end. 

Miles 4 through 6Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. Ok you’ve sung this musical phrase already. You may start to get really comfortable here, even a little lazy. Keep the tempo up and don’t lose focus. It’s actually pretty easy to mix up that “gallantly streaming” thing with “twilight’s last gleaming” from the first two lines!

Miles 7 and 8: And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still thereYou are more than half way done! It’s going to start to get a little harder here, but if you’ve followed your race plan to this point, you should be able to open up a little bit. 

Miles 9 and 10O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave. O’er the land of the free and the home of the braveLast two miles. I mean lines. You have already sung the highest note in miles 7 and 8 (red glare), but this time you have to sing it on that awful EE vowel sound. Singer’s worst nightmare. But just go for it because the end is in sight. Go ahead and treat “And the home of the brave” as your sprint to the finish line. It’s low, it’s easy, and by now you have knocked the ball out of the park. 

If you missed me in the Bronx, the video above can suffice, or head to Staten Island on October 9th, when I'll be putting the plan into action again for the Staten Island Half Marathon 😊

- Rachel Duncan 🎵