Inspector John Codiglia, a 32-year NYPD veteran, was in charge of controlling the flow of human traffic across Central Park South, the last piece of the 26.2-mile route of the New York City Marathon. But Codiglia saw his responsibilities as much more—as nothing less than ensuring that New Yorkers love and cherish their wonderful city on this special day.
“We are having so much fun here!” Codiglia said into a blue NYPD megaphone, its mouthpiece held together with electrical tape. “I can feel it! I can taste it!”
For the past two marathons, Codiglia has coordinated street crossing with a style uncommon among high-ranking police officials. With a loudspeaker in hand, Codiglia, 62, controlled pedestrians as part cheerleader, part play-by-play commentator, and part carnival barker. People crowded around to catch his routine.
Through his megaphone he rooted for the runners and spectators alike.
“Just a little bit more. This is where you have to go deep within yourself. You must will yourself to victory!” he said to a struggling wheelchair athlete.
“I want you on American Idol! You’re a winner!” he said to a Beatles cover band nearby, to which he alone sent requests.
“Quick-quick-quick!” he shouted to spectators as they crossed the streets during lapses in the race. “Get your exercise in! Burn those calories!”
As a top runner came into sight, a plainclothes officer by his side referenced a laminated sheet with the athlete’s name and some biographical information. Like a producer relaying information to the on-camera talent, the officer fed material to the man with the megaphone.
“Paula Radcliffe is a wonderful competitor,” Codiglia said, as the eventual woman champion passed. “Did you know she ran a marathon nine months pregnant? The baby was born while running! Just kidding, people.”
To one of the many counterterrorism officers lining the street, he raised both arms above his head, megaphone in hand, and shook his hips to the Beatles’ “Help!”
To a group of tourists, he promoted the city: “Come to beautiful Central Park! Ride the rowboats, pet the horses! It’s the most beautiful place in the world, people.”
A friend and fellow officer said Codiglia had taken to the megaphone before. At the 2004 Republican National Convention he boosted the morale of protesters marching towards Madison Square Garden.
On marathon day, Codiglia enforced police regulations in his own unique way. “You guys’ remember that song, ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’? Let’s not try it out with the runners, ok?” he said.
When a junior officer manning a gate failed to close it promptly it resulted in a near collision between a runner and spectator.
“We must not forget, people, that this is their event,” he said to both officers and the crowd. “They’ve been training long and hard for it. Let’s not mess it up for them.”