Greetings from NYC- (No) Marathon Sunday

November 5, 2012 at 2:30 am

Last Sunday, this was not the type of post I had in my mind for “Marathon Sunday”. As many of my friends know, I like to write long marathon recaps citing interesting things I see, thanking friends and telling about how it went.

I spent last week captivated and saddened by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in NJ (my home state) and in the boroughs of NYC. On Wednesday, they announced the marathon was a go. It seemed like my Friday afternoon flight to still closed LGA would not work, so I made a Saturday morning reservation to Newark. I wrote a post on Thursday expressing concern about the safety and necessity of running the NYC Marathon when the city was still so disabled. The husband and I also had plans to fly out from JFK on Monday morning for a 10th anniversary trip to South Africa, so we had to go to NYC regardless.

On Friday, I tried to get all of my work done in advance of vacation while fielding questions on the marathon, our trip, etc. Around 3:00 CST, a friend said that Twitter was abuzz with cancellation rumors given all of the criticism of the plan to hold the race. And then… the announcement and lots of emails and text messages and people coming by my desk. It was unexpected, but I was relieved as I felt it was the right thing to do with so much of the 5 boroughs without power and in need of help.

Despite worries, I arrived on time to Newark, got my car service pick up and was on my way into NYC. It was the quickest I have ever made it to NYC from Newark. Why? Gas shortage. There were not many drivers on the road. I arrived to my good friends’ place on the Upper West Side in record time. From the Lincoln Tunnel to UWS, there was not much evidence of Sandy.

I convinced Neal to walk with me to the Javitz Center to see about the marathon number cancellation and to get my gear. We walked down the West Side Highway path and saw some volunteers cleaning up, but it looked like everyday cleanup work. After about 1/2 a mile, Neal said, “it’s like we are in the Capitol and we are watching the Hunger Games”. The “games” were the reports from NJ, Staten Island and other areas. He was spot on. The news coverage was devastating but from UWS to Javitz and back, everything was business as usual.

At the expo, I met a man from Mexico who was in to run his first marathon. He was disappointed, but was taking things in stride. The staff at the expo was palpably disappointed and even shaken. People really wanted the race to go on.

The NYRR had rebranded “Race to Recover” and asked participants and spectators to donate at least $26.20 to relief efforts. A bunch of grassroots organizations spring up including NYC MORE 2012 which organized groups of runners to distribute supplies in Staten Island, Coney Island and the Rockaways- three of the hardest hit areas. I was planning to try to go to Staten Island, but it filled up as Andrea and I were trying to sort out plans. There was also an announcement that a “Keep NYC Running” fundraiser was being held for a run in Central Park starting at Tavern on the Green at 9 am.

I went to meet friends at 7:30 am. I was overdressed and unprepared. Different than my usual meticulous planning for “Marathon Sunday”. (This would have been my 14th NYC Marathon since 1996.) We were planning to run and then head over and check out Tavern on the Green. There were a lot of runners wearing orange marathon shirts and some with numbers on.

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Lissy and I went to Tavern but we did not realize that the instructions were to run 26.2 on the original Central Park course from 1970. We had been running for 90 minutes, so we decided to do one 6 mile loop with the crowd of marathoners wearing orange shirts, charity uniforms, costumes and some numbers. Crowds of marathoners from many countries were all around us. We were so happy to see the camaraderie and general good cheer. There were even people cheering by Engineers Gate.

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Lissy stopped at Engineers Gate and I kept on. I noticed the blue “marathoner” label on the official shirt and could not help feeling that the label fits perfectly whether the official race is on or not. We are marathoners- clock or no clock! I met these lovely gals from Ohio and snapped some photos for them. Then I asked if I could take their pic for my blog. Like me, they have all signed up for alternate marathons in the weeks to come. They were disappointed but were having a great time, too.

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They insisted that I take a photo, too – overdressed and not too pretty!

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As I ran through the finish (faster than usual- that is what happens when you only run 15 or 16 miles!), I could not help but feel grateful for the spirit of the runners all around me who were making the best of things and the NYers who were cheering and handing out water and stuff. Our friend, Josh, did the whole 26.2! (Read more here.)

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So, this was not what I had planned, but in the spirit of keeping things in perspective, the day was much better than I expected it would be . I hope NYRR and the city of New York will never face this type of decision or situation again. Here’s to hoping that the only repeat next year will be the beautiful weather we had for running at marathon time!

We are still planning to go abroad tomorrow if all goes well. We hope to report from around the world next week! Take care and be well!

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