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Note: this was originally published on November 6, 2012 under the title Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 NYC Marathon – Suppose They Canceled a Marathon and Everyone Ran?. I reread it today and cried. It is now 2 years since Hurricane Sandy and the 2014 NYC Marathon is this week. It is a good time to reflect.
From October 26 -27, I went on my first Mileage Run from NYC to SFO and back to NYC. I was supposed to continue on to Baltimore, the “final leg” of the trip, in order to run in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, although deeply conflicted, I did not go on to Washington, D.C., due to an impending storm being called Hurricane Sandy. Although I’ve run 90 marathons, I’ve never run the Marine Corps Marathon. I was truly disappointed to cancel, but with this “mother of storms” approaching, I didn’t want to get stranded away from home and work.
I consoled myself by the facts that, one, I would be running the New York City Marathon in a week, and, two, two days later, on Election Day, I would be leaving for a trip to Singapore. Well, life is funny, and doesn’t always unfold the way we intend, but there’s the big picture and the small picture to keep in perspective. Neither the Marathon nor the Singapore trip were to be. (As it turned out, but who would’ve known at the time, the NYC Marathon was canceled, and I had to cancel the Singapore trip because I missed so many days from work due to the Hurricane).
After my Mileage Run, I came home. In the next day, the storm forecasts got worse and worse, so I dragged Won’t Run to the store, and we stocked up on items such as water, milk and beer. Of course, we don’t have a good flashlight, but we had our priorities.
We hunkered down on Sunday, but not much happened outside. Suffering anticipatory cabin fever, we went out to a local diner for breakfast on Monday. The place was jammed, and the wind outside was blowing. We ate our eggs and returned to hunker down some more. Throughout the day, we went to the lobby of my apartment building to converse with the doorman and other neighbors with attention spans as short as ours. We knew from watching non-stop television that there were areas being hard hit by the storm, and we were in constant contact with friends and family members, especially checking up on my parents. Other than the predictable fighting that couples do when locked inside for days together, our only other damage was that the lights flickered a few times. However, since I work downtown and the power for New York City was lost, blown out, and/or turned off below 39th Street, I did not return to work for a week.
What did I do? Little that I can recall. I know I often complain that I’m so busy all the time. But I also learned that, I do the most, and even more, when I am busy. I learned that, when, I have nothing to do, I do even less. A strange phenomenon. I was not at work, but this was not a vacation. Stores and museums were closed. This was not a time for frolicking. I contacted the Chief Judge and Clerk at work to see if they needed help with any emergency applications. I also made inquiries about trying to get into my office to get some work out, so I could work from home. None of this was to be. In the day or two after the storm, we were in a haze. We couldn’t go far because there was no public transportation, and the cars and taxis that were out, were bumper-to-bumper. We watched some of the devastation of the storm on television, but were disconnected in a way from the world. We didn’t know or comprehend the full extent of the devastation. It was as if, even for those of us who were not really hit by the storm, a fog covered us.
Slowly, we started rallying to help the victims of the Hurricane, donation centers sprung up, we donated, many visited. Outside of New York City, the damage was primarily to the Jersey Shore and various coastal areas of Long Island, Long Beach, in particular. The main “damage” in Manhattan was the power outages. But there was also serious damage throughout Staten Island, and Queens, particularly, the Rockaways and Breezy Point.
No one knew whether the New York City Marathon would go forward barely a week after the Hurricane. There were great debates, but many felt that both the repair of the damage and the preparation of the Marathon event could go forward simultaneously, and that the Marathon, and all the revenue it brings to the City of New York, would be healthy and uplifting for a City digging themselves out from the storm. On Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Marathon organizers announced that the NYC Marathon would go forward. There was excitement, but also division even among local runners on this.
Thousands of the runners of the New York City Marathon, have to travel from all over the country and the world to get here, and when they arrive here, it is very expensive. The New York City Marathon is a bucket list event for many people worldwide. Taking their cue from the announcement, the runners spent huge sums to arrive here, with their families and teammates in tow. Late Friday afternoon, after most, or at least a large percentage of the runners, arrived, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the Marathon was canceled.
As someone who travels around the United States, and even the world, I was seething at the irresponsibility of the Marathon organizers and New York City. I accepted the cancellation. It was done. But the timing of the decision could not have been worse. The officials should have assessed the situation and made their decision to cancel on Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or even Thursday. Their handling of this matter was atrocious. I will not get off my soap box on this, but I will shut up.
As mad as I was, an hour or two later, I said, its time to move forward. What’s done is done, and its time to turn this angst into positive energy. There were people in need of help and money, and I shifted my focus.
While this was transpiring, the Red Cross and other fund raising efforts were moving forward. More and more volunteer groups formed. Donation centers were filling streets. It might only be the tip of the iceberg, but peoples hearts were opening up.
Among the runners too, there were grass roots efforts devoted to helping the victims of the Hurricane. These efforts took shape largely on social media – Facebook pages and Twitter. There were many, but two in particular stand out.
First, was New York Runners in Support of Staten Island. This group of athletes came together to run in Staten Island on Marathon Sunday to deliver aid to those in need on this hard-hit borough. These runners, wearing orange, carried backpacks filled with food and gear, literally ran from street to street and house to house to help and distribute aid to the Hurricane Sandy victims.
Second, were efforts such as Run Anyway Marathon NYC where marathon runners decided to run the length of the 26.2 mile length of the Marathon course (or actually, whatever distance they chose) in Central Park, just as the Marathon had been run in the 1970’s when it was first founded. The Run Anyway team asked people to bring donations of food and money to Central Park, and sold t-shirts, the proceeds of which would go to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Other running groups had similar plans. My own team asked participants to donate $26.20 to any such charity.
On Sunday, I went over to Central Park. The marathon route and mile signs were up – after all, this is where the last mile or two of the course is usually run. I knew people would be running, and I knew many would be running in honor of the canceled marathon. The marathon that was not to be.
I did not know what to expect, but I certainly never expected to find what I did when I got to Central Park! There were thousands and thousands of runners. Many wore the 2012 NYC Marathon shirts, many wore their country or team shirts. I started to cry. There was so much love, compassion and camaraderie there. I wanted to hug everyone. There was also strength, empowerment and resilience. And there was jubilation too. We accepted the cancellation, and joined together to simultaneously do what we love (i.e. run) and to offer help and support to the victims of the Hurricane.
The next day, I saw this on the RunAnyway Marathon Facebook page:
Yesterday at the RunAnyway NYC Marathon, you all helped fill 5 Suburban SUV’s full of cold weather clothing for the Hurricane Sandy Victims! Like, FILLED!, so that only the driver could fit in with all the seats down. AND through partnering with Renaissance Church Cares initiative, you all helped raise over $16,000!!! YOU and RunAnyway were a huge part of that!
I took a lot of photos of the event. They are posted HERE..
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