We trained for months and raised millions for hundreds of charities around the world. We didn’t go to parties, didn’t enjoy lazy weekend brunches and passed on vacations, because we had 26.2 miles to conquer and we needed every minute leading up to November 4th to do it. We nursed dying parents, changed soiled diapers and corrected our children’s homework in between speed workouts, long runs and physical therapy sessions. We came together more than once to console, congratulate and contribute to each other’s causes. We ran through the pain, the torrential rains and the sweltering heat, because that’s what runners do. It’s what we train to do. We push forward, we forge ahead, we get through the course, we run.
Then Hurricane Sandy hit and we stood still, in shock, as we tried to figure out what was next.
We posted volunteer opportunities on Facebook and put in hours at the Park Slope Armory, in Staten Island and New Jersey. We offered each other places to stay and recharge and get a hot meal. We gave one another rides to and from work. We knocked on our neighbors doors to make sure they were alright as we wondered if we should cancel our parents flights from out of state and overseas. We weren’t worried about running. We weren’t thinking about ourselves. We just wanted to know.
Then New York Road Runners announced that the Marathon ‘must go on’.
We rolled our eyes and fretted and questioned. We picked apart NYRR’s declarations and wondered how the Mayor could allow it. We criticized, but were not surprised when when NYRR blew us off, that’s what they usually do. We joined ‘Cancel the Marathon’ Facebook pages and signed petitions. Our hardest hit teammates posted eloquent confessions on our group page about why they were happy the Marathon was going forward. 26.2 miles looked pretty good to them after emptying their basements of toxic water and putting whatever belongings they could find in trash bins. We were torn. It didn’t feel right. But if they had lost it all and wanted to run, how could we not? If we were going to run we were also going to ask our friends to donate to NY/NJ charities. We set up Crowdrise pages and donated a per mile amount to local charities because it we tried to turn it into an opportunity to raise more funds.
Then the rest of New York City decided that the worst thing to happen to New York City wasn’t the Hurricane, it was the selfish runners who demanded the marathon ‘go on’.
We read though comment after comment about how we were going to be attacked while running. Eggs and tomatoes would be thrown, acts of civil disobedience would knock us off the course. We were portrayed as insensitive whiners –and not only by strangers — but by our friends. Our affected teammates still wanted to run even though NYRR did nothing to facilitate their entry pick up. The stories coming in were getting worse. Our doubts kept growing. We made our way to the Expo. We questioned officials about their claims of hosting the Marathon without taxing city sources. They smiled and treated us like hysterics, telling us they were paying for everything and quietly moved us along with an impassive smile. International runners were excited. They asked what the race was like. We answered it was usually great, but this year it would be very different. You could tell they really didn’t understand what had happened. Their hotels weren’t in hard hit areas. They were just happy to be in New York. . We collected our numbers with a furrowed brow and left more conflicted than ever. We did not want to run. But for some reason we felt we had to.
The Mayor and New York Road Runners announced that the 2012 New York Marathon was cancelled.
We were incredibly relieved. And yes, disappointed. Some of had had trained for years. But we weren’t disappointed about not getting to run our race on November 4th, we were disappointed about not getting to run our race at all. We were angry that it took NYRR three days to do the right thing. But knew how fortunate most of us were. So we focused our frustration on creating more volunteering opportunities now that we had Sunday to help out too. We continued to coordinate the clothing and food collections we had already begun, we intensified the clean up efforts we had already organized. We returned to our Facebook feeds only to find that we were still being vilified by people whose post Sandy efforts consisted mainly of demonizing runners from the comfort of their well lit apartments. These same critics posted tired ‘power to the people’ slogans with their 140 characters and made fun of the fact that runners were posting about the volunteer work. We wondered why we needed to prove ourselves to anybody.
Then we stopped giving a damn about what people say or think.
We realized that if all those people hating on us were using their time to volunteer, we could send all of FEMA to Jersey. We didn’t need their opinion or their approval. We just wanted to inspire their action like we always have. We love New York and we show up, every time, cause that’s what we do no matter who is watching.
We run New York.