Monday, November 5, 2012

The Marathon That Wasn't

As many of you know, I have been training and raising money to run in the New York City Marathon this year.  You may also know the Marathon was canceled due to the devastation caused by Sandy.

I thought I'd write a bit about my personal experience in New York this weekend.

Yes, we did fly to New York on Friday, expecting the race to be on.  Every day, several times a day, the mayor, the New York Road Runners officials and Team Boomer (my charity team) through emails or the media told all of us that the race WOULD take place.

This situation obtained until Friday evening when Mayor Bloomberg canceled the race.  We found out while still on the plane at LaGuardia from the woman in front of us when she turned on her phone upon landing.

The mayor made the right call.  I just wish he'd made it earlier in the week.  Thousands of people traveled like us with the expectation that things were normal enough in New York for this event to take place.

However, when the race officials and volunteers were seen loading generators and tents for the runners on Staten Island (the starting point of the race) while rescue workers were still pulling BODIES out of houses nearby it became clear that holding the race was a bad idea.

This may have been the turning point in the decision to cancel the race.  Even thought the race was donating a large sum of money and aid to the relief effort, it just seemed wrong to a lot of people that this thing should go on.

Twitter and Facebook (one of the times I am glad I don't use either of these) were loaded with venomous, even violent threats against the runners.

I was able to contact my friend, bassoonist Louie Nolemi and his wife Joanne and hear that they were OK and helping out flooded out neighbors there.

Without much hesitation, my family and I decided to go ahead and spend the weekend in NYC.  For me this was never solely about the race.  I'd raised over $5000 for the Boomer Esiason Foundation and we had planned a family get together in New York for that weekend.  The race was just one of the events we had scheduled.

My older daughter, Grace, was to celebrate her 21st birthday with us there along with her boyfriend.  Unfortunately, her airline DID cancel her flight and the friends who were going to put the two of them up for the weekend had vacated their home in Larchmont, NY because they had no power! 

We also had big plans to spend some time there with my brother in law and his family.  His daughter, Allie is the one who has Cystic Fibrosis. John was also registered to run the race.

The hotel check-in was interesting because we hit the lobby just after the cancellation announcement.  The check-in line was long, packed with runners wanting to change their reservations or just leave to go home.  We saw a large group of runners from Chile and felt bad that they, along with thousands of others had made the long journey to the USA only to have their plans thwarted by the disaster.

Later that weekend we had a long talk with a couple from Englewood, NJ who were staying in the hotel because they had been displaced from their high rise condominium.  Eight months ago they had moved from their house in Staten Island to NJ -- a good decision in retrospect, but there they were with their dog in the hotel for an unspecified amount of time.

I wonder how many Manhattan hotels are now housing people displaced by the storm?  Was I taking a room away from a family that needed it?  We also noticed many Red Cross personnel in the hotel.

However, there were very few signs of the storms in our part of Manhattan (around Grand Central Station). Everything was open except Central Park (which opened on Saturday) and a couple of blocks around Carnegie Hall where a large crane had bent back on itself in the wind. You may have seen this on the news.

The Cleveland Orchestra is booked in Carnegie Hall for a concert on the 13th.  I wonder if we'll be going?  The streets surrounding the hall and the hotel the Orchestra will be staying in were closed off.

We spent our weekend visiting some of the famous places near our hotel.  My nieces had never been in NYC, so it was fun to watch them experience things like ice skating on the Rockefeller Center rink, going to Times Square, etc.

I understand that many runners went out to Staten Island to volunteer.  Others ran the course themselves on Sunday, there was even an unofficial marathon in Central Park, complete with water bottles and bananas for the finishers and cheering crowds.

You've got to understand that a runner spends a couple of weeks before the race recharging the batteries, tapering off the mileage and resting up for the race itself.  You become antsy, like a loaded gun mentally and physically during that period.  It feels good to let it out when the race happens.

When the race doesn't happen, it's important to find a release.  I waited until I got back home and went on a 14-mile trail run. It was colder than NYC (35 F), but the run felt good.

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