Sunday, November 4

Beyond the controversy: Interview with a NYC marathon runner

Today thousands of registered New York Marathon runners turned their cancelled-race disappointment into hope by volunteering with hurricane cleanup, donating to disaster relief agencies, and taking part in a spontaneous 26.2 mile moving celebration of the city.

A friend of mine was among the runners who flew to NYC for the race, only to learn that the event was cancelled. I had the opportunity to catch up with D earlier today. Here's what she has to say about her experience with this year's non-marathon, including the impromptu running festival in Central Park:
Beth: Can you please provide readers with a little bit of background about your connection to New York and the marathon?

D: I didn't start running until 2008. I was heavily influenced to run after my mom trained for and ran her first race, the NYC marathon in 2007. I didn't love running, but I loved setting goals and achieving them which is how I ended up becoming a marathoner.

My first race was the More half marathon in Central Park in 2008, which I ran with my mom. We ran it again in 2009. I also began entering the lottery for the New York City marathon in 2008... It is such an iconic marathon and I love New York City.

I moved here for a short period of time to study at Columbia University in 2009 and was heartbroken when I wasn't accepted through the lottery that year for the marathon. I cried with excitement when I found out I was going to be able to finally run it this year. Qualifying for and running the Boston marathon was probably my biggest accomplishment, but somehow New York still meant more to me.

Beth: How long did you spend training for this race?

D: I spent 5 months training. It was particularly rough this summer since it was the hottest summer in recent history in San Diego.

Beth: What was your reaction when you learned the race had been cancelled?

D: Even though I was originally conflicted about running the marathon, following the destruction of hurricane Sandy, I was still very sad and upset when I heard it was cancelled. I understood there was little to no resources being used for the marathon that could help hurricane Sandy victims, but I also knew that many people felt it was insensitive.

I understood pretty quickly that they needed to cancel the marathon, given the controversy, in order to protect the integrity of the race. The New York marathon is such an amazing event because of the support of local residents on the course. Given the controversy, if the race went on, it could take many years for the marathon itself to recover.

Understanding all this, it is still a hard pill to swallow knowing that 80,000+ people went to the Meadowlands today for the football game and that didn't create any controversy, not to mention the basketball games that have taken place this week at Madison Square Garden.

In the end, I have waited 4 years to run this marathon, I can wait one more year. I just feel terrible for the people who, because of whatever situation, will not be able to make it back next year.

Beth: For what it's worth, I've been wondering that very same thing about the Giants game... How is NYRR different from the NFL? But I digress...

Beth: Would you have been able to cancel your travel plans or get refunds if the announcement had been made sooner?

D: I also forgot to mention in my previous answer that I did originally think last Tuesday that they should have cancelled the marathon. So when they waited until Friday, that only made me more upset.

My flights and hotels were refundable. The only thing that would not have been refundable was the tickets my mom and I purchased for a Broadway show on Saturday (The Book of Mormon - by the way, it was awesome).

Beth: You’ve mentioned that thousands of runners showed up today to run anyway. What’s going on?

D: Today, there were an unbelievable amount of people running in Central Park. (My best guess is 20-25,000 people.) Many people were wearing their orange NYC marathon shirts, and many wearing their bibs also. I only ran about 10 miles, but I spoke with a number of people doing the full 26.2.

There were tons of spectators, some just cheering, many had thunder sticks or cowbells, and some had set up informal aid stations with water, Gatorade, and even gummy worms. Some people were representing the charities they had raised money for. (I noticed spectators cheering particularly loudly for Team Fox.) And many people were representing their country with shirts and flags.

To the south of the finish line, the grandstands were packed. It was completely unorganized with people running in both directions around the park, but an incredible and emotional show of solidarity of runners who came to run and just wanted to support each other.

Beth: What made you decide to run today?

D: I have always loved running in New York City. I was here with my running gear. My mom was here to support me, and she also had her running gear with her. I didn't realize there would be so many people in Central Park today. I came here to run today, because I just wanted to get out and run.

Originally we were going to run up the east side to the reservoir, but when we were surprised by all the runners in Central Park, our plans changed.

We ran towards the finish line and took some pictures when we got there. My mom stayed in the stands while I did a full loop around the park and about an hour later she took pictures as I ran past (not through - it was closed) the finish line.

We both cried a lot on multiple occasions. It was an intensely emotional experience, and I am proud to have been a part of what must have been the largest informal run ever.

Beth: People are also reporting that thousands of people are spending the day volunteering on Staten Island. Have you seen or heard of volunteering by other NYC runners?

D: I did hear about the people who were volunteering on Staten Island on the ING New York City Marathon Facebook page. But last night I heard on the news that people in general were not encouraged to volunteer, and the best way you could help was to donate money to the Red Cross. I had already done so, and was aware of the $2.6 million New York Road Runners had raised for the relief effort on Thursday night. So I decided to just spend my Sunday going for a run and enjoying my vacation.
D, thanks for sharing your experience with us. I am truly sorry that things did not work out the way you - and so many other runners - planned, especially after months of training and all of the travel expense involved. But I am certain this is one run you will never forget.

You'll have to report back when you run in 2013!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Penny for your thoughts?