Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced on Thursday that the New York City Marathon will be held on Sunday, November 4th. He says that by holding the planned event, just days after the city suffered one of the worst natural disasters it’s ever experienced will demonstrate the resilience and spirit of the residents. I’m afraid that I have to join the growing numbers of people who find it not just a bad decision, but an insulting one. There are other ways to show that New Yorkers are survivors and can gather to bring attention, and much needed help as a result, without running a 26.2 mile course across New York’s boroughs. Over 8,000 volunteers have signed up to help with the race. The starting line for the race is at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, and I don’t need to describe what has happened and is still happening to the people who live there. Maybe those volunteers, and even some of the runners, might want to walk about 2 miles to the South and put their efforts to better use. There are neighborhoods all along that shoreline who are running their own marathon.
One runner, Penny Krakoff, who lives in Brooklyn has started a Facebook page in an effort to do just that. This is the statement she made to the press. “I cannot start a 26.2 mile run in Staten Island—people are missing, stranded, in need of resources. Brooklyn and Queens have equal devastation. Parts of Manhattan are without electricity, water, major hospitals are closed. The Bronx too has its own challenges. Today I will volunteer at a city evacuation shelter. Sunday morning I will catch the marathon bus to Staten Island. Not planning to run. Plan to volunteer instead and gather resources (extra clothes, bottles of water, food from runners at the start). Let’s not waste resources and attention on a foot race. Who is with me?” https://www.facebook.com/#!/Nyc2012MarathonOfRelief?fref=ts
Penny isn’t the only one who feels uneasy about the Mayor’s decision to hold a race while first responders are still carrying on rescue efforts and families are still looking for loved ones. This article appeared on The Huffington Post website today. I think the author summed it up pretty well.
Four hundred and one miles. That’s how much running I’ve completed since June 16, 2012. Since June 16th I’ve spent 75 hours in running gear. That’s a little over three days of nothing but jogging. The goal of all this work was to run in the New York City Marathon on November 4th. Orange wave #4. Corral 65. Bib number 65195. And now I say to hell with it.
I found out I won the lottery for the marathon while I was in the Galapagos Islands. I was escaping the equator’s humid weather, laying down on my hotel bed in a towel when a new email came in on my iPhone. I was in. I couldn’t believe they chose me. Although looking back I think it had something to do with me registering two years in a row and getting denied. This being the third year in a row, they had to let me run. It was some sort of arcane rule that I believe they’re doing away with after this year. Happiness/fear set in quickly. I realized immediately that I needed to get to work and train for this marathon better than my last two. Yeah, I ran in two other marathons: NYC in 2010 and Italy in 2011. I am now addicted.
I decided to buy the training program that the NY Road Runners provide on their website. It’s a pretty great program. They email you every single day at 2am with how many miles you’re to do today, a coaches tip and what pace you should maintain on your run. I followed this regimen for 75 hours and 401 miles over 16 weeks. Every single day I woke up and checked my email and read my mission for the day. After my workout I would log my workout on their website. Every single day since June 16th I did this. I cherished the off days and truth be told where there was a Flex day (a day where the option was to run or take the day off), you bet your ass I took that day off. I’m not a skinny man. I have flat feet and tree trunks for calves, but I make damn sure to get off my ass and do my workout for the day. I ran 20 miles in one go, not once but twice during my training. My big toe nail is black and blue and a good friend who is a nurse says I will surely lose that during the marathon. It was a sacrifice I was happy to make, until today.
I’m a native New Yorker. I spent my first 22 years in Staten Island and the last eleven in Brooklyn. I love this town. I’ve seen the horror show of 9/11, the 2004 black out, and the 2007 Mets season end with Carlos Beltran watching a curve go by him. I know pain. I know suffering. This storm is right up there. People are without power all over New York. My mother in Staten Island was unreachable for most of the day yesterday, and I didn’t know if she was dead or alive. My employer is having me work from home because there is no power at the office. I don’t work for a Fortune 500 company. I work for a small mom and pop shop in Manhattan, and they need the power to get online. They need it to survive or they will go bankrupt and I will need a new job. That’s real. The worst part? That shit is nothing compared to the people whose lives have been lost or homes have been burned down or blown away. It’s dark out there. It dark and scary and I honestly think this is worse than 9/11.
Now, I know there are thousands of runners who have trained all year for this event. They’ve come from all over the globe to get to NY and go to Staten Island and wait for the sun to come up and the marathon to start. Lots of money and sweat has been spent in preparation for November 4th, 2012. I know because I am one of the people that spent money and sweat. “Well you didn’t travel from Kenya to run in the marathon,” you could say. That’s fair, but the New York Road Runners had ample notice about this hurricane. They had a whole week to evaluate the situation. When they saw that people were staying in hotels because they have no home to go back to, they should have stepped on the brakes there and then.
Furthermore, I don’t want to have streets cleared along the marathon route unless every street has been cleared of downed trees and power lines. I don’t want to be handed a free cup of Gatorade unless every single family in Rockaway has the same luxury. I don’t want people cheering me on when nurses who saved thousands of lives did so in complete darkness. I don’t want to reach that finish line before the city I love and live in crosses that finish line and cleans up after this natural disaster. I love the NYC Marathon. It changed my life. 75 hours and 401 miles later; I say to hell with it. Just postpone the damn thing.
For those of you who want to help the people who have lost so much, please donate to The Hurricane Sandy disaster relief effort at http://www.redcross.org/.
Marathon runners head to Staten Island to assist in Hurricane Sandy relief effort.
Photo courtesy of @cmwalla on Twitter