A year ago today I was walking over to the Javits center in Mid-Town Manhattan to pick up my packet and bib for the New York City Marathon. It was as excited as I have ever been for a race in my life and that includes another little marathon that they run every year up in Boston.
The forecast for race day was stellar. Low 40’s in the morning, mid 40’s by the starting gun, mid 50’s by the end of the race. A sunsplashed sky, 46,000 runners from all over the world and of course my wife and at the time 14 1/2 month old daughter Landry there to watch “Daddy” finish the race at Tavern on the Green on Sunday.
My New York Marathon Experience was pretty remarkable. You can read last year’s race report by clicking HERE.
Having spent a lot of time in New York over the years traveling for work, spending a long weekend there prior to the marathon actually a couple of years earlier with Dawn to take in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, I have a lot of fond memories of the city that never sleeps. But race day last year is a day I honestly will never forget. Simply put, it was New York at its best.
A year later and the aftermath of Sandy is making this year’s New York City Marathon a galvanizing situation.
The city, New York Road Runners, ING and the rest of the event sponsors are clearly trying to do the right thing. They want to put on the race for all of the right reasons, and perhaps some of the wrong ones with a city reeling to put itself back together.
To me a marathon is supposed to be a celebration. For all but the professionals who make their living racing the marathon, the race is a reward for all of the hard work the athletes put in training for the event. All of the early morning alarm clocks, the runs in all kinds of inclement weather, the skipped “fun stuff” because “I have to run long tomorrow …”. The race is also a reward for all of the members of the athletes family who also make sacrifices so they can train, rest, recover and train some more on the way to the starting line. It is not as much of an individual sport as some might think.
My good friend and training buddy Jim here in Austin was faced with a tough decision. Whether or not he should make the trip to NYC to race this Sunday or defer until next year. His plans of a family mini-vacation were dashed by the storm. He would have to instead travel alone to NY to run the race, absorb unplanned costs regarding his place to stay which was no longer available, face an uncertain trip to Staten Island (he was originally scheduled to take the ferry) etc., etc., etc.
Jim in my view wisely decided to punt this year and run the race in 12 months. There are no guarantees in life of course, injuries, illness, family emergencies – all kinds of things could transpire next year to keep Jim from Staten Island, but I think the right thing to do was to pass this year, reload and get the same experience that he was hoping for by waiting until things normalize. I even offered to make the trip with him if necessary next year as an incentive to make him realize that missing the race this year was “O.K.”. Jim already went through a tough day in Boston this year with me as we “raced” in temperatures that reached 87 degrees. He deserves better.
But the other piece of this is the people of New York. The race for them, even those who do not run is also a celebration. It is a great day in New York, when the city shines and everyone smiles a little easier, strides a little more purposeful as their city is on display around the world as the center of the running world on that day. I have never met more interesting and wonderful spectators as I did last year in New York.
Those people this year are not experiencing what they had hoped for on November 4th either. The proud city is reeling again. There has been hardship, loss of life, they are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives just as folks are doing along the Jersey Shore, up in Connecticut and other cities and rural areas along the East Coast.
Sunday I am going to go for a run, then off to church with Dawn and Landry. I will be thinking about the people in the Northeast throughout the morning. Wishing them all well and that they are able to put their lives back together as quickly as possible. They will run the New York City Marathon on Sunday. People will cheer, medals will be awarded – but it won’t be the same. Not this year. There just isn’t a whole lot to celebrate right now for so many in the area.
If ever there was a city who embraces what it means to be a “marathoner”in my eyes, it is New York. That is one resilient place filled with resilient people who might get knocked down a time or two, but always get back up. There is great honor in that, that to me is what the marathon really is all about.