What a week this has been. This time last week, the winds of Sandy were just starting to really pick up, causing a branch the size of a tree to fall right next to the chapel. I was lamenting the fact that I had missed my pre-marathon massage–something that had been on my training plan for months. I had no idea how trivial and selfish my lament would seem just a few hours later, as I watched the Hudson River creep up past the West Side Highway, past 11th and 10th Avenues, nearing the gates of the seminary. Oh. Right. This is big. The lights went out in Chelsea (and all of Lower Manhattan) around 9pm. They didn’t come back on for 4 days. Some are still waiting in the dark.
Meanwhile, Jay was working “wall-to-wall” as they say in the newsroom. Because his work needed him to be accessible at all times, they reserved a block of rooms at a hotel across the street from the station. We never knew what to expect from one day to the next, but I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude again and again for a warm bed, a hot shower, a charged phone, a meal shared with a friend, and an occasional siting of my sweet husband. Not to mention our community back at the seminary caring for our dog–she is a warm snuggler when you’re living without heat!
Tuesday afternoon, we were waiting for a decision about the NYC Marathon. Being all too aware of the devastation around us, Jay didn’t see how it could go on–but he seemed to think it would anyway. Sure enough, the mayor announced that the marathon was a GO. Alrighty then. We’ll stick to the plan.
As days went on, it became abundantly clear that the marathon was pissing a good deal of people off. I was unhealthily glued to facebook, taking every negative comment to heart. I knew we were doing something good–heck, we raised over $6,000 to fight colon cancer! But how was I supposed to feel good about starting a race with my back to the war zone of Staten Island? And why were people taking out their anger on the runners? Why weren’t they upset with the mayor for making a bad call? People who think this sport is a narcissistic one should come to one of my speed workouts. If anything, my experience of training for this marathon (and shorter races before it) has been a) humbling, and b) camaraderie building. Narcissism is judging others for doing something you know nothing about.
Friday morning, John and Katie (the husband and youngest daughter of my friend Aimee who died of colon cancer in March) arrived to their hotel–ready to catch some shows and cheer me on. Friday afternoon, my mom arrived with encouraging words, knowing I’d had nightmares about people protesting the race. Friday night, NYRR announced the marathon was cancelled. As much as I have have looked forward to running the legendary NYC Marathon, I breathed a sigh of relief when I received Jay’s text saying, “it’s cancelled.” He knew I was on my way to church and would not be watching the announcement on TV. He was steps away from Mary Wittenburg as she told the world that this race was meant to bring people together, not to divide them–and given the divisive nature of the controversy the marathon posed, it could not go on.
While I was in church with my mom for an All Saints service, remembering departed saints in our own lives as well as all who had lost their lives in Sandy’s wreckage, my husband and friends were already thinking of ways to support me, coming up with Plan B. Jay emailed his contact at the Philly Marathon to see if he could switch his elite entry over to me–he was told no. Our friends Tanya and Josh (the same two who ran in men’s underwear with me back in June to raise awareness for colon cancer) had found a marathon in PA set to take place on Nov. 4–same day NYC had been scheduled. Jay immediately registered me for the race, worried it would fill up before I got out of church (it did). He, Josh and Tanya were ready to drive me to PA and take turns running with me through the whole race. I was touched when I met Jay for dinner and he told me the news. But my heart had already decided on another race: Charlotte’s Thunder Road.
I’ve got to say, I never would have thought to sign up for Thunder Road as my “one” marathon to run. (It’s looking less and less likely that I’ll only run one). I’ve run the TR half-marathon, and loved it! And I love Charlotte! But I only started this journey after getting into NYC via the lottery. Pure chance. It’s like the decision wasn’t even mine. Once it was made, I was stoked because of the cause that fueled me and the opportunity to run in the world’s largest (?) marathon. 2 million spectators are no small potatoes! But now that my registration for TR is in the mail, and my plane ticket to CLT is purchased, I can honestly say I am as excited if not MORE excited to be running in Charlotte Nov. 17.
Our goal going into this race was to finish, have fun, and honor Aimee. My training has been such that I’m a little faster than we anticipated, and it was fun to go into the NYC Marathon with a possibility of running 3:50 or faster. My teammates thought I should be shooting for 3:45 or 3:40. And maybe if everything on race day had been picture-perfect, I could have. It won’t be the case in Charlotte. I’m ready for the hills (thank God for all those Harlem hill workouts!!) but tapering, picking up my mileage, and then tapering again just isn’t ideal. Jay’s concerned I’ll be more prone to injury. So running TR brings my original goals back into focus–finish, have fun, honor Aimee. We toasted Aimee Friday night after making the decision, shedding a few tears.
And that’s it! I can’t imagine a more perfect place to finish this race than in Aimee’s town, surrounded by people who miss her as much as I do. To run on the very streets she and I used to drive together–it was Aimee who first drove me around Charlotte, picking me up from the hotel when I interviewed at Christ Church.
There is a good chance Jay won’t be there since he is scheduled to work that weekend (and every weekend). But Jay’s closest friends will be there, and I know I’ll feel him with me every step of the way. Julie, Brian and Mom won’t be there, but their presence this weekend cheered Jay and I up (Pepper too) after a long and difficult week.
And as for NYC (and many other areas hit so hard), send us your prayers and your donations. It’s a long road to recovery. If Sunday is any indication, the running community will be a significant presence in restoration. Thousands of runners went to Staten Island, Breezy Point, Rockaway, and Lower Manhattan to lend a hand. Thousands of runners met in Central Park to donate goods and “Run Anyway” for the various causes they’d been supporting all along. And thousands of non-running New Yorkers also met in Central Park to support those running–cheering for people, handing out water and Gatorade.
Despite the marathon being cancelled, or because of the marathon being cancelled, or because it just needed to happen, people are coming together. “I sing a song of the saints of God… God help me to be one too.”