Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sandy and New York Marathon

Sandy hit New York with a vengeance this past week and the aftermath is devastating to many who lost their homes, or worse, their loved ones.  I have images of one mom her lost her two boys forever burned in my mind and heart.  This week has been a flurry of political outreach as we’re in the countdown to the elections.  This weekend was also supposed to be the New York Marathon.  I qualified 2 years ago and wound up having to defer for work.  I qualified again this year and registered with the desire to finally tick the NYM off my “bucket list.”  After Sandy struck, and the City started picking up the pieces, there were mixed feelings as to if the marathon should be held.  On Wednesday the Mayor and then the NYRR proclaimed an emphatic “YES” the race was on and moreover the race was to be about recovery and helping the city.  Despite the confirmation that the race was moving forward, I felt torn – as a runner, I wanted to get out and see what my legs had to say about 26.2… so I took to social media to see what the crowds had to say about the race, the day, the aftermath.  At first people seemed positive about the race being on.  As the week went on, however, the tone changed on Facebook and Twitter and people were angry, insulted, and insulting about the run. 

The NYRR and Mayor continued to stand behind their decision saying $ and support would be there for the City and the race was for hope.  Friday morning I boarded my flight to NY.  I’ll admit, even at that time I was hoping the race would be cancelled or hoping I would miss my flight to force skipping the run.

Upon arriving in Newark Friday, I got on Super Shuttle and was off to the city.  The ride in didn’t pass any of the wreckage, and lights were on on the path the van took.  I arrived at the expo along with thousands of other runners who were checking in, taking pictures, and buying logo’d race items in bulk. 

After getting my bib and talking to the expo directors about transport to the starting line, I made my way out into the city to walk around.  Restaurants were full, nail places packed with people getting mani/pedis, and the shops were booming with pre-pre-holiday sales.  I got to the hotel and ran right into a hotel happy hour (pretty cool).  After sitting down with a nice glass of red (perfect race prep, right?) I was soon joined by another out-of-towner in NY on a vacation with her husband.  We got to chatting about the Broadway shows she was seeing and all the restaurants they were checking out while in town.  We of course talked about the destruction and how although the race was still on they should change the starting point as the start was set for Staten Island – the heart of the pain.
Getting back to my room, I couldn’t get on WiFi so I decided to surf social media while watching the news.  Facebook feeds on the race continued to pick up with strong emotions on both sides of the event.  There were many posts that the event was a “parade through tragedy” and posts started picking up about how runners should donate their hotel rooms and get out of town – that “no-one wanted runners there.” 

I’m not ignorant – I knew the race was controversial, and I knew people were upset about it.  I could argue to just say “but the Mayor told us it would help the city,” and it wouldn’t be a complete lie, but the reality is I could understand why people were upset.  Within minutes of my social media deep dive I got a text from a friend in Seattle that the race was cancelled.  Another few minutes went by and more announcements came.

 Interestingly, there were also comments about the other big events going on this week - the Giants-Steelers and the Knicks games:

In the end I’m glad they canceled the race – it was the right thing to do.  

I am a little surprised at the backlash and peoples’ tone, though.  I was in NY for 9/11 and it was a completely different tone – people were destroyed but people were hopeful and helpful.  I felt like for Sandy, some people took the time and the social opportunity to vilify runners.  In addition to saying runners should donate their hotel rooms to those displaced by the storm, people said runners should get out and help.  I actually agree – people should get out and help – ABSOLUTELY!  I wanted to help with the clean up – Friday I scowered the minimal social sites I could get on my phone trying to find something – most links were to donate money.  Saturday many links were posted on ways to help which was awesome.  People said the runners should go to Staten Island with “all their energy” to run up and down stairs and clean up.  It’s a good thought but I have no idea how to get to Staten Island – an early socially organized effort would have been awesome and it looks like there are a few tomorrow.  I do wonder, too, if the same people making these proclamations were out helping themselves …  Friday night I shared a hotel room with a co-worker (not taking up rooms displaced NY’ers or others could have).  I also booked a flight home rather than staying the week. 

Saturday I rose for a quick run.  My run took me through the Park and it was amazing.  There were runners everywhere, some in their marathon shirts, some even with bibs.  The sun was out.  Families were playing.  I passed the race finish line and saw a man in a wheel chair that he runs with his arms shrowded by a crowd of people in their marathon shirts with a big Italian flag behind him.  I wonder if this was supposed to be his race?

Back from the Park I walked around town looking for a clothes dropoff zone or something.  No luck, but I’ll ship my clothes.

I finally made my way to Penn Station where I got a ticket to the Newark Airport.  The Station was filled with runners.  One woman went off at how mad she was about the cancelation and how she thought people should sue for their money back.  Others just looked beat up.

So here’s what I think … I’m not mad the race was canceled – it should have happened Wednesday or sooner.  I’m surprised at people attacking people on social media – shouldn’t people be coming together to help?  Why do people need to hurt those unharmed by the storm with words?  People are blaming the politicians, Red Cross, and everyone in between.  This was a natural disaster brought on by all of us not taking care of the earth and not planning forward.  Politics cannot fix everything.  I think it’s easier for many to pass anger than to pass on support and help.  I think many ARE passing on support – I saw a clip on the news that in Staten Island people were helping more and faster than the first responders.  That’s what we should do.  And now there are FB groups started by the same runners who were getting heat for showing up ready to help – pretty cool.  I’m donating to the Mayor’s Fund here - I wish I could help in-person, but this is the best I can do for now.  Here are other ways to help.  


Unknown said...

Very well said Amber. The backlash against the runners seems completely misplaced.

Unknown said...

Very well said Amber. I think the backlash against the runners was completely misplaced.