helping and running after sandy

So, here’s the deal.  Hurricane Sandy was last week, and it has caused an immense amount of destruction in many areas of the city, inconvenienced plenty (going without power/heat is certainly more of an inconvenience than losing your house), and created a lot of drama.  I’m lucky in that I didn’t lose power, water, or heat…in fact, nothing really changed for me.  It’s basically the only time anyone has ever said, “I wish I lived uptown.”

Despite the major, major destruction throughout the city (focused in boroughs not called Manhattan…), the hot topic for many people was that of the marathon.  I wrote about it on Thursday, clearly stating my opinion that the marathon should be called off.  It seemed like most people agreed with me, although I certainly understand the people who had been training for months or traveled from all corners of the world to run this marathon.  It was very easy for me to discuss calling it off since I had no plans to toe the line on Staten Island.

I’ve said the entire time that I would support anyone who wanted to run the marathon, as I felt the city would make the right choice on whether it was appropriate for runners to be running.  If the runners were given the go-ahead, then let them run…which was the plan until Friday.

You all know this.  No marathon.  I had gone to the race expo with Betsy, as I love expos, seeing all the runners, and visiting the nuun tent (hi Kim!).  The energy at expos, especially big, international ones, is awesome.  So many people so excited to RUN.  These are my people.

But the expo seemed so weird this year.  Betsy and I weren’t excited…I couldn’t get into it even after pumping Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind through my headphones on the way there, and if that can’t do it, then I don’t know what would.  Betsy was so on the fence about running that she wasn’t into it either, and we sat down a couple times while walking around the expo just to talk about it.  How can you run a marathon you’re not excited about?

The usual expo fun went on, and we bought a solid NYC shirt from my beloved Brooks. 



I normally get super excited at expos and want to buy everything…but I didn’t.  The whole feeling at the expo just didn’t seem right.  It was almost like everyone was living in a bubble like nothing ever happened.  I understand that people flew in from all over the world to come run this race that people rave about…for some people, it might be their only time coming to NYC, and it’s certainly not cheap, that’s for sure.  But the whole “nothing seems to be wrong” feeling really irked me.

Then I heard that the NYPD was trying to call in retired police officers to help because they didn’t have enough manpower to cover both the relief efforts and the marathon.  I don’t think anyone was surprised…but let’s take a look at our priorities.

We left the expo and headed back to our apartments, where I got a text from one of the nurses saying that the marathon had been canceled, and I couldn’t get to the official report fast enough…clearly it was a rumor starting 36 hours before the race was to start.

Not a rumor.  No race.  40,000 people already here.  I couldn’t believe it, but I was so glad that they made it…but definitely two days too late.  I would love to know what the final straw was in changing their mind, but it was the right decision.

moving on

The more I heard about the destruction, the more I wanted to help.  After the announcement, I started talking to Elyssa and we began hunting down volunteer activities that we could do to help.  Many people said, “If these runners want to come to the city, they should come to help out, not to run.”  Well, I’m not 100% sure I agree with that, but I felt like I wanted to help.  I’ve been so lucky through all of this.  With all the chatter about running vs not running flying around, people just need to get out and help.

Back when I was in high school, my distance track coach used to say, “Talk is cheap, actions speak” when we would talk about beating other schools.  You can talk it up all you want, but unless you put the miles and workouts under your legs and work hard to try and beat someone, it’s all just talk.  With the social media explosion following the marathon drama, people needed to get off twitter and get out and help.  So we did.

Elyssa and I found a volunteer project Saturday morning helping to clean up East River Park, starting by the track that I’m sure many NYC runners use for workouts.  I tweeted about it and put it on Facebook, and three more NYCers (Shannon, Joe, and Lara) joined in with us and about fifty other people.  We dubbed ourselves Team Sandy Pants and raked up leaves for a few hours.  I will say that the park definitely looked much better after we were done.

Bagging some leaves.

Good job, team!

We finished down by the Williamsburg Bridge, which meant we were close to the Doughnut Plant…perfect place for a visit.  Also, a perfect place to see people waiting in lines next to military trucks hanging out boxes of water.  NYC is still a mess, and lower Manhattan definitely has it better than places like Staten Island and Rockaway. 

I came home from cleaning up the park to find that Betsy had suggested going to Staten Island on Sunday morning to literally run supplies to the people of Staten Island…fill up a backpack and run house to house.  I was in, so I headed to Duane Reade to stock up and met a girl who was doing the same thing.  Filled up my running backpack and was ready to go.

Waking up on Sunday morning, everyone who I was planning to go with had decided not to go, and I’ve been battling a cold all week that was exacerbated by not sleeping much during hurricane week (you know, from working….).  So I stayed home with plans to meet up for the Donation Run that Eissa organized.  After all, I still had a backpack full of goods for people who needed them way more than I did.

The plan?  Meet on the UWS to gather all the donations, which Eissa would then take to drop off locations to benefit Rockaway.  The NYC Runner Army was in strong representation, along with out of towners who heard about it (high fives for twitter) and wanted to be a part of it.

Runners with the goods!

We took off as a group to Central Park, where I’ve never seen it so packed with runners…people running in both directions, wearing bibs, their race singlets, or flags from their countries.  People out cheering on the runners.  The starting line was close to where we started our loop, and people were all over the place taking pictures with it.  I would have done the same thing.

We’re running!  Arms up!

The energy in the park?  Amazing.  Runners are truly amazing people, and people had various donation stations set up throughout the park.  Everyone seemed so happy.  Maybe because we only saw two cyclists in the park.  (KIDDING, cyclist friends…not that I have any.)  Anyway, we ran, we cheered for people if they had their name/country on their shirt.  Welcomed them to our city and our park.  Sang “New York, New York"…or at least tried to, we need to work on the lyrics.

Best of all?  We power arched.  Three times.  I’m sure some of these runners, many not from New York or even the United States, were upset about not being able to run the marathon.  About having to get on a plane, fly here, and have the marathon canceled hours before it was to take place.  But the sheer look of excitement and fun from people running through the impromptu power arches (which the top of Harlem Hill should have at all times…)…simply amazing.  Runners just doing what they do…running.  And loving it.  While a marathon is what people trained it, it’s not what it’s all about.

This guy went through twice.

Some non-runners in the park could be overheard commenting about how the runners just wanted to run, and that’s all they wanted, so they were out there running.  And we were.  I can’t fault for anyone who wanted to run on Sunday morning…but it was so much more than that.  I love runners because I believe that most runners are inherently good people.  I’m sure we weren’t the only group of runners who gathered donations before the run, or who volunteered their time after as some of the group did.  The same people who were upset about the marathon being canceled because it was their first marathon, because they traveled so far, because four or more months of work went into this, because they raised thousands of dollars for charity…these were the same people out there running, cleaning up parks, and gathering/distributing donations.  When times get rough, runners will still run because that’s what we do.  But it’s not the only thing we do.

I’m proud to call myself a runner, and especially a runner in New York City.  The city did the right thing about the marathon, and we as runners will continue to train for whatever is next…and I can guarantee this isn’t the end of us helping to rebuild our city.

What did you do to help this weekend?  Know of ways we can continue to donate/help?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. says

    Great post Susan, well said. It makes me so happy that all the runners went out and did their best to help out in the midst of the disaster.

Comment away!