The (Broken) Spirit of the Marathon

In the wake of all of the controversy surrounding the NYC Marathon, and being one of the 40,000+ individuals originally scheduled to run it this year, I just felt I needed to put my two cents in, as there have been a lot of opinions flying around.

Just as a disclaimer, this post isn’t meant to show any disrespect to anyone that was affected by the tragedy. My heart goes out to any and all that may have been affected, and by no means does any of what I have to say pale in comparison of what has happened this week. It’s just a few of my thoughts and how saddened I have been over how the situation was handled with the marathon. How many runners had been unfairly vilified for their involvement in something that was once a positive symbol of the city, as well as the wasted efforts and negative energy that could have been put to use in a positive way.

After many years of failing to get into the marathon, this year I decided to fundraise for a charity so I could not only run my first marathon, but run alongside my father (for the first time) and boyfriend who got in–and bonus, run for an awesome cause I felt passionate about. And thanks to many of my great friends and family, as well as the help from my father and Adam, I raised $3,000 for the ASPCA, a charity that is also currently helping rescue animals in need during these relief efforts. For the last four months my heart has 100% been into training nearly every day and waiting nervously for November 4th. Of course now, none of that matters, and all of this went out the window when the Hurricane hit. I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed, because I was, but my needs weren’t at the forefront anymore. It was just a race. It’s still just a race. And I am grateful and feel very lucky that throughout this week, I was spared from any of the unfortunate consequences and tragedies that happened to millions in the area as a result of the Hurricane.

On Tuesday, when Mayor Bloomberg, along with NYRR, said the Marathon would go on, I had to trust their decision and that they wouldn’t carry on, if it wasn’t in the best interest of the city. Believe me, I was trying to get all of the information I could, so I could also make my own personal assessment before doing anything.

As the week wore on, and the more I read from the opposition, the sicker and sicker I felt. The things I read on the Internet, saw on TV, and show up on Facebook started to make my stomach churn and it saddened me to no ends. In light of all the tragedy and horrible things happening to this city, I also saw a very ugly side of humanity, which was deeply disheartening on all accounts, especially at a time like this. In large part to the media, a very unfair and negative portrait of runners was painted, being chastised for their participation in an event that was once a symbol for inspiration and hope. We were looked at as if we were indifferent to those in need, when we really wanted to make something positive out of the negative.

Some of this is paraphrased from Adam’s post:
Foreigners who couldn’t wait to get here and show their support, spend money, help out our economy, and even volunteer in the process were instead, told to “stay home, we don’t want you here”. They were called scumbags, selfish, threatened, and virtually spat on. I am sure a very large percentage of these runners would have been itching to help anyway they could. Sure, it’s not realistic to expect everyone to. But from what I saw online, there were many runners willing and waiting, some even willing to show up, no matter what happened. But these people were still vilified to no extent. No one was able to speak loud enough about the positives. They were being drowned out by one sided media coverage and even death threats. One runner on Twitter was told she would be “running with blood on her hands.” This same runner was spending all of her time making jewelry in order to raise money to donate to the Sandy relief funds. I was told of a runner who was still without power, who couldn’t help but cry when she heard news of the cancellation, because it was the only thing that was driving her at that point.

Every running club that I know, every running store, every running related thing that I know, is doing something this weekend. There was the Walk/Run For Prospect Park this morning. When asked on Facebook how many people showed up, their response was “The turnout was so overwhelming that at some point we couldn’t register anymore and people threw their donation in the bucket and just ran.” Donations, from one little run/walk organized at the last minute.  My own running group, North Brooklyn Runners, is helping Red Hook Recovers this weekend, and doing a benefit run tomorrow. That’s just to name two out of probably hundreds of run/benefits that are or will be happening.

There was just so much wasted energy, losing focus on what was really at hand. Previous to the cancellation, my sentiments weren’t that we were there to “put on a parade”. This was not a party to us. I understand there are many with opposing views, which I understand, but believe me, the last thing I would ever want to do is, is disrespect a city in mourning. And I believe a lot of runners felt the same way. By Friday, I was very close to dropping out, but with my father flying in from California to run, along with the enormous amount of support I received from family and friends through their donations to my charity–I felt I couldn’t just give up. I was even hoping to start another charity effort for Sandy on Facebook, but I was afraid to go on. To no fault of my own, I started to believe the comments. And I was no longer proud to be running my first marathon, I was ashamed. The marathon was covered in a dark cloud. The symbol of hope and inspiration was now a symbol of hatred. And as much as it broke my heart to see the city devasted, it also broke my heart to lose that spirit, a time when this city needs it.

I only wish the cancellation had happened sooner, before it turned into such a negative and ugly driving force. While I obviously can’t speak for every single runner, we would have understood. But seeing the negativity and misdirected hate the last few days…it was truly unnecessary and the complete opposite of what the city needed.

I just want to thank everyone who donated to the ASPCA. The amount of support I received from friends, family, and strangers made me feel that spirit. You guys are seriously the best. And there are a million ways to donate and help those in need in that have been hit by the Hurricane now. I’ve been told that donating here goes directly to those in Staten Island who have been hit the hardest: But I know there are loads of other efforts out there. Anything helps. Wishing you and your loved ones all the best this evening.


2 thoughts on “The (Broken) Spirit of the Marathon

  1. BP says:

    This is wonderful. thanks for sharing the other side of the story!

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