Sandy/NYC Marathon Thoughts brought to you by Manly Mondays
This is the first post I'm writing for this blog. Catee has asked me to contribute from time to time and suggested I do a weekly "Manly Monday Post." What better day to start Manly Mondays then on Veterans Day! I'm not sure how manly my posts will be, but I will try and post at least once a week.
This week's post is about the NYC Marathon and Super Storm Sandy. As you know, the NYC Marathon was cancelled last week due to the impact of super storm Sandy.
Catee, her sister Andree and I were registered to run the marathon. Over the last few days, many of our friends have asked me how do I feel about the race being cancelled. We truly had mixed feelings. On one side, we had trained for over 4 months for this race - a quarter of the year! We had family who had flown in town to watch. And, we had used the marathon as motivation and a tool to raise money to help find a cure for multiple myeloma - my father was diagnosed with this chronic blood cancer a little over 4 years ago.
On the other side, there was the power outages, the flooding, the homes and lives destroyed.
On Thursday night (the day before Mayor Bloomberg decided to cancel the race), I felt compelled to draft the following email explaining why I thought it was right for the city to keep the race on. When I wrote this, I wasn't sure who this email was for - to friends, family and supporters, to my fellow runners, a letter to the editor, or just for myself to help me understand my feelings and rationalize what I was about to undertake.
I understand New Yorkers have mixed feelings about having the marathon this Sunday, while so many are still trying to pick up the pieces. I have these feelings myself, but I think it is much more complicated than the critics have made it out to be.
The number of people coming into town makes it hard to change the date - about 30,000 runners (and their friends and families) are from out of town. Additionally, the revenue generated from the event is something the city could use considering it is estimated that the impact of Sandy could cost NY up to $17 million - last year's marathon generated about $340 Million in revenue.
Finally, many charities rely on this event - last year over 250 charities raised over $34 million. 4 years ago my father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, and I am running the NYC Marathon this year for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). This year, MMRF will raise over $500K from the individuals who are running with the MMRF Power Team. Runners who are raising money for causes like MMRF can ask their donors to still give money despite their not running the marathon this year, but my point is all of these factors make it extremely complicated.
I do hope the race does not reduce resources being used for the recovery - as I realize that there are thousands of people who are still suffering in the aftermath of the storm - but I do hope that the participants and the spectators will use the race as an opportunity to raise money towards the recovery (and other good causes) and remember those who have been impacted by this horrible natural disaster.
I am hoping this Sunday I will feel good about running this race - otherwise it will be a very long run. I have trained hard for the past 4 months and have worked hard to raise money for a cause that is important to me and my family. I hope those who know I am running understand.
Friday morning, a colleague of mine who was registered to run the NYC Marathon wrote me and my boss to explain why he thought the marathon needed to be cancelled
In response to his email, I sent him the email above. He wrote me back that he agreed with me 100%, but thought that at this point in time New Yorkers were not thinking rationally and that many New Yorkers were still hurting. Running the marathon and the images it was going to create (e.g. people tossing half drunk cups of water) would just be pouring salt in open wounds and that what New York really needed was a hug and time to heal.
When the marathon was actually cancelled later that day, I was disappointed, but over the course of the day as the picture became more clear about how bad things were in the impacted communities, I began to realize that my colleague was right.
Since the cancellation, I have thrown myself into the relief effort. I have helped organize daily volunteer buses down to the Far Rockaway, Coney Island and Staten Island. I have helped clean out people's homes in Staten Island, check in on families in large buildings with no power in Coney Island and met with small business owners in Red Hook about what they need to get them back on their feet.
These images have become all too familiar to most people, but here are some pictures I took while out in Staten Island, Far Rockaway and Coney Island the weekend after the storm.
As I have been engaged in this work, I now realize that there was no choice but to cancel the marathon, but that being said, I still have this feeling of disappointment about not having run the marathon.
Its tough to have trained for that long and to not have that event to culminate all of that work. And even though I know no one is going to ask for their money back, its been tough drafting the email to all the people who supported our fundraising efforts.
I think it will only get tougher when I am not as involved in organizing around the recovery efforts. Marathoners often talk about feeling depressed after they complete a marathon. For 4 months they have a very strict regimented life. They train 5-6 days a week and have to focus on taking care of their bodies in order to make sure they get to race day healthy. Once the race is over, the regiment and structure is gone.
Unfortunately for the people in the impacted areas, it seems like relief work will continue for some time, but for me the silver lining is that it will keep me focused and create new structure for my life.
After that... Catee and I will look for another marathon so we can have that culminating event.