The second act opens with a bleary eyed, soon-to-be New York Marathon Finisher hustling to catch a 6:30 am flight out of Green Bay.
[Authors note: If you are just finding this blog post and haven’t read the first “The Year without a New York Marathon” posted on 11/12 please stop, go and find my first post and read it in its entirety and then return to this post. It will make much more sense if you read it in sequence.]
As I was trying to finish my last-minute toiletry packing I couldn’t help but be astonished at the sheer volume of clothes and other stuff that I had packed. It was a lot, even in my standards. But considering I didn’t have a real good handle on what the weather for race day was going to be like, I felt I had to be ready for every scenario. I had a plethora of “throw away” clothes, had running shirts that ran the gamut from tanks to long-sleeves, running jackets and a few pairs of shorts and Capri running pants too. I was ready for the race!
The flight out of Green Bay and the connecting flight we caught out of Cleveland both went off without a hitch (thank you United Airlines Customer Service Rep who not only changed my flight but also guaranteed I’d arrive in Newark without problems). We landed early and were able to catch a light lunch while waiting for Jolene’s flight to land so we could share a cab with her to our hotel. I had decided to order a beer for lunch even though I normally scale back on my alcohol consumption when it’s close to race day. But considering this was anything but a typical race week, and I had only 2.5 hours of sleep, I thought, “what the hell!?”. Plus with the week I’ve had up to that point, I definitely needed the beer.
Once Jolene arrived we jumped into a cab to head to our hotel. While riding in the cab we happened to see a long, long line of cars waiting for gas. By this point, gas was in short supply but the demand was still great. Our cab driver said he had waited in line for 2.5 hours (the length of my night’s sleep) to get gas. This was so sad and something I couldn’t even imagine even though I was seeing the lines with my own eyes. Once we got to the hotel, we stowed our bags because we couldn’t check in just yet so we decided to grab a bit more food and a few more drinks too. As I already mentioned, this was not my typical race week, so bring on the beverages!
As we were at the pub-n-grill I was skimming my Marathon Event Guide to find out a few more details about the Marathon and Expo. Brian and I were planning on stopping by the Expo that afternoon and we wanted to get some of the details such as the place, hours etc. As we were sitting there chit-chatting over a few appetizers, I couldn’t help but notice all the TVs were covering anti-marathon stories. Every single TV in the joint was running a story with some sort of negative message about the marathon. Since I had last been able to catch up with the news, sometime late Thursday afternoon, the animosity for the Marathon had grown to epic proportions. I was so uncomfortable seeing these TV reports, especially considering I was now in NY and all I wanted to do was enjoy my experience and embrace the city. But I felt I couldn’t embrace the city because the city wasn’t embracing me… or my fellow runners.
The Marathon Event Guide was sitting on the table while we were at lunch. I glanced down at it, glanced up at the TV and I immediately flipped the Guide over so you could only see the back cover. I felt at least with the Guide turned over, the waitress or other patrons wouldn’t see that I was part of the marathon. I wouldn’t be judged.
This is the moment I remember breaking just a little bit inside.
I tried to not let the events on TV bother me, I tried to pretend that it didn’t matter what the media was portraying on TV. Surely some people must still feel this is okay and that I can run the marathon? Maybe there won’t be millions of spectators cheering for us like in years past, but there will be plenty, right? People aren’t really going to hold it against me personally will they? I mean, the Mayor decided to go ahead, so why not run? What am I doing wrong? They said we could run so I’m going to run.
And then I tucked the Marathon Event Guide under my napkin and another little part of me broke inside.
My head was spinning at this point. It was less than 40 hours away from the start of the race and I wasn’t giddy with excitement, I wasn’t full of nervous anticipation and most importantly, I wasn’t happy. At this point, I remember saying, “do I cancel my registration?” I wasn’t sure whether I had actually asked this question out loud or if it was just in my head. It didn’t matter. The seed was planted and once the seed is planted, it’s hard to shake.
After lunch, Brian and I headed off to the Expo. I needed the excitement and energy of the Expo to lift my spirits and get me in the right mood to run this race. I trained so hard for this race, I felt I deserved to enjoy the whole experience, not just the 26.2 mile run. And so far, this week was not the experience I wanted.
Once we got to the Expo, we got our packets and race shirts and started browsing the official marathon merchandise. I have to say, I have a weakness for Marathon merchandise. It’s probably why I enjoy being the Merchandise Sales Director for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon as well as the Door County Triathlon. I always spend way too much money on marathon merchandise and this time was no exception. I had actually pre-ordered some merchandise and had it delivered to the house so I didn’t have to worry about trying to pack it in my suitcase. And even though I pre-ordered merch, I couldn’t stop myself from spending even more money at the Marathon Expo booth. Once we left the merchandise booth we walked around the Expo for a bit but hadn’t yet seen it all. But before we finished walking the Expo floor we wanted to catch the movie they were going to be showing. The movie was an overview of the marathon course and it was a great way for us to see what we were in store for as well as get off of our feet for a bit. So we decided to take a load off of our feet and sit down and wait for the movie to start. As we sat down and stepped away from the noise and madness of the Expo, both Brian and I realized we had messages waiting for us. I had a voice mail message from the Green Bay TV reporter who had interviewed me earlier in the week about the marathon. She was calling to get my view on the marathon being canceled.
As I was trying to digest the message to figure out what she meant – because I knew I did not hear her correctly – because obviously the marathon was NOT canceled, I glanced at the text message from my brother Todd. As I was starting to read his text, Brian said, “the marathon’s been canceled“.
I don’t understand.
How? Why? When?
How can the marathon be canceled? How can it be canceled NOW!?!?!? Less than 40 hours before the start? How can the marathon be canceled… I’m actually in New York? I came and I’m ready to run. How can the marathon be canceled now after Mayor Bloomberg so boisterously declared the show must go on? He even urged all runners to keep their plans and to come to NY to race in the marathon. There’s no way he’d cancel it now. There’s no way we could be standing in the Expo, ready to watch a movie on the race course and find out the marathon was canceled from my brother and a TV reporter back in Wisconsin. If the marathon was canceled, wouldn’t they be telling us at the Expo? Why isn’t anyone saying anything? This can’t be true? And even though just an hour ago, I was secretly debating in my head whether or not I should cancel my registration, now that the marathon was canceled – I was upset. Why? I don’t understand. My head hurts.
Brian and I left the enclosed movie viewing area and walked back onto the main Expo floor. I was looking around dumbfounded waiting for… well, I wasn’t even sure what I was waiting for. Was I waiting for confirmation? Was I waiting for someone to tell me this was a joke? What was I waiting for?
As I was looking around I got a funny feeling this was no joke. The news spread like a slow-moving fog in a horror flick. Almost in slow motion I saw strangers check their phones: they read text messages, Facebook updates and tweets. Then the low hum of strangers asking their fellow marathoners whether they had heard that the marathon was canceled began to invade my ears. This hum grew in volume and pretty soon the buzz was all-consuming. Or at least it was in my head.
Finally Brian pulled up the New York Times on his phone and read the headline that the marathon had indeed been canceled. You can’t get more of a reliable source than the New York Times. There it was – confirmation. The marathon had, in fact, been canceled.
I didn’t know what to do. I knew I no longer needed to check out the rest of the Expo. So we decided to leave and head back to the hotel. I was still in shock, and very much in disbelief.
It was now, as we were leaving the Expo, when the first tear slid down my cheek.
And this concludes Act 2. You have time to check messages and grab a bite to eat before Act 3 starts.