The 2013 ING New York City Marathon — what can I say that hasn’t been said a thousand times, hell, a million times before? Honestly I’ve struggled with this recap and have dreaded writing it because I want to cover it all from the expo to the finish and I want to do the marathon and all that comes with it – justice. And more importantly, I want to do justice to my quest to run this marathon and to the emotions and feelings that went into it. It was more than 26.2 miles; it was a journey of endurance, a trip of emotions that took me from Wisconsin to New York, through five boroughs, two jobs and one natural disaster. It was a pilgrimage that started in 2011 during a time of my life when I needed something big and grand to strive for, dream for and work for. And while the path I took to get to that finish line wasn’t the easiest or shortest, it was definitely the exact passage that I needed.
As a quick (and I do mean quick because if you want the full recap you can read about my 2012 NY adventure here ) recap for those with a bad memory, Brian and I were supposed to run the 2012 NYC Marathon but it was cancelled while we were in NY due to Superstorm Sandy. Since we were already in NY, we made the best of the situation and volunteered two days on Staten Island and made a connection to people and community that we will never soon forget. What we experienced last year on Staten Island was special for many reasons and I can say I am a better person for having experienced it.
But that was 2012, and this is 2013, so where do I begin this recap? Let’s start with my first few days in Manhattan. When I landed in New York, my emotions were a bit mixed. I was feeling a bit blah due to some work/job related issues and I was trying hard to shake my negative attitude so I could truly enjoy my trip. But never being one who could leave work, at work, I felt a bit of a casual attitude towards what was about to happen and the fact that I was in NY to run the marathon. Going to the Expo helped a bit. The expo was large, inspiring and very draining on my pocket-book! While at the expo, Brian and I picked up a little token of appreciation from NYRR (New York Road Runners) for those who couldn’t run the marathon last year and chose to come back this year to run. We were given complementary wrist bands that had both 2012 and 2013 printed on it. It was a small token on their part but it spoke volumes to me. They did not have to do it, but I very much appreciated it and it helped to remind me that what we went through last year and what we were about to do is something not many people can say they were a part of (and it reminded me that my work drama was just very trivial). Sure a lot of people have run the NY marathon, but not many can say they were involved in the ONLY cancellation of the marathon. We had a story not many others have to tell. We also received the 2012 finishers medal too. I know some people picked theirs up last year and at that time, I could not for the life of me figure out why anyone would want the medal of a race that was cancelled and that had so much negativity associated with it. But now, one year later, after we had volunteered on Staten Island and after the bombings in Boston, I realized I wanted that 2012 medal. Not to remind me of a race I did not run. But instead to remind me of the bigger picture… of the fact that life goes on, and because things could always be worse and we have no choice but to carry on.
On Saturday, the day before the marathon, my sister, husband and I decided to go back to Staten Island to the neighborhoods we volunteered in to see how they were doing and to see if they were able to rebuild and move on. We went back and walked the same streets we trudged one year earlier. In 2012, we went door-to-door handing out supplies and not believing the devastation we were witnessing. This trek was different, there was still evidence of the devastation and many houses were still uninhabitable and very much in need of repair. Others however, were renovated and back to providing shelter and security for their families. For every home that we saw that had been restored and had life back in it, it was like I was able to breathe a bit easier. For every yard we saw that had signs of life and activity, it was as if I peeled a bit of the old scab off and was able to see the rejuvenated wound was healing. Having been gone for a year, I hadn’t been able to see any of the clean up and improvements and instead I was carrying around the old memories and scabs from 2012. We also went back to the hub of the relief efforts at New Dorp High School, where last year it was nothing but mash-style tents, FEMA trucks, Red Cross Vehicles, Emergency workers, Utility work trucks and hundreds of volunteers trying desperately to help those in need. It was a vision of despair that I had held on to for a year and it was a big part of our time on Staten Island last year. What greeted us this year was not tents, emergency vehicles and chaos, instead it was hundreds of children playing soccer. Last year the school’s soccer fields were transformed into a hub for the relief efforts but this year, it was being used as it should be – as a way for kids to enjoy, laugh and have fun. Seeing the soccer fields back to normal and full of life was just the lift that I needed to see. It helped close a chapter that needed a proper ending. I felt a sense of relief and I felt… “now I can run the marathon”.
My trip to Staten Island had been very healing and I’m glad I did it before the marathon. Since the marathon actually starts on Staten Island, knowing that this borough was on its way to healing as well, gave me a sense of calm that I needed and in some small way made it “okay” for me to run the next day. And while seeing some of the improvements to the streets of Staten Island and seeing that fun had been restored to the soccer fields was great, there was something else happening on that Saturday on Staten Island that made me realize… “it’s going to be okay”.
Now, how exactly do I explain what Jolene, Brian and I experienced on that Saturday on Staten Island? Hhhhmmm… I can only say that something “else” was happening on that day and it was something unique to the three of us. It was eerie, intriguing and soothing all at the same time. I’m not going to go into all the details on what happened because unless you were there with us in 2012 and unless you were with us again on those same streets in 2013 and saw a woman we met last year catch Jolene as she tripped, or had the most random, yet highly connected conversations we had with cab drivers, or retraced the exact steps we traveled last November, or had the unspoken feelings we were having, there’s just no way to do it justice. But I can tell you this — “something” was going on, on that Saturday in that community that is only something the three of us will ever understand. “Someone” or “something” was telling us that we were, or should I say are, still very much connected to Staten Island, New Dorp and those neighborhoods. It was the perfect way to spend the Saturday before the marathon. One year after Superstorm Sandy and the day before the biggest marathon/event of my running career, Brian, Jolene and I were told in no uncertain terms by the universe while on Staten Island that…
It. Was. Time.
Stay tuned for the next installment of my 2013 ING NYC Marathon recap.
Until next time,