I had planned for a little while to write about the runner community. Then, hurricane Sandy happened right in the middle of New York and New Jersey just before the ING NYC marathon. While keeping up with all that has happened over the past week concerning whether or not the marathon would happen or not, I not only learned a lot more about the community of runners, but saw it in action.
Disclaimer: OK, cycling and triathlete friends; this isn’t meant to be an article that says the community of runners is better than the cycling or triathlete community. For one thing, many runners are cyclists and triathletes also. In addition, many of the same qualities of mutual support and working for the common good of others can be seen in the cycling and triathlete communities.
There is something that happens when you suddenly realize that being a runner means you are also the member of a community. Runners can be from any part of the world, but they know each other when they meet. Runners are willing to help each other. They share in common goals and common struggles. Even if we never meet one another, we shake our heads knowingly as soon as anyone talks or posts about shin splints or negative splits. All it takes for runners to be ready to go is a start line and a call to race.
Which leads us to the devastation in NYC and much of the upper east coast caused by Sandy. The water poured right into the city of New York and pretty much messed with everything. All of this happened only about a week before the date of one of the biggest marathons around, the NYC marathon. The city and the New York Road Runners (the group that puts on the race) worked together to see whether it could happen or had to be cancelled.
Also a warning to those that want to argue or quibble over the decision or its timing. In my best and nicest Texan I’ll just say, “SHUT UP!” First, it’s not necessary. Second, have you ever had a storm literally cover your city with water and wind? Finally, the only ones that get to quibble about the decision or its timing are the ones having to live through the storm. They are doing the best they can, so give ‘em some credit.
However, late in the week, the efforts just weren’t enough. The marathon had to be cancelled. Not only does that present a lot of difficulty for the ones that put on the race, it left a lot of runners kind of let down. I won’t call it let down as in someone failed. Mostly, I understand what it means to put the effort and time into training for a marathon. It’s weeks and months of workouts and training runs. It’s hard work. You keep yourself going through the tough work because you’re pointed at race day. In this case, many runners got nearly up to race day and then…there’s no race.
To make things worse, because of the efforts to go until the last minute, many runners, especially international runners (about 20,000 of them) were already en route when the announcement went out. Now you’ve got a lot of marathoners ready to run and they have dropped into a place with no run and the city all tore up. What do you do now?
I watched on Friday as the Twitterverse reverberated with the news of the cancellation. The frustration with being ready to go and no race was evident. The disappointment was heavy. These things were expected and natural. It’s a big let down to get this close and someone calls, “no joy.” Sometime during all this, I see one tweeter saying they should just go down to Central Park and run the laps to make up 26.2 like the marathon used to do.
Not only was that a logical idea, by Saturday, I start hearing about RunAnyWayNYC2012. One young man and a few friends just started calling for runners to show up at Central Park and do just that, run the laps. By the time I caught up with these guys, they had a map, a plan, and most importantly, runners. Word was going out via Twitter and later by Facebook. The community was starting to respond.
Runners were saying they would be there. Some runners had transportation difficulty and then you’d see someone say, “I’m going that way, I’ll pick you up.” A plan was made to donate materials and money for the relief efforts. Others volunteered to cheer, to watch over hydration stashes, and even to bring snacks for runners. By Saturday evening, lots of responses were coming in to the RunAnywayNYC folks and they even had a church in New Jersey signed up to handle any of the cash donations.
All the runners were warned they would be on their own. No aid stations. No EMS. No clocks. No chips. Lemme see: how do we do all our training runs? No aid stations. No EMS. Sometimes a clock. No chips. Sounds the same to me. Runners run, and usually don’t have to be asked twice.
So, with only a little planning and no warning, about 2,000 runners actually showed up on Sunday morning to run through Central Park. Some ran the whole 26.2. Most just ran enough to make it a good day. According to the Facebook post I read earlier, five Suburbans full of cold weather gear had been donated plus $16,000 dollars. While not everyone showed up at Central Park, many runners also went to Staten Island to help distribute and donate goods to the hard hit areas there. The NY Road Runners also donated a lot of their materials to the relief effort. And, we’re not done yet.
#RunChat that I participate in and follow also kept track of and posted alternate marathons that NYC runners could still participate in over the next couple of months. Many of these marathons were ready to welcome NYC marathoners and were offering discounts and extended registration times for runners that were already registered in the NYC. I had even seen a tweet from the Sandhills marathon to all Nebraska entrants of the NYC that they could register for free at Sandhill.
This is just kind of what I’ve come to learn about the running community. Despite the critics that we heard from this past weekend, runners are not selfish, nor are they self absorbed. Somehow, when you do something like learning to run a marathon, you learn to value many other things that you may not have before. Encouragement, support, and helping others on the same journey is really important. In the end, we’re all on the same journey on this blue ball and it helps to encourage and support others. Happy running ya’ll!