Hurricane Sandy and the NYC Marathon. A runner’s viewpoint.
It seems like it has been a long time since the NYC Marathon. A lot has happened and a lot did happen over the two weeks before and after November 4th. I am going to try to give you an idea of my emotions, thoughts, and opinions leading up to and after the race.
Monday October 29th. ”The night of the storm”
Monday night’s Hurricane Sandy was one of the craziest nights of my life. I can’t even comprehend being anywhere near a class 2 or a class 3 hurricane. Hurricane Sandy started as a class 1 hurricane and was actually downgraded before it hit land. I have never in my life seen or heard wind like that. The sound was frightening to say the least. The wind started to pick up around 4 or 5 p.m. and continued throughout the evening. At around 7 o’clock I got up to let my dog out before it got really bad outside. I opened the French doors into the backyard and Wrigley stood there and gave me a look like what are you crazy.
I then brought her to the front of the house where we have an overhang and she could go behind the bushes and underneath the overhang. She quickly went and came back in. As I was closing the door and giving her a treat for going to the bathroom outside there was a loud BANG and the lights went out. After scrambling for a flashlight I made my way upstairs to do a quick scouting report and here is what I saw in our bedroom.
That night we spent in the candle light worried about more damage and double checking that everything and everyone stayed safe throughout the storm. I wish I could say that I got a good night’s sleep in but between the wind, the hole in my roof and being worried about the safety of staying in our house I didn’t sleep much at all. We called the Fire Department and they came over in the middle of the Hurricane to make sure we were safe. I was amazed at how brave they were just walking down the streets and shining flashlights on a dark street to find our house. They surveyed the scene and informed us that there was no wire damage or any other damage other than the structural damage from the tree in the backyard which is now on the house and poking into our bedroom. They gave us an option of staying in a shelter nearby. We declined and the firemen left I am sure to help out plenty of other people affected by Hurricane Sandy. That night the little sleep I did get was on the floor downstairs away from the potential of falling trees. When we finally woke up at daylight we immediately went outside to surveyor our property and the neighborhood and just check out everything. It was amazing the number of trees and wires that were down. Driving around the roads were so damaged that you could hardly get anywhere. Here is what my backyard looked like the next day.
The next day was spent checking on my family and moving sections of tree logs out to the street while the tree guys climbed and sectioned the huge tree off of the house. The following week I didn’t work once. I was busy searching for emergency supplies, trying not to freeze without heat even when the nights dropped down into the 20′s. The entire week was nothing but a blur. To say that I was thinking about running a marathon would be a lie. I had no contact with the outside world. I had no Television. We don’t get a newspaper delivered. My only contact with the outside world was through twitter and facebook. Around Wednesday I started thinking about the Marathon and social media only made my marathon week a nightmare.
When you are training for a sporting event the week of the event usually is crucial. Maybe not physically but mentally. The whole week is about getting yourself in the right place mentally to run 26.2 miles. The plan was to get a lot of sleep and to be very strict with my diet. The Hurricane ended those two plans very quickly. I planned on doing a 3 mile run on Thursday followed by a 1 mile run on Saturday. I was able to to my 3 mile run on Thursday but my body just felt terrible. I was cold and I just could not warm up. I felt like I had lost all my athletic ability. My diet was out of my routine and I was starting to worry about putting on some weight before the race. At this point I really had no idea what was going on in NYC or anywhere to be honest with you. When I eventually started looking at twitter and following the search NYC Marathon I quickly learned that things were not ok in parts of New York City. One of the first things that I saw was Mayor Bloomberg announcing that the marathon would go on. Then the president of the NYRR talked about how the course was not effected at all and the race would go on as planned. They said that there would be some changes to the schedule leading up the marathon with a few events being canceled. Mayor Bloomberg even said that he expected almost all of NYC to have power by Sunday. That was the only thing that I knew about NYC and the Hurricane. To be honest I was a bit surprised that the Marathon was expected to go on as normal but listening to the press conferences it seemed as if there was not much to effect the race. I didn’t exactly feel like I was primed for the race but as far as I knew at that point the race was on so I needed to get ready quickly.
From that point on Twitter exploded with negativity and misinformation that that I have never seen for any event before. First of all let me start by saying I thought the marathon should have been canceled. After it wasn’t and the reasons were given I thought ok it’s on and I am going to run. Mayor Bloomberg and the NYRR’s said that they expected everything to be as close to normal as you can get. Let me say that I think Twitter is a great thing. It can give voice to a group of people against a corporation who otherwise does not care what one individual thinks negatively about their business. If an insurance company rips off a customer in the past that customer could complain and no one would care. Now, if enough people Tweet to that company directly it will effect their public relations and the company does have to respond because it can effect their bottom line. In this case I have no doubt in my mind that Twitter shut down the NYC Marathon with 47,000 runners and 4 million spectators. Whether or not that was the correct thing to do is up to your opinion. I think it was the correct thing to do. I think the race should have been canceled earlier than it was. What bothered me was the reaction and the negativity and the mis-information about the race. People from Minnesota were talking about how runners were going to be running past dead bodies during the race. People from Chicago were saying that public transportation was being used when in fact the NYRR had said that they hired private transportation to shuttle runners to the starting line. Others were talking about throwing things at the runners because the runners were being so selfish for running a race that brings 350 million dollars into the city and keeps business profitable that just spent a week with no business whatsoever. There were literally thousand of tweets per second regarding the NYC Marathon with 9 out of every 10 being negative. Some people were saying that the runners should run right to Staten Island and help the people in need (which they did) after the marathon was canceled. Meanwhile 98% of the people I am sure did little on their own to raise money or to physically help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy. This type of Fake Outrage is what makes Social Media a potential negative because misinformation becomes fact very quickly and it just snowballs until someone responds to the mob’s demands. Fake outrage is so easy when all you have to do is write a 140 character tweet. If you had to actually leaver your computer and do something then there would be less outrage. The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that people were complaining about food, water, and resources being used for the marathon instead of going to people in need. This seems like a valid complaint which I agree with . What bothered me was that the Knicks played to a sold out Madison Square Garden that same weekend. They played on Friday night. Forget about waiting until Sunday for everything to clear up. Not one tweet about resources being wasted at Madison Square Garden that night. On Sunday the New York Football Giants played at home. The stadium was full and there were ambulances, police officers, food, EMT’s, and plenty of other “resources” being wasted on the same day that the marathon was supposed to be run. They even held a pre-game ceremony with “first responders” to honor them and their service. Why were they there for a glorified parade which many people called the marathon. Shouldn’t the same people who were so active on Twitter have been outraged about the Giants game. Again, this is all fake outrage. It is so easy to click Like on your Facebook or to retweet something without even checking the source. Social Media shut down the NYC Marathon.
After nearly a week of reading this reaction on twitter I was so stressed out with what to do about the race. I had spent months training for this marathon and did I really want to waste all that training. On the other side did I want to run if the race and the media was totally negative about the race. A marathon is supposed to a positive experience. A symbol of mental toughness and the ability to overcome any obstacle. I wanted the full NYC Marathon experience where you come off of the bridge on First Ave to a roaring crowd and a wave of positive energy. Did I really want to run a marathon under these conditions. Everyone of my friends who I asked for their advice had said that I should do it and don’t listen to all the chatter but many of my Facebook friends also liked a status that said cancel the NYC marathon. It was probably one of the most stressful weeks in my life. This was supposed to be my second marathon for the second year in a row. I had said that this would be it for a while. If I deferred that means I would have to do marathon training for three consecutive years because this year I did everything but the race. Who knows what next year might bring? I could get injured or I could just lose the motivation and the desire to compete with my previous best. At this point I was honestly torn. On Friday might after a horrible week in which a tree fell on my house and I had no power and all I had read online was that marathon runners were selfish and spoiled. Friday night I was 90% sure that I was going to defer to next year.
A lof of friends offered their condolences when the race was canceled and I think they expected me to be more upset about it. My response to them was the same. I was glad that the decision was taken out of my hands. My mood immediately changed and it was as if a huge weight was removed from my shoulders. I have always been a guy who enjoyed the process of building up to an event. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with credit or praise. When I was coaching baseball I enjoyed the practices much more than I did the games although my teams always had good records. When I was a player and I pitched a good game I would usually not want to emphasize the good performance but instead think about the next day’s practice. I have now completed training for two marathons and that experience in invaluable. Don’t get me wrong I loved the feeling of finishing a race and I did have a time goal in mind for New York. I was not just looking to finish. If the NYRR allow me to compete again next year I am going to be there the first Sunday in November and hopefully feeling the wave of positivity entering onto First Ave about to finish my third marathon.