Turning lemons into hard cider- Run Anyway NYC Marathon 2012

Posted: November 5, 2012 in Running

So glad I waited a day to blog. Way too many conflicted thoughts, emotions, and a dozen ideas on blog titles. I’ll organize this in some order starting with arriving at Penn Station, to riding the bus home as I write this.

Continuing from my previous posting, I was contacted by my good friend Dave Figura of the Syracuse Post Standard, to do a quick phone interview about my trip to NYC for the marathon. By then the controversy was widely known, and front page news. He asked how I felt about it. As uncomfortable as it was, easy answer- “very conflicted” was my response.

Much like the impending election, people are starkly divided. “Mean Season” as I call it. It was bad enough with the hateful comments against runners, it became much worse though. The hate speech was followed by online threats of violence. Aside from claims that mobs would block the course at various points, threats of breaking legs with baseball bats, throwing bricks, tomatoes, debri, and sewage were highlights. A death threat was also made. Lot of claims that acts would be made to insure we never ran again. It had become “Mean Season” against runners who came to run in NYC. Marathoners had become scapegoats for the anger and suffering resulting from hurricane Sandy.

My wife Lee and I got into our hotel without a problem. Staying at the St James Hotel a 1/2 block away from Times Square, we could walk wherever we needed to go. We quickly noticed that midtown Manhattan appeared back to normal with the usual flurry of activity one expects to see in the big city.

Within an hour of getting in the city we made it to the Jacob Javitz Center for the expo. We were within sight of it when we learned of the race being canceled. No words to describe what I felt.

Lot of criticism to be leveled at NYRR and Mayor Bloomberg for not acting decisively on Tuesday. Yes it would have been lousy, but jerking everyone around as it was done is inexcusable, lacking in leadership and professionalism. The communication coming from (not) NYRR has been conspicuously delayed or non-existent.

The mood at the expo was as one might expect. Dejected, demoralized, sadden, would cover it. This would be on top of sympathy and compassion for the storm victims. Despite the hateful speech suggesting runners are selfish, we’re very quick to volunteer and will pay to run at a moments notice for a worthy charity.

Lee and I were here not only for the marathon, but to enjoy a mini vacation, by coming a day early, and leaving a day later. Plan ‘B’ switch to earning spousal approval units. At that point I no longer had any inspiration to run during our stay. Instead of recovering from a marathon before training for Ironman Lake Placid, I would move it up two weeks.

Lee and I would make the best of it, take in the city as best we could. We walked through Central Park on Saturday, checked out the museums, admittedly we ate very well during our stay.

Later in the day I learned of two events coming together for Sunday. One was a group to meet at the ferry terminal to run backpacks full of needed items door to door on Staten Island. The other was “Run Anyway NYC Marathon 2012” in Central Park. www.runanyway.net

To be honest, running backpacks to Staten Island was my first choice. I had brought a backpack, and it would appeal to me given my nature. Sadly I could not justify doing that given the risk assessment. I could not reasonably justify being subject to misplaced threats, bodily harm, or anger/rage while running supply drop offs in totally unfamiliar neighborhoods. A news flash Saturday morning said no unnecessary personnel, coupled with reports of random looting, violence and armed break ins. Not from the city, and not familiar with most of it. Sorry, but not only did I feel unwelcome, but threatened and at risk. Damn shame.

I decided to run with the group in Central Park on Sunday. My heart was no longer in it to do a marathon, given how I felt, it was out of the question to run four laps. Not a big fan of running that many loops anyway. In keeping best advantage of fitness/training with my ironman plans I would probably run 2 loops up tempo or 3 loops at long run pace.

We headed back to the expo late Saturday afternoon as I wanted to pick up a hydration belt for the self sufficient long run Sunday morning. We saw a lot of runners coming out with 2012 logo merchandise as we came in. Thought it was odd given the cancelation. Once inside we learned that it was 50% off, and 100% donated to the relief effort. Well done!

As I woke Sunday morning, the day ahead was still uncertain. Up until I left the hotel for Central Park, Lee and I were making the best of it and enjoying ourselves as we always do. We do travel well and it doesn’t matter much as to where here is. As to being a runner in NYC, it was a bowl of lemons and bittersweet.

As I got closer to the park, large groups appeared from all directions 10-20, even 80-100 runners in a group. Many in their country’s uniform. Reaching Columbus circle it was clear that I was witnessing a transformation, no longer a bowl of lemons. We would be intoxicated by the big apple being turned into hard cider. Lemonade? Maybe, but it was much more than that.

No way to know for sure, but there were thousands running in the park, I would say 8-10 thousand. Wolf packs, waves of 300-500 runners at a time would depart from the race finish line. Some running the park clockwise, most ran counter clockwise.The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Awe inspiring and truly epic, beyond what I had ever witnessed in a running event.

I decide to run a half marathon at an uptempo pace. I felt inspired, and mojo was at hand. The entire time was ran in a sea of runners, laughing, excited and cheerful conversation. Huge groups would stop and take pictures. The spirit of the marathon and the human spirit were both present here. No crying in your beer going on in the park. I believe with the huge groups from France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Britain, that there are some empty villages back home. I heard many languages spoken, no clue to origin. I do know that it was excited and cheerful. I drew much energy from it and was uplifted from the experience.

I met runners from British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Oregon, Washington, Spain, and enjoyed our conversations.
With the more casual fun run feel to event, everyone was taking advantage of the camaraderie, and the beautiful sunny blue sky day

According to my fancy GPS watch, I ran my half marathon in 2:12:35. 2nd fastest this year for me. Solid up tempo pace workout. Legs feel pretty good today, and I’ll switch to ironman training this week.

Volunteers out along the course brought out their own supplies of water, bananas, etc. spectators were cheering all around the course. The event was a social media creation, no NYRR here.

We would learn later in the day that in fact a large group of runners shuttled supplies to those in need without incident. Glad that it turned out that way for the better good. I did in part help with donating sweats and a set of heavy thermal underwear. A collection site was set up near the finish line.

Regrets? Yes. Bitter sweet? Yes. Being this would have been my 10th marathon, it was not my first rodeo. Would have liked to done 26.2 miles as a old fat guy, but it is now more important for me to focus on 26.2 during Ironman Lake Placid as an old guy minus another 24 pounds.

It is uncertain whether I’ll come back to revisit the NYC marathon to complete my bucket list, especially in light of NYRR handling of the crisis, the haters, pulling up of the welcome mat. Running an epic event in Central Park gets added to my unexpected completed items list.

I am uplifted and grateful for those that put it all together on Sunday, the thousands of runners for their celebration and sharing of joy, human spirit, and love of putting one foot in front of the other. I understand that many did in fact cover the 26.2 miles! I thank each and everyone in the park that morning for a treasured memory.









  1. Jay Schwartz says:

    Thank you for putting into words a lot of the emotions and feelings that went along with this shared experience. It was truly memorable. I ran the full 26.2 In central park with my friend. We both discussed much of what you write in your blog. Conflicted is exactly what we felt as well. We have already decided to return next year to finish what we started this year. I hope to see you at the starting line on Staten Island in 2013.

  2. Carrie says:

    That was the number one criticism I heard from would-be marathoners, too–the race should’ve been canceled ASAP before the 47,000 runners can into the city. I ended up going to Staten Island on Sunday with NY Runners in Support of Staten Island, and it was a very humbling and eye-opening experience. (I was without power for four days, and I had no idea how bad the threats were you mentioned!)

    • mookyj says:

      Carrie, it was such a mess. I saw the pics of your group. Such a great thing, and would have liked to done the same. The haters caused lots of ill will and tarnished the big apple. The real victims of the storm have been done an even greater disservice by bad apples of their own beloved city

  3. Lånce Sven says:

    This was wonderful to read. Such a great story of a emotional up and down story. I’m so pleased that you decided to run anyway. I am planning on lining up with you next year at the start of the 2013 NYC Marathon. Thank you for sharing this with me!

    • Melody says:

      Love your blog Mike, sorry this happend but glad you were able to spend time with Lee, meet people and do some running. Your not old! You look great and your taking good care of yourself, 52, and still going strong! So happy for you both!

  4. No marathon for us, but glad you found hard cider along the way! I was in Staten Island with that running group, but happy the Run Anyway was such an uplifting experience for so many. Keep Running!!

  5. trueindigo says:

    Well said, I am so glad you could share you experience. Let’s hope nothing like this ever has to be dealt with again.

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