The world’s biggest marathon, New York City Marathon 2012, was cancelled last weekend due to the devastation brought about by Superstorm Sandy on the city. Here’s an article written by TBR Dream Marathon alumni and friend, Vic Icasas, on his experience running his own New York City Marathon:
WE RAN IT ANYWAY
Words by Vic Icasas. Photos by Cyn Icasas.
Me and a couple thousand of my new best friends descended on Central Park today, Sunday, November the 4th 2012. This particular date was tattooed on my brain for the past six months because today was supposed to be the day all of us would be running the ING New York Marathon, the world’s largest and most famous road race.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of a brutal Hurricane Sandy and some amazingly indecisive flip flopping on the part of Mayor Bloomberg and the New York Road Runners, the marathon was eventually called off at the worst possible hour – barely a day and a half before the gun start.
Now to be clear, I had and still have absolutely no problem with them calling off the race. Large parts of NY are still without power, water, or heat (including the houses of my cousins and sister-in-law) and there’s an apocalyptic gas shortage that has armed law enforcement officers standing watch over grumpy, seething lines of cars that stretch for miles and miles. It’s just the wrong time. The public outcry and backlash against the inappropriate diversion of city resources (police, generators, volunteers, water) proved too much for the mayor to bear, and after days of protest, he eventually and belatedly conceded that running the race was indeed a bad idea and thus cancelled it.
But by the time he realized the obvious and called it off, thousands of runners had flown to New York from all over the world. Thousands of dollars had been spent on planes and hotels. Countless miles of hard training had been logged – all for a race that was not going to push through.
So we ran it anyway.
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter,and good ol’ word of mouth, runners started assembling at the barricaded but still intact marathon finish line in Central Park at dawn. Off to the sides in the grandstands, volunteers started to collect donations, old clothes, and pledges for storm victims. A few marathoners even complained good naturedly that there was no bag check station. But heck, there were a lot of things missing. No organized schedule – no organizers, for that matter. No goody bags. No medical teams. No marshals or law enforcement. No water or food stations – this would come back to haunt me later. Nope, just a bunch of dedicated runners with a rough route (4 laps of Central Park plus a teeny bit more) and a race that needed running, with or without official support.
So we ran it anyway.
I had my own personal support group in the grandstands – my wife Cyn, her sister Cris, and Cris’ husband Ed, himself an alumnus of the 2011 marathon. I left a stash of water bottles with them with the understanding that I would refill my solitary, tiny little drink flask every time I looped around. The crowd spontaneously chanted down from ten to one, and with a couple of war whoops and good spirited heckling, we were off.
I sailed easily through the first two loops, powered by pent up energy and an abundance of good cheer and bonhomie. My spirit was soaring seeing so many runners doing what they came to do.
I saw teams sporting flags from France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Costa Rica and Australia. A runner wearing an Indonesia shirt passed me and after seeing my shirt, hollered “Go Philippines” in a heavy accent. I replied in kind. A gigantic runner from the Netherlands lumbered past me, slowed down and looked my way and said “Oh, Philippines! Makati! I have kids in Makati!” Then he sped off.
By the third loop, I realized that I might be in a spot of trouble. The northern part of Central Park plays host to a quarter mile incline with about a 4.4% grade called Harlem Hill, and each time around Harlem Hill was definitely kicking my ass and wearing me down. At the 32K mark I reached for my water bottle to pop an energy gel and slake my parched throat – and gasped to realize that it was empty. And I was at least 5 kilometers away from my support group.
The 32K mark is legendary among marathoners for being the point in the race where “the marathon truly begins”. It’s hard enough to do that final 10K with a full complement of water and aid stations and cheering fans lining the streets. And here I was with a bone dry water bottle and nothing with which to wash down my much needed gel. I started slowing. Then I tried to speed up. Then I started slowing even more to barely a shuffle. Finally at the 35K mark, I started to walk and couldn’t start up again.
This is where my support group sprang into action. Hearing my panicked phone call, Cyn and Ed grabbed water bottles, ventured out onto the course and started making their way towards me as I was limping back towards them. They accompanied me all for every step of that last painful 7K as I staggered towards the finish, and their company and much needed encouragement even got me to manage a respectable if somewhat awkward run over the last kilometer until my Garmin’s screen finally showed the magic number: 42.2 kilometers. And right there in the middle of nowhere, at an anonymous spot in the park surrounded by trees and bikers and curious onlookers, with no real finish line other than the numbers on my watch, I fell gratefully into Cyn’s arms and I was done.
There are still people without power, food or supplies in New York, and it will take some time for the city to get back to anything resembling normal. I’m pretty certain that New Yorkers will overcome their problems and prevail. They’re strong, resilient, tough minded and have a lot of heart, which not coincidentally are the same attributes one needs to cultivate in order to run a marathon.
Yes, even if that marathon was cancelled – we ran it anyway!