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Closed Door. Open Window.

Last time we all “chatted,” I was on my way to NYC to run the ING New York City Marathon. A marathon that never ended up happening. The race was called off around 5:30 on Friday evening — less than 48 hours before it was scheduled to start.  But you all know this already.

What you may NOT know, however, is that I still ran a marathon last weekend. Just not one that I had trained or prepared for.  And honestly? It was amazing.

MCM_mile8

A weekend that started off with so much negativity and guilt became something encouraging and inspirational. It made me fall back in love with running — and the running community — all over again.

MCM_AliEm_mile8

But let’s back up a little bit, shall we?

It seems crazy to me that it was only a week ago when Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast and tore up the Mid-Atlantic. When the disaster first struck, I didn’t think it would be possible for NYCM to go on. But as the week progressed, Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg insisted that the city could pull it off. Not only that, but they felt it would be the unifying, celebratory event that the city needed. AND it would be the symbolic start of a campaign to raise money for recovery efforts. They dubbed it the Race to Recover, pledged $2.6 million dollars along with their sponsors, and encouraged every runner to make a donation of $26.20 to the cause.

Obviously the race did not turn into the positive symbol of a resilient New York that the leaders were hoping for. Instead it became a source of anger and division. I wrote my post about traveling down to NYC on Thursday morning; published it Thursday evening. I’m sure you could sense the general lack of excitement about NYC…which had only continued to decrease in the time after I had written the post. Whether you agree with it or not, I had decided to head into the city, despite growing less excited about the race by the minute.

What I didn’t really know was that while I was traveling, the outcry against the marathon was reaching new heights. A petition to call off the marathon that had less than 1,000 signatures on Thursday suddenly gained over 30,000 supporters. The cover of the New York Post showed the generators that were to be used for the marathon sitting idly in the park — which caused an even greater controversy. I didn’t know all of this, but I did know that running the race didn’t feel right. I told Evan that I had a really bad feeling about the marathon and almost broke down at a rest stop along the way. I was wracked with guilt. And I certainly didn’t want me running a marathon to be seen as a frivolous “parade” that caused more pain, despair, and division in a city that was already torn apart.

I was boarding the train when I got the text from Ali: “it’s canceled” was all she said. I thought it had to be a joke…a stupid rumor. They couldn’t cancel the race on Friday night, when so many runners had already gotten into the city. The train was pulling up and I had no time to think. So we boarded. And I searched the internet for answers.

When the news was confirmed, I didn’t know how to feel. Shock was the first emotion that overtook me and then, as the numbness faded…relief. I firmly believe that canceling the marathon was the right decision. No race should be run under those circumstances. Not with the area still struggling to recover from the damage, and certainly not with that level of protest against it. I was glad I no longer had to make the decision whether to run or not. It had been made for me.

But of course, that didn’t erase the frustration. The race should’ve been canceled early in the week — not on Friday night. (Side note: NYRR didn’t send out an official email informing participants of the decision until Saturday morning…less than 24 hours before NYCM was supposed to start). And it did nothing to ease the guilt. It seemed the second the cancellation was announced, some very vocal individuals were taking to social media saying “GOOD! Now use your able bodies to volunteer! Donate all the money you would’ve spent at the expo for hurricane relief!” As if Sunday morning was the only time people could volunteer or donate. As if one day was all the city and surrounding areas needed to get back on their feet…

Volunteering time, donating resources and money are wonderful things. Some amazing things happened in NYC over the weekend and it was so inspiring to hear stories of runners who ran anyway, helping the relief efforts with volunteer or donation runs.

But everyone copes with tragedies in different ways. While I believe in the importance of giving back, I do not feel as though anyone should be guilted into it. Or vilified for wanting to run a marathon they’ve trained for.

{This is not to say that people didn’t have a right to be angry that NYCM was still going on…just that I don’t think that anger should’ve been taken out on the runners.}

Runners run. That’s what we do. It’s who we are. And so on Saturday morning, when Ali woke up with an alternative plan, I was on the same page. No, I wasn’t devastated that NYCM had been canceled. Compared to what people have lost this week, a failed marathon is nothing. But this was the second failed marathon I had trained for this year. A race that I had dedicated to my father, who is currently recovering from one knee surgery and is scheduled to go to the Cleveland Clinic at the end of this week to talk about another. The man who helped instill the passion for running in me. Who taught me that running is not just a sport — it’s a way of life.

Paul falmouth 97Dear Dad – love the shorts

Our plans came together in about 0.2 seconds. We emailed the race director of the Manchester City Marathon who responded almost immediately to let us know we could register at the expo. We called Ali’s parents, who just so happened to live about 30 minutes from the start of the race and were happy to take us in. We (easily) talked Emily into booking a flight to Manchester. And then Evan and I packed up our bags and headed out of the city…less than 24 hours after we arrived.

We knew nothing about the course other than the fact that it was described as “hilly” and “challenging.” We had all woken up Saturday morning dehydrated from drinking too much wine the night before. We spent the entire day before a marathon in the car. We didn’t have a spectating plan, or a parking plan, or pace plans.

But you know what? It was perfect.

MCM_mile18_1Mile 18 of a windy, hilly course and still smiling

We ran with many other displaced NYCMers — some wearing their shirts. People were out cheering and supporting each other. Family and friends were there supporting us. And one of us ran a huge PR…a time that I don’t even think she really believed she was capable of until she saw it on the clock.

MCM finish_group shot

In the end, it was exactly the weekend the three of us needed.

I realized that New York and the surrounding areas have a long way to go in terms of recovery. People are still without power, water, heat…homes. My heart breaks for them. I can’t even begin to imagine what they are going through. I know that I’m lucky to even have the choice to run something that seems so frivolous as a race. And so I’m doing what I can to help alleviate some of the immediate needs.

But I also know that running is an inherently positive thing. And I can’t even being to express how much my heart loved runners on Sunday. For us, it’s about more than one race. It’s a testament to the human spirit. The desire to become better. To unite together for one purpose and inspire each other to keep going. It’s about a community.

And I love our running community. I love how runners coped with the news of the marathon cancellation — whether going out and signing up for another marathon in the coming weeks or running in Central Park anyway. We know that there is more to life than one marathon. But we are also determined to never (ever) stop running. Life just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Race recap to come! But I will leave you with this: I discovered on Sunday that I am nothing if not consistent. Three marathons, three 3:18s on the clock. The course, my training, the race conditions were different for each one. And yet I still somehow run the same time.

Which means that it’s time to get my act together, get serious about training and go for broke. I’m so excited that I came back from injury with sub-optimal training and essentially tied my PR on a much harder course.

But that 3:18 needs to go.

Which means that spring marathon plans are already in the works…

36 Responses to Closed Door. Open Window.

  1. YES! Best ending to a blog post ever. So good. I love everything you wrote here and agree with so many points. But you knew that already.

    THANK YOU for everything you and Evan did this weekend. So much traveling, so much candy eating, so much mystery Gu collecting…but so worth it. It’s amazing how such an awful situation can somehow turn into a positive.

    High five for consistency, man. You rocked that beast of a course (I believe my mom’s words were “Wow! She’s fast!”) and hearing you scream at the top of your lungs as I reached the finish was the best thing ever.

    Spring marathon. Discuss.
    Ali´s last post ..When Nothing Goes According To Plan

  2. Looking good Papa LB!
    ANyway, this was so beautifully written. I love the way you write, and the heart and dedication you put into it and your running. I’m so proud of you running such a fabulous time under such a difficult training period. Can’t wait to see how far you go next spring!!
    Lizzy´s last post ..Happy Halloween!!!

  3. This is awesome! Way to roll with everything and still come out with an awesome race and a fabulous memory!

  4. I’m so glad to hear that you guys ran an alternate marathon. It really broke my heart for the runners to hear that NYCM was canceled, even if it was the right thing to do. I couldn’t agree more that there are tons of ways you can still help with the hurrican relief, but also still do the race you trained for and recognize the positivity of it. Great race Lauren!
    Brittney´s last post ..The Hurricane and My Weekend Recap

  5. I love love love every word of this post! I am so happy that this weekend turned into something positive for the three of you. (Ali’s smile in the picture above says it ALL!). Congrats on another smoking fast marathon! You are amazing and I cannot wait to see what the spring has in store for you (Eugene???). Also, I really want to hear the “dark shorts” story :) Smiling for you!

    P.S. We are trying to reschedule the trip to NYC…I will let you know when we pick a date!!!
    Corey´s last post ..A Change in Plans

    • I would love to do Eugene!! It’s on the list, but that cross country flight makes things tough…

      Definitely let me know when you head back to NYC. I will do whatever I can to coordinate!

  6. Congratulations Lauren! I’m glad that you guys came up with a different plan and totally rocked it!

  7. So beautifully written Lauren. I’m so glad you got to race anyway- and ran much better than expected. Congrats!

  8. Congrats! What an awesome, positive way to turn a terrible situation into an uplifting one. And an almost-PR! How cool.
    Jean´s last post ..Sunday Nerdday

  9. Yayy on your awesome time!! :-) Can’t wait to hear about the race recap!
    Christina´s last post ..Happy Halloween!

  10. This is a great post! I was thinking about you when I heard the news, but I was so happy when I saw your mysterious (yet not so mysterious) tweet.

    Congratulations on what looks like it was a great marathon, to all three of you!

    I love that photo of your dad, I’m sure he was proud of you!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman´s last post ..East Ave Grocery Run 5K Race Recap

  11. 3 x 3.18 is crazy….that’s an easy PR next time!! Congratulations on a fantastic race. I’m so happy for Ali as well.
    Cathryn Ramsden´s last post ..Running in So-Cal: Venice Beach

    • Haha…I hope so!! Thank you! And yes – it was so fun to be there for Ali’s huge PR. I was more excited for her race than I was about my own.

  12. Great recap… and so happy for you that you were able to find an alternate marathon.

  13. I love this post Lauren! Your writing is so strong and perfectly captivates how much love you have for this sport. I loved all your points, and I loved how you all managed to turn an otherwise confusing/distressful/conflicting situation into such a gem. It’s like the simplicity of running washed away all the tension from NYCM—inspiring!

    Also, you’re a beast. And I wouldn’t call coming back from injury with a PR tie “consistency,” I would call it super badass. Congrats!
    Robyn´s last post ..I Feel the Need…

    • HA!! This made me laugh out loud. Thank you for that compliment.

      Also this exactly: “It’s like the simplicity of running washed away all the tension from NYCM”

      …it’s one reason why I love running so much!

  14. so well written! and congrats on such a speedy, last minute race!!

    see you thursday night!

  15. Great post and recap, very well written! Congrats as well! Awesome way to spend a Sunday with great friends amidst a very shitty situation!
    Ashley´s last post ..Post-Sandy and NYC Marathon Cancel: Things I Learned, Always Knew and am Clueless About

  16. You are so awesome and congratulations!!! Way to come back from an injury!! You are so fast :)

    You know what race I want you to run in the Spring :) Can’t wait to hear what you decided on!!!
    Steph´s last post ..The NYC Marathon Is Canceled: Now What?

  17. What is wrong with my shorts? I liked them and just maybe I’ll wear them next time I come to Vermont.

    Lauren, what can I say that I have not already told you a thousand times. You are so wonderful and you write so beautifully. As for your time, you spent two days in the car, ran a hilly course that you did not plan on and were emotionally drained. Yet, you ran a 3:18. That is something to be very proud of!

    As for your writing, it is terrific. You have a wonderful way of capturing the emotions of the momement so that the readers can feel them too.

    I love you and am super proud! Dad

    • I said that I loved them! I think I need to get myself a pair. They’re so patriotic..I hope you wear them to vote tomorrow.

      And thank you very much for your comment. You always say the best things.

      • I have the woman’s version of those same shorts, I am sure I could dig them up for you! You are welcome to them. Beautifully written Lauren, and as always, you make me so happy and proud to be your mother. How did I get so lucky?

        • Awww…I love this whole exchange. Adorable. (And I complete agree that your writing is terrific)

          Perhaps you all should wear the shorts and pose for a family holiday card?

          I can’t wait to see what the future holds for #teamwatermelon! No doubt it will be amazing!

  18. Okay, I may be an emotional wreck this week, but I don’t know what made me tear up more, the amazing weekend you, Ali and Emily had or your dad’s comment. Either way, what an INCREDIBLE post about an INCREDIBLE weekend, so deserved by all. I love the things you said Lauren! And holy crap, YOU’RE FAST! I love that you ended with 3:18 has to go! All three of you amaze me EVERY DAY and continue to inspire me to be a better runner! Way to go! I’m SO HAPPY for you!!!!!!

  19. Congratulations Lauren!!!! While I’m sad I didn’t get to see you last weekend…I’m really excited that you got to run your marathon.

    Also – 3:18 (x3) – that is CRAZY.
    Jocelyn @ Enthusiastic Runner´s last post ..Check In. Feeling Lucky.

  20. Congratulations on your marathon!! My sister and I experienced the same type of weekend (we ended up running a marathon on Sunday in PA once we found out about NYC) and it was an amazing experience. I am going to send the link to this post to my sister because she would love this. You are so right- we should not feel guilty about running this weekend at all. Sunday was not the only day to help the hurricane victims.

    I LOVE this part of your post- “We know that there is more to life than one marathon. But we are also determined to never (ever) stop running. Life just wouldn’t be the same without it.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself!
    Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom´s last post ..Delaware and Lehigh Heritage Marathon- Race Report!

  21. Extremely well said! Congrats on running an awesome marathon and turning a negative situation into a positive. Looking forward to hearing about your spring marathon plans.
    Dori´s last post ..Hey 2012 NYCM Runners: I Loved the Richmond Marathon.

  22. Lauren, it was nice meeting you and Evan, fellow Vermonters even! You did do well on a hilly course to once again get that time. Can’t wait to hear about your marathon PR! Andrea (Emily’s mom)
    Andrea´s last post ..10 Seconds of Terror

  23. And you are officially amazing. Just in case no one told you. Can’t wait to follow all the relay madness… and… ummm when will we ever get to run together through the night again???

  24. I love this post!!! Congrats!
    Emily´s last post ..Book recommendation: The Fault In Our Stars

  25. wow! i love your consistency. so glad yall were able to find another race and have such a great weekend. and yes, love your “dear dad”-those shorts ROCK.
    elizabeth´s last post ..October Recap

  26. What a great post. And congratulations on your run! :) I had traveled over to NYC from London for the marathon, and with the whirlwind that was my job, moving flats, and traveling, I wasn’t really linked in the with the news about how the city was progressing after the storm/the reaction to the mayor’s announcement that the run would continue. But I had figured, if my flights were still on I would go, marathon or not (we were staying in someone’s flat which had been unaffected by the storm). If the race didn’t happen, that was fine, I’d have a weekend with my friend, and if it did, I’d run it. But once it was announced that the race was going forward, I started mentally preparing. I flew in on a flight chock full of other marathoners. I went through immigration with even more marathoners. As my friend and I didn’t have a tv where we were staying though, we weren’t aware about how big the storm against the race was becoming. Our only indication had been Friday afternoon when in a shop, and the cashier made a side comment about generators. We saw a headline on a computer in a shop referencing a marathon controversy, and when we got home I logged on to see what was going on…just to find out it had been announced 15 minutes earlier that it was canceled. I was in shock for a fair chunk of the evening not because the race had been canceled, but the manner in which it had been done (seriously, no contact with the runners until SATURDAY?!) and I wanted my damn bib! (We had gone to the expo in the morning but had only gone shopping, opting to return later for my bib…we went back and I managed to eventually guilt them into giving it to me) After I got over the shock of the cancellation-communication, I was able to revert to my calmness from earlier in the week of ‘whatever happens, happens.’ I ran in Central Park on Sunday morning (although not the full marathon distance), donated what I could and had an epic weekend with my friend. And while normally I wouldn’t wear race gear for a race I didn’t do, I’m in love with my marathon jacket (bought Friday morning..) and the commemoration of what the 2012 marathoners experienced.

    I’m glad that life kept me so busy that I was in a bubble from the storm brewing about the marathon. Reading back and seeing the hate being aimed at runners has been sad, and I completely agree with your statement that “While I believe in the importance of giving back, I do not feel as though anyone should be guilted into it. Or vilified for wanting to run a marathon they’ve trained for.”

    Woah. Sorry for the novel there! Again, congrats on your race and I’m glad to read that you had such a needed weekend.

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