The high level summary of The Things That Have Happened During My Brief Hiatus is this: The Upper East Side went largely unscathed by the storm and the events of the last week. I was lucky; blessed.
And for my own selfish reasons, I am disappointed about the cancellation of the NYC Marathon, and I have a lot of opinions about how it was handled. But I understand why Mayor Bloomberg initially decided the race should have gone forward, and I appreciate the reasons why it was ultimately cancelled.
I was on my way to the Marathon Expo when I got the message that the race would not go on. I spoke to Rebecca, and I had to put down the phone because I was standing just inside the Javits Center, having a big, ugly, horrible cry. There I was, in a City pock-marked with flood and destruction — and I was crying over A Thing.
(I want to make clear that I know that grieving the cancellation of an event in which I desperately wanted to participate — especially in the midst of a large-scale disaster — was probably a bit immature.)
(But I am the owner of a very human heart. So I had my moment, and I moved on.)
The reason I began running marathons was maybe a bit silly. I had a list of fifty things I wanted to do over the course of ten years, and “run the NYC marathon” was the last one left on the to-do list at the end of that decade. Some of the items on that agenda were things wholly beyond my control (i.e., “get married”), and some of them seemed unattainable, but ultimately were achieved.
A limiting factor for me was that my ex-husband made clear that I was never going to run a marathon on his watch. Distance running took up too much time and besides, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis almost immediately after we were married. A cautious man by nature, Andrew had never been able to shake from his mind those images of me frozen in pain, unable to move from the sofa. The idea of me running 26.2 miles terrified him.
I carried on.
And the end of 2009, as my marriage ended, only two of the fifty things remained: 1) Climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park and 2) Run the NYC Marathon.
As I’ve mentioned ad nauseam, Andrew and I filed our separation papers in August 2009. I left for a work project in California a few days later, and immediately convinced my best friend Jade to climb Half Dome with me.
And as you may know, in November 2009, I ran my first marathon. The training kept me anchored through the early stages of a rough divorce, and confusing times out on travel for a job that kept me on the road. It helped prevent me from relapsing even when things were out of my control.
My friend CJ met me at the finish.
I say that I knew “the meaning of life” when I crossed the finish line that day. But I think what I really knew, for just a few moments, was what it meant to feel complete; beautiful; fulfilled; unafraid. I knew what it meant to love myself and my body without fear.
And I learned that I could take the body with which I have had such a fraught relationship, and make peace by running to raise money for causes in which I believe. For me, running has been a constant; a lifesaver; a means of giving back when I have so much.
The City I love is in the midst of chaos, and destruction. We’re still underwater in many senses of that word. Whether holding or cancelling the NYC Marathon was the right thing or the wrong thing was not for me to decide.
But I love the event. And from the bottom of my selfish, human heart, I am telling you what it means to me. To me, the race is a sign of health, and healing; giving, renewal, recovery. Nearly fifty thousand pairs of feet pounding the pavement together; nearly fifty thousand hearts beating for the Big Apple.
So today, I ran.
And that’s the thing about marathoning, too. It is not a pretty sport; it is fierce and requires mental toughness; demands physical agility and strength and endurance. The road is long, and even the recovery is hard.
In Central Park today, there were thousands of runners out, their hearts beating for New York; their legs pounding the pavement for the City. Each of us giving, and having given, where we could, when we could, how we could.
That said, I don’t think it is for us to judge each other and how and what we are able to give.
So today, with and for my fellow New Yorkers — and with athletes from all over the world — I ran.