Run Anyway Marathon 2012 The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, caused a new debate to rage - whether the NYC marathon should go ahead. Chris reports on the Run Anyway NYC Marathon 2012 which took place instead.
Wednesday 7 November 2012
No one would dare draw parallels between the impact the cancellation of the NYC marathon had on forty thousand runners to that which Hurricane Sandy had on millions of New Yorkers, and rightly so.
In comparison to the millions still living without power or water, the vitriolic attacks aimed at the marathon runners across a variety of social media platforms were but a minor inconvenience. Likewise, when people have lost homes that they spent most of their lives working for; it’s hard to justify lamenting a few months of wasted training.
Despite the initial shock of being subjected to accusations questioning their morality and decency for intending to run the marathon, followed swiftly by crushing disappointment of the event’s cancellation, New York’s would-be marathoners we unable to find much sympathy against the backdrop of a city in crisis.
However, rather than dwelling on what-could have been, the response from the running community was fantastic. While some donated money and others food, a number travelled to the worst hit areas to help where they could. Another group, however, were utilizing the same social networks that were used to chastise them and attempting to stage an event that would act as the beacon of hope that the organizers had originally claimed the marathon would be.
The event was called Run Anyway NYC Marathon 2012; a spontaneous, crowd-sourced event created by runners, for runners. Staged in Central Park, it would give participants the opportunity to run their own 26.2 miles – to finish what they had started.
The strapline, ‘when we run for a cause, we RunAnyway’ emphasized the fact that the millions raised in donation money was down to a promise; to complete those 26.2 miles. Perhaps most crucially, it would take place without the thousands of gallons of bottled water and the hundreds of stewards and power generators so needed by the worst affected areas of New York.
Despite the good intentions, while I thought it was a nice idea, I didn’t hold out much hope that the event would be more than a token gesture. I could be accused of being a cynic, but after the wave of negativity I had experienced over the previous few days, it was hard to imagine more than a few hundred hardcore runners turning up.
I’m pleased to say I couldn’t have been more wrong.
On Sunday morning I woke early and, regardless of my expectations for the turnout, decided to kit up and run one six mile loop with those participating. I neared the entrance and was pleasantly surprised to find a bustling throng of lycra-clad bodies occupying the Columbus Circle entrance. There were a few hundred of them, at least, and I sensed that there were more inside the park itself.
Finding a positive
As I crossed the road, I felt a flicker of excitement. Instead of the disaffected faces I had seen at the marathon expo I attended the day before, there were smiling, laughing, excited faces. Teams of charity runners held up banners and posed for photographs taken by
strangers; groups of runners adorned in their country’s flags horsed around, laughing and singing. There was a true carnival atmosphere in the air with not a trace of self-pity.
I weaved my way between the bodies to the entrance to the park to see if any had begun to run yet, and then found myself laughing out loud at the spectacle of it all. Instead of the sparse, scattered groups I had expected, for as far as the eye could see the path was packed with thousands of runners. It was an incredible sight to behold, confirmed by the fact that the majority of them held a smartphone aloft, determined to capture the uniqueness of this moment.
The air was bristling with excitement and I broke into a run eager to join the pack, which was so thick in numbers that I had to time my entrance to avoid knocking into to anyone. It quickly became apparent that this was unlike any other race I had been involved in; these people weren’t running this race for themselves, this was entirely selfless.
Throughout the entire six mile loop I was overwhelmed with the turnout and the spirit of those running alongside me. While there were few supporters it didn’t matter, each runner was their own supporter. It was categorically the most feel-good event I have ever been a part of and I was determined to soak up every glorious minute of it.
I finally came to the end of the loop, and reluctantly pulled off to the side of the track. After the past few days, it was clear that this was an almighty release for everyone involved. There was something special about the atmosphere, far beyond that of a normal race; as if everyone had doubted this would come together and was overjoyed to have been proved so wrong.
RunAnyway Marathon 2012 was a triumph in the face of adversity. After the relentless accusations of self-interest, the running community had pulled together to stage something almost exclusively selfless, and I was proud to be a part of it.