Thursday, November 8, 2012

My New York City Marathon Experience

So I guess this sort of counts as a race recap, since I have plenty to write about despite the fact that I didn't actually run this race. As everyone in  the running community around the world knows, the NYC Marathon was canceled for the first time in its 40 plus year history.

I have mixed feelings about the way this entire thing played out, but I love, love, love NYC and running the NYC Marathon is a bucket list event for me. I'm more determined than ever to cross that finish line, be it in 2013 or later. Even though I did not actually run this world class marathon, being in NYC that weekend was still a life changing event.

Here is my NYC Marathon story.

During the week we were supposed to leave for NYC, we watched for updates constantly. With Hurricane Sandy hurtling towards the east coast, no one knew whether or not we would actually be leaving on Friday. I kept checking the NYCM Facebook page and while it was questionable as to whether or not the marathon would go on, NYRR posted updates saying that every effort was being made to proceed with the event, even up until Thursday night and Friday morning.

I had mixed feelings about the continuation of the marathon after there was such destruction to many parts of  New York and New Jersey. The general consensus was that the marathon should go on if possible, bringing millions in much needed revenue and lifting spirits.

So I met my team of 30 runners at the airport at 5am Friday morning to begin our adventure. I've never run with or traveled in a group like this so it was a cool experience. The pilot on our flight even made an announcement wishing us well and giving accolades to our coach, Susan Loken, a 3 time competitor at the US Olympic trials.

And so it begins...
We arrived in NYC, made our way to the Sheraton Towers, which was a host hotel for the marathon, and then headed over to the expo.

It was after 5:00pm Friday night - I'd guess a majority of the close to 50,000 runners had arrived by this time - when my phone started blowing up with Facebook and Twitter messages from friends sending me their condolences about the race. WTF? What were they talking about? Seriously? After telling all of the runners to come, they canceled the race after most people had already arrived.

When we got to the expo, the packet pick up was at a stand still. It was not yet official, so we waited with thousands of other runners for the final word and I knew we were getting bad news when they brought in extra police and security before making the announcement.

Waiting for news
Thousands of disappointed runners after getting the news

Watching a statement made by the mayor and Mary Wittenberg

Our original plan for Saturday morning was to meet in the lobby, head over to Central Park, and then run the final 2 miles of the marathon course. After we all received the news of the cancellation, Susan sent a group text saying that we would still meet up in the morning.

Coach Susan giving us a pep talk
Susan tried to lift our spirits and told us how proud she was of us and how she'd like us to pick a marathon in the near future to run and she would continue to coach us. Of course, Tara and I have Goofy in 2 months, so I don't think I'm going to attempt another marathon in between then. (I think most of our group will be doing the  PF Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona marathon, but Goofy is 2 weeks prior, so maybe I will do the half.)

She reminded us that the actual race is not the largest part of running a marathon. It's the journey that matters. And she's right. I've learned so much and met so many amazing people on this journey.

Yep, Susan found a giant picture of herself at the expo.
Pretty damn cool.

One of the benefits of having an elite runner as a coach is that she's got connections. She had the famous Bart Yasso give us a pep talk, too.

Cool, huh?

Team Chances with Bart Yasso

After that, we headed to Central Park, which was less than a mile from our hotel. This is where I realized how thankful I was to have this experience regardless of the fact that the marathon was canceled.

The park was absolutely filled filled with runners. We took another group picture.

Why do I always end up looking like a midget?

And then everyone took off for a run. Everyone ran different distances. Tara and I decided to walk to the finish line. We walked through the last leg of the marathon and through the finisher's chute to the finish line. What an awesome experience. Flags of hundreds of countries lined the chute and runners of all nationalities were in the area; some running, some taking pictures.

Mile 26

It was sad to see the empty stands

This is as close as we could get to the actual finish line.


Yours truly

Even though there was much controversy surrounding the marathon and the announcement of the cancellation, I'm actually grateful that I was able to be in the city for this experience. Runners got together to give back by helping those displaced from their homes. One runner even managed to set up a make shift benefit run on Sunday with proceeds to help the victims. Some of our team members went to a local shelter on Saturday, some went to Staten Island, some donated clothes and money to the hotel staff that came to work when they had no power at their own homes.

Originally, I had a lot to say about the way this was handled. From the late cancellation to the villianization of the runners to the suffering of the people that lost everything. If one wants to see all sides of the matter ranted in specific detail, visit the NYC Marathon Facebook page. It's quite, um, colorful. And trust me, I had plenty to say. But some time has passed and it is what it is.

For me, the truth of the matter is that no one was going to be 100% happy with how things turned out. My heart aches for those that suffered so much loss during Hurricane Sandy and I also feel for those that did not get a chance to run. While I'm very disappointed, I realize that these things were beyond our control. I'm alive and well and I had a home to return to. I had an incredible experience in NYC and my desire to officially cross that finish line as a competitor has only increased.

Spewing hate all over Facebook is not the answer. The runners need to keep in mind that people are hurting in the storm's aftermath and others need to also accept that the NYC Marathon is not "just a race". It is possible to feel empathy for both sides. We're not enemies. I know that while I was there, I was able to make a difference in one person's life: a fellow NYC marathoner that also lost everything.

In the end, runners from all over the world came together to run in the park on Saturday and Sunday and also came together to make a difference in the lives affected by the storm.

Susan was right: it's the journey that matters. I will be back to run NYC one day.

A memento from this incredible journey.

Stay tuned for the rest of my amazing NYC journey!


  1. Well said Jaime. I'm so grateful for the friendship this experience has given us and I love and appreciate you times a million!! I can't wait to hear all about Goofy and I wish I could be there to watch you cross the finish line!!!

    1. Aww, thanks, Ari! I love and appreciate you times a million, too!! I hope we'll be attempting to do this again next year. I had do much fun with you! I had such a great experience. Can't wait to see how this all plays out for the 2012 runners.

  2. What a great post! That really sucks that it was cancelled but it seems like people made the best of it considering the hand that Mother Nature dealt. Crazy that they brought in extra security and police just to make the announcement. So I guess Goofy it is!! Only 2 months to go!

  3. I can't believe Goofy is in 2 freaking months. I haven't run since before NYC. Ugh. Can't believe my first marathon is now going to be Goofy. Eeeeek!

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