Friday, November 2, 2012

Running for a Reason

The marathon is 26.2 miles, but it's a much longer journey than that. It's months of preparation, hours upon hours of running alone in the heat, thirsty, fighting injury, waking up exhausted, questioning yourself why you're even out there. It's not an easy thing to do. Bodies don't naturally want to run that far. People don't just do marathons to do them. Most marathoners have a deeper reason for running. Mary Elizabeth Williams' article at Salon.com is a powerful example of someone running for a personal reason.

I've blogged about this before, but I am running for my father. 13 months ago he had a stroke and simultaneously battled pneumonia. He was in ICU and rehab from September until February. He's now back at home, but things aren't easy. He can't speak, eat or move really at all and is battling Parkinson's while trying to do rehab. It's been a battle to be an optimist. My father was a runner my entire life. When I was a baby, he ran the NYC marathon at 65 years old. I always knew I wanted to do the NYC marathon because he inspired me, but I decided I needed to do it this year because I wanted my dad to see me do it.

Running has brought me closer to my dad. He's spelled out running routes in CT on a magnet board very slowly, telling me 20 mile routes he used to do decades ago. I bought him a marathon winter beanie and he wears it proudly. I get back from a 4 hour jog back home and lifts his arm up to proudly hug me, his eyes wide that I did it. He then immediately starts doing physical therapy, and I stand in front of him to help. We motivate each other. Every step I run, I imagine myself at 13, chasing after my dad, embarrassed that my 70 year old father could smoke me that badly. We are a competitive family. I've watched videos of my dad jogging, teary eyed, remembering his athleticism, his wave, his smile, hearing his voice, which I feel I'm starting to forget each day that passes. For his birthday, my family and I framed huge poster sized photos of him finishing the NYC marathon with inspirational quotes painted onto the glass. I don't think a gift has touched him more.

I completely understand why people think the NYC marathon should be postponed. The hurricane devastated NYC and surrounding areas, and it depresses me deeply to think about how much life was lost and how many people are suffering. I've already donated money and plan on doing much more to help. At the starting line, I'm wearing many layers of winter clothing that I will throw off and will be donated on Staten Island.

I am still running the marathon despite all the pain and suffering. I am angered and sad that people are taking it out on runners. My Facebook page and newsfeed yesterday were full of negativity towards runners. This race means so much to me. It's one of those days I will never forget. When I got the email saying I got into the Marathon through the lottery system I sobbed for about 20 minutes (maybe even longer) and called my dad. I told him over the phone. Despite hearing no verbal response, I knew he was thrilled.

If people want to come out and protest and boo and wave angry signs I can't stop them, but I do hope that they also spend as much energy volunteering and helping people in need rather than being negative. I had trouble sleeping last night and gave myself a really bad stomach ache because of the guilt people are putting on runners that are still participating. I started to question why I was still doing the marathon. I woke up with a headache and have finally decided to defend myself. I will be running 26.2 miles on Sunday like it or not. I will smile for the photos and hug my dad and family proudly when I see them. This past year has been impossible for me for so many reasons and I've had to fight negativity in my own head.

My father's life is pretty much like that movie "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." People like to complain about the marathon ignoring or moving past suffering as if we don't feel bad or have no empathy, but runners are the most empathetic people I know. The marathon is about overcoming. The last thing I want is people throwing pessimism my way as well. I know I'll be surrounded by thousands of other runners out there with personal reasons for running, but Sunday is a day for me and my father and I am beyond thrilled. He won't be able to cheer, but I'll imagine him screaming my name and saying, "Run like the wind," like he used to when he cheered on my soccer team.

19 comments:

  1. Selfish cunt. Let me explain to you exactly what you encouraging said selfishness does to the city.

    1. Per the NY Times, the NY Marathon typically requires 1000 NYPD and another 500 Aux Officers. Taking those officers away from patrolling neighborhoods hit by looting and protecting those in the dead zones without power, heat, and other resources.

    2. Many people who've lost their homes and transportation as a result of the storms can't get hotel rooms or rental cars due to you selfish twats rolling in and not having enough common sense to stay home and let the residents in true need have the room or vehicle.

    3. The only artery between New York and Staten Island except by boat is the Verazzano Bridge which will be SHUT DOWN so you assholes can run, yay you. More delaying needed services like Red Cross, National Guard, FEMA, etc getting on to the island.

    4. Let's talk about those 3 generators in Central Park right now for the fucking media that could be used to power some 400 homes without heat right now.

    5. Finally, wow so all of those resources given to runners...those silver heat blankets, water, gatorade, apples etc could be used to help those without right now.

    Your father is likely ashamed of you, you should be ashamed of yourself and I can assure you that the New York City that usually cheers you runners on will turn our backs on you at best and spit on you at worst.

    I do hope that if you are ever in a situation of great need, a bunch of assholes like you ignore it and run on by just like you're doing to those in need now.

    PS: Go fuck yourself!

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  2. First of all, thanks for your comment. Secondly, thank you for reading my blog. Unlike you, I am not a negative person, so I will respond positively and with some manner of class. I am volunteering money, time, clothing and efforts to the hurricane personally. What are you doing? Rather than being negative and responding "anonymously," which you clearly did for obvious reasons, I ask that you volunteer your time and put your money where your mouth is, go out there and do something. You have no idea what I've been through in my life and what my father has been through. Times of struggle? My father lived through the Great Depression, World War II, had his hand cut off, the death of his first wife and daughter and is now battling for his life. I'm sorry if you don't understand his struggling or if you just want to complain about people that you think aren't empathetic. Maybe you didn't get enough hugs as a child. I'm not the mayor. I did not allow this marathon to go on, but I am running it for reasons you clearly don't have a deep enough soul to understand.

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  3. Hey anonymous. Instead of taking the time to oh so anonymously compose a detailed 5 point essay and run your nasty mouth, maybe head on over to the Red Cross and volunteer your copious free time today. Here, I've even provided a link for you to make it easy: http://www.NYCService.org

    You're welcome.

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  4. Hey asshole, I have donated both money and time and am going back out to donate more time in Red Hook today.

    Regardless, you are a selfish twat. I understand his struggling and I understand the struggling of people affected by this storm...the only person who doesn't actually understand struggling is YOU considering that you find it to be a great idea to run regardless of the draw on resources. No real surprise you're an actress/waitress, you guys are such a self centered lot. I suppose you'll figure it out when you get your reception along the route.

    What you are doing is not helping anyone but yourself. This is sacrifice:

    From a NYC Paramedic:

    I am a NYC 911 paramedic. I have been at work since Saturday and was not able to go home yet since my car was flooded by this storm. I have worked countless of hours this week. I have climbed more than 300 flights of stairs these last few days. Myself and my co workers are exhausted beyond belief, because the people who change shifts with us either lost theirs homes/cars, do not have gas, or any means to get here into manhattan. I have run out of clean uniform, have been showering in cold water because the hospitals are running low on generator power. All the hospitals below 40th street have taxed their resources and running on fumes or have been evacuated. Ambulances are running low on diesel and gas.

    To have this marathon this weekend is beyond any energy that myself or that of my coworkers have. All the water and blankets and food that are given to these runners can be better utilized to those who lost everything and to shelters. I understand that 45,000 people from around the country and the world have come here for this, but I am sorry, NYC is beyond disaster. Just because north of 40th street looks as if nothing happened, downtown looks as if a nuclear bomb went off and only left standing infrastructure. To have this marathon is selfish, and dangerous. Your EMS/Fire/Police personnel are beyond exhausted, mentally and physically.

    Thank you,

    An exhausted paramedic who just wants her bed (and wants her car back)

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    1. Both the runner and this commenter have completely valid, heartfelt points. But I'd like to see this commenter chill with the language. Anonymous internet bullying isn't going to lead to an answer and this girl has just as much a right to defend her case on a public forum as you do. Maybe there's a compromise. Maybe the marathon can be re-routed, rescheduled, etc. But there's no reason to belittle this young woman's story. Don't jab at her personally. Low blows like that aren't really in the spirit of the thing you're trying to defend.

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    2. The OP doesn't have a valid point, the OP is being straight up selfish. So regardless of my tact it still doesn't change the selfishness of the act. This is now the second post I am putting up from a first responder here in NYC dealing with the aftermath. Please let us know how to compromise in the wake of this from the Cancel the Marathon FB page:

      Luke Jackson
      I am a marathoner and a FDNY Firefighter and a former resident of the Rockaways with family who has been displaced now living with me, I have seed first hand the devastation in just that one neighborhood. The resources are already strained. My brothers in the FDNY have been working 24/7 some have lost their homes or their family have lost homes and the recovery is what is most important. The resources that will be assisting the marathon could better serve the city by assisting the residents that need them. That is a fact. Homes and belongings are destroyed. Streets are blocked with trees and sand and refuse. Sanitation should be working to clear the debris in the affected areas not sweeping up cups and gel packets from runners. People in the affected areas need protection from looters and direction on where shelter and food can be found. The NYPD should be helping the taxpaying residents not diverting traffic so runners can cross the city safely when civilians are in dangerous conditions. People in the affected areas some with medical conditions need ambulances and emergency medical personnel to treat them. The FDNY firefighters and EMS ambulances should not be standing by in case a runner suffers from exposure/ dehydration/ cramps when people have had no heat for days the temperatures plummet tonight and some have no had their medicine or dialysis for days. Several local hospitals are closed which means the other local hospitals are already strained. These are facts. The marathon, while I am a runner and love to run, is a frivolous endeavor in an environment like this. Regardless of the money it could make for the city. What should also be said is that I am certain, that the marathon will not generate the same revenue that it usually makes because hundreds of runners flights were delayed, their hotels if in downtown still have no power or if elsewhere might better serve people who have lost their home. I trained hard to run this marathon but it is obvious to me that my energy can be used in a much more productive and beneficial way to this city this weekend than going out for a run.

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  5. Well, since good ol Anonymous here had the guts and temerity to throw out several inane points along with his personal insults I thought it best that he not be the only comment.

    I have a few friends who are running this year, and a cousin who ran several years back and I plan to run as well some day. So I don't yet know what it means to accomplish this, or what it takes to prepare oneself mentally or physically for the challenge... but I can understand the desire to do so and how much it means to you.

    Go run your race, and let the anonymous haters bang away at their keyboards. There are plenty of New Yorkers out there who support you as well.
    (looks like the foul post was removed, but I'll let my original response stand)

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    1. I can assure you that a majority of New Yorkers don't support the runners this year and you'll see it unfold along the running route. Let's see, "I trained for this for a year" vs. "I need food and water and heat". I think the choice, and need, is crystal clear.

      Here are some New Yorkers that I'm pretty sure don't support any of the runners:

      http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,1942292724001_0,00.html

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    2. Thanks for your support, Paul. Personally insulting is not the answer here. Definitely run a marathon when you can! I appreciate the positivity :)

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  6. Anonymous:

    While your perspective on whether the race should be run or not is certainly understandable, is calling Victoria a "cunt" and "twat" really the most productive and positive thing you can do to help victims? Who's the insensitive one?

    I guess you didn't really read this too closely, because you missed this passage:

    "I completely understand why people think the NYC marathon should be postponed. The hurricane devastated NYC and surrounding areas, and it depresses me deeply to think about how much life was lost and how many people are suffering. I've already donated money and plan on doing much more to help. At the starting line, I'm wearing many layers of winter clothing that I will throw off and will be donated on Staten Island."

    Whatever your deal might bem Anonymous, it's pretty hard to make a convincing argument when you resort to cruel, asinine personal attacks.

    Victoria's not the one who decided to go forward with the race. She's clearly laid out why she's running and what it means and if you're too thick-headed to understand that and have to resort to nasty personal attacks then really you're the clueless, self-centered one, not her.

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    1. Well, I guess you should also let the first responders who don't want the race run as well that they are also "clueless" and "self-centered".

      Lives come first right now, not personal achievement, unless of course you're a selfish fool.

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    2. Anonymous, you don't get it: It's not a question of whether the race should be run or not. There are good arguments to be made pro and con.

      It's a question of whether your can best make your points by calling people "cunts," telling them their father would be ashamed of them and writing things like "p.s. fuck yourself." I mean, come on. Any sort of valid point you might have made is flushed away in that cruel garbage.

      Further, if anyone wastes a minute of their time yelling at and/or spitting on runners Sunday when you could be volunteering in Rockaway, or Staten Island, or anywhere else, that's pathetic and sad.

      The last thing New York needs now is more negativity.

      Put simply: The Bloomberg Administration has decided, rightly or wrongly, that the race will go on. Runners have made carefully considered personal decisions to run. Many are doing so for important reasons, personal and otherwise. Charities benefit in an enormous way. To attack them for following through with that commitment, instead of criticizing the authorities who have decided that the race should be run, is petty, unproductive and totally misses the point.

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    3. Yes, you're right. The last thing New York needs is more negativity right now. All of these selfish runners should put themselves to good use regardless of Bloomberg's decision and each and every one of them has a choice to make, run or help. If you choose to run you take 2000 first responders away from the areas that need it most. It seems to be you who is missing the point, it's a matter of lives saved, people helped or personal achievement . It's truly that simple. The city and NYRR can deem the race still be run but if the runners don't show up then there's no race regardless.

      Sorry you don't like my choice of words but I call it like I see it. Regardless of whether my language offends your sensitive ears.

      At least some people in the borough are doing the right thing:

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/hotelcheckin/2012/11/02/new-york-city-marathon-runners--staten-island-hilton-hotel-owner/1676087/?sf6998065=1

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    4. Ok, so the Knicks, Nets, Giants, anyone who goes to a Broadway show, a movie, out to dinner, or does ANYTHING in the city other than volunteer are all "selfish cunts" to you.

      And as for the "2000 first responders," frankly I trust what the Mayor, the Public Advocate and others have to say about it over an anonymous internet commenter.

      And it's sad, once again, that you don't realize how you defeat your own arguments over and over again with your offensive, insulting, belittling words.

      You don't know a thing about Victoria, or what she might be doing to help people.

      Why are you writing nasty comments on a blog instead of volunteering now?

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    5. Robert you are an idiot as well.

      Per the NY Times 1000 NYPD are usually allocated, plus 500 Auxillary cops, plus 500 EMTs. That doesn't even include sanitation which I would guess is probably 2000+ to clean up all of the paper cups and gel packs left behind.

      The Knicks, Nets, Giants etc don't require that number of resources. They also aren't responsible for shutting down the only bridge in between NYC and Staten Island.

      You don't need to trust me, why not read the accounts from some first responders who also agree.

      https://www.facebook.com/luke.jackson.963/posts/10152223325570311

      I know enough about Victoria to know that she'll be spat upon when she runs, just like the rest of the runners and they will more than deserve it.

      Again, it's run or help. The choice is theirs and there are real world consequences for those actions.

      Oh and PS: I'm waiting to be assigned duties in Red Hook right now. Perhaps you could come out here and help instead of defending your poor selfish and helpless actress/waitress friend Victoria?

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    6. P.S. I'm not a waitress. Ha! Clearly, you know nothing. Have fun in Red Hook. Glad you are volunteering. :)

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  7. Step away from yourself and your petty personal achievement narrative. Your father sounds like a great person. I suspect he would be far prouder of you if you selflessly spent your Sunday volunteering on Staten island even though doing so would be personally disappointing rather than using city resources that are needed in the recovery effort so you can run 26 miles in front of an audience. This is one of those times when as people we are called upon to be better than our selfish personal desires. If NYRR and the City refuse to recognize that it doesn't absolve you of your responsibility as a member of humanity to do so.

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  8. Wow. I'm really happy and not surprised that Bloomberg cancelled the marathon, but holy goddamn christ. Ranting about "responsibility as a member of humanity" and speaking to another human being in such a terrible way? Serious emotional problems. I hope this is just some random coward who read your blog and not someone you know personally.

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    1. Hi Jen,

      Thanks for reading. :)

      Luckily, I only have amazing friends and family members and don't know the random anonymous commenter. I only surround myself with awesome, supportive people!

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