I'm a runner. I love the physical and mental discipline it takes to run, especially long distances like the marathon. But to me, it takes as much heart to run one as it does mental or physical aptitude, and I've always had a heart for the long distance.
The New York City Marathon has held a special place in my heart since my middle son and I ran it three years ago. It was a rollicking and exhilarating good time running through the streets of New York, through all the boroughs, with 2 million people cheering our progress. After the race, people told me to wear the finisher's medal wherever I went, that New Yorkers love the race and want to know you did, too.
I felt stupid at first, walking around with Mr. T-type hardware around my neck, but then one after another local would comment, “Oh, you did our race. Did you enjoy it?” or, “You did my marathon. What was your time?”
They loved that we loved their race. They claimed it, were proud of it, and it was evident they wanted us there to love and enjoy their race.
So for the last three years I have encouraged my running partners and other members of our running club to come run New York with me. This year, my running partners and I all qualified -- the perfect opportunity to run this epic race together.
Mother Nature had another plan. Superstorm Sandy crushed the New York area and the spirit of the marathon. The organizers and leadership have stumbled in its wake. What could've been a stellar opportunity to show great humanitarianism and love and compassion for those so damaged by this storm has fomented into an ugly show, an “abuse of power” as proclaimed by a New York Post headline.
I, like so many others, wish the marathon’s race director had said, “You know, the marathon is just a race, and we can run it next year -- these are people's lives. If you still want to come, come to volunteer to hand out all the water, the food, the fruit, etc ... that the runners would've received. The people of our area are hurting. Let's hand back to them what they have handed to the New York City Marathon runners over the years.”
But they didn't, and the vitriol spit forth like the flood of waters from Sandy's rampage.
I love New York. I love its marathon. But I know when it's time to say, “Get over yourself and do what is right, what your heart is telling you to do.”
Physically and mentally, I am ready to run New York. But my heart says I must wait until next year, until it's the right thing to do again.
So, I defer. My heart is with the people there who have lost their homes, their loved ones, their pets. Next year, I will come and help lift them up again by running their marathon and will enjoy every step of the 26.2 miles.
Brooke Nelson is a member of the Anniston Runners Club.