On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Home: Part 2 of 2

By Steve Selby

As luck would have it, they found us a hotel. We said we’d take it. They said you might want to know how much it is before agreeing. Well, after I took the standing eight-count, I told them we’re in. After all, we had to have a roof over our heads.

We thanked them for all their help and then asked them to call a cab. We grabbed our bags and headed out the door only to be greeted by the hotel’s assistant general manager who was going to drive us to our new hotel. Kevin was a terrific guy and we headed off only to be stopped by roadblocks. Seems the road where our hotel was located was closed due to a dangling crane about sixty stories up. That’s right, THAT crane we all saw on the news.

So, Kevin parks his car on the side of the road and unloaded the luggage, but instead of saying goodbye, he grabbed two bags and said follow me. He carried it all the way inside our hotel and was all smiles as he walked away. What service! Oh, by the way, the hotel we were checking into for big bucks did not have hot water or heat the first night.

I still had sticker shock, but we had a hotel and the race was on. Oh yeah, when we looked out our window, we were staring straight at the crane. Perfect.

We watched a lot of local news coverage and saw that many of the locals were not happy that the marathon was to be run as scheduled. The Mayor was insistent that the race would happen, end of discussion.

Back to the running for a moment. In the weeks leading up to all of this I was leaking confidence, feeling like I really wasn’t quite ready for this, that I needed another month of training. That feeling disappeared Friday morning as I went out for a run amongst the workers and tourists. You’d never know that Sandy had paid a rude visit and that thousands were homeless and without power.

Weaving in and out of heavy pedestrian traffic (and a few cabs) I passed Radio City Music Hall in the crisp morning air and I began to feel it. The streets were full of life and energy and it was truly invigorating. My confidence was back and I was pumped! This is what I’d waited for all these years. My legs felt fresh and there was no stopping me now. There probably would be no way I’d get much sleep the next two nights due to the excitement.

After a nice lunch at another classic New York deli, Rhonda and I returned to our room to check the latest news on the clean up. As late as 3:00 pm Mayor Bloomberg was saying the race was still on despite mounting pressure to cancel the marathon.

Then it was over. Just before five, I got short text from Austin saying, “Race cancelled”. I looked at Rhonda in disbelief having just watched the Mayor two hours earlier state the opposite. Five minutes later Mary Wittenberg is on TV live with the bad news. She heads up the New York Road Runners Club, the sponsoring agency of the race. She looked like she had just lost her best friend. She confirmed the bad news. No postponement. No race in 2012.

Clearly, they had made the right decision. They just made it too late. Tuesday morning should have been the time to cancel the race. I don’t know how many of the 47,000 runners had made to town prior to the cancellation, but it was a big number. Word has it that 20,000 of the runners were from other countries. We would have all saved major dollars had hey cancelled it before we got to town.

It was disappointing, however, to hear the hate and disdain the locals had for the runners. They couldn’t understand why we had come to their city to run a race after what had happened to them. How dare we? Well, we had followed Bloomberg’s call to come on. We had invested big money for this. What they didn’t know is that the running fraternity is special. As it turned out, after the race was cancelled, the thousands who decided to stay turned out for relief duty. We had planned to do the same on Monday had the race been held.

I do understand that their emotions were getting the best of them. Some had lost their homes and some had lost family and friends, so there are no hard feelings. I just hope all those who were watching the news that week don’t think we were a bunch of heartless people who came to town to run a race in the middle of a disaster.

We were able to get our flight rescheduled to Saturday and in less than 48 hours we had come and gone. Definitely, we experienced a serious emotional roller coaster. As I stared out the window of the plane looking at Manhattan disappear from view, I was feeling like a little boy who had been told Christmas was cancelled. A sad and empty feeling it was because I knew this was it. I would not try to run New York or any other marathon. My body had been telling me it was time to stop. I put Rhonda through some serious angst every night I would go out for a run around midnight.

Will I be tempted to try it again? You bet, I already have been battling that in my mind, but I firmly believe that with these two late disappointments that it’s not supposed to happen. I probably made it too big of a priority and sacrificed things needlessly in order to train.

For now, it’s time to relax, although I will still run short distances, and get ready to watch Austin run St. Jude in a couple of weeks. It will be exciting to watch him just two years after getting hit by a car while running and being told he’d never run again.  New York was dream, Austin is reality.

See you at the race!

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