This morning I got up early and headed to Central Park with my friend who is in town from LA because she was running the marathon. A total grassroots, unsanctioned marathon was still happening via the 1970’s “old school” course which is a tedious and boring 4 loops around the park. I decided I would run 1 loop which is just over 6 miles, and it would be the farthest I’d ever run before.
I packed a bag full of canned goods and wore my way oversized parka to donate as well. When we got to the park, we really had no idea so many runners were participating. There had to be over 10,000 of them. It was quite a sight. Groups were starting in their own waves. Fans lined the grandstands and cheered as each group took off. It was truly inspiring to see that these runners weren’t out there for the glory or the medals or even the bragging rights. They were there because they came to New York City to run 26.2 miles and that’s what they were going to do.
The amount of clothing that was collected could have filled a small store. I also saw clothing neatly laid atop fences along the route. Hats, sweatshirts, jackets, gloves, scarves, you name it. Local residents came out to cheer and some brought gallons and gallons of water to share, food and of course their unwavering enthusiasm.
As I ran through the park, alone, with no music, I had a lot of time to think. I wondered if my efforts could be better put to use somewhere else. Should I have gone to Staten Island with my friends? Should I have gone to Coney Island with other friends? I don’t know. I felt so strongly about this year’s marathon that I couldn’t imagine being anyplace else.
Running with people from around the world led to some pretty interesting overheards. For example:
“Spanish spanish spanish spanish Marathon canceled spanish spanish.”
“French french french french Bloomberg french french french.”
“German german german german the Bronx german german german.”
“Italian italian italian you got it, girl italian italian italian."
I was definitely THE slowest runner out there but I didn’t care. I ran up Harlem Hill for the first time. And I didn’t stop. Every time I wanted to stop I thought about people who wanted nothing more than to go home but they couldn’t because they no longer have a home. I am so lucky. I have a home, I have my dog, I have my belongings, I have friends and family who love me and are still walking this earth. The amount of gratitude I feel for my life is boundless.
My friend Beverly is still running circles in the park. She’ll run 26.2. I am so proud of her and of all the runners today who went out there and did something they truly love to do for no other reason than they wanted to. I thank them for their generous donations to the relief efforts. I thank them for not complaining. I thank them for making lemonade out of lemons. Good job, everyone! We will definitely see you next year.