Adventures in the Big Apple

There I was running through Central Park on the most glorious, crisp, fall day I had ever experienced. Me, a single mom from Victoria, was in New York City, to run the famous marathon! The feelings of joy, love, and freedom I felt as I ran through the streets of the Big Apple were limitless!

Running the ‘unofficial marathon’

Just the fact I got to the city was an amazing feat. There had been numerous obstacles I had to overcome to make this year’s dream of taking my kids to see me run the New York City marathon come true. These hurdles included finding the time to train within an already packed schedule, ensuring sufficient financial resources for the trip, overcoming health issues, and the uncertainty that a disgruntled ex-husband would not sideline this year’s trip again. Despite these challenges I never imagined a hurricane would stand in the way of this adventure.

Hurricane Sandy hit New York on October 29th. It flooded streets, tunnels, and subway lines and cut power in and around the city. We sat anxiously in front of the computer in the days after the storm waiting for a decision to whether or not the marathon was to go on.

On the afternoon of October 31st, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced the marathon would go forward. This event would show the world New York’s resiliency when faced with adversity. When we heard the good news the kids and I quickly packed and headed to the airport.  We were uncertain if we would arrive in New York City, as our destination airport was still underwater. But together we made the decision that whether or not we arrived in the United States didn’t matter, as we were going on an adventure.

Arriving at the airport, our airline confirmed that they would be flying the first leg of our journey, from Vancouver to Toronto. We breathed a sigh of relief. Then we heard the news that the flight into New York’s La Guardia airport could not be confirmed until after we arrived in Toronto later that day. The kids and I looked at each other when the check-in agent delivered this information and said, “Doesn’t matter. We are on an adventure. We can always have fun in Toronto.”

When we boarded the second flight to New York City the plane was almost deserted. There were only eight other passengers on the flight. We all looked nervously at each other wondering what we were flying into.When we touched down in New York City there were whoops of joy as we had arrived at the destination!

That night the kids and I explored the city by the bright lights of Time Square. We had made it! Other than a few sandbags stacked up near the occasional door there was no visible evidence that this city was the same damaged city portrayed on the Internet.

The next day we got up early and toured the sights. We saw the Empire State Building, visited the public library, walked down Fifth Avenue, rode the old escalator at Macy’s, toured the Harlem Market, and indulged in scrumptious New York cheesecake.

On top of the Roc

The last stop that afternoon was a trip to the race expo to pick up my marathon shirt and number. The excitement was building as 40,000 competitors toured the exhibits, purchased marathon merchandise, and gathered their free samples. I couldn’t get over the overwhelming joy I felt knowing that I was about to run the New York City marathon!

As we headed out to dinner that evening I stopped to inquire with the concierge about the travel time needed to get from the hotel to the race start. She solemnly looked at me as she slowly slid a piece of paper across the desk towards me.

“Haven’t you heard?” she asked. “The marathon was cancelled an hour ago.”  I briefly glanced at the press release and then at my kids. That’s when my field of vision expanded and I suddenly noticed dozens of other runners in the lobbying crying over the news.

I was overcome with incredible sadness. All the the family events I had missed for long runs and early sleeps, the wine and treats I passed on because I has been ‘in training’, had been for nothing. My kids gave me consolation hugs. Looking at their faces I knew I had a choice to make. I could let the cancellation of this event destroy our spirit of adventure or I could continue with an open heart and mind to find the joy and fun in this moment.

The compassion and caring displayed by my children touched me deeply and made me a very proud mamma. My nineteen-year-old son announced that dinner was on him as we continued with our plans to head to a fancy restaurant after two days of eating to go meals. Yes, it was sad there was no marathon, but my children and I were together in New York City and that was all that truly mattered. My nine-year-old daughter also bought me a beautiful scarf to commemorate our trip. All their caring gestures helped me to refocus and reminded me that the marathon was just an aerobic event.

Brooklyn Bridge stop

Once I had allowed the sadness to pass, it was actually a relief not to have the pressure of the marathon before us as we continued our exploration of the city.

Runners in our hotel came together and collected non-perishable food items and extra clothing for the families on Staten Island affected by the storm. It felt great to be part of the recovery efforts, even in a small way.

The next day at my son’s encouragement I donned my marathon shirt and headed out for an early morning run. As more information of the storm’s destruction was released, I wasn’t sure if wearing my marathon shirt in the city was going to be a liability. As I jogged through the empty streets of the city I was filled with gratitude. I gave thanks for the sun, the blue sky, the steam coming out through the grates (just like in the movies!) and the incredible peace and tranquility that I felt in that moment in a city of millions.

As I turned the corner to head into the park I came upon a large group of individuals who had congregated to run. They came from across the globe. Some wore their race shirts. Others carried flags of their countries, others wore their flags as capes, and still others wore shirts that said, “follow me”. So I did.

The morning was like a scene out of the Christmas classic, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. They HADN’T stopped runners from running! Somehow or other, they’d came just the same. 

The politicians had taken away the official timers, the water stations, the port-o-potties, but the runners still came. As we ran together through the city and around Central Park I connected with people from all over the globe who were heart broken at the bad luck of coming to a city for a non-event. The more stories I heard of  the sacrifices made for the marathon, the more tears I shed. During that run I realized that the marathon was so much more than an aerobic event. The marathon stood for a dream, commitment, endurance and perseverance.

As we approached the finish line I caught sight of hundreds of spectators in the stands. They too had come just the same. They had their bells, their clappers, and whistles. They had risen early to cheer us through to the end. Like the Grinch, my heart expanded in that moment with joy and love- love for the city, the runners, the spectators, and the gift of this incredible experience that I was fortunate to be a part of.Quick photo stop in Central Park

I wasn’t sure when I reached the barricaded finish line if I should laugh or cry. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t run through the official finish. I had accomplished my dream of taking my kids to New York City and we had gone on an incredible adventure. My dream had come true!

With light love and adventure,