I had been watching the news of Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York all week, trying to decide what to do about the marathon. This would be my second ING NYC Marathon, but my first as a Marathon Morning Ambassador.
I had applied with the New York Road Runners to represent Ohio as part of the marathon's opening ceremonies on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, along with runners selected from other states. It was an honor to be selected to represent my home state, and was sure to add to the excitement of the race. I made the decision that week: If the race was going to be held, I would do my best to be there. So, Friday morning, I caught my flight and joined other runners at the marathon expo that afternoon.
I learned of the news that the marathon had been cancelled as I was leaving the Javits Center after picking up my packet and race bib at the marathon expo. Television screens in the lobby flashed breaking news from NY1 on the screens, as hundreds of people still stood in line to retrieve their race packets. Messages from numerous people confirmed what I had just seen on television. Friends and family raised the same question: “What are you going to do?”
At the time, I just didn’t know. I had rebooked my flight and my hotel earlier in the week, following Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement the marathon would be held as scheduled. My flight had to be rerouted to Newark, and I had to find another hotel at the last minute because the hotel I had booked (months in advance) was still without power. Getting to New York had been a difficult journey. Getting home on short notice seemed impossible.
After speaking to some other runners at a restaurant that evening, I decided to go to Central Park the next morning for a run to assess the condition of the old course. When the marathon was founded in the 1970s, runners would run 4+ laps around Central Park. Saturday morning, I went for a run and was happy to see many other marathoners doing the same. The course was fine, despite some trees still being cleared in areas of the park.
That’s when I made my decision: I would finish what I had started. The true test of my dedication to my training was what I would do when there were no cameras, no finish line and no medal. Sunday would still be marathon morning, official or not.
As I arrived at Columbus Circle at what was originally slated as my marathon wave starting time, I was surprised to see an enormous crowd had gathered near the park entrance. As I got closer, I could see the hundreds of spectators and the thousands of runners doing exactly the same thing I had planned to do that day — run their marathon. It was a truly amazing sight.
I inquired with some people near the starting area and learned it had been organized as a charity event to raise money and gather donations for the Hurricane Sandy relief effort. The Run Anyway NYC Marathon organizers posted on Facebook the next day that the event had raised more than $16,000 and filled five SUVs with donations for hurricane victims. I was happy to run and to help out.
It was a race stripped to the core — no water bottles, no aid stations, and no bands performing along the crowd-lined streets. It was a race motivated by memories of others and the need to persevere despite numerous obstacles. It was a race meant to allow runners to fulfill their charity obligations and to help with the relief effort.
It was a true testament to the strength and resilience of the running community, as well as humanity. We came together to run, to help, to move forward. Participating in this event is something I will always remember. I have never been more proud to be a runner — and represent my home state of Ohio — as I was that day.
Christina Biedenbach Ullman ’93 earned a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and owns Ullman Design in Marietta.