Thursday, November 8, 2012

NYC Marathon 2012: The Interlude

There really isn't any middle to this story. It starts and it ends, like two slices of bread with nothing in between them.

Here's the only middle I have to offer - There is no race - there is no bright spot shining through the darkness...But stuff still happened...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's 5 p.m. Friday. The race is canceled. For the past several days I've been aware of the growing hostility toward the runners. I have been called selfish, self-centered, callous - I have been accused of being disrespectful. It doesn't matter that I've contributed to the relief effort. It doesn't matter that over the course of the year I've run several marathons (NY would have been number 6) to raise money for charity. It's all so hard to just let roll off your back. And quite honestly canceling the race is a relief. I've been dealing with the growing fear and anxiety concerning my safety. Running through the streets you're a sitting duck. You're vulnerable. As it turns out, my concerns seem justified. Protests are planed. Petitions are circulated. Volunteers setting up equipment are pelted with eggs. (nytimes.com)

But now what? Well, first, I gotta stop the money hemorrhage. This trip came at great personal sacrifice, for myself and my family. So I jump into the rental car that's costing me big time and race off to Newark Airport to get rid of it. I just can't sit still. I have no idea how I'm getting back to my mom's but I think the Northeast Corridor trains are running again on a limited schedule, so I chance it.

I leave the car with the Enterprise lady, and feel a little relief...but not for long. I get to the train station and pace in the cold wind for an hour. I have no idea when the train is coming (or isn't) and I can't reach my sister, again. It's 8:45 p.m. I suddenly realize that I haven't eaten anything, beside a handful of crackers, since 2 in the afternoon when Barb, thankfully, shared half her sandwich with me. Well, at least I don't have to worry about fueling up for a marathon right now because I'm doing a piss-poor job of it.

I get to the Metropark station, about 10 miles from my Mom's, and wait some more, now in a completely dark parking lot surrounded by nothing but silent, dark office buildings. There's a curfew, but a few shadowy figures mill about the station. My danger alarm, which rarely goes off, is screaming at me as I huddle against a wall, out of the wind still trying to reach my sister. Finally a text goes through. It's 10:30 p.m.

My sister is stuck in traffic a few miles away. She's almost here, she assures me. She suggests that I start walking in her direction, but the blackness everywhere and the shadows moving about convince me that it is probably better to stay put. Another 30 minutes pass and she finds that she's on a gas line. "Just get gas then" I tell her.

11:30 and I see a figure emerge from the darkness waving and calling my name. "The van just died" she yells. We begin the futile effort of trying to get bad gas through the line (desperate, she had poured half a can of old gas sitting around the garage into the tank). By 11:30 the situation is hopeless - the battery is now dead. Both our cell phones are running low on power. We call my mother, who has very little gas, and she heads out to get us. Ten minutes later she calls. Her car is dead in the middle of the road. Yep. Same bad gas.

The tow truck will be here in a hour. I'm about to pass out from hypoglycemia - and the only calories my sister can find is a bottle of some Smirnoff grape something or other. I drink it. I'm desperate. Both our phones go black. We start laughing uncontrollable about the absurdity of our situation - and suddenly all the heaviness lifts and the mood brightens. My sister lights a cigarette. I bum one off her.

Human, all too human...

The tow truck hoists the van onto it's back and we head off to fetch my mother. She claims that her car is off the road after some nice men helped push it out of traffic, but as we pull up we see that she's still in the middle of the road. The driver adds her car on the back and we all pile into the cab of the truck. The heat is cranking. My neck and shoulders throb from hours of shivering.

At 5 a.m., Saturday morning, I wake in tears. Once the sun finally lights the sky I feel an urgency to go for a run, a hard run, to flush my mind, my body, and my lungs...for how long, I know not.

I need to stay on the main roads because they're the only ones generally open and somewhat safe. I run from South Plainfield into Scotch Plains towards Westfield. I come upon some utility trucks positioning themselves to remove a freshly blown do power line. I run beneath the wire ducking my head to avoid hitting it. A police cruiser pulls up as I pass and closes the road behind me. Well. There goes my way back home. I cut north, heading for Plainfield, looking for a road back. Luckily I know this area like the back of my hand - I've been running here since high school. But as I run north every road is closed. I finally find one weaving through a neighborhood and hope for the best. I see another runner. We say "Hi" and smile as only two runners running through a disaster area do - Gratefully! I come upon several blocks strewn with 60 foot trees and power lines everywhere. A PSE&G worker sitting in a pickup truck gets out as I jog slowly, assessing the situation. Before he can speak a word I blurt out, "Look I gotta get home, and all the roads are closed. I'll stay on the lawns. I won't touch anything". He just looks at me, "Just be careful". And I pick may delicately over, under, around and through a maze of wires, branches. And for the next three or four miles it's just more of the same, but eventually I make it home.

What I saw on my run...And this is 5 days after the storm hit...





Today's project is to get to a grocery store because food is running a bit scarce around the house. But the cars are still dead and the mechanic still has no power. Luckily we score a car, with some gas, from my sister's friend, and my mother and I venture out on a foraging expedition. We drive through miles of dark, closed stores and restaurants and dry cleaners. Even Burger King is closed (where I had my first 'real' job). A police "Mobile Commend Center" RV is parked in the empty lot.




We reach the market. There's some light, some life. A few people mill around. A generator provides just enough light on either end of the aisles to see. All the refrigerators and freezers are empty. Most of the shelves have only a few items sitting on them. We grab a loaf of bread (date about to expire), a butternut squash (one of the only 'fresh' things to be found), some canned goods...

I decide to leave on Sunday rather than Monday because we have the car now, and I need to seize the moment or else deal with the challenge of getting to the airport without transportation. As I sit in terminal A waiting to board I get online and see that runners are working in Staten Island, wearing their NYC Marathon t-shirts. I see that runners are running through Central Park, cheered on by spectators warming finish area bleachers. I read that a friend has run the entire course. I read that the Giants-Steelers game will be held as planned. I have a huge lump of tears in my throat. They well-up in my eyes, and drip back down into my throat. Friends try to console me - 'So sorry about the race'. They try to offer what they can...

But here's the thing, for me NONE of this is about the 'race'. I didn't run, so what. What hurts so much is what people have assumed about all the runners. The accusations, the recriminations, the outright attacks. Friends not standing by you, not trying to understand, being silent, remote - I have high expectations when it comes to friends, and when they let me down I am for a time crushed. This too shall pass. Hard lessons learned - some I'm now glad to have learned, others I wish I did not know. 

And then of course, NY is not just ANY race for me. And I crank my Ipod...



How will the epilogue go...I just don't know...

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Once again, I am so sorry that the entire experience was so emotional for you. The good thing is that someday it will be a memory and a story (a terrible, horrible story) to tell.

    (((hugs)))

    ReplyDelete

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