Early last thursday morning I began the long car journey to Heathrow. I was looking forward to the flight for once as my friend had access to the gold lounge at Virgin Atlantic. I now aspire to always fly business class!
You enter the lounge through what seems like a secret door, no queues for checking in and a private line for security. It is already seeming like my first pleasant experience at an airport! The lounge itself is fantastic, an open bar, free food, concierge service and free massages and haircuts. This really is the place to wait before your flight.
After eating a three course dinner and feeling totally relaxed I headed to the plane. This is where the wonderful experience of business class ended, for we only had economy seats! Oh well with extra leg room and the thoughts of the lounge the flight drifted by.
Arriving in Newark, we were zipped through customs as the staff directed us towards the diplomat section. It appears a white cane gets you anywhere! Quickly through customs and with only hand luggage we headed for a taxi. There was a long queue so Neil took an offer to take an unofficial taxi. After spending a few minutes in the taxi I was already feeling it was wrong to be running a marathon.
The taxi driver had only just had his power returned and was telling tales of the devastation. The radio was filled with reports of gas and food shortages. I voiced my opinion of guilt and thought running the marathon simply wasn’t appropriate. We made it into NYC in record time, no one was on the roads. With long queues for fuel and a restriction on the number of passengers to use the bridges it made Manhattan quiet.
We arrived at our hotel and quickly headed to a local Duane Reade to buy as many cold cures as we could find. I was feeling incredibly rough. Pilled up to the eye balls we headed back to the hotel. In the morning our plan was to head to the marathon expo grab some gifts and take it easy until the marathon start.
We flagged down a taxi to head to the expo, which was taking a surprising amount of time. With half of the subway down, limited fuel it made the taxi and bus services problematic. We arrived at the expo to massive queues. The cane came in handy again as we were quickly ushered towards the disabled runners section. This meant we breezed through the queues and had to register in a special section. There had been a slight mishap with our starting gates. My guide and I were in different section, this would mean only one of us would have a recorded finish time.
To solve this we would have to start at the front of the race, receive special transport to the start line and wait in a heated tent. We decided that was a compromise we simply couldn’t refuse! After a quick scurry around the expo to purchase some GU we headed back to the hotel. With a brief stop it was time to go shopping. After finally hailing a taxi we headed to FAO grabbed a Steiff and some Hot Wheels and decided to head to the Apple store at Grand Central.
Unable to get a taxi we decided to walk. When arriving at Grang Central we admired the sheer scale of the Apple store and thought the only appropriate thing was to grab a drink at the bar. Staying sensible we steered away from the alcohol only to succumb to it on our second drink. Then Neil received a call, “They have cancelled the marathon!”. At first I thought Neil was just joking with a friend on the phone but no it was true. I could hear other people in the station receiving the same news as it quickly spread like a wave through the lobby.
Feeling a little deflated and upset we left Grand Central to be met by the longest queue I have seen outside of a theme park. Asking why everyone was queueing it was the bus to Brooklyn. Any small thoughts of deflation I had were gone, there should not have been a marathon. People were suffering. We headed back to the hotel and decided to see if we could change our flights. It appeared everyone had thought of this and al the flights were full. So we decided to put in a few runs over the next couple of days and make the best of NYC.
The following morning wearing our marathon t-shirts we headed down to the Hudson, the plan to run up and down and clock up some miles. Neither Neil or I were in a great state, both ill and far from marathon ready we began our run. We bumped into hundreds of runners all with smiles on their faces, everyone seemed to have taken the cancellation of the marathon so well. I think everyone had realised it shouldn’t of gone ahead. The run was great we ran as far south as possible turned round and ran back. I don’t get to run outside of my normal location often at all. Perhaps 4-5 times a year. So running amongst other people is a real novelty for me. The rest of my time is spent in the solitude of training along the one path I have memorised. So any run outside of that becomes truly special for me.
Finishing our run we were a little dehydrated. Thankfully we had spotted a little bakery just up the road. Grabbing some freshly made lemonade and an obligatory donut we headed back to the hotel. The plan was to chill out in the lounge all day and then meet a couple of people Neil had met the previous year. At around 6 we headed down to meet Tanya and Eamon. We had a great time eating, drinking talking politics and using our british powers of persuasion to get people to vote Obama. After lots of drinks and great food Tanya insisted we go to theirs in the morning for lunch. If Tanya was to feed us then Eamon HAD to come for a run. Twisting Eamon’s arm a little we all decided to run the following day.
On marathon morning we headed down to pick up Eamon and went down to the Hudson. We had decided to run in reverse head North and cut across to Central Park. This turned out to be an amazing decision. On entering the park it seemed a little busy. What we didn’t expect was to run round the corner and be met by 15,000 runners. All the marathon runners had simply decided to head to Central Park and run. It was one of the most magical running experiences I have ever been fortunate to experience. Just a group of people all doing the same thing, going for a run. You don’t need a race to run, you just need somewhere to run.
We did a loop of Central Park and then headed back to the hotel. The plan was to pop TO Tanya and Eamons a little later. Tanya was a wonderful hostess and created a wonderful lunch for everyone. I felt like I was experiencing a true slice of the Manhattan experience. What made the cancellation of the marathon more poignant was that Tanya’s mother was directly affected. Her house had been flooded and she was without power or heat. It continued to affirm my belief that the marathon really shouldn’t take place.
In the end I was happy the marathon hadn’t happened. I experienced something truly special on this trip. The run at Central Park will remain a memory for life and if the marathon hadn’t been cancelled I wouldn’t of got to experiences Tanya’s cooking!
I am sure I will return again to run NYC and if I have as great a time again, it won’t even have to be for the marathon.