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The marathon that never was

I feel it pretty hard to verbalise my thoughts right now, even though more than a day has passed since the marathon was cancelled. In just a few more hours, the alarm was supposed to go off and we’d file downstairs for an early breakfast before being loaded onto the buses headed for Staten Island and the starting line. We’ve been waiting for this day for more than two years, dad, Jakob, Per and I. You see, the New York City marathon is a pretty exclusive race, even though it is the biggest in the world with it’s 47 000 participants. A ticket is hard to come by, and the Swedish travel agency organising the event work by a first come-first serve basis meaning you have to be quick when they release the spots, which they normally do two years prior to a race.

The team at the expo, picking up our race numbers

The race number from the marathon that never was

A very orange jersey

Yesterday evening, on Friday, we were sitting in the bar at the Four Seasons hotel on 58th Street, having drinks with a dear old friend from grad school. Em has been living in New York for eleven years, and we have only managed to catch up a handful of times with her since we quit sixth grade 20 years ago. Twenty years. Spins the head, it does. I was nursing my laryngitic throat with a lovely Macallan,when suddenly an avalanche of texts started beeping on our cells. “Hate to be the bringer of sad tidings…”, “Rumour has it…”, and so on. I have to be honest, the cancellation came as a huge shock. I had to walk out of the bar and onto the curb outside to clear my head. Through the entire week, the mayor had been reassuring the world that the marathon would start as scheduled, regardless of the havoc hurricane Sandy had created in the city. We had seen the stories and videos on CNN, but nevertheless thought that the new yorkers would pull through and that they’d show the world that they’d recover and stage a magnificent event. But it wasn’t to be. The official ING NYC Marathon site said:

While holding the race would not have required diverting resources from the recovery effort, it became clear that the apparent widespread perception to the contrary had become the source of controversy and division. Neither NYRR nor the City could allow a controversy over the marathon to result in a dangerous situation or to distract attention from all the critically important work that is being done to help New York City recover from the storm.

Let me be quick to stress that all four of us – while hugely disappointed – support the decision to cancel the marathon (after having had time to sulk a bit). It would have felt strange to drive past the flooded parts of Staten Island to reach the Verazzano Bridge, or run past demolished buildings in Brooklyn, or dodging falling branches in Central Park. Human tragedy has been evident in the media, and the death toll has been higher than anyone expected.

Slovaks in deep discussion at Bryant Park

My uncle works at the cath lab at NYU Medical Center and told us unbelievable stories from the hospital over a pint of beer for lunch today. Apparently, the electricity crashed in the middle of the night, followed by a complete failure of the emergency generators due to flooding of the riverside (!) buildings they’re housed in. Patients on ventilators had to be manually ventilated on bag-mask valves and transported manually down flights of stairs because the elevators didn’t work. And finally having reached the lobby, they had to be transported by ambulance in the middle of the stormy night to other hospitals.

Tomorrow morning, several runners will be meeting up at Strawberry Fields along Central Park West for an alternative marathon; a run around Central Park together, to show our support for New York and all the people who live here. If you’re in town, come and wave us on.

Oh, and happy birthday to Em who took us out for drinks in the Village this evening, and happy birthday to Olof celebrating his first ever!

The brats celebrating Em at Wilfie & Nell

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