It's guest blogger time here on "The JFWodfather". One of our fellow CFD members, Rick aka "Big Rick" aka "Big Ricky Pooh" aka "BRP" is fresh back in the box from months of training for the New York City Marathon. With the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, I thought it would be interesting to hear someone from the CrossFit family give a first account view of what happened and his experience.
First off, thanks to JFW, for allowing to me convey with my eyes what I saw over 30 hours in NYC this weekend. At times I consider NYC my second home, never actually living there, but between work and pleasure, have spent close to one of my 35 years on earth there.
As some of you know, I have been training for the NYC marathon for the better part of two years. I was slated to run it in 2010, then 10 days before the race I pulled my hamstring. I used Crossfit as a mechanism to heal and was so excited to run the race in 2012. The support from family, friends, and the Crossfit community has been incredible. Running and training for a marathon is like Crossfit - if you have never done it, it is hard to appreciate the time and effort. Having played high school and college sports my whole life, I can honestly say that running a marathon and crossfitting are more challenging than my stint as a football player at CWRU, and that is not a knock on CWRU at all.
Having said that, the people of NYC and NJ have a greater challenge ahead of them than any WOD or road race. Marathons are a huge commitment, but nothing compares to the commitment and the challenge of life, and a marathon will be easier then what some of NJ and Staten Island will endure. The devastation from Sandy was real, and if anything, was underplayed by the media. I won't compare this to 9/11, though I was there three weeks after that happened.
Many have asked me - "What was going through your head?" My first answer was "lots," then I would have to say "anger and sadness." I was looking so forward to doing this race. My mom and dad (my awesome training partner) flew in, my sister, who lives in NYC was going to be with us, and my ever supporting girlfriend Colleen was there as well. I won't go into all of the detail of my beyond selfish fit of rage upon finding out of the cancellation as soon as I got to my hotel room, but I will say Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYRR director Mary Wittenberg really overshot on this one. Having walked outside for 10 minutes after the announcement, my rage and anger was now directed at those two for thinking that this race could even be considered and what selfish fool I was. The devastation was real. There were people sleeping in blankets in our hotel lobby, all restaurants opened with very limited menus served on paper plates and plastic cups, the lobbies of WTC buildings were used as temporary shelters so people could have heat, outlets, and restrooms. My friends in Brooklyn, where about 9 miles of the race would be, live by mile marker 7 and they were without power. How big of a shithead would I be if I am drinking water to run a race while others were on boil alerts? Staten Island was crushed and since subways were down, the Ferry was not up and running until later, had only one access point - the Verrazano Narrows bridge which they were going to shut down for the race. Queens had partially burned down and 6 of those miles of the race would be through Queens. Since all taxis at LaGuardia airport were enacting mandatory carpooling with strangers to get 4 in a cab due to a gas shortage (we drove by one gas station where the line was easily 2 miles long) and people had to have three in a car to cross any bridge into Manhattan, it was not good. In fact, we were one of 3 cars on the Triboro / RFK bridge at 5:30pm on a Friday afternoon. The only time you will see this again is if Marshall Law is enacted, which it basically was in this situation. There was flooding everywhere. Lights were out in so many places. People were on edge and really struggling. Who thought this race could happen?
The hospital situation was not good and the staff at Lenox Hill Hospital deserve real medals - not finisher medals that they give out at a race. My sister had to get rushed to the hospital on early Saturday morning and spent all day on Saturday there with her. Beds in the hospital were adjacent to each other in the hallways at Lenox Hill Hospital on 76th / Lex. There was no room to walk and a two visitor maximum per patient at all times. She is fine now, but a lot of people there were not. There were a lot of people there in real trouble from the storm, and the fact that a race would have went off - not a good idea after what I saw Saturday. The fact that those in the medical profession would be used for the race and not the hospitals absorbing the capacity from hospitals without power would have been a travesty.
So then next question is "Why did you go then if it was that bad?" That is the thing, I didn't think it was going to be that bad. If the Mayor says "c'mon out", then I am coming out as I assumed everything was fine. I wasn't the only one in this situation - there were families from all 50 states and over 60 countries (as far as UAE, Australia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Singapore, and Brazil) - all paid a ton of money to show up and would have rather just sent the relief funds to the city if the race was cancelled on Wednesday. On Friday, almost 40,000 runners and their families were in the city that left on Thursday or Friday following the announcement by the mayor. This is at least 40,000 rooms that could have been used for victims and that many less cab trips burning precious fuel and tying up roads for people that need it. The running expo at the Javits Center (which still had the bottom floor flooded) had drop off boxes to donate clothes as well all merchandise was discounted (Asics donated everything not purchased in their store) and all of the proceeds people paid for some clothes all went to the victims. The running community was incredibly generous with donations of extra clothes, water, purchasing food, materials and anything else you could think of. At the expo, nobody was mad about the cancellation, only that people felt bad about taking hotel rooms when others needed them and that while Bloomberg made the right decision, it was very late to do so. In listening to Opie and Anthony on Monday morning, Opie reported that finish line still had the generators sat there and food and water sat at the finish line. The NYRR should get a new PR firm. Also, O&A did mention how numerous runners did help out and were more than generous in helping out at Staten Island.
The last point I wanted to make that I know that the runners that came into town were being vilified and called selfish, obnoxious, and heartless (though I will say the Knicks played Friday and the Giants played Sunday in the ravished state of New Jersey without an iota of protest). While twitter campaigns were hoping for people to trip runners and throw urine bombs on people, I found it amusing that these scumbag people can "make a difference" by sitting on their computer and offering up nothing but counter-productivity and fueling unnecessary rage and vigor to a group of people, that are by and large friendly and helpful people. In the age of "slacktivism" - where people think they can make a difference because they "like" something on Facebook or tweet something, I ask that you look in the mirror, then maybe realize you should do a WOD or run or do something other than sit on a computer and think you are making a difference. Don't blame the runners - most of us were not from NYC at did not have first hand account of how bad the damage was. Once we got there, anybody with a set of eyes and a heart knew that running was not the answer and charity and service were.