It was a long road leading up to the NYC Marathon for Tara Weir of Prince George, British Columbia. She entered more than a year ago and started intensive training and fundraising in August. Her parents ran the marathon multiple times in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and her mother made plans to join her in New York as she ran in their footsteps.
“The crowds are incredible,” her mother told her. “It makes an average runner feel like a rock star.” Weir pictured the crowd in Central Park cheering as she neared the finish line. The event draws about 2 million live spectators each year and about 315 million television viewers worldwide.
As the marathon date, Nov. 4, approached, Weir was winding down her months-long training. She was excited, anticipating the emotional charge and feat of endurance she was about to face in her first marathon. She was also a little nervous about the weather forecast.
Superstorm Sandy blew away all other concerns. When Weir heard about the destruction that had swept through the city, she decided to defer her entry to 2013.
“I feel that people should be focused on recovery efforts and not a race,” said Weir on Thursday. “This was a tough decision for me to make. … The city is in a terrible state right now and the logistics for me are just too crazy. … Finally, understanding the devastation, I think that the marathon should be canceled this year.”
New York Road Runners (NYRR), the hosting organization, announced Friday that the marathon would indeed be canceled for the first time since it began in 1970.
“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,” reads a statement on the NYRR website.
Michael Wolfson, deputy mayor for government affairs and communications, said at a press conference Friday, “Those of us who love this race recognize that it wasn’t the marathon if it wasn’t a unifying event. It wasn’t the marathon that we knew and loved if there were people pained by the running of it,” according to the NYRR website.
Earlier last week, NYRR and Mayor Michael Bloomberg had decided going ahead with the marathon “would be an amazing opportunity to honor the city, embrace those hurt and lost in the storms, and help the city move forward,” said NYRR President Mary Wittenberg at the conference.
After the cancellation, however, supplies such as food and generators diverted from the marathon are being used in recovery efforts. NYRR’s Race to Recover campaign has raised more than $2.6 million.
All 2012 runners are automatically entered in 2013’s marathon. Weir was disappointed, but her preparations did not go to waste.
She raised $2,600 for Oxfam, an organization that helps tackle poverty in developing countries. She surpassed the $2,500 goal she needed to enter the marathon. Oxfam is working to help Caribbean countries in the wake of Sandy. It has set the goal of rebuilding 800 roofs in Cuba, each costing $1,200.
Weir may have to wait until next year to run 26 miles through the five boroughs, but luckily she was able to sign up for the Road2Hope marathon near Toronto, Canada, held Sunday. She presumably was not the only disappointed NYC Marathon entrant in Road2Hope.
The marathon’s website reads, “New York Marathoners!! We have raised the cap on our race a little to accommodate as many of you as we are able to handle. We have 250 spots.”
Road2Hope will be Weir’s first marathon, the 2013 NYC Marathon her second.Weir has an adventurous background. She has planted trees in the clear cuts of northern Canada for several years, through all elements and on all kinds of terrain. She has ridden her bicycle from Cambodia to Nepal and plans to ride it from Cairo to Capetown.
Forestry worker and cyclist, she begins her next feat of endurance in marathon running.
“It’s that amazing sense of accomplishment at the end of the run that really makes it for me,” said Weir. “Without struggle, it’s not that interesting to me.”
The NYC Marathon and Sandy presented a different kind of struggle than anticipated, but Weir remains positive.
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