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When Nothing Goes According To Plan

Posted Nov 05 2012 8:36am

One major lesson I’ve learned this year is that no matter how hard you try — no matter how many pretty little To-Do lists you make — life doesn’t always follow your plan.

In fact, more often than not, live throws major curve balls your way. Sometimes those curve balls come in the form of an injury. Sometimes curve balls mean getting hospitalized after months of failing health. And in the worst case scenarios, curve balls mean unpreventable natural disasters blowing through your home town, ruining homes and, in the process, sending an entire 5-borough city and its surrounding regions into total upheaval.

As much as people have been comparing Hurricane Sandy’s arrival and devastation in the northeast to Hurricane Katrina and even to the events of 9/11, major events like these are unique and ultimately unprecedented.

People could tape their windows and surround their homes with sandbags, but I don’t think anyone could prepare for the physical, mental and emotional toll this storm took on the area.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned, I was incredibly lucky in this situation. I didn’t lose power and my home, my office and my loved ones are safe. I spent much of last week feeling guilty that I was so unharmed when people blocks away were out in the cold.

All the while, as much as people claimed to have all the right answers, the situation surrounding the New York City Marathon was also unprecedented. And with that came so many emotions.

Talk about ironic: At the time I took this photo, the city wasn’t supportive, it was practically at war.

I felt conflicted all week. The marathon was still set to happen, so I was planning to run it. But I was never excited about it. It wasn’t going to be the New York City Marathon we had all planned for. And by late Thursday, when preparations for the marathon were fully underway and bodies were still being pulled from the waters surrounding Staten Island, my heart hurt. I wanted to run, I had trained to run, and maybe the marathon would, after all, unite the city.

But it still felt so wrong.

I had taken Friday off from work to go to the Expo. So I did that, hoping it would boost my enthusiasm.

I got free cheese samples, I got my bib and I met Desiree Davila.

Desi, me and Josh Cox. I’d say we’re friends now, but they actually ignored me when I tried to talk to them. Boo.

I still didn’t want to run the race. It even became clear that running the race might be unsafe for the runners, and that terrified me.

I spent the rest of Friday cleaning the apartment before my weekend visitors arrived. Emily was coming up from D.C., Lauren and her husband were driving down from Vermont, and my best friend Becky and her husband were flying up from Charlotte, NC. All my favorite people were coming to town for a weekend that I had such mixed emotions toward.

Spoiler alert…

And then — finally — the race was canceled.

I was upset. I was relieved. I no longer had to make the decision about whether or not to run.

But I still wanted to run.

I didn’t want to run the NYC Marathon. But I wanted to run a marathon.

Twitter was overtaken by runners in support of the city’s decision to ultimately cancel the race — but those same runners, understandably, wanted to do something with their training. They made plans to go to Richmond or Rehoboth to run upcoming marathons.

I didn’t want to run those marathons. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.

So I just got drunk and decided I’d figure out the running stuff later. I didn’t have the amazing 16 weeks of training behind me. I knew my sub-4:00 time goal I’d set at the start of 2012 was far-reaching, and I knew traveling to Richmond, Rehoboth or somewhere else with a close-by marathon wasn’t feasible for me in the next few weeks.

All the while, I kept having those same feelings of guilt I’d felt all week: I was thinking about running while people in the city were suffering. Badly.

I woke up Saturday morning and knew I needed to run. That’s just what I do. It’s how I escape and it’s how I feel better.

The backlash toward runners online during the week really got to me. I think as runners, whether we were planning to run the marathon or not, we felt attacked. It was just…overwhelming.

And I don’t do so well with “overwhelming.”

So when my plans weren’t going to go as I’d expected, I made a new plan.

Because I can’t solve all the world’s great problems. I can’t go back in time and change Hurricane Sandy’s course. But I can plan stuff, and that’s what I needed to do this weekend.

I laid in bed Saturday morning with my friend Google.

I discovered the Manchester City Marathon.

You know who lives 25 minutes from Manchester, NH?

Oh right. My entire family.

When life hands you lemons, cuddle with a baby.

I could still run a marathon on November 4.

I threw the idea out there to Lauren and Evan and got Emily on GChat (though I knew convincing her would be easy).

Everyone was in.

I was excited. I was going to run a marathon! I was going to New Hampshire with my favorite people, to stay with my family and I was going to escape the nastiness that was polluting NYC. The nastiness, of course, being social media.

So we got in the car and we drove north.

And as we drove, I read Twitter.

I was escaping the city to run a marathon, and now runners were organizing charitable ways to help, like running through Staten Island with bags full of supplies and food.

The guilt and conflicting emotions wouldn’t go away. I felt guilty because I was excited to see my family and to get to run a marathon after all. I felt guilty because runners were staying behind to help while I was, literally, running away.

But then I realized: Staten Island doesn’t just need help on what happened to be marathon day. I could still help. I could still donate the three bags of clothes I pulled together during the week, and I could still donate monetarily. And this week, I can continue to help. (This is me continuing to feel slightly guilty for missing out on the specific efforts made yesterday.)

In the end, though, I got the weekend I’ve been needing for a long time.

Hey, brother. You’re the best.

I turned off Twitter while I was gone, and by “turned off Twitter” I mean “I don’t get service at my mom and dad’s house in New Hampshire.”

My mom was thrilled to take us in, and I was happy to sleep in my childhood bed for a night.

And then, as planned, I woke up Sunday morning (much later than planned) and I ran a marathon.


And, as planned, I PR’d.

Official time 3:51:20

More on that tomorrow.

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