Updated Monday, November 5, 2012
My hour walk in Central Park was full of emotions. I wondered just how many would be there. I estimated 10-15,000 when I got into the park about 10:15 am. Chile France, Spain, a shirt saying the new state of Catalonia (Spain), Germany, and there were fans. People running clockwise, counterclockwise. Some running three miles, most run 5, 10, 15, 20, some the entire distance.
Fans were there. " You make me cry with your running" said one lady, over and over again to those running by. Fans of all ages were there, it was a good old fashioned fun run, like we used to do in the seventies. Fred Lebow would have been proud.
I had decided to go by and see Ryan Shay's bench, placed in honor of the fine young runner who died in November 2007 during the Olympic marathon Trials for men. I remembered being with Joe Piane, the head coach at Notre Dame, when Ryan finished a fine 10,000 meters at Stanford in the early 2000s. Piane, the long-time coach of Notre Dame, loved his athletes and Ryan Shay was no different. Piane was so happy with Shay's finish in the 10,000 meters at Stanford.
I then remembered when Tom Carleo asked me how Ryan was, if I had heard anything about him, minutes after Ryan had fallen. Eyes moisten, breathing becomes heavy, just kept walking to the bench.
Saw the other name tags on benches, thoughtful, loving messages. Two ladies were in front of Ryan's nametag, but shoes were there, dropped off by Brian Mahoney, Saucony promotions manager, earlier in the day.
I took a picture through tears, not sure why I was so taken. The thought came over that Ryan Shay would like this, a flash marathon run, in Central Park. I walked back onto the course, on the side of the road so as not to get in the runners ways.
On Friday, Kenny Moore, the recipient of the George Hirsch Journalism award had spoken about the cleansing that the marathon would bring. He noted that 40,000 marathoners would erase much of the grief from Hurricane Sandy. Even with the official marathon cancelled, the flash marathon gave 15-20,000 a chance to grieve. Other runners were on Staten Island, trying to help.
I walked back to the Hilton, tears drying up, knowing that, on this sunny day in November, runners, walkers and their loved ones got what running is really all about, as Fred Lebow and Ryan Shay got in their lifetimes, and Kenny Moore has gotten for his sixty plus years.
Time to head back to Milwaukee and see my son, as he turns 26. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut, the esteemed American writer would say. So, it goes.
If you would like to make a donation in honor of the Hurricane Sandy victims, we suggest you go to www.redcross.org.