Inside the mind of a New York City Marathon entrant

Before Mayor Bloomberg was pushed into canceling the New York City Marathon, a 45-year-old woman from the Town of Goshen named Mary Pat Smith faced a terrible dilemma.

You can bet thousands of others faced the same moral confusion last week at this time. To run, or not to run, the marathon for which they had spent months in dedicated training.

Run it with a measure of guilt and sorrow for the millions of folks affected by the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. Run it amid the possibility that you are stealing emergency personnel from those same people.

Don’t run it and toss aside months of training and goal-setting. Don’t run it without knowing exactly what, if any, effect the marathon would have on emergency personnel aiding hurricane victims.

Mary Pat Smith, a wife and a mother of five children aged 8-17, made a decision. “If they are doing it, I’m doing it.”

Then she turned on her computer and saw the devilish doings of Hurricane Sandy.

She couldn’t run through the New York City neighborhoods of people perched on the doorstep of hopelessness and despair. “Actually,” she said a few days later, “I was a little annoyed at the New York Road Runners club for doing it.”

Others were a lot annoyed. A viscous backlash by the public and the media ensued. Still, the New York Marathon was on. Smith shared her feelings with Kathleen Rifkin, director of the Hambletonian Marathon, its inaugural race set for Oct. 20, 2013. Smith said she was instead thinking about running the scenic Hambo course on Sunday, which starts and finishes in Goshen and includes  parts of the Town of Wallkill, Town and Village of Chester and the Town of Hamptonburgh.

“You do that,” Rifkin told Smith, “and I’ll support you.”

Not just support you in a rah-rah manner. Rifkin meant joining Smith on the course in a support vehicle to make sure she was well-hydrated and healthy throughout the grueling 26.2-mile run. Smith called a runner, Goshen resident Craig Calzaretta, the husband of a good friend, to see if he wanted to run the course. Calzaretta had been entered in New York but decided around mid-week not to run it. He was up for running the Hambo.

“We just needed to get it our of our systems,” Mary Pat said. “It was, to me, the right thing to do.”

Her decision was confirmed late Friday afternoon when Bloomberg announced he was canceling the marathon.

Rifkin figured she’d get the word out in case others wanted to run the course. It would be a fun run. No charge. She would supply fluids and GU energy gel. She called longtime runner Joanne Shurter, who owns Winners’ Bracket Award & Trophy Center in Middletown. Hate to be a bother, but would you happen to have any old medals laying around that we could hand out to finishers? Shurter came through, as usual, making up 50 Hambo Fun Run medals for finishers.

“I thought it would be Craig and I,” Smith said, “and he’s much faster.”

Forty people showed up, including a half-dozen entered in the New York City Marathon. Eighteen ran the entire course. Others used it as a long training run. They had a blast.

Smith didn’t think she deserved any credit for getting the event started. But she deserves a lot of credit. She stuck to her convictions when the mayor of New York City based his decision on public pressure.  Smith’s brother, Brendan McBride, came up from New Jersey to run the course. Smith’s husband, Chris, came out to cheer her on. So did their five children

“It was jut a feel-good event,” she said. “I took it slower than I’d like to in the second half, but it was good. I ran with somebody and we helped each other along.”

That’s what runners do. They help each other along. Many voices were considerably louder in dissent of the New York Marathon running through paths of destruction. With her five children looking on, Mary Pat Smith simply showed the power of quietly doing the right thing.

kgleason@th-record.com; Twitter: @th_KevinGleason

 

 

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