Disappointed? Disappointed is an understatement for how I felt when the New York City Marathon was cancelled.
I often joked that my main goal was to beat Oprah’s marathon time of 4:29. The HOCKEY CENTRAL boys added that I would have to find a new job if I couldn’t even do that. But for me the challenge ran much deeper when I took it on five months ago.
When I finally said yes to run New York, I convinced myself to do it for a couple of reasons. First, and perhaps the biggest, was the downward slide of my fitness level. I just didn’t like where I had arrived at age 46; in fact I absolutely hated it. I played at 208 pounds for my entire career and found myself at 230 pounds eating Doug MacLean’s extra large pizzas during the playoffs.
From an early stage in my pro career, I learned quickly that the goal scoring I did at the junior level wasn’t following me into the NHL. I needed different ways to make an impact. Getting in top physical shape was one of them. I was so dedicated that I often won fitness awards in training camp. While some of my peers still talked about how much fun it was to drink and party all summer, I chose a different route. Did it help me make the NHL? For sure. But great fitness alone can’t teach you all the skills you need. It can’t teach you to fight like a dog for loose pucks, either. However, what it does is show commitment that gives you the chance. And at the age of 46, I had forgotten what all of that meant.
After just a few weeks of training it all came back to me and I was determined to not only finish, but finish well. Sorry Oprah. Early morning runs, workouts in the gym, nutrition counseling and rehabilitating a four-centimetre tear in my calf, were all a part of the next five months. By the time I flew into LaGuardia to get set for the marathon every motivated bone in my body was ready for a grueling 26-mile run.
Then the official announcement came: “New York Marathon Cancelled.” What are the odds? A hurricane hitting the exact area 40,000 people from all over the globe were slated to run through. It is the first time in its 40-year history the marathon has been cancelled. It was as if five months were deleted off my calendar.
But while I sat there thinking of my own personal disappointment, someone in Staten Island was trying to find a place for his family to sleep because his home was gone. He was asking himself the same question: what are the odds of this happening?
When New York papers showed generators in Central Park set up for the marathon, while thousands remained without power in downtown Manhattan, I knew that if the run went ahead, it would be under a huge black cloud.
As much as I tried to convince myself that running would show the fortitude and perseverance that New Yorkers are famous for, in the end the right decision was made.
In this situation there was only one thing you could do — try to help. Many of the runners donated clothing and money. They gathered anything they could and pitched in. Runners from Mumbai, Switzerland, Mexico and Sweden among other countries gathered in the lobby of the hotel, united, to help people in need. My two sons and I went to a shelter in Brooklyn and did what little we could. We brought them what they said they needed most. My youngest son was shocked by the damage and the lineups of people waiting for handouts at the shelter. He asked if what we were able to bring would even make a difference. I told him, “If everyone gives a little you get a lot”. Hopefully it helped.
As everyone knows, the predictable thing about life is that it is unpredictable. I thought I needed to cross the finish line in Central Park to gain something special. Turns out I was wrong.