Sunday, November 4, 2012

5 years ago...Remembering Ryan, Thoughts on NYRR and the ING NYC Marathon

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of my brother's death in the 2007 Men's Olympic Trials in NYC.  As the anniversary approached, it's impossible not to think about him often, and the city of New York as well.
We all miss my brother, and a time like this is very emotional for my parents and Alicia, who was Ryan's wife.  As the 5 year mark came to me yesterday, I was filled with thoughts of love and thankfulness for all that I have in my life at this moment. 

My brothers, Nathan, and Elliott, traveled with their girlfriends, Elena and Robyn, to NYC to pay tribute to my brother's memory, and visited Central Park where Ryan last ran.  Ryan's rock is still there...along with the bench dedicated to him with his quote of:
"It is necessary to dig deep into ones self to find that hidden grain of steel called will".

Such a powerful statement to think about, especially this year, in NYC and it's surrounding boroughs and neighboring states that were deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy.

If you are human, you cannot feel anything but heartache for the families who lost loved ones, and for those who are now homeless and trying to cope and move on when winter weather approaches soon.

This is why many were stunned the 2012 ING NYC Marathon would continue.  Many are quick to jump on the bandwagon that Mary Wittenberg does not have a heart, and did not think about those suffering.  I can tell you, Mary had a heart of gold when Ryan passed away.  She did everything to make sure that I along with several other family members made it to NYC to help prepare the transfer of Ryan to Michigan where he was laid to rest.  She cried, she encouraged, and she acted like a CEO should, and went straight into action to help us in our time of sorrow and need.

I cannot say for certain why the marathon was scheduled, but for what the marathon represents, and how much it helps the runners and the city of NYC, it would be great to think first, that it was for good intentions.  But it's all in the past now, and seeing today's headlines of 2012 NYC Marathon  participants taking up new roles as volunteers in the area is what will become inspirational stories for them to tell back home.  It will become more inspiring than a race time and more inspiring than a medal.

When I was entered in the 2010 ING NYC Marathon, I trained forever, just like these runners did.  I made it to NYC, and I had an appendectomy on hour or so before the race began.  My family had traveled from Chicago and Michigan to watch, and I felt heartbroken.  I didn't want to finish the race for me, but for Ryan and for those who came to cheer for me.  But instead when they came to visit at my bedside in the hospital, all that training and energy and money put into making it to NYC, was nothing compared to knowing I would be ok and I could deal with that.   I had to stay an extra 3-4 days in NYC and Mary Wittenberg knew about this, and she helped out by giving my sister(who stayed on to help my recovery) and I accommodations for the time I needed my incision to heal.  When I returned home to Austin, I sent my sincere thanks back to Mary and the NYRR staff because that was the second time they had been so helpful.

Just when I thought, running would be over, I decided after a few months, I would use my deferment, and try for 2011 ING NYC Marathon.  It was the hottest summer in Texas, and the drought had burned up thousands of homes in near by Bastrop, but somehow I got the miles in, and made it to NYC again.  Once again, I didn't care about the time, I just wanted to finish for Ryan, and for my family who came again to cheer for me!!!  I finished.  Some of the NYRR staff knew I was running this time again, and sent me heartfelt encouraging emails or voice mails.  Being a single parent, and already spending alot between hospital bills and training and traveling, Mary helped out once again and gave me a place to stay.   When I completed the marathon, she sent me a handwritten card...I can't find it right now...because I recently moved....but it read something like" So glad you were able to honor Ryan and complete the marathon.  I think about him everyday".   Does this sound like a heartless CEO?  No, this, to me, is a person who has a million and one things to juggle by putting on the largest marathon in the world, but still took the time to reach out to a slow, unknown runner, way over in Texas, to show support.  Not only Mary, but the entire staff was on board to encourage me to finish for Ryan.

I can never forget their generosity and encouragement.  So, on this 5 year anniversary, I think about how my brother would have been so grateful for Mary and the NYRR for assisting over the years.  I also hope that the city of NYC and all those who wanted to participate will realize that there is always another race, as long as we are here on earth.  (Below:Family visiting Ryan's rock and bench in Central Park, Nov. 4, 2012)

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