When Hurricane Sandy “stormed” the tri-state area two weeks ago, causing an estimated $20 billion of damage, splintering homes into matchsticks, causing 113 deaths and leaving an estimated 4.8 million households in the dark including all of lower Manhattan, N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said–the marathon must go on. As late as 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, just two days before the marathon was to begin, Bloomberg took the pulpit insisting the race will “give people something to cheer about” after a “dismal week.”
But, not everyone felt ready to cheer. Patricia Greenberg, an L.A.-based, FOF nutrition and fitness expert who has completed 15 marathons (six of those in New York City) said she felt “appalled” even as a devoted marathon runner. “I thought how dare they?” she says.
The mayor himself buckled to a whirlwind of criticism, eventually cancelling the marathon conceding that he would not want “a cloud to hang over the race or its participants.”
We caught up with Patricia post-Sandy to get the low-down.
How long have you been running marathons?
About 17 years. My first marathon was the Los Angeles marathon in March of 1995. A freak hail storm hit, and I still ran. I completed it in four hours and 57 minutes. Since then, I’ve run 15 marathons and 64 half marathons. I’ve run in 89 degrees, in 39 degrees, in rain storms and heat-stroke weather.
How did you start?
I was not athletic as a kid. As a young adult, I went to the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona and landed a job teaching nutrition at a culinary school in Los Angeles. Around the same time, I started working out and ultimately took on a more challenging fitness regimen. I saw an ad in the paper for the L.A. marathon and embarked on a seven-month training program with the Los Angeles Road Runners. When I finished the marathon I said, ‘okay crossed that off my bucket list–I’ll never do that again.’
But you’ve continued to run them again and again, how come?
I cry everytime I cross the finish line. There is an incredible sense of freedom and accomplishment. People keep telling me, ‘I don’t know how you do it–I couldn’t run anymore when I turned 50.’ I don’t feel anywhere near retirement. To celebrate my 50th birthday my husband, daughter and I went to Athens and I ran the original Pheidippides trail from the Battle of Marathon to the Olympic Stadium.
You flew in from Los Angeles to run the N.Y.C. Marathon. Were you disappointed when it was cancelled?
I planned to run the marathon for my 52nd birthday. I was going to wear a Statue of Liberty costume as I ran, since I’m a native New Yorker. When I arrived, there was a part of me that felt apprehensive. I thought that we’d be running under conditions that were not ideal and maybe not necessarily safe. Then, on Friday morning at the pre-marathon expo, people were screaming and shoving to get to the merchandise–I’ve never seen anything like it. There was no evidence of New York having a problem. My discomfort was kind of waning at that point.
When did you find out it was called off?
On Friday afternoon. After the Expo, I went to visit my grandmother. She is 97 and lives in a high-rise. She had no electricity. We trudged up the twenty-something floors in pitch black. That’s when I started to wonder, ‘can I in good conscience run a marathon on Sunday?’ The marathon runners will be taking water and blankets, and my own grandmother hasn’t had electricity for five days. Then, I got multiple text messages from friends saying it was cancelled.
How did you feel about the mayor’s decision?
Honestly, a weight was [lifted] off my shoulders. It was a relief in that I didn’t have to go in with a heavy heart. I was totally on board with the decision.
What’s next for you?
I’m very devoted to New York and the recovery efforts. I already donated my running shoes and marathon clothes to the relief and there’s a Jersey Shore marathon in May I signed up for.
Do you have any inspirational advice?
Running marathons is not for everyone but find something that works for you–something physical. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment of doing something you thought you couldn’t do. I marvel at myself every time I finish, its not bragging, I just can’t believe I did it.