6 Miles of Gratitude

Under most other circumstances, a week out of the office would be awesome-er than a pool of champagne. This week though, I would have given anything to just get back to normal. 

There isn’t all that much I can write in regards to Hurricane Sandy and her devastating path of destruction. Sure, I could go on all day about it. But on the other hand, I’m simply too exhausted to know where to even begin.

Noah and I decided to stay in New York City in the wake of the storm, despite the fact that our apartment had no electricity. On Tuesday, after being cooped up in our dimly lit living room for 12 hours, we needed to get out and run — and so that’s exactly what we did.

(We weren’t allowed in Central Park, but it was beautiful as ever.)

Tuesday’s 5-miler was one of the most refreshing runs I’ve ever taken. The only downside was my encounter with a too-drunk frat-tastic bro outside of Turtle Bay (the same bar that has dollar beer nights; go figure) who was apparently so appalled by the fact that I was actually running and not chugging back PBR’s that he stopped his conversation to comment. Realllllly? You’re actually running in thisss, he squealed?

For a moment I was confused, and actually stopped myself. Was he actually talking to me? Did he know that he was wasted in the bar owned by Ironman Matt Long?

Still, I felt light and happy the entire time. Looking back, I must have been drawing on some metaphorical reserve of freedom.

It’s small moments like these that have kept me going over the last week — times in which I’ve been able to stop, gather perspective, and find an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what I have — and what I didn’t lose. It’s important to dwell on these factors.

As we assess the damage from the past week, and start anew, I encourage everyone to find inspiration in the good. Here’s what’s at the top of my list.

1. The Upper East Side. On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, the Upper East Side became Noah’s and my haven. Unlike everything below 39th Street (which, yes, includes my apartment), the Upper East Side was a bustling center of commerce and life. Even if it was just for a few hours, it was liberating to escape to this light-filled area for dinner, drinks with friends, and pharmacies that still carried large jugs of water.

2. Capable Legs. Noah and I live on the 11th floor, which isn’t the worst thing in the world — until you realize you forgot your jacket right when you get to the lobby.

3. Free Trains. On Thursday of last week, the Long Island Railroad resumed limited service to the town in which my parents live. That was good news for Noah and I; my mom recently put in a generator, my parent’s chocolate store had both power and Internet, and my brother was tending to a raging fireplace. In other words, heat was just 30 minutes away.

By the afternoon, after getting a few hours of work done at Noah’s office, we headed to a (phew!) empty Penn Station, where we hopped on a complimentary train back to the island. Thanks, Mayor Miguel Bloomberg for the economical way home.

4. Not Having a Car. Holy road rage! The lines at the gas stations on Long Island were as fierce as they were made out to be. All of a sudden, being car-free was a blessing. Being boat-free was also a blessing (though, thankfully, while the dock to get to my dad’s fishing boat was obliterated, the boat survived the storm).

5. Sunshine. There wasn’t much of this last week, but each time the sun peaked through the clouds, I felt an instant sense of relief.

6. Spiked cider. More accurately, I was grateful for a sister-in-law whose primary goal of Thursday evening was to brew a pot of spiked cider on the stove. Man, did this hit the spot.

7. Layers. Even with a fireplace, a mug of spiked cider and a heated house, Hurricane Sandy brought with her a biting cold that went straight to the bone. Thank goodness for thick J Crew socks, fuzzy Uggs, and lots of layers.

8. Rest Days. I typically don’t schedule “rest days.” As history has proven over and over again, I will at some point inevitably come across an unforeseen cluster of hours in which I’m unable to work out for whatever reason. A few months ago, it was shin pain. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week, it was the fact that for two days I had no shower (after Tuesday’s run, I took an ice-cold shower right before the water was shut off for good) and was honestly too tired to even think about breaking a sweat.

9. Wine. No explanation needed. There was an ungodly amount of wine drank last week.

10. Wants and Needs. Let’s be honest. Losing electricity for five days in Manhattan isn’t the end of the world. Life goes on around you. Manhattan is kind of a champion like that.

Others have been suffering so, so much more in Sandy’s aftermath. Really, it’s the loss of the little things that gives you a strong understanding and appreciation for the big, important things you have.

Since I was little, my mom has been drilling the difference between “want” and “need” into my head. Even if I don’t always show it (ex: two weeks ago, I thought I “needed” those nude vintage Prada pumps), disasters such as this can really bring the difference between these two words to light.

On Sunday, after a wonderful 6-mile run on Saturday followed by an awesome yet far too drunk night out for Noah’s birthday…

…we decided to drag our hungover selves out of the apartment to give away our extra down blanket to a housing unit in need. Did Noah and I “want” to keep an extra blanket around? Yes. Winter is around the corner, and I am a ruthless blanket hog. But did we “need” two down comforters? Not at all. At least, not as much as someone else without hot water or heat did.

11. Family. Not that I wasn’t appreciative of my family before, but after last week, I can’t begin to express how grateful I am that everyone has the resources to find warmth, food and proper shelter — especially for the little ones who may not even remember Sandy when they grow up. Parents and grandparents: You are all amazing.

12. Candy and cupcakes. Mainly because they’re non-perishable and make any crappy situation almost instantly better. Recommendation: Shake the Airheads until they become little, compact nuggets. It’s a blast.

13. Hot coffee. It’s absurd how difficult it is to find a hot cup of coffee during a blackout. That first sip once you do — especially after standing on a massive line — tastes like rainbows and butterflies.

14. Running. I’ll end this little rundown with a return to what we’re all here to talk about: running. On Saturday morning, with the hot water back on, Noah and I met his mom — she was in NYC as part of the Sandy relief effort — for a short run around Central Park. The paths were teeming with would-be New York City Marathoners, still out there like the true animals they are regardless of their situation.

In a way, it was kind of strange to be in Central Park on Saturday. I wasn’t there to take part in the world-famous marathon. The signs hanging above that read “Mile 25,” etc. weren’t for me.

Saturday was special though.

As many of you know, to me, running is meditative. It’s a source of strength, a steadfast vision, an uninhibited peace of mind. It’s personal and community-oriented all at once. And above all, like a nice, long massage or a day at the spa, the aftermath leaves me feeling restored and better able to face the realities and challenges of life.

From start to finish, I focused on finding gratitude for all of the above and so much more. The final two miles of Saturday’s run resulted in a much-needed release. I’m not sure of what. Maybe of fear. Maybe of anxiety. Battling exhaustion and a busted shin, I pushed it, running whatever it was off, reseting my mental state, and reviving my body from the inside out.

Onwards and upwards.

  • Were you affected by Hurricane Sandy?
  • Why do you run? Is it primarily for a mental release or for physical gain? (Or both?)
  • What are you grateful for this week?  
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