When Jeffrey Clarkson, 42, reaches Coney Island on May 17, after running 13.1 miles at the Brooklyn Half, it will be a homecoming of sorts. Although Clarkson lives in Oxford, MA, he spent seven weeks working 14-hour days in Coney Island from November 4 through December 24, 2012.
His stint in Brooklyn included Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, while he repaired communication lines for Verizon to help residents get their power back and recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Coney Island the way it should be,” says Clarkson. “Lots of fun and people celebrating the good times.”
Clarkson’s wife and four kids came to see him in Brooklyn nearly every weekend. “They loved coming to Coney Island and visiting all the tourist sites in New York City,” he recalls. “But they also saw the wreckage and knew what I was going through.”
“The residents were great,” he recalls. “They opened their hearts to us and made us feel so welcome.” He has poignant memories of the 80-year-old woman who lost everything and tried to give him a $10 tip when he got her service back. He still trades text messages with a few of the residents and is looking forward to seeing them after the race.
This year, his wife surprised him by entering him into the Brooklyn Half. “She knew I would get a kick out it,” says Clarkson. A self-described “dabbler” in running, he has only run one 5K, but he’s been training diligently for his first half.
“Dealing with the emotional aspect of the [post-Sandy] devastation was tough,” he admits. “That’s why running the Brooklyn Half is important to me.”
Clarkson’s wife and kids will be cheering for him along the course. “This is going to be awesome,” he says.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg