Marathon Days of Service Add “Meaning to Miles”

November 20, 2013 at 10:15am EST | by Barbara Huebner, Marathon News Service

After Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, Steven Yearwood—a lifelong New Yorker—headed to Staten Island to help. Among his tasks: removing water-soaked sheetrock from damaged homes.

This year, as part of the inaugural Marathon Days of Service before the ING New York City Marathon, the 29-year-old mortgage banker was back on Staten Island, this time touching up new sheetrock in a home that had been ravaged by 15-foot-deep flooding.

When Yearwood learned of the new program, he said, his first thoughts were: “This will make the weekend what it really is. This is a way to add meaning to my miles.”

Two days after spending six hours laboring in the Midland Beach home that would soon be ready for its residents to return after a year away (the family had lived first in a friend’s basement and for the past 10 months in a hotel), Yearwood returned to Staten Island yet again. This time, it was to run the ING New York City Marathon in his debut at the distance. He finished in 4:30:11, running for Fred’s Team.

In the days leading up to the marathon, about 100 people volunteered at the three sites—the Midland Beach home, a day-care center on Staten Island, and a playground on Coney Island—as part of the new Marathon Days of Service, in a partnership with NYC Service.

Most of the volunteers were runners, including several who would be doing the marathon. On Saturday of race weekend, 10 of the approximately 40 people who volunteered to paint three large classrooms at the Baruch Day Care Center had just run the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K, and Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners, also stopped by to help.

As for Yearwood, his first marathon was supposed to have been the 2012 race, which was cancelled because of the storm. Instead of heading out to Fort Wadsworth on race morning, he said, it was a “no-brainer” to help storm victims instead, delivering warm clothes and food to those in need.

“It really hit home for me,” he said of the devastation he found. “I’m a New Yorker, too.”

This year, he said, brought a resurgence of those feelings, so it seemed just as natural to continue helping out as it did to run the marathon.

If the manual labor less than 48 hours before his race made it harder to run, Yearwood didn’t notice.

“I made up for it with the excitement and the adrenaline,” he said.