(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
New York, November 1, 2013 -- Nearly one year ago, Meb Keflezighi took the podium in a New York City hotel conference room. Addressing a group of elite athletes and managers following the sudden cancellation of the 2012 ING New York City Marathon, Keflezighi urged all to keep a positive perspective.
"Let's not look at the one year we missed out, but on how much the New York Road Runners and the city of New York has given us in the past, and will give us in the future," Keflezighi said in an inspiring tone. "Today or tomorrow may not be that day... But we can make the most of it. Be patient, be understanding, be thankful of this moment we have. Just like 9/11, it will go forward."
Twelve months later, Americans Keflezighi, Ryan Vail, and Jason Hartmann, all three of whom were supposed to race in 2012, have returned here for the 43rd running of the marathon. Speaking to the media less than 48 hours before Sunday's race, all three reflected on what happened in 2012, and how the events of Super Storm Sandy have made this year's race more meaningful.
For Keflezighi, the cancellation hit especially hard. Having raced here six times --including winning the 2009 edition-- the Californian thought of the Big Apple as a second home. After New York Road Runners President and CEO Mary Wittenberg concluded her comments at the athlete and manager meeting, Keflezighi wanted to express his support of not only the race organizers, but the city and it's people as a whole.
"That decision to go up to the stage was probably one of the hardest things I've ever did," Keflezighi recalled. "My heart was pounding so fast like a race, like in Central Park going up a hill. I'm like, 'Should I do it? Should I do it? Internally God was talking to me somehow and I said, 'you know what, I need to stand up and say something,'"
Keflezighi brought many in the audience to tears, urging everyone not to look at the cancelled marathon as a missed opportunity. Instead, he told them to see it as an injury, something that, despite taking one step backwards, can help you take two steps forward in the future.
Twelve months later, Keflezighi has seen everyone --elite athletes and the masses-- return in a positive way.
"A lot of runners around the world are happy to see New York bounce back. To see 45- 40,000 people deep, it's going to be special," he said.
Vail, 27, and Hartmann, 32, reiterated just how special Sunday's race will be. Already, Vail can feel an increasingly positive atmosphere in the city.
"It's incredible to see how quickly they pieced a lot of things back together," he said. "Everyone seemed to really come together and do a great job. Everyone's excited to be here, everyone's positive. It was such a depressing situation here last year that it was kind of intimidating to come back and see what the reaction was going to be. But it's been amazing. It's going to be a great experience for everyone."
One of Vail's most vivid memories of last year came when traveling from the airport to the elite athlete hotel in downtown Manhattan. Half of Manhattan was without power, and the National Guard were guarding bridges to enforce a carpooling policy.
"It didn't feel like you were in America. Still seeing areas that were flooded, trees knocked down, it just seemed devastating... It was like from a movie, really surreal," he said. Now Vail sees a rejuvenated city that has recovered and embraced the marathon as something special.
"Everyone's going to come together for a great race day," said the Oklahoma State alum.
Hartmann, who will make his ING New York City Marathon debut, believes this year's marathon is a chance to show the nation and world how an event like the marathon can boost a city's morale.
"A tragic event like that, this is an opportunity to showcase what this marathon is all about" he said.
On Sunday, Keflezighi, Vail, and Hartmann will all be a part of the 43rd edition of the ING New York City Marathon, two years in the making.
"When you walk around, you see people everywhere. Last year you didn't really have that," Hartmann said. "The energy is so much better this year than last year."
“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