A contingent of runners with Aspen connections traveled to New York last week excited to participate in the city’s famous marathon, but with those plans thwarted by Superstorm Sandy, some in the group lent a hand in the region’s storm-recovery efforts.
The Chris Klug Foundation (CKF), which raises awareness for organ and tissue donation, was one of the nonprofits picked by race organizers as an official charity partner. A team of five runners had been training for the 26.2-mile race, as well as raising $3,000 each to support the foundation’s cause. The team members were Aspen locals Ben Roos, Holly Aloi, Joel Lee and Michael Wells, as well as CKF Executive Director Jenny Dziura, a former valley resident who now lives in Portland, Ore.
With the race officially canceled by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday, two of the team members stayed behind. Dziura, Roos and Wells made the trip, and staffed the CKF’s booth at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center, which hosted the three-day race expo. New York state has the second-lowest rate of registered organ donors in the nation, so the group aimed to sign up as many of the 100,000 people that passed through the expo as possible.
On marathon Sunday, Dziura joined about 1,000 others who had planned to do the marathon, but instead gave their time to the “New York Runners in Support of Staten Island” effort.
Carrying a backpack loaded with relief supplies, Dziura took the Staten Island Ferry to the hard-hit borough Sunday morning, and ran about 5 miles to an area where the supplies were dropped off and volunteers were given their assignment for the day.
Dziura ended up helping a man who was in the process of gutting his uncle’s former home on the island, which had been inundated with floodwater and was a total loss.
“We ended up demolishing the whole place,” Dziura said. “We gutted the whole thing.”
Conditions on Staten Island are dire, Dziura reported.
The effects of the storm “were so devastating over there,” she said. “We could have easily spent a month” on the clean-up.
Exhausted after the long day’s work, which was capped off by a 5-mile run back to the ferry, Dziura said Sunday night that it was a powerful experience to help the city recover and still be a part of “the spirit of the marathon.”
Wells, a liver transplant recipient, joined thousands of other would-be participants and ran a marathon distance by lapping Central Park on Sunday, Dziura said. It was Wells’ first marathon, official or not.
The CKF will host its annual Summit for Life uphill race on Dec. 8, where athletes sign up to ascend Aspen Mountain under the stars and raise money for the charity.
Tommy Tollesson, co-owner of Aspen restaurant Elevation, was also in New York for the marathon.
He noted that conditions in the area of Manhattan where he was staying — near the Upper East Side — are “pretty much normal,” especially compared to other parts of the city that took the brunt of the storm.
The most noticeable differences, he said, are that taxi cabs are much harder to come by thanks to the fuel shortage, and uptown restaurants are much more crowded, thanks to the difficulty downtown is having with prolonged power outages.
Race organizers are saying that those who were signed up to run the marathon this year — which uses a lottery system to distribute bibs — will get the chance to run next year. Tollesson, who was planning to run his first marathon Sunday, said he hopes to return.
“To me it’s more like a bucket-list thing to run a marathon and especially in New York,” he said.