Runners from all around the world found themselves stranded in New York City with nowhere to run after the New York City Marathon was canceled thanks to Hurricane Sandy.
One runner in particular, Eline Oidvin, a partially sighted runner from Norway was heartbroken. She had trained, invested her personal savings, received contributions from family members, arranged for sighted guides to run with her, and traveled thousands of miles to run in the New York City Marathon.
The New York City Marathon was scheduled for Sunday, November 4. Oidvin arrived In New York City on Thursday, November 1, three days before the race. On Friday, November 2, in the wake of the damage to the city from superstorm Sandy and pressure from residents that felt that the race would be inappropriate while they were still without basic services, Mayor Bloomberg canceled the marathon.
That evening when Oidvin met with her guides, she learned that the marathon was canceled. Immediately the guides went on to the Internet to search for any marathons in the area that were coming up. They found one-the Delaware and Lehigh Marathon. It was planned for the same day, November 4.
They immediately registered Oidvin online. But when they sought to register themselves, the registration had closed. So, one of the guides, Andy Lehren, emailed and then called the D&L race coordinator, Rayne Schnabel.
Lehren wrote, "We successfully registered Eline Oidvin, a partially sighted runner from Norway who was scheduled to run the NY Marathon. She had come to the states using her personal savings and contributions from family members who know how much running means to her and she had dedicated guides who had helped her train in Norway. I met her via the Achilles Foundation, a running organization that aids disabled runners. Our problem: her two guides-Andreas from Norway and myself-could not register in time before it sold out."
Schnabel quickly understood the situation. The D&L Marathon, which had largely been a race for Eastern Pennsylvania runners, suddenly became Plan B for the thousands of runners who had signed up for the NYC Marathon. Within moments of the announcement that the NYC Marathon had been canceled, these myriad of Internet-savvy competitors discover the D&L Marathon and registered, quickly filling the remaining places.
Understanding the situation, Schnabel made space for the two guides. Actually, she heard sad stories from a number of stranded foreigners who had come to New York City to run, needed to run, and begged her to open up a space. The online registration had cut off at 300 runners. Schnabel eventually allowed the number to increase to 318 to accept a small number of the hardship cases.
On that Sunday, the D&L was hosting two races, a marathon and a half marathon. They had planned to limit the half-Marathon to 350 Runners and the Marathon to 300 runners-a total of 650 was set as the capacity for the race. By the day of the race, 800 had registered.
But Sandy had not only devastated New York City, it had downed trees all along the D&L Trail, the route of the marathon.
"There were a lot of trees down and debris on the trail," Schnabel said. "The municipalities, Lehigh County and the Trail Tenders helped clear the trails so we could have the race. It became a communitywide event to be able to pull it off."
On Sunday morning, November 4 at 8:10 a.m., the official timers, Pretzel City Sports of Reading, in front of the runners at the Northampton Municipal Complex, started the race. There were 280 runners at the starting line out of the 318 that had registered, and Oidvin and her two guides, all in bright orange New York City Marathon shirts, were off and running.
They ran 3-1/2 miles to the streets of Northampton and picked up the trail at the Cementon trailhead just after crossing the Route 329 bridge. They stayed on the course as it turned onto the Slate Heritage Trail, and the Bobolink Trail and the Lehigh & New England Trail in Lehigh Gap.
At 13 miles into the race, as they crossed a covered bridge, a guide said to Oidvin, "If we were in New York, we would be entering Queens."
As the race ended at the Lehigh Gap, 270 of the 280 runners who started the marathon crossed the finish line. Oidvin's Time was under four hours.
"I spoke with her and her guides as they were getting on the bus," Schnabel said. "They thanked me very much. People with disabilities can really do some amazing things."
"We had a wonderful, successful event," Schnabel said. "A lot of things happen the last minute because we were set up to run a race with about 650 people and it ended up with over 800 people. All the figures are not in as yet, but we expect to have raised over $10,000 to help with the maintenance and support of the D&L trail.