By MONICA JOSEPH
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Two Goshen men were disappointed they did not get to run in the New York Marathon Saturday, but despite the letdown, they felt the decision was best for the residents of the hurricane-damaged city and boroughs.
“I think it was the right decision,” said Shan “Kamal” Kamalakanth. “I just wish they would have canceled it Monday or Tuesday.”
He and friend Allen Robinson drove 11 hours to New York Thursday, Nov. 1, after hearing the marathon was still on. They stayed with Kamalakanth’s uncle in Queens and watched for updates on the race, which was not canceled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg until Friday around 5:30 p.m.
“We were bummed,” Robinson said. “But understood they needed to do what’s best for New York.”
The race had been scheduled to start in Staten Island, one of the hardest-hit areas by the storm.
Since they were already in New York, Kamalakanth and Robinson still went to the marathon expo and picked up their runner’s numbers for keepsakes. While there, Robinson was interviewed in a short clip that appeared on The Today Show. And if you watch the clip closely, you can also see Kalamakanth. The two also visited the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero and the Empire State building, among other places.
The neighborhood where they were staying had a few trees down, but had nowhere near the devastation of Staten Island and New Jersey, the men said. They did see many problems in Lower Manhattan, including flooded subways.
Their one storm-related adventure came as they were leaving the city and trying find a gas station. They had enough gas to get out of New York, but that dwindled as several well-meaning people tried to direct them to stations that still had gas. After a few fruitless trips of this sort, they found themselves with only seven miles worth of fuel left. Stations had long lines and were letting people get gas on “odd or even” day rationing system. The National Guard was stationed at some places to keep order. They finally found a station with gas and Robinson pushed the car through the line.
“We were on fumes,” he said.
Robinson said seeing those tribulations and all the devastation did put losing out on a marathon into perspective, but it was still hard to give up the dream the two had been training for all year.
He said it usually takes a couple tries to get accepted into the New York Marathon. He and Kamalakanth had a lot of help with the complicated registration process from former Goshen resident Jessica Frey, who is a project manager with the marathon’s parent organization New York Road Runners. Jessica’s grandmother, Vivian Frey, still lives in Goshen.
“The logistics (of registering) can really be a struggle,” Robinson said. “I owe her a lunch when we go out there next year.”
Robinson and Kamalakanth met eight years ago when Robinson was working at KMC in New Paris. Kamalakanth, a Sri Lanka native, had a two-year job as an engineering consultant for the company. Five years ago, the company offered Kamalakanth a full-time job and he moved to Goshen.
About four years ago, running enthusiast Robinson encouraged his friend to start running in local events. The two have been running together ever since, including marathons in Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati. They participate in various local runs, including the Sunburst and the Goshen Indoor Marathon at Goshen College. Robinson has participated in 18 marathons and Kamalakanth in 22. Their marathon “bucket list” includes the “Five Majors” — Chicago, Boston, London, Berlin and New York.
“We’ve done the Chicago,” Robinson said. “And we thought we were going to check New York off the list.”
Kamalakanth said a huge part of marathon running is the spirit of the crowds cheering on the runners.
“If they had (the New York race), I don’t think the spirit would have been there,” he said. “They also would have been using resources (for the race) that were needed for other things.”
Robinson agreed, saying that there were better uses for the time of the many police officers, emergency workers and even the thousands of volunteers needed to put on the race, which had 47,000 registrants this year.
“I saw both sides,” Robinson said. “I talked to both runners and residents. But I agree with Kamal. They should have canceled Monday or Tuesday.”
Though disappointment reigned this year, the two hope to be able to check the New York Marathon off their list next year.
“Life goes on,” Robinson said. “You have to take it in stride.”