Julia Burke is going to run a marathon this weekend. Even before the announcement Friday that the New York City Marathon was canceled, her conscience wasn’t going let her run there as planned, but nothing will stop her from doing what she can to help the devastated city.
Burke will circle the Delaware Park meadow 15 times Sunday morning at the same time she had been planning to be running in the five boroughs of New York. By the time she finishes, she said, she hopes to have raised money and awareness for the victims trying to recover from the effects of Superstorm Sandy.
“Think of the people affected by the hurricane. If they have it in their hearts or wallets, if anyone wants to join me, it’s going to be a fun day,” she said. “It’s a nice, healthy way to show them Buffalo is behind them.”
Burke, 26, had been training for the New York City Marathon and was ready to go as recently as last weekend. But as she watched the horrifying news coverage of the devastation wrought on New York, all she could think about was the well-being of her friends in the city.
“I was really just concerned about everyone being OK,” said Burke, an Allentown resident.
It came as a shock to her that the marathon wasn’t canceled sooner. She had seen photos taken by a friend in New Jersey of streets underwater. She thought of all the New York City police officers who would have to be diverted from helping struggling people.
While some in New York had defended the decision to go ahead with the race, citing the economic impact and the people coming from all over the world to run it, others called it an outrage to devote resources to a recreational event that could be going to help Sandy’s thousands of victims.
In the end, officials decided to cancel. But before that decision had been made, Burke decided she couldn’t – and wouldn’t – take part.
“I wouldn’t have felt good about running this race and being handed bottles of water and snacks at every stop when there are people who can’t even go to their own homes,” she said.
She was disappointed. It was supposed to be her second marathon and the first time ever running the New York City race. Burke, an assistant editor at Buffalo Spree magazine, was going to raise money for Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that promotes running for school-age girls.
Then she floated an idea on her Facebook page: If she were to run 26.2 miles in Delaware Park, would anyone join her?
She explained that she planned to donate all of the money she would have spent on her trip to the city – about $500, including the money refunded by the car rental company – to the Red Cross.
The graduate of the Park School of Buffalo and the University at Buffalo asked others to join her by making donations to redcross.org or Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s fund through nyc.gov.
Instantly, her friends chimed in. Some said they would run 5 kilometers with her.
Others said they would cheer her on.
She heard from someone in Dublin on her Twitter feed who thought it would be great if others around the world did the same thing.
“I think it would be really cool,” Burke said.
Burke’s plan is to run the Meadow Drive loop 15 times – which is about 27 miles, almost a mile longer than a traditional marathon.
She’s hoping that having people join her will help with the tedium of going around and around the same route. She’s also bringing music “for times when I’m alone.”
She hopes she won’t be.
Burke plans to start her marathon at 8 a.m. on Meadow Drive.