Nov 122012

On the morning of Sunday, November 4th, the lobby of the Westin Grand Central was buzzing, full of people with their running clothes on—but something was missing. Only a few of the 100 or so runners gathered, were wearing their coveted numbers for the NY Marathon that was scheduled for that morning.

The reason of the cancellation of course was the horrific storm, Hurricane Sandy, which caused so much pain, devastation and too many senseless deaths in the New York, New Jersey areas. Because the NY Marathon is such a major event, it seemed like the cleanup for Sandy had not even started yet, when the media started beating the drum for whether the race would be cancelled and should it be cancelled.

Like every other person training for this race, I had been getting in my miles for months, and like many of the runners, I was not just running the race for the medal—we had been raising money for cancer research for Team In Training and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. My little team of 3 raised about $28,000. There was more to this agenda than just running. Team In Training was started 24 years ago at this very NY Marathon- and to date we’ve raised almost $1 billion and helped fund about 37 drugs in the fight against blood cancers. There are many great causes…but this is my cause. And it’s personal. I’m a lymphoma survivor.

Team In Training contacted us early that week and offered a switch. We could transfer our funds to another race—and they were good ones—we could run either Paris or Honolulu. The discussions were on.

I went to bed that night thinking that the race may be cancelled anyways-that it probably should be cancelled. I felt a little selfish even. The next morning however, Mayor Bloomberg appeared on the Today Show. The race would go on—he was emphatic and emotional. It was to be a healing event for the city and its citizens.

The next day I made my decision. As tempting as Paris seemed—I have never been there—it would have to wait. I thought that even if the course was a mess—even if only half the 50,000 registered participants showed up- I needed to go—I had blogged about it, held fundraisers, bugged friends….and trained. I wanted to support New York City—and the people there. But mainly….mainly….I had to run for the people that I raised money for. If they were fighting for their lives against this wretched disease, the least I could do was get myself on a plane and run this race. I had no doubts that this had to be my decision.

When we arrived in the city, LaGuardia Airport seemed eerily quiet. I thought maybe we landed in Binghamton by mistake. When we got to the Expo and picked up our race registrations, the mood actually seemed upbeat-I thought we may actually do this thing—I clutched my race number in my hand all the way back to the hotel—I didn’t even put it in my bag—I wanted to make sure that it was right there in sight.

It was Friday night in New York City—we were going to walk about 7 blocks to the Midtown Hilton—the site of the TNT Inspirational Dinner—we were scheduled to gather in the lobby and meet the rest of our Teammates—many who travelled further than we did, some from as far as Alaska. As soon as I got off the elevator I saw that I had several texts proclaiming, “The race had been cancelled.” I thought it had to be a mistake but the texts flowed in….then phone calls—it seemed like the calls came all night. We had a quick Team meeting and I immediately felt badly for our TNT staff person there, Sue, who had to now put a positive spin on the field trip weekend we were about to have, after the letdown of finding out the race had been called off. Essentially, Sue did an amazing job—we ended up having a really good weekend—I think mainly because she wouldn’t allow any of us to be negative—we had to remember why we were going to do this in the first place and stop brooding!

First of all—none of us disagreed with the cancellation of the race—we disagreed with the timing—thousands of people had flown in—many of them if not most, from other countries! It seemed like a train wreck, a major one.

There was also a good amount of animosity from people in New York towards the marathon. I can understand that too. But I didn’t hear a word from anyone about canceling the NY Giants game in New Jersey that same night—how can that be—all of those thousands of vehicles using all that precious gasoline to get to the stadium? The use of all that electricity, while literally millions were without heat? Where was the outcry? There was also a NY Knicks game at Madison Square Garden and a NY Nets game in Brooklyn that both went on, not to mention Broadway Shows…etc….etc. So, I was a bit baffled about the outrage specifically directed at the race. It seemed to feel like many thought that we were all a bunch of prima-donnas who thought we were entitled to run our little race.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The icing on the cake was the hundreds of Facebook and Twitter posts from running friends back in Tennessee….some who suggested “I told You so,” and others who sort of self righteously pounced on the situation with an “it should be cancelled!” This surprised, even saddened me a bit, because many of these folks are our TNT Teammates, who know our intentions.

We ended up going for a long run as a Team that morning that was to be race day—we ran the last 10 miles of the course, and then a loop around Central Park—when we entered the park we joined thousands of runners who seemed quite joyous. Many flew the flags of their respective countries—Italy, France, Norway and many more. I admired their spirit. And I admired the spirit of the many who boarded the Staten Island Ferry and went to the site of where the race would have started—but on this day they carried hammers instead of water bottles—many spent entire hours and hours helping citizens rebuild.

The folks with the NY Marathon are still trying to figure out what they’ll do, if anything for the thousands of runners who spent the $275 or so to register for the race, not to mention the money spent on expensive NY hotel rooms and plane fare and other expenses.

Most of the people I talked to think that they’ll try and come back next year and and make another attempt at this. I don’t know if I will or not—right now I think not but we’ll see-as we all know, a lot can change in a year.

But for now, there are races to run and money to raise. In a couple of weeks I will be doing the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis—mainly as a good faith measure to the many generous people who made donations to my fundraising for NY, but also and honestly, because I have run so many damn miles the last 6-months training for this, that I may as well do a marathon!

After that Ted Sanft, Mike Oland and I will be training for the San Diego Marathon and continuing to raise money for cancer research. We have to—too many people are fighting cancer.

The 2012 New York Marathon has been cancelled. Unfortunately, cancer has not been cancelled. A cure has yet to be found.

So the fight goes on.

Would you please make a donation….just visit our website and find the ‘donation’ button at Whatever you can spare, even a few dollars would be greatly appreciated.

With sincere thanks-

Jim Asker

  5 Responses to “Cancer Has Not Been Cancelled”

  1. I love this blog!! Truth and reality on this situation, I totally agree with you and stand behind you 100%. Glad you got to run something, but sad it wasn’t the full thing. You are such an inspiration and my forever hero!!! Love you JIM!!!!! Keep on, keepin on!!! GO TEAM!!!

  2. Well put! I couldn’t imagine training only to be told you can’t run. Keep up the great attitude. GO TEAM!

  3. Well Said, Jim.

  4. This post rocks and I am incredibly proud of all the money your team has raised. Way to go on all these marathons! You inspire me!

  5. Jim, this is such an excellent letter!
    I agree with everything that you said.
    Your dedication in the fight against this disease is truly an inspiration. I am so proud of all that you have done, and continue to do, both in your personal fight against this disease, and for all others inflicted with it.

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