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When he heard that the New York Marathon was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy, Linfield alum Tony Carpenter chose to run anyway. With the help of Facebook and the running community, he spread the word and donated the proceeds from his “No York Marathon” to victims of the hurricane.
“I didn’t like the idea of training for a whole year. I needed to do something. I felt like if I ran Sunday, that would be like running my own NY Marathon,” Carpenter, class of ’98, said. “When I found out I couldn’t do it, I thought, ‘What should I do?’ One of the first thoughts in my head was I could just run it locally, in the spirit of the marathon.”
Running the marathon in New York is on Carpenter’s bucket list. A lottery determines who will get to participate, and he has been trying to get into the race since 2008. If a runner isn’t selected for three years in a row, they automatically get in. Unable to run last year, Carpenter got to extend his automatic bid to run in the 2012 marathon and began his training in January.
“I’m a runner. It took me awhile to come to that realization. This year I made a conscious decision to do it. It’s something I’ve been trying to do because I’ve never been to New York,” he said. “I’ve done the Portland Marathon eight times and it’s gotten pretty stale for me.”
Just two days before the race, his neighbor called to tell him it was canceled while he was packing to go to the airport.
“I turned on the news, and sure enough, it was canceled,” Carpenter said. “There was some backlash when it was said it would still go on. There was debate about whether the resources could be put to better use, and whether the race should go on or not. I figured it would. I had friends there already. It was a last minute thing.”
Carpenter didn’t let his disappointment get in the way. On Friday, the day the race was canceled, a television station interviewed him as someone who was scheduled to run in New York. He then mentioned his idea of running for charity. By the time it aired, he had already made his decision. Facebook is what made his No York Marathon possible, he said.
“I was going viral from Friday through Sunday. I wanted input on Facebook. The response was overwhelming,” he said. “I have a ton of Linfield connections, running connections and friends from high school. It was a big outpouring.”
On the day of the race, people who saw it on postings and groups showed up to cheer Carpenter on at the Tigard High School track. Out of 105 laps, Carpenter didn’t run a single lap alone.
“A kid I didn’t know ran 15 miles with me,” he said. “There were some Linfield folks I hadn’t seen in a while, people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and some I run with a lot. I had a cheering section the entire way. Typically in a marathon, you suffer alone.”
Carpenter was hurt going into the race, so he knew it was going to be painful. But he was still intent in doing it and finishing the 105 laps around the track- equal to 26 miles.
“I usually start to break down at mile 15 or 18. At mile six I felt like I usually did at the halfway point. I remember thinking ‘I’m in trouble. This might take longer than I thought,’” he said. “I wanted it to end, but I was really inspired and encouraged.”
Carpenter didn’t hold anyone to donations, but he encouraged everyone to give what they could. His friend Emily McKinzie set up the fundraiser website and helped keep track of the money. The No York Marathon donated $462 to the Red Cross for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“It took perseverance and sticking with something I started a long time ago,” he said. “You’re looking at the sacrifices you made for it. You look forward to being able to finish with that, or looking to tackle something new. I was fed up with a lot of unfinished business. I didn’t want to be defeated. All these people had their homes taken away. I still had my home, dogs, family. I figured their situation was worse.”
Kelsey Sutton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.