By Carol J. Kelly
Julie Culley, a New Jersey track star who represented the United States at the 2012 Olympics, was looking forward to running today’s New York Marathon.
Last year, the 5,000-meter specialist was also ready for her first ever marathon, but accepted the decision by officials to cancel the race after Hurricane Sandy walloped the region. Though Culley was disappointed, she understood it was the right move under the circumstances.
Culley’s training was right on schedule to compete in the 2013 New York Marathon, but she’s not among today’s 47,000 runners because an injury forced her to pull out at the last minute.
“It was a difficult decision,” said Cully, “one that my coach, Matt Centrowitz, ultimately had to make for both of us. This is the type of decision I have to trust my coach to make. As an athlete, I always want to push beyond my limits, to be tough and muscle my way through any race no matter the distance. I needed my coach to talk some sense into me. My injuries are manageable, but aren’t manageable for a race as long, as challenging and as grueling as the marathon.”
Describing her injury as a low-grade strain in her lower back, Culley said “some mechanical issues” were also affecting her gait. A few days ago, her agent, Chris Layne, called the New York Road Runners, the marathon’s organizer, while Culley called her sponsor ASICS with the bad news.
“I’m a track athlete, not yet a marathoner,” Culley noted. “The marathon is a distance (26.2 miles) I wanted to experiment with, but ultimately I’m a shorter-distance track athlete. All in all, it’s been a very difficult year for running. Hurricane Sandy was the kick-off to a bumpy road in 2013.”
Culley had been prepared for tightened security at the New York Marathon in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“Everyone was shaken – from the bystanders, to the runners, to the race directors, to security and police officers alike,” Culley said. “But in no way has it reduced the amount of competitors or participants. This is a strong community of runners, and their spirit can’t be broken by a small group of terrorists.
“Ultimately (extra security) is a very good thing. You don’t walk into an NFL game without going through security, why shouldn’t you expect the same of major road races?”
Peter Macari, a New York advertising executive who ran the Boston Marathon, was upset that terrorists spoiled a beautiful race. Macari, who had finished fairly early (3:14), started getting text messages and calls about the bombing while dining and celebrating with friends and family.
“I was angered by the events at the Boston Marathon this year,” Macari said. “A marathon is a positive, inspiring, motivational event, and it turned negative so quickly. This event is already filled with so many emotions for us runners. Now for many runners there is added fear, anxiety, stress from added security measures tacked on – all while trying to focus on running the race.”
Macari did not sign up for the New York Marathon, which he has run before, but plans to participate in the Philadelphia Marathon later this month.
“I try not to think about the negative and focus on my running,” Macari added. “That’s the best I can do. I try not to let fear slip into my mind. Running is my sport – my stress reliever – and a passion of mine. If I begin to worry about all the ‘what-ifs,’ I lose the love for running.”
But Culley, a Clinton Township resident and Rutgers University graduate, said she actually feels more secure knowing that everyone’s guard is up.
“Boston was an incredible tragedy,” Culley added. “If there is one good thing that came of it, it is increased awareness and security for all those sharing the same passion of those who ran Boston.”
Culley’s goal has not changed since the hurricane – now the injury.
“New York was always going to be my first marathon,” she said. “I wanted to hold off until I could honor that promise to myself.”