NYC Marathon runner turns trip into volunteer opportunity

NYC Marathon runner turns trip into volunteer opportunity

Posted: Updated:
Michelle Mace Michelle Mace

Thousands of runners had their hearts broken Friday when they learned that the New York City Marathon was canceled.

The decision came after controversy over holding the race as the city recovered from Hurricane Sandy.

Many of those runners were already in New York when the announcement was made, so instead of running, they're volunteering.

One Ahwatukee woman was shocked by the late cancellation, but now she believes she was meant to be in the city so that she could help with the recovery.

"I had the mindset of this, look, let New York decide, it's out of our control. Whatever New York wants is what we should do," said Michelle Mace, who planned to run in the New York City marathon.

After feeling mixed emotions all week, Mace took her flight to New York City. When she stepped into her hotel, she heard this on TV:

"It had not become unifying, it had become divisive and we can't have the marathon if it's divisive," said Howard Wolfson, NYC Deputy Mayor.

"We hadn't even sat down and the announcement came and the shock of just because of the time, but I looked at him, I said, 'Well that must have been how it's supposed to be, because if the cancellation happened while we were in Phoenix, we might not have got on the plane," said Mace.

Mace and her team of 30 Arizonans replaced their plans of running with volunteering. They headed to a local shelter, walked 17 miles and spent $300 on towels so stranded locals could shower.

"When we came back with towels you'd of thought we'd brought gold, it was just amazing," said Mace.

Thousands of runners gathered for a "run anyway" race through Central Park.

"People were cheering for us and, you know, thanking us for coming, staying in there city," said Mace. 

Mace said recovery efforts are chaotic, but this weekend leaders are shining at shelters and in damaged communities, instead of at the finish line.

"You take direction from people who know and when there is no direction you create it," said Mace.

Monday the group is heading to Staten Island, one of the hardest areas to help out before they head home Tuesday.

Mace said this has been the best experience of her life.

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