On Heartbreak and Carb Loading

For the past six months, I have been training to run the New York City Marathon for Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education. I’ve logged hundreds of miles, training to run 26.2, and raised thousands of dollars to send girls in rural Africa to school. A week before the race a hurricane hammered the East Coast, leaving devastation in its wake – especially in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area. At first, Mayor Bloomberg declared that the marathon would go on as planned, a symbol of the city’s resilience and fortitude. But the city said, no. Too many people were still reeling, millions were without power, homes had been destroyed, lives had been lost – it was just too soon. New York is my hometown. I was born there and lived there longer than any of the several other cities I’ve called home. And though I don’t live there anymore, I will always claim the city as my own. My friends and family were, thankfully, ok. But as I watched reports of what was happening in places like Staten Island, the hardest hit of New York City’s five boroughs, my heart broke for my fellow New Yorkers, and I began to wrestle with a very difficult decision. To run, or not to run? On the one hand, I wanted to believe that if the mayor deemed it ok, the marathon would not interfere with or take away from the necessary and important work of aiding those in need after the storm. But, as much as I really wanted to run, in my gut I knew it could not possibly be right to run a footrace through the city when so many were hurting so badly. I waited until two days before the race was set to happen. My travel plans were looking iffy, so I thought I’d hold out to see if my train from DC to New York was going to run as scheduled, and let that determine my decision. But that morning the marathon was setting up generators and food trucks in preparation for the race. And that was when I knew I would not run. As painful as the thought of having spent six months teaching my body to endure the rigors of running a 26.2-mile race, only to give it up at the last minute was, I couldn’t imagine going through with it under those circumstances. I officially deferred my entry, meaning that since I’d successfully raised my goal amount of funds for Camfed, I would be guaranteed entry into next year’s marathon as part of their team. I felt good about my decision, and made myself feel even better by registering for the Richmond Marathon, happening just one week later. My training will not have been for naught! And once I’d heaved a sigh of relief, glad the torment of struggling with that decision was finally over, they cancelled the New York City Marathon. It was the right thing to do, but, seriously? Couldn’t have made that call sooner?

So, now I’m just a couple of days out from running the Richmond Marathon. I feel like I’m keeping my promise to the girls I pledged to run for through Camfed. I’m also glad I’m going to get my chance to try to run faster than I did the last time I ran this distance, 12 years ago. Since I’d already started tapering I’ll be good and rested for the run. This week I’m getting in a few final workouts, and today I started carb loading (eating a higher percentage of carbohydrates than usual to preload my muscles with glycogen, which will help enable my body to sustain the hours of exertion). Actually I’ve been using “carb loading” all week as an excuse to eat more bread and cookies. But now it’s for real.

Since the international symbol for carb loading is pasta, I thought I’d share my latest favorite recipe for a quick tomato sauce.  I add pureed zucchini to it for bonus nutrients. My kids have no idea.

Quick Tomato Sauce with special guest star, Zucchini

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Rigatoni with Vegan Sausage

1 medium zucchini

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup finely minced onion

¼ tsp dried oregano (or 1 tsp fresh if you have it)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

¼ tsp sugar

Thinly slice the zucchini and steam (in a pot fitted with a steamer basket) until very tender. Puree in a blender with a little of the water from steaming, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, oregano, ½ tsp of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, zucchini and sugar, simmer for about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in a little more olive oil and fresh basil if you have it. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The secret’s in the sauce


To help people affected by Hurricane Sandy click here or text “Red Cross” to 90999.




About Tracey

Writer. Mother. Eater. Also Chief at Big Words Creative.


  1. Sean Breslin

    I agree with you on the New York Marathon. Right decision to cancel it, but they should have made that decision as soon as the storm started hitting the boroughs. I felt bad for all the people who couldn’t run it, though — a lot of dreams shattered. Glad you found a way to still run a race.

    • Thanks Sean. It would have broken thousands of runners’ hearts either way, but yeah, it would have been better to call it sooner. I loved seeing reports of the hundreds of runners who were already in town going out to Staten Island on Sunday to literally run supplies to people in need. And I read that the day the decision was made, the Richmond Marathon saw a huge spike in entries. I’m sure there’ll be a big NYC contingent running there this weekend!

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