These Resilient Runners Trained Through Two Hurricanes

These Resilient Runners Trained Through Two Hurricanes

“Imagine injuring both your legs and having no immediate end to the pain.”

This is how 43-year-old Miami resident Melinda Mizrachi described what it’s like to have not one, but two homes damaged by hurricanes this season.

“From evacuating on a moment’s notice and potentially losing everything in Miami—to Puerto Rico, where my second home, family, and friends were in harm’s way—this was like no disruption I could have ever anticipated,” she says.

Mizrachi visited Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. She walked into ankle-deep water and found a collapsed wall inside the house her grandfather had left her when he passed away 15 years ago.

Despite the mental and physical stress of hurricane clean-up, the stay-at-home mom of a 13-year-old autistic son has continued to train for her first TCS New York City Marathon, which she’s running on behalf of NYRR Team for Kids.

While meeting her TFK fundraising goal, she also took up a fundraising effort of her own: On her trip to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, Mizrachi had with her $1,300 that she’d collected from friends and family members. As she walked through the town of Vega Baja, she handed out envelopes of cash to 20 individuals and families in need.

Mizrachi distributes cash in Vega Baja after Hurricane Maria.

Mizrachi distributes cash in Vega Baja after Hurricane Maria.

When she returned home to Miami, it was back to marathon training. While Mizrachi’s no beginner—she’s finished more than 80 races in the past five years—she’s a little nervous about the race after Hurricane Irma forced her to cancel many of her long runs and supplement her training with indoor biking and swimming instead.

“Through all the devastation, I have been hopeful and positive, even though I probably won’t be as ready as I would like to be to have a great finish time,” she says. “My new goal is to enjoy being a delegate in the opening ceremony representing Puerto Rico and crossing that finish line healthy and strong.”

The name of each person who helped Mizrachi meet her TFK fundraising goal appears on the shirt she'll wear on race day.

The name of each person who helped Mizrachi meet her TFK fundraising goal appears on the shirt she'll wear on race day.

Marie Rodriguez, whose home in Puerto Rico was flooded by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, is also facing a mix of apprehension and appreciation ahead of race day.   

“While my family and every person around me is dealing with everyday situations related to surviving, I’m also searching for opportunities to train,” says the 37-year-old single mother of three children, ages 4, 7, and 11. “We have been out of power for 40 days now. We were out of water for one week. For about two weeks, it was very hard to find gasoline. Bottled water is still limited, food is limited, and ice is very hard to find.”

Despite these circumstances, Rodriguez is on track to run her third marathon. “My training was totally paused, then it was my escape from disaster,” she says. “Streets are still full of vegetation, and it is hard to find paths where you can run freely. Since there are almost no trees, the heat of the sun is felt directly.”

“I personally was most affected at work,” adds Rodriguez, a clinical psychologist with a private practice. “Patients are hardly coming to my office, which makes a huge difference in my income.”

Still, when Hurricane Maria hit, Rodriguez offered her services free of charge to those seeking psychological relief after the storm.

“I am still able to go to New York because my family is helping me financially and taking care of two of my kids,” she says. “My oldest son is coming with me.”

Having family along the course will be a first-time experience for Rodriguez, and it’s what she’s most looking forward to on November 5.

While traversing the five boroughs, she’ll also have on her mind the recent obstacles she’s overcome on her way to the starting line. “Surviving Hurricanes Irma and Maria has been a humbling challenge,” says Rodriguez. “All of this has moved me to train with heart and soul."

To date, Marie Rodriguez has run two full marathons, including the Walt Disney World Marathon.

To date, Marie Rodriguez has run two full marathons, including the Walt Disney World Marathon.

As moving as Mizrachi and Rodriguez’s stories are, they are two of many. When we posted a message on Facebook asking runners in hurricane-affected areas to share their stories, we were overwhelmed and inspired by the number of runners in Florida, Puerto Rico, and other areas who continue to train for the TCS New York City Marathon despite devastation to the areas that surround their homes—along with those who have forgone training to tackle relief efforts in their communities. Below is a selection of the responses we received.

“Hurricane Maria changed our lives. Training for a marathon is not easy, and after an event like that, things are not the same. It destroyed our beautiful island. Goals, dreams, and the desire to keep moving forward are the motto and no matter how hard it is to finish the training, I'll be ready to run in New York City. God bless Puerto Rico!”
—Mari Carmen Gonzalez, Puerto Rico

“Training has been a great challenge, but we are resilient and now have a bigger reason to run.”
—Ivonne Dias, Puerto Rico

“Running the TCS New York City Marathon will be a chance for me to represent the values of the best Puerto Rican. With the name of Puerto Rico on my chest and with my island in my heart, I’ll cross the finish line—watch for the flag at the finish.”
—Angel Castro, Puerto Rico

“Once we were able to get out, we dodged some down power lines and our running path was blocked with debris for week. But all things considered, we were very lucky!”
—Kristy Yount, Florida

“I was out of power for a week, but that didn’t stop my legs from running!”
—Phil Rath, Florida

Find out how you can help support disaster relief efforts in Florida, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere by visiting the booths of some of our Official Charity Partners at the TCS New York City Marathon Expo Presented by New Balance.

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