Lakota runners disappointed in NYC race cancellationSIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Despite the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, five Native American runners from tribes in South Dakota had little doubt that the New York City Marathon race would go on as scheduled Sunday.
By: Kristi Eaton, The Associated Press
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Despite the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, five Native American runners from tribes in South Dakota had little doubt that the New York City Marathon race would go on as scheduled Sunday.
But early Friday evening, after picking up their bib numbers and getting in a quick 2-mile run, the team arrived back at their hotel to find out the marathon run had been cancelled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“It felt like a hit to the gut,” Jeff Turning Heart Jr. said by telephone. Turning Heart Jr. — along with Amanda Carlow, Nupa White Plume, Alex Wilson and Kelsey Good Lance — had been planning to run the 26.2-mile race to raise money for a local youth shelter. They also intended to be positive role models for kids on the Pine Ridge Reservation, which is overrun with stories of suicide, alcoholism and violence.
Bloomberg cancelled the race after fielding criticism that his “race must go on” stance was insensitive to a city where the death toll climbed past 40 due to the storm.
The group was spending Friday evening at their hotel waiting for word on whether the race would be postponed or outright cancelled. Also with them was their coach, chaperone and the executive director of the nonprofit group that paid for the runner’s transportation, hotel and entry fees.
“I certainly understand for the New Yorkers how they feel and the need to put resources — police and fire and everything they need — toward them. The needs are always there, and that’s why we exist,” said Jeri Baker, executive director of ONE Spirit, a Native American service organization founded to help American Indians. “It’s a disappointment, I’m sure, for many people who came very far who spent thousands and thousands of
The group had hoped to use the marathon to raise money for a youth center on the reservation.
For Wilson, the need to run is personal. He trained for the marathon, and smaller-scale ones closer to home, in order to help provide a safe place for his young daughters to go on the Pine Ridge Reservation when they get older — something his older stepsister didn’t have. In 1998, she committed suicide, and Wilson, who was 11 at the time, discovered her body.
He started running soon after to try to escape the horrible image in his mind. When people on the reservation ask him why he’s running — sometimes as many as 19 miles — along the dirt roads of the reservation, he has one response.
“I say I’m running for you guys,” he said.
The five Lakota running partners had all competed in road races before they began training for the New York marathon several months ago.
Carlow, 31, is a counselor at a school on the reservation and said she wants to show her students and other youth that leading a healthy lifestyle — sans alcohol and drugs — can allow them to see the world.
Turning Heart Jr. said he hopes to become a role model like Lakota runner and 1964 Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills was to him. Mills, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is revered by many Lakota tribal members.