Nov 15 2012 by John Rowbotham, Hamilton Advertiser
A Hamilton man arranged his very own solo New York marathon after his hopes of taking part in the official event were blown away by superstorm Sandy.
Neil Robbins completed the marathon distance of 26.2-miles by running five times around Central Park.
The 49-year-old Hamilton Harrier didn’t want to disappoint the pupils, staff and parents at Strathaven’s Wester Overton Primary, where he has been janitor for 10 years.
They had sponsored his marathon effort with the proceeds going to premature babies charity, Bliss, and Cancer Research.
Neil, who lives in Earnock, started running seriously when he was 40 and has completed 17 marathons.
He had been training up to 40 miles per week, over 16 weeks for the New York event, which was due to take place on November 4 with a field of around 47,000.
The trip to the Big Apple cost Neil £1800, including £200 to enter the race and he arrived at Newark, New Jersey on Thursday, November 1, three days after the largest Atlantic hurricane on record had hit the eastern seaboard of the US.
Neil said: “I was staying at a hotel on 17th Avenue in Manhattan and I got a bus from the airport to 42nd Street.
“I walked from there to the hotel and it was eerie and quiet. The power at the hotel was off and I was shown to my room with a flashlight.”
In the nights that followed the storm, temperatures dipped to almost freezing and Neil had to wrap himself in towels to stay warm in the night.
He added: “The worst of the damage occurred in places such as Statten Island. In Manhatten, the power was off in certain areas and the subways and some of the shops were flooded.
“On the Friday, when I went to pick up my number for the race, I was told it was still on.
“However, I went from there down to Central Park and learned from a CNN news team it had been called off.
“I was disappointed but I think they made the right decision. A lot of homes in Statten Island were destroyed and they should not have been switching resources from the relief effort to the marathon.”
However, Neil was determined not to let his training go to waste and on Sunday he and around 9000 other runners completed the marathon distance around Central Park.
“It really was a fantastic experience and one I will not forget,” Neil added. “I definitely want to take part in next year’s race – providing I can get accepted.”