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Nonathoner Pancakes

These may seem like ordinary pancakes, but to me – they are pre-historic.  I was training for the NYC Marathon and developed a recipe for amaranth pancakes for the Cooking Channel‘s Devour, to run on the days leading up to it.  Normally, I rely on pre-run quinoa, but amaranth, the other Latin-American nutritional super food with an ancient – not to say mythical – history, made sense.  Using amaranth flour combined with white whole-wheat and a good dose of honey, they were tender and nutty with a slight tang from the buttermilk.  I was really happy with the way they’d turned out and thought it would be a quick link and write-up while I rested for the race.  The recipe ran as scheduled with the small post-script that I’d be running my second marathon.  By then, everything had changed.

When the full extent of hurricane damage became clear, it seemed impossible that the race could continue.  Not only was it too soon, it was still a developing story that just kept getting worse.  I had committed to run for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so I spent that week unsure sure if I could, should, or would participate – a surreal limbo by sister Carmen describes better than I can here.  As a slow runner, I rely on the full support of supply and aid stations.  I couldn’t believe that the race wouldn’t divert essential personnel and resources.  It was an enormous relief when the event was finally cancelled, though I still wish it had been done earlier.

Even before the controversial will they or won’t they started, my fellow runners had thrown themselves into relief efforts.  Our coaches, who’d been warning us to stay off our legs in preparation for the race, recruited volunteers to join them at a nearby shelter for 12-hour, all night shifts – within minutes all the spots were taken.  As soon as the race was called, my friend Kat (who coined the term nonathoner) started planning for the team to go out to Staten Island that Sunday with shovels and brooms to join the clean-up.  I joined a smaller group of my teammates in Red Hook where there was a line of volunteers around the block, including several international marathoners, waiting for assignments.

For the past few days, I questioned whether or not to write about my post-Sandy week.  I’m not being coy or self-effacing when I say that my volunteer record has always been spotty.  I do more than some but far, far less than I can.  But having gotten through the storm unscathed, it was the only way forward for reasons that were both sincerely altruistic and somewhat selfish.  In looking for a place I could be useful, my relief work has been hit or miss – I was a mediocre canvasser but a good little donation sorter.  Not surprisingly, I was most effective making pb& j sandwiches and packing cookies for volunteers or donating trays of beans and rice to a nearby center.

I didn’t realize until this weekend that what had gotten me out my shell and into the fray was the dedication of my fellow runners, still going strong almost two weeks later.  I can’t check Facebook without seeing a new posting with an opportunity to head out to the Rockaways or Staten Island.  A typical email reads something like – “coordinated with a restaurant to deliver food to Coney Island, need volunteers to go up dank stairwells, bring your own headlight.”  Like they’d done all season, they pushed me in a million imperceptible ways to try a little harder and make a greater effort.  Though my training didn’t end in any way I could have imagined, I’m proud to be one of 47,000 NYC Nonathoner.

I’d always meant for this to be my last organized race, and I have no plans to go back on that now.  Many of my teammates ran in Harrisburg this weekend and others are heading out to Philly.  I’ll root them on but won’t be joining them.  I missed the quiet of my aimless Saturday runs and am more than happy to get back to it.  Running the marathon is like going on a 5-bourough roller coaster ride.  From the moment I finished my first one in 2010, I wanted to go again.  My next 26.2 miles won’t be run past crowds shouting in Sunset Park or hipsters holding ironic signage in Williamsburg or choirs in Harlem.  I don’t even know exactly when I’ll hit the mark, but I do know that they will all be run in New York City.  It’s what I signed up for, and I’m not stopping now.

As before, please support them and other local businesses as they work their way back.  The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is a great way to support relief efforts.  New York Cares will be posting recovery projects in the coming months.  The Humane Society is accepting donations.  For volunteer updates, follow @humanesociety on Twitter.  To help the international victims of Sandy, please consider making a donation to Friends of Caritas Cubana at this link or email them at  For a complete list of ways to help after the storm, please click here.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is nice. 🙂

    14 November 2012
  2. Pancakes look great. Keep that goal of running NYC. Inspirational to hear people with goals of running marathons. I have run 5, but those were awhile ago. I am struggling to get back into any kind of shape, but I do have a goal of running one again.

    20 November 2012
  3. Christian Rene Friborg #

    If there will be a time that I’ll try cooking pancakes not using the one-step mix, I’ll try this recipe.

    25 November 2012
  4. Janet Rörschåch #

    I love that you used Amaranth Flour. Great flavor. I will have to try this, but make it gluten-free. Love this. Thank you!

    27 November 2012

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