For some NYC Marathon runners, events personal

Saturday - 11/2/2013, 11:04am EDT

RACHEL COHEN
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York City Marathon starts Sunday, tangled up in the events of the past year. The 2012 race never happened, canceled because of the destruction of Superstorm Sandy. In April came the Boston Marathon bombings. For some of the nearly 50,000 runners hoping to complete the 26.2-mile course, those and other stories are their personal ones.

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Jen Correa remembers thinking that the oncoming storm made for good timing. She had already completed her 20-mile training run for what would be her long-awaited first NYC Marathon. So if she missed a few shorter distances during her taper because of bad weather, no big deal.

Living three houses from the ocean in Oakwood Beach on Staten Island, Correa was used to evacuating. She had the routine down: take two days of clothes for herself and the kids, the lockbox, her wedding album. They'd always returned to an undamaged home.

She and her two children, ages 6 and 2, went to a friend's in Brooklyn while her husband stayed behind to start the generator. She figured maybe the big tree next to the house would smash through some windows.

As Sandy bore down on the city, the worst news was the lack of news coming out of Staten Island. They lost power in Brooklyn.

At 7 p.m., Correa received a voicemail from her husband. He said he loved her, loved the kids.

"That's never a good voicemail," she says quietly.

Two more hours passed before another voicemail came: "I'm alive."

There would be more to tell when she finally got him on the phone. He tried to explain, "Everything's gone."

"It doesn't make sense," she says now. "You don't understand what that means."

The house had been swept off its foundation. He had managed to jump on a neighbor's roof that was floating by, then swam into a house that was elevated higher off the ground.

In the shock of the next few days, of staring at a pile of debris that used to be home, Correa didn't think of the marathon until her mother mentioned something. She had barely eaten or slept, no longer owned a pair of sneakers, but a part of her couldn't let go of that plan to run.

The Brooklyn native, who writes a blog around running as a mom, had done two marathons -- but never the one in her hometown. The first time she was supposed to enter New York, she got pregnant that year. In 2011, she hurt herself on an 18-mile training run.

The cancellation was a relief. It also etched a goal in her mind. For all the uncertainty that stretched out before her family, Correa knew one thing for sure: She would be running the NYC Marathon in a year.

Within days, with the help of family and friends, they were able to find an apartment on Staten Island. They moved in with three air mattresses. Another blogger set up an online registry, and strangers would send packages of necessities.

The family is taking a government buyout, hoping to find a new place by the summer.

On Sunday, Correa wants to show all those strangers who did so much for them: "Look what I'm able to do."

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Dr. David King didn't need anybody to tell him what had happened. He had seen those injuries "a zillion" times before.

But the other shrapnel wounds and severed limbs from an improvised explosive device had occurred in Iraq, in Afghanistan. Not down the street from his Boston condo. Not 100 yards from where his family had stood an hour earlier. Not right after he finished running a marathon.

King was in a cab heading home after completing April's race in 3 hours, 12 minutes, when he noticed all the text messages. Too many for the normal "How did it go?" Instead, friends were asking, "Are you OK?"

He tried five different news sites on his phone. None of them would load. Whatever had taken place, it was bad. King told his wife he was heading to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he is a trauma surgeon.

When he initially walked in, everything looked normal. Then he saw the first few victims who had arrived. Within 90 seconds, King was going into surgery.

For the next couple of weeks, there was no time to analyze what had happened. The injured needed multiple surgeries. King met President Obama, who came to visit the bombing victims.

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