Prospect Park Getting Into Shape

Hurricane Sandy felled a lot of trees in Prospect Park two weeks ago, and many more branches. For close to a week after the storm, runners were not even allowed inside the park, to give clean-up crews space to work. By the time we were allowed in, the damage was still far from invisible. Work trucks lined the main drive, the trails were an obstacle course of tree trunks and branch piles, and the whole park looked just a little bit thinner.

Most of the trucks are gone now, and we expect them to be completely gone by Sunday. And the main roads are clear of debris. The trails are still obstructed by fallen trees and branches in some places, and the park looks more sparse than it did last month, but compared to this time last week, the park is getting back to its old self. The same was true after Irene, and even the storm that tore through Brooklyn two years ago. We adjust quickly to our new surroundings, and Prospect Park, for all the damage it has sustained, remains as beautiful as ever. But nature is both resilient and fragile. For all of Prospect Park’s enduring beauty, it is not invincible.

I write this only to give all the Brooklyn Marathoners a sense of where they will be running on Sunday. Every marathon course is unique, of course. Each one has a story, or stories. And one story behind the Brooklyn Marathon’s is one of urban refuge. For the thousands of New Yorkers who regularly use Prospect Park, it’s more than a bunch of trees and lakes.  It’s often said that Prospect Park’s architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, who had previously designed Central Park, learned from his mistakes when he created Prospect Park in 1867. It’s half the size of Central Park, but with more hidden treasures — a waterfall, an island, secluded lakes and fountains — than its older brother in Manhattan.

So as you run the Brooklyn Marathon next Sunday, feeling like you’re anywhere but the largest city in the United States, take a moment (or several) to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Even after a hurricane.