More than 50,000 runners will push themselves to the limit when the 47th annual New York City Marathon kicks off on Sunday—and all of them will have put in a hell of a lot of hard work to get there.
But some runners stories’ are particularly cheer-worthy, the kinds of things you hear and think: If they can do that, I can definitely drag myself out of bed for 7 a.m. barre class. Take the utter badassery of Beverly Ramos, a 30-year-old Puerto Rican racer and New Balance athlete who spent the last month prepping for the marathon—and her ambitious goal of cracking the top 10 elite runners—all while dodging downed trees and searching for drinkable water after Hurricane Maria devastated her beloved island.
Here, Ramos explains what it’s been like to get ready for race day in the midst of a natural disaster, and what she wants everyone to know about Puerto Rico now that most of the news crews have packed up.
I live in Trujillo, which is south of San Juan. Things are much better now, but we had about 15 days that were really, really tough. There was no water. The first day after the hurricane, I took a shower in the rain. We couldn’t drive, all the streets were blocked, and it was so dangerous outside that the government suggested people not leave their houses. I was lucky that we had enough food stored that we didn’t have to go out and find things to eat until five days after.
At first, I was just running around trees and searching for places that were safe for me to run.
Of course, I was in the middle of training—I try to do a 16-week build-up to the race—so the first thing I did was bike in my house. Then I started running on the streets. At first, I was just running around trees and searching for places that were safe for me to run. I found stretches that were maybe 500 meters (about .3 miles) long.
I had a million doubts in my mind, especially in those first days when everything was chaos. At one point, I had to wait in an eight-hour line to get gas, and every day we had to wait in line to get water. It took all day. You start to wonder, “Do I have the strength to do this?” You get terrified because at this level, you know you really have to take care of yourself—to get your rest, to eat as well as you can, and to hydrate.
But it’s going to be so special for me if I can get to that finish line the way I want to. And I hope people will see me and understand that you can do so many great things, no matter what. I have this headband that’s basically our flag that I’m hoping to wear in New York, which has such a huge population of Puerto Ricans. I hope it can show people what it means to be strong and to keep fighting.
I hope people will see me and understand that you can do so many great things, no matter what.
I want people to know is that this isn’t over. We’re not recovered, and we still need all the help and support we can get. Right now only 19 percent of the island has power (I don’t). They’re saying we may not even have full power by Christmas, and it makes people scared and sad. But…we are strong.
This conversation has been edited and condensed. To find out how you can help Puerto Ricans recover from Hurricane Maria, consider these ideas.