Tina at the finish line

Tina Ullman, a 1997 graduate, poses at the finish line of the annual ING New York City Marathon, which was still set up in Central Park following the event's cancellation.

Photo courtesy of: Tina Ullman

NYC marathon

Ullman joined an enormous crowd near the Central Park entrance Sunday for a “Run Anyway NYC Marathon.

Photo courtesy of: Tina Ullman

Race course

All proceeds from the event supported the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort.

Photo courtesy of: Tina Ullman

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Running through the storm

Alumna and fellow marathoners “run anyway” for Sandy recovery

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, one of the many events impacted by the storm was the annual ING New York City Marathon.

Ohio alumna Tina Ullman, a 1997 graduate, had been preparing to run in the marathon for the second time and to serve as the Marathon Morning Ambassador for Ohio, representing the state at multiple marathon events, including the opening ceremonies the Friday before the Sunday marathon.

However, upon her arrival to New York City, she learned the marathon had been cancelled.

What happened next is something she says she will never forget.

After taking a run on that Saturday and seeing little damage in Central Park, she made the decision that she would run the old marathon course the next morning as planned, whether it was official or not.

"When I arrived at Columbus Circle, I was surprised to see an enormous crowd gathered near the park entrance," Ullman said.

She learned they were all there to run the marathon, just like she was.

What Ullman didn't know at the time is that fellow runners had initiated a discussion on Facebook, Twitter and blogs about participating in a "Run Anyway NYC Marathon" and donating all proceeds to support the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort.

"It honestly just gave me chills," Ullman said. "I didn't think after such a week that it was all going to come to that."

Supporters came out to set up makeshift aid stations for the runners, and while it was unofficial, Ullman ran her best time yet in that race.

A runner since high school, Ullman helped established the first women's track team at Skyvue High School when she was a sophomore in 1987. She began competing in races four years ago.

Professionally, Ullman is the creative director and principal at Ullman Design, a boutique creative studio specializing in graphic design and illustration located in Marietta, Ohio, that designs the university's Perspectives magazine.

"I find the longer distances more challenging and rewarding," said Ullman. "It's a physical and mental challenge, but it is also therapeutic — just me and the road. It's become more than a hobby for me. Fitness is a lifestyle."

Throughout the course of the weekend, fundraising efforts for nearby areas, such as Staten Island, N.Y., were in full swing, Ullman said. Many of her fellow runners took time to visit the affected areas and deliver supplies to those in need. Ullman chose to make a monetary donation to contribute.

"The event being cancelled itself was unprecedented," she said. However, she says that something good came out of it all. "It was a true testament to the strength and resilience of the running community, as well as humanity."

Run Anyway NYC Marathon participants plan to keep in touch, continuing to fundraise and also organize group reunions in the future. According to the Run Anyway NYC Marathon Facebook page, as of Nov. 5, the group had raised $16,000 to donate to the relief efforts and filled five SUVs with donated clothing for victims of Hurricane Sandy to wear.

"I've never been more proud to be a runner — and represent my home state of Ohio — as I was that day," Ullman said. "To be part of that is something I will never forget."