“I knew I would run it. I knew I would beat my time.”

Librarian Emily Drabinski’s father was killed crossing the street. Then she ran a marathon in his honor.

How did you get involved with TransAlt?

My dad got hit and killed by a truck in Los Angeles in 2015. He is one of many people killed by left-turning drivers when they had the right of way in a crosswalk. He died because of poor street design. It sounds crazy but my third thought after he died was: I am going to see if I can raise some money for Transportation Alternatives as I run the marathon. I knew I would run it. I knew I would beat my time. For me, honoring his memory was a powerful thing to do.

You ran the marathon with Team TransAlt in 2016, and raised over $7,000 in honor of your father. What was that like?

The points in the marathon where I had seen him were hard for me. There’s this spot on Classon Avenue by the G train where my family comes to watch me run. When I had run the marathon in 2015, my dad was there and was this big presence on that block. That was the last time I saw him. He was a marathoner himself, and running was one of the ways we had connected as grown-ups. That year, 2015, I ran a 5:15 marathon and he and I talked about how to get a marathon under five hours.

Did you get there in 2016?

I ran a 4:48! It was so exciting. When I hit mile 22, which is where you’re supposed to be crying and dying, I looked at my watch and did the math in my head and I knew that even if I ran my slowest pace, I was going to hit my goal. I was ecstatic. Of course, I wished I could have told him about it. He would have been so impressed. I didn’t think I was capable of that time, but I did. It was my day.

Runners on Team TransAlt are busy fundraising and training for this year’s marathon. Do you have any advice for them?

The only way to run a marathon is to show up every day and put your miles in. As my dad used to say, “It’s about miles on legs.” Fundraising is the same; you’ve got to ask, and then ask again.

When you’re not running, you’re a librarian at Long Island University. Is there a correlation between information literacy and transportation?

There’s a real parallel to street safety. A lot of what we know is determined by the way knowledge and access are structured; it makes it possible to follow certain avenues of thought. My father was killed in a crosswalk, which indicated to him that it was safe to cross. It turns out it was not a safe crosswalk, so the city removed it. Now other pedestrians won’t imagine that they have safe passage there.

I heard that Long Island University locked out your union during contract negotiations. That’s rough! Is there anything our activist readers can learn from your organizing experience?

Our union is how we advocate for ourselves as workers, and the university wants to crush it. The lesson is that you can accomplish almost nothing on your own. When you’re organized with other people, you can accomplish a lot. I am really impressed with TransAlt’s organizing and activist trainings; it’s the same sort of thing. You can tell one driver to not drive too fast, but it doesn’t make a change for the rest of us. It can’t be up to the individual to make themselves safe on the road. You have to make the road safe, and you do that by organizing with other people. You can only make big-scale change through organized resistance.