Who knew that running would be a controversial hot topic? But the running of the 42nd New York Marathon is just that, extraordinarily controversial in the wake of super storm Sandy. By writing this post I hope to open up discourse on this topic and I don’t have any answers. Personally, my family and friends have been adversely affected by Sandy. As of this writing my mother has been without power for three days and her cellphone is not working. I spoke with her briefly yesterday morning on a borrowed cellphone. Her car was hit by a tree while parked in the backyard and her home has no heat, she has no fireplace and she is freezing.
My mother lives on the North Shore of Long Island and is above sea level so she was not evacuated but many in my hometown were displaced. And my friends on the South Shore have been in an uproar as homes in the area go up in flames because of electrical fires and government officials in their towns are not moving quickly. Water must be boiled because of the threat of e-coli and although power has been restored in some areas, this is not the case for everyone. I preface my post with this information so that you have an understanding of my perspective as a native New Yorker with friends and family directly in the path of the “perfect storm.”
Now, as a runner who just completed her first marathon when I heard that the New York Marathon was still going to be run this weekend I was ecstatic. The New York Marathon has always been a symbolic and uplifting event for me. Although I SWORE I’d never run a marathon myself, it was a wonderful feeling to cheer and support runners that I didn’t know on the day of the race for completing such a milestone event. I recall a day almost 20 years ago when I awoke on a Sunday morning in Brooklyn to the cheers of the crowd as the runners passed by my home. The New York Marathon! The largest marathon in the world and one that is on the bucket
list of many runners.
This Sunday the marathon is scheduled to go on. In the midst of the devastation caused by Sandy many are questioning the sense of this decision. Although the race brings 45,000 runners to NYC (20,000 international), which under normal circumstances would boost the economy, how will this work in light of Sandy? The transportation system is still not working, many areas are still without power, the finish line is under water and how in the world are people going to get to Staten Island where the race begins?
Apparently both the race directors and Mayor Bloomberg have taken all of these factors into consideration and decided to move forward. But now, I am reading posts on facebook about families who have been displaced and staying in hotels being asked to leave because runners with reservations are arriving. This makes no sense to me, in my opinion hotels should make accommodations for runners in other hotels or locations. Moving already displaced individuals simply adds insult to injury. If indeed I were being asked to move by a hotel, I’d go directly to the news media outlets. This type of decision is one being made by the hotel group and I don’t see that cancelling the marathon would keep this from happening. It is a crazy decision on the part of the hotel and I’d be fuming.
I do think that holding the New York Marathon on Sunday speaks to the resilience of New York City and may indeed uplift the spirits of people who live in the city. The resources being utilized are paid I believe by the EXORBITANT entry fee for the race. Yes at $250.00 this is the most expensive race I have ever heard of but the cost makes sense considering New York City and the major logistics of the race. And speaking of logistics, despite being cheerful about the race going on (I can’t help but think of the thousands of people who have trained for MONTHS in preparation) I still am skeptical about if this decision makes sense.
I know LaGuardia is still closed so that makes it difficult to get to New York for many people. And I’m sure Kennedy is operating on a reduced schedule. The transportation system that people rely on to get around is not functioning, how are the runners/volunteers/workers etc going to travel from place to place? The power is out in many places, how will this affect the race?
There are so many questions and I don’t have answers. I’m curious about your thoughts. Should the New York Marathon go on? Should it be rescheduled?
So, some of the things I read online were in fact, not true. Here are a few additional facts that have been brought to my attention:
-The finish line is not underwater, nor was it ever. Central park is closed to pedestrians for clean up of fallen tree branches, etc. nothing more.
-Transportation to the start has been solved with buses running from midtown to the start which have been provided by NYRR using private contractors.
-Mass transit has been running since this morning(11/1), albeit limited, but its running and it more than likely will be running at full strength by race time.
-JFK has been running full strength as soon as the storm ended.
-Laguardia opened this morning with limited service.
-Statements from Hyatt and the bigger hotels advise they are doing their best to accomodate everyone and those arriving later do not necessarily receive preference because they’re running the marathon.
A big thank you to my friend Paul for fact checking. His discourse on facebook prompted me to write this post in the first place. Paul is a native New Yorker, who runs marathons weekly (yes, weekly) and although he can’t run Savannah RnR this Saturday he will be running the New York Marathon on Sunday (despite his disdain for NYRR). Good luck Paul!