Running with Rage

Eric Rutin discusses running, life and other semi-important things

New York City Marathon cancelled – Good or Bad?

Nov. 3, 2012

Today the New York City Marathon was cancelled less than week after Hurricane Sandy smashed into the east coast. I have to admit I am torn on this decision. Part of me sees it from a practical standpoint, of course I also view it as a runner and lastly as a compassionate human.

I am not a New Yorker, but I have always been amazed at how they seem to be able to take all that humanity or nature can dish out and not only survive, but somehow unite and come out stronger. I thought this hurricane was just another example of how just days after getting hammered by Sandy, somehow the marathon would not only just be held, but something truly epic would happen. The race would spurn the recovery rather than drain resources. The pain and suffering would dissipate borough by borough as the runners advance the 26.2 miles with millions of people watching the broadcast around the globe with pure admiration.

Plus who can argue the economic impact the race would have on the recovery efforts for the local economy?  The race was expected to generate around $350 million. We aren’t talking nickels and dimes here. This is some serious cash that local restaurants and hotels need.

Social media has been slamming runners as being selfish for wanting the race to be held regardless of the devastation. I couldn’t disagree more. I am a runner and I am fiends with many runners and well runners are one of the most caring and compassionate groups out there.  My friend Jeff is in NYC right now trying to figure out how to come home after the race was cancelled.  I don’t think it is callous to feel badly for him. He had trained better than he ever had for a previous race. He was prepared not not only to PR but smash his previous best time. He also raised a couple thousand dollars for charity. I haven’t lost perspective in thinking that his not having a chance to PR is even close to what someone that lost their house is having to deal with, but it still sucks.

All this being said, I don’t disagree with the decision to cancel the race, just the timing and way it was done.  There are still too many people without power and Staten Island was hit a lot harder than I think most of us realized. Cramming 47,000 runners on Staten Island even on the best day is a logistics and resource headache, this weekend it would be a full out migraine. People that lost their homes were once again being displaced by runners coming to town with reservations that forced the locals out of hotels.  New York is simply not ready.  All in all this was just a crappy situation for everyone, New Yorkers and runners alike.

But my question is why did they wait until Friday evening. Not only had runners arrived after being assured the race would go on.   Jeff even went through the expo today and was told of course the race as still happening as late as Friday afternoon. This could all have been avoided had Bloomberg and race director, Mary Wittenberg, simply looked at the situation realistically and cancelled the race on Wednesday. Seeing the storm-ravaged Staten Island it should have been very apparent that six days wasn’t a realistic timeline for recovery. Nearly a half a million people still don’t have power. It was foolish and irresponsible to invite thousands of runners, media and sponsors into the city before utilities were restored. When Jeff checked in to his hotel Thursday, he was informed his room had neither heat nor hot water.

The city simply is not ready no matter how much the city longs to display New Yorkers’ resilience.

Just when you thought the city and race had mishandled this as badly as they could, it actually gets worse. The New York City Marathon has offered entry into the 2013 race for this year’s runners but of course they will have to shell out another $250, as their entry carries over but the entry fee doesn’t.

Really? Come on New York Road Runners do the right thing. Finally.


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6 thoughts on “New York City Marathon cancelled – Good or Bad?

  1. You know that Friday was registration deadline to pick up your packet? The runners are already here. They’ve flown in, driven in, got their hotels. They’re here. You’re right, maybe the race should have been cancelled, a week ago, or right after the storm, but today? It’s rotten as can be.

    • I know my friend was texting me from the expo and even bought a shirt for the relief efforts. So lame.i feel bad for the people of New York but also the runners that have been hoodwinked.

  2. Well written, interesting thoughts!

  3. My initial reaction on hearing the marathon would go on was “Yeah! Eff you, Sandy!” But on reflection there’s a heck of a lot of resources (police, medical, etc) that would have to be diverted to course support, and they’re needed elsewhere. A few weeks on and maybe it would be a good morale boost to the city, but with power still out I think it’s just too soon. A friend of mine on FB suggested that runners in town for the Marathon volunteer instead for storm cleanup, and that sounds like a great idea to me.

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