From the ABC 7 Weather team

New York City Marathon: Should the New York race go on?

November 2, 2012 - 09:40 AM
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With destruction laid behind in the wake of Sandy, the marathon will go on as scheduled. Is this the right choice?

Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the northeast earlier this week and many events for the remainder of the week and the weekend ahead have been postponed or cancelled altogether. With that being said, the New York City Marathon will go on as scheduled, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced earlier this week. The marathon itself has announced in a statement on its website,

"This marathon is all about supporting NYC. To help support New York-area storm relief and recovery efforts, please go to the Mayor’s Fund or go to CrowdRise to make a donation."

As a marathoner myself (just ran the Marine Corps Marathon last Sunday prior to Sandy), I felt obligated to write a blog on this, as weather and running are my two main passions in life. I actually operate my own blog called The Running Weatherman which forecasts for races across the country, one of which is the New York City Marathon this weekend. I am also close to the situation as my roommate is heading up to New York later today to run in the marathon this weekend.

Mile 21 in the Bronx (Kirsten Winterkamp-flickr)

I do see both sides of the issue here, with the massive destruction and weakened infrastructure to the city on one hand, and a way to raise awareness, money and bring hope to the city on the other. More than 46,500 runners participated in the event in 2011, which helped bring in over $300 million in local revenue and $34 million to charities.

Related: Naming the monster storm

Even with millions being raised for the city and charities, many still don't think the race should go on. Just take a look at a few of the comments I've seen from Facebook followers.

"Cancel the race, any and all resources should go to the victims and clean up of Sandy. Think of all the food, water, medical, volunteer resources the race must have. The race should donate it to NY. I just ran the MCM and got stranded w/o power, internet, heat, food, etc. from Sandy for 3 days. I would happily give up a run to help those in need. I cannot imagine running and taking a single resource away from those who are hurting. The Mayor got this one wrong."

From another poster,

"I am a New Yorker and have run this marathon twice. This city is crippled and marathon day only cripples it further. I do not think it is fair at all to the citizens to do this. Maybe if everything was back together in time then it would make sense, but it's not. A postponement would have made the most sense. Since it is happening I will of course be out there to support the runners. They should not be punished but I think it isn't fair to a city with already stressed resources."

But on the other side...

"I don't live in NY nor am I running that race, but I think the NYC Marathon should go on. Life should go on...and a lot of people are running for charity for that race."

Related: Timelapse of Sandy in New York City

I am close to Race Director, Jim Harman, for EX2 Adventures which is run out of Fairfax County and runs my favorite trail running series called the Backyard Burn. I asked him his thoughts as he's a race director and may have better insight on what would be involved to postpone, cancel, or continue the race as planned. He responded with,

"I assume permitting would not the biggest issue since the city is a huge force behind this event. I am sure this decision is not up to the race director alone and the city would need to give its blessing. Considering how busy New York is, postponing the race to another day this year may not be possible before the really cold/snowy weather rolls in this winter, unless they have a rain date built in to the permit. So, they may be forced to cancel the race outright.  

Postponing/cancelling the race would be a problem for all those that are traveling to the city from out of town but this would not be my primary concern. I would be mostly concerned with the readiness of the resources of the city: police, emergency responders, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, transportation network, etc. My view is that New Yorkers are a hardy bunch and if it was up to most citizens, they would say, 'let's do this'. But the above mentioned resources must be ready and or bad things can happen."

I think it's an extremely tough call to make with the thousands of runners coming in from out of town. On one hand, I do think a lot about the runners and how they have trained for this race over the past 4-6 months, have made travel plans, and put in a lot of time, commitment and own resources to make it to one of the worlds largest marathons.

On the other hand, I see New York and New Jersey, sitting in ruins in many areas. Many residents are still without power while giant generators are being set up for the media tent in Central Park, and now resources such as police and medical workers need to be reallocated in order to accommodate the race. It's one thing if the city was back up and running, but parts will still not have power come Sunday, only 5 to 6 days after the storm exited the region.

Start of the 2012 NYC Marathon (Credit: New York Road Runners)

The course of the race begins on Staten Island, runs through Brooklyn and Queens and eventually ends in Central Park in Manhattan. With more than 45,000 runners showing up to Staten Island for a race on Sunday morning, my thought is that more help could be given to those in need by having the runners help out by volunteering throughout the day on Saturday before racing the following day. I wish it were that easy to set up some kind of a giant volunteer team, but I feel like at this point so early in the game, the runners will just be getting in the way of the relief and recovery efforts.

Let me know your thoughts on the station Facebook page (scroll down to see the question). I'm really interested to see what everyone is thinking. If you are racing this weekend, good luck and I hope you can give as much support to the city as possible.

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