NY Road Runners Sweats Out Decision to Go Ahead With Marathon


New Yorkers stand divided over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement that the ING New York City Marathon will proceed on Sunday, Nov. 4. After the historic and catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in the Tri-State area, New York Road Runners, the organization behind the race, is being heavily criticized for moving forward with its modified event plan.

Much of the outrage over the decision to proceed with the race stems from the demand for police, fire and other public services to work the event, rather than provide assistance in devastated areas such as Staten Island, where the race will begin. The counterargument is that the marathon generates substantial revenue for the city, and will provide a symbol of the city's resolve in the face of adversity.  

NYRR announced that the marathon will be dedicated to the city of New York, the victims of the hurricane and their families. Race director Mary Wittenberg said organizers are hiring private buses to take runners to and from the marathon, and are not straining resources better used elsewhere, reports CNN. NYRR also plans to donate $1 million, or $26.20 for every runner who starts the race, to relief efforts in the city. The Rudin Family and ING, two sponsors of the race, will donate a combined $1.6 million to storm relief, reports the New York Times. 

On its website, the NYRR said that at every turn, it will be working to ensure that marathon planning doesn’t affect any recovery efforts.There will be substantial modifications to the logistics and operations of the race, including the transportation plan, due to the impact of the storm.

Negative comments poured in on NYRR's Facebook page. One commenter said: "NYC Marathon runners: When you start at the Verrazano Bridge, you should turn around and help all those that lost their loved ones, lost their homes, lost everything in Staten Island." Another: "Postpone this race. Donate heavily to our recovery effort, turn your tents into shelters, cut loose your volunteers as ING Team Recovery, and show the world that you have the courage to do what is right. Run this race, and the NYRR and ING names will be marred forever." 

For the NYRR, whose mission is "to be the premier community running organization as evidenced by our economic, community and charitable impact in the markets we serve," the decision to run the race may tarnish its relationship with the New York community and have implications that stretch far beyond the finish line on Sunday.

Update: The 
ING NYC Marathon was canceled for this weekend, according to the Mayor's office: "The Marathon has been an integral part of New York City's life for 40 years and is an event tens of thousands of New Yorkers participate in and millions more watch. While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division. The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination.

We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it. We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event  even one as meaningful as this - to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track. The New York Road Runners will have additional information in the days ahead for participants."

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg