Mayor Mike Bloomberg and President and CEO of the New York Road Runners Club, Mary Wittenberg, issued a joint statement regarding the cancellation of the race. The statement said, “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 Yorker’s 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.” Out of respect to the thousands of people still suffering in the aftermath of Sandy, I applaud the decision.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg has made the decision to go forward with the New York City Marathon this Sunday and while I understand his reasoning; the need to get back to normal, too many New Yorker’s will be living a life that is far from normal. Hundreds of thousands won’t be able to watch the race since they have no power. The Marathon follows a route that bypasses most of the hardest hit areas of the city, including Staten Island where the race begins on the Staten Island side of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. So to those watching the race from outside New York, life will look fairly normal. There are certainly financial ramifications of cancelling the marathon and the fact that runners are arriving from all over the US and the World, 47,000 runners in all. But to hold what is a festive event while so many locals continue in their suffering, is insensitive and wrong. The Mayor claims it won’t have any impact on the resources of the city, but simple logic dictates that can’t be the case. Thousands of traffic lights throughout the city are not functioning, many at large intersections, and although New Yorker’s are being considerate, these streets remain dangerous. If police officers aren’t directing traffic because they’re at the marathon, that’s a bad call. Homes that have been damaged or destroyed need to be protected by law enforcement until families can collect their belongings and find a new normal, either in their homes or elsewhere. Until everyone has power and there is some real progress, no extracurricular events, i.e. the marathon should be taking place. People need help, not Marathons. Finally, there are many businesses that have bit hit hard and according to friends in law enforcement, people will soon become desperate as the days pass. There is no gas for cars and food is an issue as supermarkets remain closed. Shouldn’t police be protecting those properties and helping to get supplies in to the city? They can’t do that if they’re lining the race course. The Mayor is in his final term and no longer has to be concerned with the ramifications of his actions but as more dead bodies are being pulled from the wreckage the mayor’s only concern should be attending to the business of healing the city, not firing the starting cannon.