The 2012 ING New York City Marathon had been scheduled to be run today through all five boroughs of a New York City that was flooded by Superstorm Sandy last week, but was canceled by the city and its sponsor, the New York Road Runners.
It took a long time and a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally made the correct call and canceled the race Friday, but not everyone was happy about putting the welfare of Superstorm Sandy victims above the competitive impulses of the runners.
Immediately following the record devastation of Sandy – and for days afterward – the mayor insisted that the marathon would go on, both as a symbol of NYC’s perseverance and as a way to pump money into the local economy. (Bloomberg even invoked the sacred cow of “small businesses.”) But the cries of outrage from hungry storm victims huddling in the cold dark (and their advocates) who didn’t want to be pushed aside so that privileged athletes could traipse through the ruins of the city became overwhelming and forced the mayor to relent late in the day Friday.
I can understand the disappointment of athletes who traveled from other parts of the United States or all around the globe to participate in the world’s biggest marathon, however that disappoint is nothing compared to the “disappointment” felt by thousands and thousands of New Yorkers who lost family members and/or their homes; all the victims’ worldly possessions count a little more (in my book) than a chance at some recreational hoofing.
In another ludicrous scenario, some city hotels that had been serving as emergency shelters for the homeless started kicking refugees out of their rooms in order to receive out-of-town runners. What madness was that? (Luckily, some hotels resisted victimizing the refugees again.)
Mayor Bloomberg had made the patently ridiculous claim that devoting medical and security manpower and electrical generators to the 26.2-mile route would not have diverted resources away from storm victims. How absurd was that? If even one ambulance was sent to the marathon route, that would be a diversion of resources away from the injured and the dying; if even one police officer had been assigned to marathon security, that would have been a diversion of resources; if even one generator were sent to the finish line to light a sign, that would have taken light and/or heat away from a stricken family.
The mayor was 100 percent wrong to continue claiming after the cancellation that the race still could have been run without wasting resources. Way to be on the wrong side of history, your honor, as well as make sure that everyone in the city knows how tone-deaf you continue to be when it comes to the less-fortunate in your city. On Saturday, Bloomberg went on WCBS-TV to tell out-of-town runners: “I’m sorry. I fought the battle, and sometimes things don’t work out.” I’m certain those runners were glad to know you valued them more than your own constituents, Mr. Mayor. But that’s Bloomberg the Billionaire for you: out of touch.
Still, as much of problem as the mayor has been, some of the runners themselves have proven to be selfish, as well. While the news has carried reports of many, many laudable runners distributing aid and helping at storm shelters, a minority of would-be marathoners have complained about being in NYC for the weekend with nothing to do after training months or even years for the marathon. Well, tell that to Superstorm Sandy. Nobody asked for devastating winds and floodwaters, and it certainly wasn’t a conspiracy against the marathoners.
Still, a number of runners defied the cancellation by copying the early days of the NYC contest and running entirely inside Central Park. Runners from Italy, Spain, Germany and other countries making up a group called Run Anyway started personal 26.2-mile quests (just over four laps around the park) at dawn today. Run Anyway organizer Lance Svendsen said of the rebel event “A lot of people just want to finish what they’ve started.”
Well, to the selfish foreign runners (and especially any Americans who joined them) who decided they needed to spit in the collective eye of already-victimized New Yorkers, I say the same thing right back: “To hell with you.” You are not needed here. I hope you have tons of fun doing your little self-run thingie in the heart of a ravaged city. Try not to trip over any of our dead – but then again, you probably wouldn’t care anyway, would you? You came here to run. Well, ask any storm refugee who lost a loved one if she would rather have a plane ticket or her child back.
In my world, every one of those runners would be banned from participating in any future NYC marathons. If those runners were so antsy to do something, they could have put that excess energy into volunteering at a shelter or delivering much-needed supplies to the devastated neighborhoods they had been so eager to run through. A lot other runners did that. They can go home and tell people that they helped instead of becoming part of the problem.
And, finally, to any runners who still feel they were wronged by the cancellation: Take a walk (not a run) through Staten Island, or visit Hoboken, N.J., and realize just how lucky you really are.