I’ve been trying to get into the NYC Marathon for 3 years. Since my PR is nowhere near the 2:45 guaranteed entry time, I played the lottery. Each year I lost. Good news for me, if you lose the lottery three years in a row you’re automatically accepted the fourth year. Huzzah! I was stoked. I trained and trained and trained. Then, with less than one week before the race, Hurricane Sandy rolled up and kicked the East Coast square in the junk.
Lower Manhattan was submerged. Public transportation knocked out. Airports shut down. Much of the city lost power. Houses burned. Others destroyed by flooding. People died.
Look, I was in NYC on 9/11. Sandy is not 9/11. I remember how long it took to get things up and running post-9/11. Sandy did way more damage. Frankly, there is no way the city is going (or should try) to rebound from the storm in just a few days. But that’s exactly what the New York Road Runners (NYRR), the host organization of the NYC Marathon, wants to do.
We’re 100-percent committed to staging the race.
OK, maybe not 100% as stated in another press release 90 minutes later.
This is a very challenging time for the people and City of New York. The City is rightfully focused on assessment, restoration and recovery. At NYRR, we stand with our City agency partners and support their efforts. The Marathon has always been a special day for New Yorkers as a symbol of the vitality and resiliency of this City. NYRR continues to move ahead with its planning and preparation. We will keep all options open with regard to making any accommodations and adjustments necessary to race day and race weekend events. We will provide an update and more detail as information becomes available.
Well, more like 18% given that NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg said:
The decision whether to hold the race [is] “entirely” in the mayor’s hands.
Here’s a suggestion NYRR (or Mayor Bloomberg or whoever is responsible for making NYRR’s decisions), cancel the race and give runners free transfers to the 2013 race.
Reason #1: Infrastructure
Head over to the NY Times Hurricane Sandy section and it is apparent that the city is not ready to host 47,000 runners and their friends and family.
Subway lines are still suspended. Trains are suspended. Taxis and Livery cars are carpooling passengers. Buses are operating sporadically. Airports are just now opening back up with the exception of LaGuardia and there are thousands of rebookings to be made.
Then there’s electricity and water. Many homes and businesses in lower Manhattan and New Jersey (location destinations for many runners) are without both.
Where’s a runner to stay? How is a runner to get around? What do they eat and drink?
Reason #2: The Benjamins
The NYC Marathon costs a boatload of money to run. Not just for the organizers, but for the runners who are participating ($215 NYRR members; $255 for non-NYRR members; $347 for International applicants). Based on the current cancellation policies, a runner can transfer but they’ll lose their 2012 entry fee and will have to pay again in 2013.
Money has got to be a factor in the NYRR’s decision to move forward with the race. The race is expected to attract 47,000 people including 20,000 from overseas. Do the math and that’s roughly $12.8 million in entry fees. And the city isn’t off the hook either. If the marathon goes away, the city stands to lose out on $350 million in race-related revenue.
Reason #3: Resources
The 26.2 mile course avoids most of the areas hit hardest by Sandy. It starts in Staten Island, crosses the Verazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn, onto Queens, across the Queensboro Bridge into midtown Manhattan, through the Upper East Side, across the Willis Ave. Bridge, a mile in the Bronx, back into Manhattan via the Madison Ave. Bridge, and eventually into Central Park.
Over the course of 26.2 miles there are Porta-Johns at the start, finish, and every mile beginning at mile 3. Water and Gatorade are available on any of a dozen tables on both sides of the road at every mile after mile 3. PowerGel at mile 18. Fruit is aplenty at miles 20-23. There are medical volunteers at every mile starting at mile 3. And, about 1,500 police officers are hired to secure the course.
Now, I’m not the brightest star in the sky, but it would seem that if I was in charge of the largest city in the United States, and that city was hit by an epic storm which left millions without electricity, adequate drinking water, or food, I would provide those things to those that needed it most, not 47,000 runners. And, if I was in charge of a race that usurped those resources in a time of crisis I would be ashamed. But that’s just me.
Reason #4: Logistics
After Superstorm Sandy hit I watched the news regarding the race and everything that could impact getting to and from the start line. Relax, I’m not a complete a-hole. I checked on my friends, too. They’re fine. Thanks for asking.
On Tuesday NYRR threw up a “Our office is closed” banner on their website. Followed with a “100% go!” official statement. Which is followed by a retraction that includes “keeping all options open” regarding race adjustments. Then Bloomberg backed NYRR and shared his enthusiasm. And then Wittenberg said it’s Bloomberg’s call.
As you all decide the fate of the marathon (and by all means take your sweet time) you should consider the individual logistics of getting to and around the city.
This morning my wife woke up to the chime of a new email from her friend in Jersey City.
No power. No water. Supermarkets are barren.
Well that sucks. Then we called Delta.
Your flight will most likely be canceled. LaGuardia is under water and won’t be cleared until Monday.
So let’s see. If I go I’d be traveling on a canceled flight with my wife and toddler to LGA, an airport that probably won’t open until Monday, with no promise of ground transportation to a location without food, water, or power. And if baby Jesus intervenes and I’m able to get to New York there’s still the getting around the city part.
At some point I’d have to go from Jersey City to and from the Javits Center for packet pickup. Then, on Sunday I’d have to wake up at some ungodly hour to maybe take the PATH to the city and maybe take the subway to Battery Park so I can maybe take the ferry to Staten Island.
Yeah, I’m not running the 2012 NYC Marathon. And I’m not the only one. There are loads of people who are deferring to the 2013 NYC Marathon (search Twitter for NYCM or NYCMarathon). And I would argue that some of those who will defer will be the elite runners (seeing how only one was in NYC as of Tuesday).
Your Move NYRR (or Bloomberg)
When former NYC mayor, Rudy Guiliani, was asked about the race at a press conference in Sydney he said:
I hope beyond hope they have the marathon on Sunday because we end up with about 30,000 runners and a couple million people on the streets of Manhattan, which reaffirms the fact that we’re tremendously resilient and can overcome anything…One of the proudest things that I watched and participated in after Sept. 11 was making sure the marathon took place (Bloomberg.com)
Come on Rudy. Let’s be real. The events of 9/11 occurred almost 2 months before the 2001 race. While the cleanup at Ground Zero continued for months, the city’s infrastructure was all but restored well before race day. Holding the race was a big emotional deal for the city and the country, but this situation is not the same.
Having 30,000 runners and a couple million people on the streets will add more pains to NYC’s already hemorrhoidal ass. Too many people aren’t going to be able to run the race. Too many resources are being taken from those who really need it.
Seriously NYRR, cancel the race and offer free transfers to the 2013 NYC Marathon.
Want to send NYRR your thoughts? Click here to send NYRR and NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg a personal tweet! If you have other thoughts on the 2012 NYC Marathon share ’em below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.