It seems appropriate to weigh in with this 2012 New York City Marathon preview from ground zero since I am pretty much trapped here for a few days.
The devastation Sandy left in her path was visible around every corner the morning after the storm. Most of Manhattan was a veritable ghost town on Tuesday as there was no way for anyone to get to their place of business with buses and subways at a stand-still.
There is a Deli(or two) on pretty much every block on Columbus Avenue that runs through the heart of Manhattan, but all were closed except for a few as locals and tourists alike searched for a place to get something to eat. The story was much the same all through the city of New York.
Hotels are filled to capacity with people who have been stranded in New York by the storm that forced closures of the Port of New York, bridges, tunnels as well as all the airports. Add to that the 47,000 runners who are scheduled to take part in the NYC Marathon on Sunday November 4, 2012 and you have grid-lock.
On Wednesday there was chaos on all the streets leading into downtown Manhattan as many people decided to try and drive into the city as bus service was barely operational and the subways remained closed.
At one point I watched an ambulance with siren screaming move about 10 feet in ten minutes as there was no place for drivers to go to get out of the way.
By Thursday the traffic problems were much less as some subway lines were opened and car-pooling was mandated by the city.
Many, many homes have suffered damage and for some there will be a long wait for power and internet services to be restored.
There are many people questioning the wisdom of Mayor Bloomberg giving the okay for the marathon to go ahead despite the devastation that Hurricane Sandy left in her wake.
As can be expected there will be some changes to the logistics involved with getting runners to the start of the race. In past years, most runners have been ferried to Staten Island to the start line. This year according to race officials the plan is to bus runners to Staten Island from the NYC Library in midtown Manhattan.
In Staten Island where the race begins, 83,000 homes are without power and nineteen people were killed by Hurricane Sandy. The runners will cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and make their way into Brooklyn. As the enter into Brooklyn they will be at about the two-mile mark of the race.
59,000 homes in Brooklyn are without power.
The course will then wind it’s way into Manhattan where 227,000 homes are without power. The half-way point of the marathon is near the Pulaski Bridge and marks the entrance into Queens where 103,000 are without power.
The final stages of the race will take the runners past Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. In the Bronx 36,000 homes are still waiting to have power restored.
Finally the race will end in Central Park South.
In Staten Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx that are all part of the marathon course close to half a million homes are without power.
THE TOP RUNNERS
According to Dave Monti, a consultant who is handling the arrival of the pros, none of them have canceled out of the race. The prize purse for this race is huge and the pros would fly in from the moon for the big payday if there was no other way.
Race Favorite Stanley Biwott of Kenya rolled into town Wednesday night. He traveled from Nairobi to London to Boston and then went by car from Boston to New York.
2009 champion Meb Keflezifhi was expected in town on Thursday night but because of flight problems will take the red-eye into New York on Saturday morning.
Molly Pritz who hails from Boulder, Colorado perhaps had the best plan of all. She arrived in New York on Saturday ahead of Hurricane Sandy. Pritz was the first place American woman and 12th overall among women in 2011.
SHOULD THE RACE GO ON?
There are those who might argue that the marathon will bring back some normalcy to such a chaotic time.
There are those who might say that people have come here from all over the world to take part in the marathon and after great expense and months of preparation would go home disappointed.
Sure it is on a Sunday when traffic is much lighter, but regardless of the day of the week city resources are already stretched to the limit and will be for weeks to come.
Does it really make sense to carry on with a major event that impacts five boroughs and requires police resources for traffic control and emergency services on standby when they are so badly needed elsewhere?
Will people really enjoy being one of the thousands of volunteers required to put on a race of this magnitude when their heart and thoughts are elsewhere?
Will people really care which Kenyan wins the race or how many runners cheated and cut corners near Central Park to find a faster way to the finish line when there is so much else to deal with?
For many years to come the decision to go ahead with the 2012 New York City Marathon will no doubt be much-discussed.
But for this writer who was an avid marathoner and runner for years and who knows exactly what is involved to prepare for a marathon, I really believe I would choose to defer to the people of New York who have so much to deal with.
I would not take one single police officer or EMT away from where he or she is needed most and would come back another day or another year to take part in the greatest marathon in the world.
It seems that many people agree as it is expected that some 8000 runners have opted out of the race and will not be taking part.
It just seems like the right thing to do.
***FRIDAY-TWO DAYS BEFORE 2012 NYC MARATHON***
The race has been canceled and there is little doubt that this was the right decision.
Had the race gone on as scheduled there would have been left in it’s wake a legacy that this great marathon would never have recovered from. New Yorker’s would have seen it as the event that turned a blind eye to the horror and devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy.
Instead, many runners who had trained hard and long and come to NYC at perhaps great expense made the trip to Staten Island and instead of taking part in the race start on the Island, they pitched in to help those who were in the most need.
This is the legacy that indeed the NYC Marathon of 2012 that never was really wants to leave in it’s wake.
Congratulations to the Mayor’s office, The NEW YORK ROAD-RUNNERS, and all the participants who have done absolutely the right thing in deciding to cancel the race.