Chalk up another "first" for Hurricane Sandy in the annals of New York: the city's yearly marathon, set for Sunday, has been canceled.
City officials and event organizers made the announcement on Friday, deciding after their own marathon session that it wouldn't be appropriate to hold a five-borough race, given the city-wide devastation wrought by the storm.
It was a historic move, one that took some runners – and supporters -- by surprise.
Initially, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Road Runners organization that sponsors the event were intent on holding the New York City Marathon literally "come hell or high water." But in the wake of Hurricane Sandy's mammoth devastation New York City residents, and even some of the non-resident marathon participants were so vocal in their criticism of that stance that at last its organizers and the mayor came to the conclusion that the one of the city's most unifying events would become one of its most divisive were the race to be held this time around.
The New York City Marathon has been held in every type of weather and in nearly every circumstance one can imagine. It was even held barely two months after the massive “9/11” Al Qaeda terrorist attack on the city's World Trade Center that killed some 3,000 people and left a gaping crater in downtown Manhattan that remains to this day.
But to hold a race in which gaggles of runners could conceivably charge past neighborhoods in which people still might not have electricity, or possibly no longer even have a home, seemed to be just a bit too much. And how could they be cheered on in such a circumstance?
Moreover, water needed to be offered to the runners at regular spots along the way – and water is a commodity that is still quite precious in some of the more devastated neighborhoods.
There were still logistical issues to work out, organizers said, like payment for featured international and prominent runners. Nearly 40,000 registered participants had already arrived last week. But most supported the decision to cancel, and all those who were registered for Sunday's event are guaranteed entry for next year, organizers said.
City Councilwoman Deborah Rose of Staten Island instead encouraged those who had already arrived to redirect their energies into helping the cleanup efforts in her district, which was badly hit by the hurricane. She called on all marathoners to bring the clothes they would have shed at the start of the race, to the shelters where displaced residents are most in need.