Friday, November 2, 2012

Tragedy Trumps a Marathon

All day today, I have been collecting information for this week's RWA. I was going to write a post about whether it was right to continue with plans to run the New York Marathon or cancel/postpone it. As my post was pretty much composed (at least in my mind), the Mayor of New York has just (5:00pm CST - Friday) cancelled the Marathon. So, I thought "Well, there goes that post", but I thought I would still proceed and present some of the arguments and give my slant on them. I must say, I am glad they did cancel it, but, on the other hand, I know that thousands of runners who probably went through holy hell to get to NY, must be crushed by the decision. 

I must admit, I am not totally looking from the outside. I am a runner who has done over a hundred marathons and ultramarathons. A long distance runner does not want to hear any reason to cancel a race. In marathons that have been cancelled in the past due to heat or cold or wind or whatever, we always hear of large groups of runners that go out anyway and complete their planned run, and I'm sure some will still try to do an unofficial version of this one. No, I have never run New York, but that has been my decision to never even try to get in the lottery. 

But, in addition to being a runner, you see, I was born and raised in New Jersey. I was personal with the Jersey Shore decades before it was a TV show. See all those videos of torn-up Seaside Heights? That was our High School go-to place. Walked many, many miles on those boardwalks that are now floating someplace in the cold Atlantic. Yep, rode that Roller Coaster that is now sitting 100 yards off the shore, isolated in the ocean. It breaks my heart to see all these little beach-front towns destroyed that I knew so well as a young child and later as a nothing-can-happen-to-us teenager. I have an emotional connection to that area, the same as anybody has to an area they grew up in. I still have 2 sisters, along with precious nieces and a nephew that live in Northern Jersey, but except for being cold and inconvenienced by still not having power or gas, they are all safe and have tons to be thankful for, and for that, so do I. We see on the TV news everyday areas that are torn apart, and then we look to see what else will be on TV that night...that is, unless it hits closer to home. 

Loss brings emptiness, so try to picture what these folks hit by Sandy (too nice a name for such a monster) are going through. Staten Island was one of the hardest hit areas in New York and apparently one of the areas slowest to receive relief aid. Staten Island is where the Marathon was to start, closing the Verranzano-Narrows Bridge, forcing any first responders or relief efforts to go miles out of their way, through New Jersey to get to Staten Island. Plus, the marathon would close over 20 miles of roads to any traffic. It just didn't seem right on any level to have a huge "runner's party" while so many were suffering losses beyond any of our senses. The mayor said earlier this week that no resources to the relief efforts would be compromised by putting on the race. C'mon Mayor, if you're gonna say something, say something believable. I understand it takes about 1500 Policemen to man the Marathon (that comes to 57 police per mile!!) and that would have had to put a big strain on these poor heroes. Yes, I'm a serious runner, but it didn't seem right.

The NYRRC said they were donating $1 million to the relief efforts and sponsors also put up another $1.5 million. I hope this wasn't contingent on the race going on. I can imagine the terrible ramifications this does to all the efforts put into staging this race. Planning for this race, I'm sure, begins as the final runner comes across the finish line last year. Runners, sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, plus all the businesses that benefit from the $340 million dollars the race brings into the city are severely affected and to just say "Sh*t Happens" is extremely cold. These are real folks that are affected, but it is nothing to compare to folks that Sandy tore apart. Holding a non-essential event through the storm-ravaged city literally blocks from where people lost their lives and their possessions would have been totally wrong. This is not a place to fill the streets with thousands of cheering spectators and runners thinking The Wall is 'the worst thing ever". This tragedy is less than a week old. You cannot forget THAT soon. I remember runners doing the Marine Corps Marathon 6 weeks after 9/11 saying how quiet it was when they ran by the Pentagon - only the sound of running shoes hitting the ground. That heaviness affected every runner doing that race. And that was after SIX weeks. This is five DAYS. People are still reeling, wondering which direction their life will go from here.

I feel for all involved in this tragedy. Because this is a runner's blog, I write this from a runner's view. I don't want to go into the logistics of moving the runners around the damaged areas before or after the race or the many resources used to put on the race that might be used to a much more sympathetic need. No decision is 100% correct, but I think the decision to cancel was the most correct and the most compassionate. I'd like to hear your views. Just leave a comment below (I think I fixed the bug that previously "bugged" me).

I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Anonymous said...

Great post! I didn't realize that you were from NJ too. I like how you mentioned the money and effort that go into planning the NYC Marathon. To cancel it outright was not a decision to be made lightly, but it was the right one.

AL said...

Yep, I'm from Jersey too! Good to see that today a lot of the marathoners loaded themselves up and went to Staten Island to offer some assistance.

Randy said...

I agree with you that the marathon should have been cancelled. In my opinion, the real issue was the way moronic Mayor Blumberg handled the entire situation. Saying the race is on and then letting hundreds (more likely thousands) go through the hassle of getting to NYC before waiting until late on Friday to change your mind is idiotic. I feel for those affected and hope the resources and efforts get to them as quickly as possible. I do think the best way to help the situation in NYC is to get rid of the mayor and find a real leader.

Al D. said...

Whoa Randy. Mayor Blumberg made a mistake, but I think he was put in a pressure-cooker situation to make a decision. If he had a few more days to make the decision, possibly it wouldn't have been so "idiotic". I think he was in a "9/11" frame of mind and felt get-back-to-normal as soon as possible. I'm not ready to pull the quick trigger. He's done a lot of good for the city. Just had to make a quick decision and made the wrong initial one. Thanks for reading and really, thanks for commenting