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Cancel the NYC Marathon

November 2, 2012 - Erik Brown
Without a doubt, sports have a restorative quality. Who can forget, in the weeks following 9/11, how sports became our great escape? It was altogether fitting that the games of Major League Baseball and the NFL resumed. They had a therapeutic effect at a time when the nation was hurting in a profound way. Runners understand this on a very personal level. For most of us, running is an escape, and the marathon is a celebration of our ability to endure and overcome adversity.

But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent announcement that, despite the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy across Staten Island and in lower Manhattan, Queens, and other areas of the city, Sunday's New York City Marathon will go ahead as planed, is a very different matter. At a news briefing on Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg justified the decision saying, "There's an awful lot of small businesses that depend on this race. We have to have an economy. It's a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you've got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind."

According to estimates, the NYC Marathon typically generates $340 million into the city. That's a lot of money, even for a city the size of the Big Apple.

But hosting a marathon of 30,000 plus runners requires hundreds (thousands?) of police officers, EMT's, sanitation workers, and others who are needed right now to continue the recovery effort. Millions of people in New York and the surrounding region are without electricity, heat and, in some cases, food and water. Many residents are incredulous that the marathon is going forward. Nowhere is their anger more apparent than on Staten Island which serves as the starting line for the marathon. Pleading for help, and feeling abandoned, Staten Island Borough Councilman told the New York Daily News, "The notion of diverting even one police officer, one first responder, one asset away from this carnage is beyond irrational." A comment on an online Time Magazine article reads as follows: "As a runner and someone who's not had power and gasoline... for two weeks in the aftermath of a hurricane... I can't imagine having resources tied up hosting a race... This is a no-brainer."

In case you're wondering, the 2001 NYC Marathon, after 9/11, went on as planned. But that was two months after the World Trade Center attacks and, as bad as the destruction was, it was confined to a much smaller portion of the city. This is a very different situation.

Mr. Mayor, leaders of the New York Road Runners Club, postpone or cancel this year's NYC Marathon.

Thanks for reading Against The Wind.

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