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Amid Growing Criticism, NYC Marathon is Canceled

Friday, November 02, 2012

Gwen Schroeder running the 2010 New York City Marathon Gwen Schroeder running the 2010 New York City Marathon (Gwen Schroeder)

The ING New York City Marathon has been canceled amid growing criticism from those who felt the city should focus its efforts on cleanup and rebuilding in the wake of Sandy.

New York Road Runner CEO Mary Wittenberg made the announcement Friday, hours after Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the decision to go forward with the annual event that generates about $340 million for the city.

“Given the level of pain and suffering, it’s not the right thing to do,” Wittenberg said, near tears when talking about two toddlers who died in the storm.

She said no one expected the race “to play out this way,” and that she had high hopes that the marathon would be an opportunity to honor the city, dedicating the run to those suffering, and to help the city move on.

The supplies stocked for the marathon — blankets, generators, water and food — will be deployed to areas of the city in need.

Many New Yorkers and local politicians, especially in storm-ravaged Staten Island, were angry the marathon was scheduled to go on.

And by early Friday, Bloomberg put out a joint statement with the NYRR canceling the 26.2 mile race that had been run every year since 1970.

Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson described the marathon as one of the best days in the life in the city — a time of unity, happiness and celebration. But this year, it became “divisive,” he said.

“And candidly, that controversy grew and that division grew over the course of the week,” he said, “and those of us that love this city and those of us who love this race recognized it wasn’t the marathon if it wasn’t a unifying event.”

(Photo: (Left to Right) Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg and NYRR Chairman George Hirsch officially anounce the cancelation of the 2012 ING NYC Marathon. Caitlyn Kim/WNYC)

Wittenberg and Wolfson said they had debated modifying the course or shortening it. There was also talk about postponement, but the “totality of what it takes to do this event and the people who committed to it were here this weekend,” Wittenberg said.

There was also talk about turning the marathon into a 10-mile run.

“We did not think that made sense,” Wolfson said. “The marathon is a five- borough race that unifies everybody in every borough and a 10-mile race in a portion of the races is not the marathon. We thought it was better to cancel and have a great marathon next year.”

Wittenberg said she was also concerned that people angry about the marathon would take it out on runners.

People signed up for this year's marathon will get guaranteed entry next year.

Wittenberg told runners that she was “really sorry,” but believed that runners who had spent months training and traveled from near and far could turn on the TV and understand why the decision was made.

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Comments [7]

NYC runner from NYC

Hi Nancy,

Many marathon runners are choosing to spend the day volunteering.

New York Runners in Support of Staten Island
http://www.facebook.com/NewYorkRunnersInSupportOfStatenIsland

NYC Marathon of Relief
http://www.nycmore2012.org

40 runners from Amsterdam are staying to volunteer
https://twitter.com/CoryBooker/status/264762561562558465

Race to Recover helps runners donate hotel rooms to those in need
http://race2recover.com

Runners care, and we understand that whats going on in NYC is bigger than a race. Many of us are volunteering (myself included). I hope our critics are as well. Lets work together on this!

Nov. 03 2012 04:05 PM
Nancy from Queens

Why not mobilize all those disappointed runners by rerouting the marathon? They could race to the tops of those high-rise apartments still without power to check on the tenants, thus performing a valuable service and still get quite a workout.

Nov. 03 2012 10:40 AM

Sometimes we feel dissapointment for things that happens. I have heard so many angry comments regarding the cancellation of the marathon by the runners, but what if those runners are the people suffering in this moment? I don't think that they would be happy with a competition in the middle of their disaster even if the justification is the raise of money for help and a way of unity. I believe that the resources are existing and more help is in the way, and the people who lost everything need the maximum attention from the police and the city.
All of us love new york city and if we truly feel this tragedy, we must understand that is too soon for events of this kind, primarily because police is not enough and there are many places needing help.. I hope we as a human being, we can put our selffishness aside and let us be for one time, a real community.
Runners can enjoy nyc in so many different ways, that is just matter of desire to enjoy the best if they want to.
Amanda roa

Nov. 03 2012 06:14 AM
Amanda Roa from Red bank, nj

Sometimes we feel dissapointment for things that happens. I have heard so many angry comments regarding the cancellation of the marathon by the runners, but what if those runners are the people suffering in this moment? I don't think that they would be happy with a competition in the middle of their disaster even if the justification is the raise of money for help and a way of unity. I believe that the resources are existing and more help is in the way, and the people who lost everything need the maximum attention from the police and the city.
All of us love new york city and if we truly feel this tragedy, we must understand that is too soon for events of this kind, primarily because police is not enough and there are many places needing help.. I hope we as a human being, we can put our selffishness aside and let us be for one time, a real community.
Runners can enjoy nyc in so many different ways, that is just matter of desire to do the best if they want to.
Amanda roa

Nov. 03 2012 06:09 AM
Runn11215 from Brooklyn

We get it. You just don't want to watch us running. Running is a silly sport anyway. Even though most of us have been donating, volunteering, and helping out in our neighborhoods and those affected since Tuesday and will continue to do so long after Sunday. Even though NYRR is donating literally millions to relief efforts, and could've doubled that by race day. Even though the Red Cross says it needs $$, not volunteers. Even though the NYPD loses $1 million (the approx. amount they pay to the NYPD for the event). Even though the city loses $350 in revenue (definitely not needed right now apparently). Even though no resources are being added to the recovery with the marathon's cancellation. Even though there were no resources diverted from the relief effort for the marathon. Even though I talked to a group of firefighters just yesterday at the expo that were excited for the race, looking at the race as their silver lining.

There are runners that save for many years for this trip that happens once in a lifetime (like the aboriginal group from Australia). You better believe they won't be back. And who needs them really? What's the point of raising money and awareness for people who have experienced extreme pain and loss in their life, but have learned to overcome despite all the odds. Oh wait...

Nov. 03 2012 03:07 AM
julie

^ well said. It was everything that I wanted to say, so thank you. This is a time for healing, and I'm sure people will understand.

Nov. 02 2012 10:31 PM
bk from Brooklyn, NY

Thanks, Mayor Bloomberg. The time to cancel was now. If you'd cancelled earlier, and somehow, damage and loss of life had been less, and services had been restored earlier, marathoners would've felt sorely challenged/let down. Now, even someone who spent a lot of money and worked hard to get to this marathon must understand--right?--that it's bigger than running a race.
Anyone who wants to clock 26 mi on Sunday is free to do so; and, in all sincerity, best wishes. Anyone who wants to plug into volunteer opportunities can easily do so, at any number of websites, including wnyc.org, and nyc.gov; either, and many others, will help him or her learn how and where to plug in.
I walked downtown in Brooklyn today, and saw police officers helping to steer a mile-long crowd of exhausted Brooklynites and others waiting to board a basic bus. There's just no reasonable way to think that on Sunday anyone would be better served by deploying the limited and valuable resource of our first-responders to lining a running route. We can all understand this, right? Runners, thanks for coming. With no marathon-- relax; go to a museum; make your own marathon; plug in to help. Whatever you decide that's okay. You were here for an adventure/a highlight/a vacation. Make it that, one way or another. And then come back, okay? We're sorry that you don't get to run; it's just bigger than the marathon right now.

Nov. 02 2012 07:56 PM

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