Friday, November 2, 2012

First Lance Armstrong, Now the New York Marthon: Does Anyone Have a Clue Anymore?

Note to reader: The New York City Marathon has been canceled after a public backlash. I feel badly for the runners who trained hard and now have no race to run, but I feel far worse for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, whose lives have been turned upside down.

"The NYPD has been working nonstop since Monday. A lot of us have damage of our own and families that are suffering but we are here assisting with the rescue, recovery, and relief efforts everyday. I understand that this is our job. We love what we do and we love protecting the citizens of NY but to host a Marathon (a run) while people are suffering? To have giant generators sitting around for the Marathon while thousands suffer without power? To have large water deliveries for runners? WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY THINKING? The NYRR have some nerve. Run for Relief? B.S. Run because you don't care about anyone but yourself should be the motto. How about you give back for once and help us recover the dead. Yes, I realize that you may be sheltered. You do realize that people lost their lives during this hurricane, right? In fact, right where you intend to start this marathon. Just a few miles away, a mother of a 2 year old and a 4 year old watched her kids get dragged away by a huge surge of water. They have not recovered the bodies of the children yet. Why don't you put the spandex away and put some boots on and assist us? Disgusting!!!" -- An NYPD officer on the NYRR Facebook page

After those words, do I even need to say more?

As a hardcore runner, I care deeply about our sport and how it is viewed by the public. By holding the New York City Marathon only days after the region was devastated on an epic scale by Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Marathon organizers and the New York Road Runners are doing irreparable harm to their own brand and to the great sport of marathoning.

The generators in Central Park. It's great that the race can find its own
power while tens of thousand of people are still in the park and cold and suffering.

Bodies are still being recovered. Many are still without power. People's homes were destroyed, leaving them homeless. Folks have no food and are hungry. The temperature is dropping. People are suffering. Much of the city's public transit is still down. Many gas stations are dry. Folks are fighting for fuel where they can get it. In New Jersey, the entire Jersey Shore is...gone.

And yet a race is going to be held on Sunday and run through areas of the city that have been devastated by Sandy. Right now, as I type this, there are gigantic generators in Central Park that are supporting race functions--generators that could be used to power entire neighborhoods. Emergency responders (EMS, police and fire), volunteers, sanitation workers and other critical resources will be diverted away from people and areas in need so they can support a freaking race. Runners will enjoy fresh water, bagels, thermal blankets and the like while hungry, desperate folks only a few blocks away are suffering like crazy.

By the way, the marathon starts on Staten Island, which bore the brunt of Sandy's destruction to New York City.

I genuinely fear for the health and safety of the runners, because they're going to encounter some pissed-off people.

The board of the New York Road Runners should take action immediately. Postpone the race for a month. Cancel it. Whatever it takes. Ask runners to instead volunteer and use their fitness to do some good. Send those generators to neighborhoods in need. Give people who are hungry the bagels and water that were to be eaten by the runners.

I agree with Phil McCarthy. The New York City Marathon has gotten "too big to fail." It's so big that (the soulless, greedy, tone-deaf and insensitive) Mayor Michael Bloomberg (you know, the mayor who pushed for a ban on big sodas) and race director Mary Wittenberg, who will both lose their jobs over this fiasco, are going to let greed and sponsorships take precedence over the right thing to do. ING, as the title sponsor, is complicit in all of this. ING should ask that the race be canceled.

Make no mistake about it; the New York Road Runners and the marathon organizers are doing irreparable harm to the race and to runners across the country. They are making us look like selfish jerks who don't care about anything except running.

I used to want to run the New York City Marathon. No thanks. I'm boycotting the race...for the rest of my life. And I hope you will, too. Please make your voice known here.


  1. Buy a plane ticket and go help out there. That's what you're suggesting the registrants should do.
    Really, there are a lot of worthy causes out there. This isn't one of them.
    I personally don't care whether they hold the race or not but it seems like it brings a lot if money to the city, it's mostly self sufficient and supported, and may just raise the morale of residents a little.
    The deaths caused by the storm are without doubt tragic but life does go on. Does I matter whether it's this Sunday or 4 or more Sundays from now? If it weren't manageable, the city would pull the permit.

  2. I think Tim's last sentence is spot on.

  3. And so the plug is pulled. Go back to your homes folks, nothing to see here.
    Someone astutely pointed out to me that the Giants home football game is still on for Sunday. Go get'em Wyatt! ��

  4. Wish I saw this earlier Wyatt, but I will say I agree with most of what you said. Good of you to say what wasn't popular with all runners. And it looks like NYCM listened. I was stoked to run NYCM someday -- I appreciate its difficult qualification standards, but didn't do it this year because of the costs -- but that changed quickly.

    I can only imagine, as a runner with plans to go, though, how difficult it would have been to make a personal decision. The one thing I don't fully agree with is expecting runners to arrive and help out, but in an ideal world many of them would be OK with that. And you're right, NYRR and the sponsors put them in that position, and the feel-good/community aspect of the marathon was threatened when it really was being perceived as a frivolous luxury in time of crisis.

    I've been frustrated with the economic "argument" particularly because I just don't see what the point of raising or spending money is when people are suffering, but that's perhaps a fundamental difference in the way people look at the function of money. Businesses can ensure against losses and get their money back after temporary inconvenience -- that, to me, pales in comparison of people's lives and safety being threatened.

    I think almost everyone can agree that they should have made the decision earlier, and postponing it made it worse.

  5. I certainly don't agree with runners flying to New York to help out, but I think you made some absolutely spot-on points. Most outsiders, unless experienced in working with a disaster relief organization, only get in the way and use up valuable resources.

    I think that it was a great decision to cancel the race. I'd like to tell myself that organizers were trying to use the NYC Marathon as a sign of solidarity and resilience, resulting in the late cancellation, but I can't imagine running a marathon surrounded by destruction and "supported" by people, some of whom, have lost everything they own or possibly loved ones. Hopefully the marathon staff and resources will be of some help to the citizens of New York.

    Thanks for posting this Wyatt! It was a great heartfelt response to the initial decision to proceed with the race.

  6. Yet the New York Knicks and New York Giants games over the last few days were still on. Both of those events entail tens and tens of thousands of people travelling to the arenas/stadiums and also divert tons of resources to make them happen.

    Its pretty transparent to me what happened.