The NYC Marathon is one of the largest, most popular pre-imminent long distance running events in the world; followed closely by the Boston and Chicago marathons in popularity. Last year alone, the NYC Marathon had a record breaking 46,795 finishes with around 2 million spectators. People travel from all over the world to compete in this popular annual event and take pride in paying the $250 entry fee to have the opportunity to run through the 5 Burroughs of NYC and finish in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Since 1970 the NYC Marathon has never skipped a beat, until last week when NYC/NJ were punched by one of the largest and strongest hurricanes in the history of those two states. The devastation left millions without power, access to public transportation, homes, cars, food, water, clothes and in some cases family members, friends and loved ones. The devastation that struck the largest city in our country and the financial capital of the world brought everything to a halt, even Wall Street. All the while, Mayor Bloomberg debated for days before ultimately canceling the marathon all together. Why?
It only took a day to initially assess the enormity of the hurricane and after two days, that appraisal exceeded beyond everyone’s expectations all the while Bloomberg toiled with the idea of keeping the marathon as planned. Bloomberg could learn a thing or two from other elected officials who took a foot forward together to work collectively to facilitate a resolve and ease the devastation from Sandy. Both Governor Chris Christy and President Obama whom are political polar opposites, reached across the isle, political agendas aside and worked together for the best resolve for the people of NJ and worked together quite swiftly. I think there is a greater implicit point here, in the wake of Sandy, for the first time in years, countless years, we saw political leaders come together as a unit to help each other and their fellow Americans, as Bloomberg waited.
I have to wonder as I am sure why everyone else was “what the hell was he waiting for?” Seriously, there clearly was no miracle that was going to magically appear to clear the path of obliteration for this 40 year event to take place. The marathon starts in Staten Island, which was one of the hardest hits areas of the city, 19 dead so far. Over half of the people living on Staten Island didn’t and still do not have power, cell phone use, are missing family members, community members and their lives slashed apart, yet Bloomberg waited. I still don’t understand this; it is quite feasible there is some inexplicable rationale as to why he waited 5 days after the hurricane to decide to rescind the race. 5 days is a long time and I’m sure the people of New York felt like it was an eternity!
So what exactly was Bloomberg’s plan I’m wondering, when these 46k people penetrate NYC for the Marathon how was he planning on getting them to the starting point in Staten Island? Were they going to just side step fallen trees, debris, clothes, destroyed homes, cars, power lines? And what about water, residents of NYC were struggling to get basic necessities, I wonder how Bloomberg was planning on keeping 46k runners hydrated, when the people of his own city were wondering how they were going to rebuild their lives let along find fresh water and food. And as they glide through the 5 Burroughs of NYC, how would this boost the morale of the people who are trying to figure out how they are going piece their lives back together.
Finally after much deliberation, Bloomberg pulled the plug 2 days before the race. Finally! What the hell took so damn long and why put these poor New Yorkers through any more visceral agony of televising the devastation as runners prance through their broken neighborhoods and shattered lives. New Yorkers are a durable breed, a resilient kind that are stalwart and stand jointly through the face of adversity because they are a community that understands impossible tragedy and disaster and in the end they say, “we got this”. Let’s face it, the NYC Marathon does not characterize the residents of this amazing city, the diversity of this extraordinary city and the people who reside there are what make New York City, New York City. But then again, New Yorkers have always been defined by who they are as individuals and quite frankly there is no one quite like them anywhere else on the planet.