A visibly emotional NYRR President and CEO Mary Wittenberg stood alongside New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson in the New York City Marathon media center tonight in Central Park to explain the cancellation of this year’s ING New York City Marathon. In the end it came down to the mounting, and near universal, criticism of the city and NYRR’s decision yesterday to move forward with the marathon just six days after the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy.
“It became clear throughout the week that the marathon, one of the best days in the life of the city, had become divisive and controversial,” said Wolfson to the collected media. “It grew over the course of the week, and those of us who love this city, and those of us who love this race recognize it wasn’t the marathon if it wasn’t a unifying event.”
With the “highest of hopes” and best of intentions, Ms. Wittenberg and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg thought that by staging the marathon as planned in the wake of the devastating storm that they could help heal the city, as the marathon had previously done after 9-11.
But the 2001 marathon was seven weeks removed from the grim day the Twin Towers fell in lower Manhattan, one of the sections of the city which took a heavy blow on Monday. The difference in time made all the difference. The seven-week time frame in 2001 gave the city a needed grieving period which then allowed the marathon to serve as a mechanism of healing, resurrection and defiance. The six-day window between Sandy and Sunday’s marathon was simply too small to accommodate the same arc of emotions, especially when so many people were still dealing with shattered lives rather than merely disappointed racing dreams.
New Yorkers were in heavy opposition to holding the marathon, many runners, too. Even the New York Police Union asked for the race to be postponed.
“Everything was discussed,” said Wittenberg when asked if there had been any discussion of moving the marathon to another date. “We began with what could we run? We talked about postponing it, but runners from around the world and nation were here now.”
“We talked about having a ten-mile race,” added Wolfson, “but it didn’t make sense. It’s the five-borough race that unifies the city.”
Even an elites-only option around 2007’s Olympic Trials Marathon course in Central Park was considered before it, too, was set aside as inappropriate for the times. Continue reading